Her voice plays in my head. “Hey, did I tell you Missy got that job at the car dealership?”
Her actual voice follows like a recording of what I’ve already heard. “Hey, did I tell you Missy got that job at the car dealership?”
I force myself not to respond until she’s done saying her thoughts out loud. “No, you didn’t.” Not unless you count the fact I pulled it from your head a moment before the words escaped your lips.
I have a headache today. Lately, I’ve been having a hard time controlling whatever the hell this ability is that I have. I’m irritated, and Trish can tell. I know because she’s about to ask me what’s wrong.
“Al, what’s wrong?” She calls me by my nickname. My real name is Alice.
“Nothing,” I lie, “just another headache. I think I’m gonna take off.” I stand up and grab my purse.
Trish’s blue eyes scan my face quizzically, she purses her pink stained lips while brushing a stray strand of blond hair from her face. She thinks, “Are you sure?”
“Yes, I’m sure,” I reply, before I realize she hasn’t actually said anything.
She shivers. “Uh, it’s so weird when you do that...”
“I’m sorry, BFF connection and all.” She seems satisfied with the explanation of my weird behavior.
“Well, I hope you feel better. Call me later, okay!” She gives me a thousand-watt smile and stands to hug me.
I tightly embrace her in return. “I will.”
I turn and make my way to my car. I get in, put the key in the ignition and sit, reveling in the wave of peace and relief from the silence that settles inside my head. I inhale deeply through my nose and exhale through my mouth. The incessant throbbing of my head dissipates some as I continue to breathe deeply in silence.
I feel like crap for bailing on Trish. It’s been so long since we hung out. I even made the trip to Schaumburg in order to meet up with her at a cafe near her office job.
What a waste of gas.
I start the car and the radio comes on, Bitter Sweet Symphony by The Verve will play next.
The DJ’s voice booms, “Coming up next, we have a classic by The Verve, Bitter Sweet Symphony, as requested by Julia in Skokie.”
I told you...
I drive to my apartment in the Edgewater neighborhood on the Northeast side of Chicago. During my drive, song after song play in my head, before they pop up on the radio station. I don’t mind this part so much, it’s a cool party trick. That is, it would be if I ever went to one.
I finally pull up in front of my apartment building and park. Walking up the five cement steps to the entrance of the building, I type in the code to unlock it. I step into the communal hallway that contains the building’s mailboxes, checking mine before heading up to my apartment. As I do, a wave of thought hits me. “Shit, she looks so damn hot today.”
I blush as I turn to face Avery, one of my neighbors and my hallway flirtation since he moved in nine months ago.
Avery smiles as he runs a hand through his long, dark, loose curls. His blue-gray eyes scan my body, as his lustful thoughts hit my mind. My head throbs again, and I feel dizzy. I sway and brace myself against the wall lined with mailboxes.
Avery rushes towards me and holds me up by my waists. His hard body feels so good, and he smells fresh out of a shower. Now, not only is my head throbbing, but there's a throbbing between my legs as well.
“Are you all right?” Concern oozes from him.
I shake off the feeling as much as I can and stand upright again. “Yeah, just a migraine. I should get home.”
“Do you want me to help you to your door?” he asks, still holding onto me.
I don’t really mind it. His arms are strong, and from this close, I can hear his tongue ring clink against his teeth as he nervously plays with it.
Avery’s in a band. He’s lead-singer and lead-guitar and by looking at him, you may guess that to be true. On the other hand, his personality is far from what you’d expect a hot lead singer of a rock band to be.
Avery has always been respectful, even if his thoughts aren’t always such. He’s kind, helpful, and modest. I’ve known my fair share of musicians. Attractive lead-singers, they tend to be cocky, womanizing assholes. Avery was none of those things, at least as far as I could tell by his thoughts and our few conversations. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like him, but my life is too complicated to bring someone else into all my drama.
Most people think I’m a little weird. I stay in a lot and I’m quiet. I seem antisocial, but the truth is, being around people is hard, especially since I can’t seem to figure out how to control this damn telepathy. Is it telepathy? I don’t even fucking know what it is.
“No, I’ll manage,” I say, as I slightly put pressure on his arm to release me.
He hesitantly releases me, worried I’ll fall. The concern in his mind eases as he sees I can stand all right on my own.
I smile and start to walk off, hoping he doesn’t ask me the question I hear pop into his head.
“Hey!” No such luck. “Do you want to come by my place for dinner one of these nights? I promise I don’t bite.” He smiles and the wetness pools between my legs.
“Um, I’m busy. Sorry,” I say, turning around to keep making my way upstairs.
“I didn’t even tell you what day.” He laughs.
Shit, he isn’t gonna let this go this time, is he?
“Am I getting the wrong vibes here? Or is that guy I’ve seen coming out of your apartment, your boyfriend?” he asks.
“He’s not my boyfriend. He’s my little brother,” I reply.
“Oh, okay. So I’m just reading too much into this flirtation we’ve had going on for months then?” Avery has never been this forthcoming or insistent before. I blush with the realization he really likes me. It hasn’t just been a game all these months.
“It’s not like that,” I admit. “Look, I’m just not feeling well. Can I get back to you tomorrow, maybe?”
“Okay, Alice. I’ll give you a pass because you’re clearly not doing so hot, but I’m not letting you off that easy this time. I’ve given up before, but not this time.” He cocks an eyebrow at me.
I can tell by his thoughts he means business. He isn’t going to take no for an answer this time or let me blow him off in my usual manner.
“Okay,” I pull out my phone, “give me your phone number.” I resist the urge to type as the numbers form in his mind.
He rambles off his number and I type it in. I send him a text. “There, now you have my number too. I’ll text you about setting up dinner tomorrow.”
His smile gets bright and he fidgets with his hair again. “Great! I can’t wait!”
I find it so damn cute how he can’t contain his excitement. Me on the other hand, I’ve gotten used to playing my cards close to heart, but I’m thrilled by his reaction.
“Bye!” I say as I walk up the stairs. I can hear him think about my ass as he watches me disappear from sight.
Unlocking my door, I take a step inside my apartment. Immediately, a wave of sickness hits me. I look to my left and a picture frame with a photo of Max and me, goes flying off the shelf and crashes onto the floor.
Max is my little brother. Strange shit like this has been happening since I let him crash here at my place six weeks ago. Last week, I finally had to ask him to leave.
I throw open every shade in every window. Opening them all up and letting the cool autumn air rush in. I go around the apartment turning on all the lights before grabbing a sheet of paper with instructions written on it. Across the top in neat male handwriting are the words 'Smudging Ritual'.
Leonard gave me everything I needed to perform a spiritual cleanse on myself and my apartment. I met Leonard, or Leo, at a local occult shop when I went in looking for answers almost a year ago. Trying to figure out what the hell is wrong with me and how to get rid of it, or at the very least, how to control it. He immediately took an interest in me, claiming to be a psychic and saying he sensed those abilities in me too.
I don’t know about all that. What I do know, is weird crap has followed me around since I was a kid.
A few days after Max started staying with me, this male shadow figure began to haunt me. I don’t know how to put it any other way. It showed up at the foot of my bed one night, its presence menacing. It never touches me, it just lingers, staring into my soul with its black facelessness. It doesn’t move until the first rays of dawn appear and then it vanishes, but I can still feel its presence. It’s crushing, it feels like although it doesn’t physically touch me; it's sitting with all its weight on my chest.
Needless to say, I haven’t really slept in weeks. Leo told me I needed to get Max out of my apartment. He feels Max brought whatever the hell it is that's haunting me, and I agree with him. Things were calm and peaceful before Max came. Leo said until I got him out, a cleansing would only be a temporary fix. Max would keep bringing whatever negative spirit back in with him. Deep down inside, I wonder if Max is using again. He’s so good at keeping me out of his head, I can’t know for sure.
I follow the instructions laid out on the paper. In a large abalone shell, I light a bundle of sage. Swirling the sage around my crown and third eye, I make my way to the bottom of my feet. With a large eagle feather, I pull the smoke away from me and with it, any negative energy. I center my thoughts before proceeding to go from room to room, fanning the sage in outward sweeps and watching as the wind carries the smoke out the windows. Slowly, the heaviness that had settled over my home for the past six weeks, starts to lift.
When I’m done passing sage through the entire apartment, I grab the large bell Leo gave me and ding it. I open the doors, not caring if my neighbors think I’m insane. I ding the bell in all directions, north, east, south, and west. Placing the bell down on a small side table with a lamp, I pick up the eagle feather and walk around to all the windows and doors, fanning the sage out and hopefully the remnants of any negative spirits or energy.
I finish and close all the windows and doors once again. The shift in the energy is palpable. The sick, nervous feeling I had when walking in, is gone, and my head isn’t throbbing anymore either. The heaviness is replaced with a lightness I feel in every cell of my body.
I grab a broom and clean up the broken glass from the shattered frame. Removing the photo and placing it on the table, I make a mental note to buy a new frame. I finish and pick up my phone. “I think it worked,” I say the moment I sense Leo on the other end.
“Good! I’ll stop by tomorrow morning to make sure. Hopefully, tonight you’ll get some sleep.”
“Thanks for all your help. I owe you,” I say, grateful to have someone like him in my life. Someone who understands and who doesn’t think I’m nuts.
He chuckles. “Anything for my favorite girl. I’ll talk to you tomorrow. Sweet dreams!”
I shower and settle into bed. A part of me is still nervous that the minute I turn off the lights, shadow man will appear. I hesitantly flip the switch off on my lamp and stare into the darkness. Minutes pass. Then an hour, and nothing. My body relaxes, melting into my soft bed, before I can realize it, I drift off into a deep slumber. Something I haven’t been able to do in weeks.