Chapter 13 - 2018
“Ya wanna tell me what that was about?”
The girl blinked open her eyes and stared at Wayne’s twisted face. She rolled her eyes and sat up, pushing away from him. “What the hell are you talking about?”
He grabbed her wrist, pinning her to the bed. “Don’t play coy with me, sweetheart. It ain’t sexy.”
“I was asleep.” The girl shrugged, then stared into Wayne’s eyes. One corner of her mouth hitched. “Careful, Wayne.”
He kept his gaze on her a moment too long, released his grip, and withdrew. “What’s goin’ on?”
She grinned, leaning into him, licking his ear as she breathed into the supple flesh. “Oh, you tell me, sweetheart. You’re all the same, aren’t you? All you men who think you’re so strong, who like to have their way with us poor women. Is that ’cause your own daddy liked to--?” Her voice cut off when the hit came. She touched her cheek, the sting pulsating down her body, settling in her core. She grabbed Wayne’s arms and flung her full weight on him. Before he could react, she bit his earlobe until it bled. “You made a big mistake.”
“How could you know?” He tried to pry the girl off.
“Questions are dangerous. I like you, Wayne. I understand you more than you can imagine, but don’t fuck with me, got it? You want this?” She nodded, eyeing her body up and down.
A tear leaked from the corner of Wayne’s eye. “Y-yes. I swear, I don’t mean nothin’ by it.”
“Good. We understand each other, then. I’d hate for things to end badly.”
“What, like a breakup or somethin’? I thought this was just for the sex. Ain’t that what you want?”
The girl eased up and sat next to him on the bed, the fire within her settling into a single flame, a steadily burning wick. “You have no idea what I want.”
Wayne considered her, still unnerved. “Look, I don’t know how the hell ya could know that shit about me. Did I spill the beans while wasted or somethin’?”
“Something.” Don’t do it, Helen. That’s weakness. She regarded him, this broken boy in a man’s body, a victim twisted into a monster. “It’s the ones like you who I like. The rest of the world, fuck ’em all.”
Wayne’s eyes traveled to the tattoo on her lower abdomen, exposed under her tank top as it rode up. “Is that what that means? Thought it was just, ya know…”
“Not everything’s about sex, you idiot.” She laughed, giving him a little shove on the arm.
“I ain’t barin’ my heart or nothin’.”
“I’m not asking you to. I’m not much of one for talk… Call it more of a deeper understanding, like I can read your mind.”
Wayne threw his shaved head back and chuckled. “Mind readin’? Now I’ve heard it all.”
“You don’t believe me.” The girl giggled. “I’m just playin’ with you. Now, maybe if you’re good, I’ll give you more of what you want.”
“Now you’re talkin’ my language.” Wayne stretched out on the bed.
The girl straddled him. “I like this new version, this submissive type. It’s turning me on.” She leaned into him and claimed his mouth.
She closed her eyes and forgot herself. Another hour and she could be someone else again, if only for a little while. Another escape on an endless path of survival. Another dip into Wayne Nelson’s mind.
* * *
Cassie’s eyes hurt--not from tears. No, she was all cried out. Her eyes ran as dry as Death Valley. She had escaped. She had been herself again. She could have gone to her parents and protected them from whoever or whatever was behind these killings. Instead, she spent the following days in a fetal position on her bed, refusing to shower, refusing most food and water, refusing to believe this was her life.
She’s gonna kill them. Kill them. The words echoed through her head over and over, consuming her.
She tried to escape, but nothing worked. She didn’t understand how she’d done so in the first place, so how could she expect to be successful in returning to her body again?
She refused her medication. She was moved to the wing where she could receive medical treatment for her declining physical health. She lay hooked up to a saline drip, monitored by nurses. She wore diapers. Cassie became an infant--helpless, weak.
Her hair hung over her ears now and brushed the back of her neck. The beard she so detested at first began to grow back. She ran her thick fingers up and down her hollowed cheeks. The roughness reminded her of sandpaper, the sandpaper her dad had used to smooth the wood on the birdhouse they made together when she was eight.
The sound was mindless, like a ticking clock. She was her younger self sitting next to her dad as he pounded the nails into the wood, his deft hands sure and steady with the hammer.
She looked at the blazing sun as it poured down on them in the driveway. Her dad continued to work. “See here, Cassie. This is what you want to do. Hold the hammer like so--” His large hands eased the hammer into her little fist.
“There, that’s right. You got it.” He grinned.
Cassie’s heart swelled. She finished pounding the nail in and set the hammer aside. “Thanks, Daddy.”
His grin widened further. Cassie wondered how it didn’t fall off his face. “You haven’t called me ‘Daddy’ in a while, pumpkin.”
Cassie wrinkled her nose. “Pumpkin?”
He laughed. “You should see your face. What, a dad can’t call his little girl his pumpkin anymore? You were born the day before Halloween. We have that baby picture of you posed in the pumpkin patch somewhere.”
“Da-ad.” She groaned but smiled.
Her dad poked her in the side. “I’ll bring it out when you’re older and a guy wants to date you. Embarrass you. See if he still wants to take you away from me.”
Cassie giggled, shaking her head. “Dating? Boys? No thanks, Dad.”
He chuckled. “Yes, it can wait. It definitely can wait. You’re already growing up too quickly. I don’t need to think about that.” He paused, then added, “And I see I’m just ‘Dad’ again.”
Warmth hugged Cassie as her dad brought his arm around her and pulled her close. She looked at his soft brown eyes and whispered, “You’ll always be my daddy.”
“And you’ll always be my little pumpkin.”
The sunlight brightened, until it blinded her. When the white faded, she woke in her old bedroom.
Tears burned the corners of her eyes as the memory faded. Memories seem to be the only real thing anymore.
She lay in the same position she had for the better part of two weeks. She seemed incapable of moving, a shell of a person. She dismissed the room as an illusion.
Another lie, like the glimpse of my body. Just a means to torture me more.
Something like a spike lanced her. Her head split, yet when she touched her forehead, nothing was there. She bolted up in bed, clarity shooting through her. Something came at her again, like claws. An attack.
She stood and made for the door, each step an effort. The edges of her vision grew blurry.
“Mmm...Mom…” The word came out as if her mouth were full of cotton. She wants to kill you.
Her mother appeared around the corner, concern etched on her face. Cassie’s heart swelled upon seeing her mom again after all this time, to see her alive. She reached toward her.
“Cassie, dear, what is it?” Mrs. Meadows reached for her daughter.
She’s gonna kill you. The blackness around Cassie’s vision ate away like fire burning the edges of a piece of paper.
“No,” she breathed.
A bright flash was her saving grace and her damnation before the blackness won.
She woke in the bed in the mental hospital, and rain fell in the desert of her eyes.
Stop crying, damn it. Stop it.
She pushed herself to sitting and dashed the tears away. Although fear gripped her, hope blossomed, breaking through for the first time in days.
“But I did it,” she whispered.
“You did what?” asked the nurse who entered to check on her. She frowned when she noticed Cassie’s puffy eyes and red cheeks. “Mr. Davis, are you all right?”
Cassie smiled, almost giddy. Despite being pumped with medication to numb her mind, she saw more clearly than she had in a long time. “I did it again. I can figure out a way now.”
“That’s very nice, but let’s check your vitals, shall we?”
Cassie complied as the nurse took her blood pressure and temperature. I’ve got to get out of here, and I need to talk to the real Randy Davis.
* * *
“Cassie?” The mother stood a couple of feet from the door to the girl’s room.
The girl blinked, trying to reorient herself. What the hell? She blinked again, rubbing her eyes. The mother still stood there, gaping at her like a fish with a pinpoint-sized brain.
“Cassie, I asked if you were all right.”
“What?” the girl barked. “Why wouldn’t I be?”
Hurt passed through the older woman’s eyes. “You’ve been so different these past several months. And then you sounded like you were about to faint a moment ago. Please, tell me what’s wrong. Why all these changes?”
The girl scoffed. The face of another mother from a hundred years ago shot into her mind. “Mothers can’t be bothered to help their daughters, not when it matters.”
“Excuse me?” Mrs. Meadows furrowed her brow and crossed her arms. “When have I not been there for you? I’ve never denied you anything. We’ve given you nothing about love, support, and encouragement for eighteen years, and this is how you repay us?”
The girl got in the older woman’s face. A red glint in her eyes caused the mother to step back. “You ask too many questions,” the girl whispered.
The mother gasped and withdrew. She covered her mouth to try to conceal her sobs as she ran down the hallway.
When the other woman was gone, the girl slammed the bedroom door. She paced.
“What the hell was that? Why was I someplace else? I didn’t switch bodies,” she murmured in agitation, flopping onto the bed.
She stared at the ceiling. All these years of control and now I might be losing it?
Her eyes tracked a small crack in the ceiling near the wall. She imagined the crack growing as time passed if nothing was done to repair it.
But something was off. It was almost as if… She sat up, pounding her fists into the mattress.
“No,” she breathed, refusing to believe in the possibility of what passed through her mind. “It can’t be true.”
She walked to the dresser and opened the drawer. She rifled through Cassie’s underwear until she withdrew the picture of the mother, father, brother, and herself, well, Cassie. She touched the unfeeling smiles. So much had changed in the world in a hundred years. Pictures were as colorful and clear as the real people in them, yet they captured only a glimpse of truth. Still, looking at those smiling faces, the girl knew the Meadows family had been a happy one--not perfect, but certainly happy.
Her mind whisked back to over two years ago as she stepped out of an overpriced restaurant with several of Randy Davis’s business partners.
The dinner was the usual schmoozing with stuffed shirts who couldn’t tell the difference between their inflated heads and their big bellies. The alcohol, the five-star atmosphere, the expensive fare, she didn’t mind. She hated the bigwigs, the rich, the powerful, and yet she often loved being them, although not among them. They were a stark reminder of her humble beginnings.
A few of the men shook hands and wished her a good evening. She forced a smile and said the obligatory words, watching them saunter off. Only one man remained with her.
He clapped her shoulder, remarking, “That was some deal you just made, Rand. Those suckers won’t realize what hit them.”
“You think so?” She didn’t care one way or the other if the deal was a good one.
“I know so. You’ve always had the company’s best interests in mind.”
“Yes.” She smiled slowly. “You could say that.”
Jeff leaned into the man he thought was Randy. “So, on a personal note, how are things with the missus?”
The girl refrained from rolling her eyes. It wouldn’t look right on a grown man. She crossed her arms and leveled Jeff with a challenging gaze. “My personal life is no business of yours, Mr. Carter. Goodnight.”
Jeff only chuckled and waved him off. “Whatever you say, Mr. Davis, whatever you say.” He clicked the remote on his car to start it and walked off.
The girl watched him go, then gazed at her surroundings. Life as Randy Davis was easy, almost boring...too easy. For now, it beat being Jimmy Williams. She wondered how the real Randy Davis was dealing with his new body and snorted.
The victims come in two sorts: those whose lives end and those whose lives are made miserable. It’s a mercy to those whose pathetic lives are terminated. I always finish what I start. For me…
Her thoughts drifted as her eyes settled on a family of four coming out of the Mexican restaurant across the street. A teenage girl with long dark hair laughed at something her younger brother said and wrapped her arm around him. The girl watched them as they made their way to their minivan and got in.
The girl raced to her Mercedes and caught the van as it pulled out. She followed it until it turned off onto some suburban street. She returned to the Davis estate and sat in the car for a while.
“Why do I care? So she’s happy, just another happy young girl.” She stared at the wedding ring on Randy’s finger. On her finger. “She is everything I was denied.” Her eyes tracked Danielle’s silhouette as it moved behind the curtains in the master bedroom.
She doesn’t want to have sex with me, anyway. All she does is carry on about losing her baby.
The girl scowled at Randy’s wife and brought her hand to her face, surprised at the wetness on her briskly cheek. She dashed it away.
“It happens, Danielle. Babies die, and God either looks the other way or He never existed in the first place. I could tell you about a man who claimed he worshiped such a god. I could tell you what he did to me. Would that comfort you?”
She snorted. “No, I didn’t think so.” She looked over her reflection in the rearview mirror, adjusting her tie. “I’ll be working late again, Dani. I nearly forgot my...engagement with a certain Debra Carter.”
She started the engine and pulled out.
The girl returned to Cassie’s bedroom, pushing away memories of Randy Davis, of all the people she was, of herself most of all.