I don’t know how to begin. It might not matter where I begin. You might not even believe this. I don’t even know if I do. It’s been almost two days and I’m still hoping this is an awful nightmare and I might wake up. Any minute now I might wake up. Please, please wake up. This all started yesterday. I brushed my teeth when I went to bed the night before. They were all there. I didn’t count them or anything but they’re my teeth, so what I’m saying is…have you ever chipped a tooth? You know when it’s happened. Almost immediately.
Some nights I wake and everything is just as it was the night before and I’m still okay. Some nights I wake and it’s there. It’s never stopped; not even after all of these years. Decades. I wonder how many people grow up to find that they’re still surrounded by every single one of their same high school friends even twenty years later? It’s probably not a lot.
We look the same and we always have but we couldn’t be more different from each other. I think that’s the best place to start with this. Some identical twins have a lot in common. They like the same foods, the same things on television, some even spend their entire lives dressing in the same clothes, but we were never those girls. For as long as I remember, it’s been hard for even our own parents to tell us apart were it not for our very different personalities. Our own mother can’t tell the difference between our voices over the phone to this day. We even have the same laugh, but after that we diverge. I’m extroverted and would much rather be outdoors than inside where she is bookish and reserved. As far as personality traits go, Lily and I have always shared very few.
Then that tall thing in the darkness interlaced its fingers and flexed them until its joints snapped as loud as firecrackers. It proceeded to crack the others in its overly-articulated fingers one by one. Shadows cast by an unknown source of light on the far wall seemed to show those hands like the legs of an impossible boney spider wrapping itself delightfully around a fly caught in its web. My feet were gritty and frozen. That’s how I found out it had taken my shoes.
“How’s she doing?” The concern Jake had for Kyle’s wife was genuine so it was always the first thing he said as Kyle mounted the steps to Jake’s porch in the afternoon. “Catch,” was the next thing he said as he tossed Kyle a beer. He and Jake had developed a sort of tradition these past few weeknights.
Part I “The day I first saw you, I knew that my life was forever changed. It was love at first sight. Life was always so hard before that, and in that moment that I first saw your face, I knew that things were about to be different. It’s hard to explain. If I didn’t know you as well as I do now, I would never have admitted it at the time. It was like magnetism. I was drawn to you.”
I used to think reality was made up of choices. A hundred little choices made every day in a row, strung up like a necklace of pearls. You probably think reality is something like this too, each thing that you do could go a hundred different ways, and the only way it goes is the way that you choose for it to go…but that’s not how it works at all. That’s not how anything works. Reality is manipulative, just like people are and it’s manipulating all of us. It’s even manipulating you. You might not think so. Choices are only binary. Yes or no. True or false. There’s no great big gray areas like they tell you.
Part I “Hello!” I said as I approached the bench. The man’s eyes shot up with a start looking up over the thing he held in his hand. “Are you talking to me?” He asked. He looked tired and agitated despite the placid mask of emotionless empty the rest of his face conveyed. I felt my insides lurch, instantly regretting the interaction. I had to keep going so I kept smiling until he smiled back. There was no way he could be like all the rest. If he was, there was no hope. Finally, he did smile and I felt my stomach fall. His smile was exactly like the ones I’d left behind. Fake. False. I felt my heart racing a bit in my chest.
Everyone knows something about these Crow kids. They ain’t sharing whatever memory’s hidden in their stupid collective small-town unconsciousness with me. We’re outsiders. We were accepted until now. I guess. When I needed help and to know what happened to Jenny these past few days, nobody was sharing anything to go on.
This all began when I was a kid — back when I used to think that the Moon followed me. I’d watch it pass through the clouds as my mother drove her aging sedan down the dark highways, always keeping pace with her erratic turns and speed changes … never falling behind. I’d watch it through the rear window, bouncing from treetop to treetop in time with my bounces in the backseat. Tagging along as the car leapt potholes and divots on the midnight country roads where we sent gravel and dust billowing out behind us.