The second time was completely different.
“‘Low dosage’ Adam said. ‘Fun’ he said,” Elisha stumbled along the melting hallway. She dropped to her hands and knees and crawled across the floor like a civilian whose city was under siege.
“There they are again!” An ominous cadence came as one big crescendo, cascading behind her in a deranged orchestra.
“Shit, shit, shit,” she whispered. Her blonde locks dangled over her face. Her toes, knees and fingertips dug into the floor, pulling her body forward. She intermittently glanced behind her.
“My bedroom door! Only inches away, my parents won’t know a thing—they can’t hear my thoughts, they can’t hear me!”
She wrapped a reluctant palm around the doorknob and twisted with deliberate mechanical quietude. Slowly, slowly . . .
Elisha pulled the door open just enough for her slender frame to slip through and quickly closed it behind her. She leaned against the door, her head tilted back, chin up and eyes closed. She gasped heavily with heart pumping, exhaled and wiped the tears from beneath her closed, sticky eyes.
She heard an unfamiliar voice reading poetry in a British accent like some History Channel narrator. She opened her eyes, breaking the sticky web over her eyelids.
“Why is my room covered in pink, cloudy hues, and why is my cat sitting on my bed, reading Shakespeare?”
“Damn it Butters, you can’t read! Oh, God, what’s going on? Why is my bed a cloud?”
She approached the cloud taking tentative steps. Her fingers walked the bed’s surface like scouts on a reconnaissance mission. It was soft and smooth like white silk.
She took a seat next to Butters, whose eloquent voice sent streaming wavelengths into the air, along with small clef notes that waltzed in their climb. Her mind followed them dreamily, wandering up the spiraling matrix of wordplay and musical notation, watching as their images disappeared into the ceiling.
Her eyes then fell upon a full-body mirror propped lazily against the wall. Her image bulged and was randomly contorted like that in a circus mirror. Next, she noticed that her sexy, scantily clad Lady Gaga poster began to morph Picasso-like, and grin maniacally.
Noticing a paddle next to her on the cloud, she thought, Okay . . . I’m rowing along on a cloud . . . great.
She bemoaned, “Is Juliet tender yet Butters? Is she weeping for her long lost Romeo? Is she lovelorn, caught in an unmistakable reality, which is too much to bear?” Paddling along, she peered into the oblivion ahead.
“Adam, I’m gonna fucking kill you.”
Suddenly, a swift current of air came bursting across her body. She reeled back, looking up as three small figures arched overhead, then faded into the crimson horizon.
“My bunnies have sprouted wings! Didn’t know you guys could fly!” She squinted critically as their shapes were swallowed in the distance.
“That’s it, maybe l’ll just follow after them, row along on my little cloud here and escape this damn place!”
“Hey guys, come back! Get me outta here!”
“Oh, but where is here? This is my room, my sanctum, I’m safe here, right?”
She paused, set the paddle down, bit her nails and glanced back at the morphing Lady Gaga poster. It gave neo-cubism a run for its money. Lady Gaga’s breasts were perched above her left shoulder, her head propped against her hip.
“Gross” Elisha said.
She heard Butters murmur in the background.
“Butters, you’re ridiculous.”
“Hey, why are my drapes radiating into infinity with every color of the visible light spectrum?” Her mood began to lighten as she became fixed on the drapes in a sea-like trance. Their colors were therapeutic somehow.
“Pretty cool, actually, ha! Wow, it’s like I’m trapped in one of my parents’ 1970’s Haight-Ashbury parties. Does this mean I’m gonna start dancing in bell bottoms beneath a disco light? Will I be sharing the world’s most enormous joint with the likes of Willie Nelson? Oh hell with it. This cloud’s not so bad. Let the dawn swallow me whole, carry me off into some far-away land of mystic kaleidoscopes, vivid color schemes and fuzzy, friendly habitats. Carry me off into a vibrant landscape textured by the hands of ingenious craftsmen! Yes, take me to that place of muse and melody, rhythm and prose, of sweet sustenance and serenade!”
“Close your eyes, Alice,” an eerie, omniscient voice whispered.
“Hey, who’s there? Who’s Alice?”
A long, heavy silence drug itself across the room like the body bag of a mafia victim. The streaming array of bright colors melted into deep reds, dirty browns and heavy black. Elisha’s stomach balled like a fist. She looked down at her body.
“Why am I so small, so young? Why do I feel helpless? My hands and feet are so tiny. My hair so long, clean and soft, like when my little sister and I used to play dress up and host tea parties. Why can’t I see my face?”
“Shit! Am I too loud? Can my parents hear me?”
Just then, another cascade of wicked laughter echoed from the distance.
“Who’s there?” Elisha looked around and saw nothing but the gradual darkening of the colors.
“Shit. I’m gonna close my eyes and not think of anything at all. Everything’s gonna be okay. Like grandpa taught me, if I just shut it all out, it goes away. That was when he and sis were still here to keep me safe, make me happy . . . before the tragedy . . . before the fire.”
“You’re not here, you’re not here. There is no one here. There’s no one here,” she whispered, curling her body up like a ball.
Sudden laughter rose up, climbing in octaves of hideousness. She closed her eyes and saw horrific fades of eternal darkness! Endless caverns of emptiness and desolation!
When she opened her eyes—a thin, dark-haired figure with luminous eyes stood in the doorway of her room. The muscles in her neck and along her spine tightened.
“Adam! You did this! You bastard!”
She leapt towards him, knocking him on his back, and wrapped her fingers around his neck. “I’m gonna kill you!”
A loud, authoritative voice pierced into her world like a bolt of lightning through the skies. “Wake up Elisha. Everything is okay, you are safe.”
The thin, spectacled man extended his hand. Two genuine, comforting eyes shone down at her.
Elisha lay on the bed with her fingers clasped together in a choking motion. She sat up slowly, blinking rapidly. Her head bobbed as if the muscles in her neck were weak.
Dr. Mosser sat back, crossed his legs and scribbled some notes on his clipboard. Calmness came to her by degrees. She trembled as if detaching from a subconscious gravity, feeling it slip away like rain on a windshield.
“We’re making progress.” Dr. Mosser said. “Elisha, take a deep breath and relax.”
She did so, trembling calmly.
“You had a good relationship with your sister and grandfather?” he asked.
“Do you miss them?” he said, leaning forward, raising his brow.
“Yes, of course I do,” Elisha said. She adjusted in her seat, as if the question made her uncomfortable.
“Would it be safe to say that your drug and alcohol problem started shortly after the . . . accident?”
“I see. Now, if you don’t mind, could you please tell me more about Adam?”
Elisha sat quietly on the bed. Dr. Mosser waited patiently as she sifted through scattered mental categories.
“I haven’t spoken to him in months—that son-of-a-bitch. He ditched me for some ditzy valley-girl named Alice. All he cares about is gettin’ high anyway,” Elisha said, elbows on her thighs, one fist against her cheek.
Elisha closed the glass door, descended the scratchy marble steps and left the dull gray building with its official-looking sign, Dr. Gene Mosser, Hypnotherapy behind.
Her cell phone vibrated in the pocket of her jeans. “What’s up? How’d therapy go?” a voice asked.
“Great. I got them completely convinced that Adam is the bad influence and, once he’s outta my life, everything will be okay.”
“Yeah, parents are suckers!”
“Got ‘em eatin’ outta my hands, ha, ha. Who knew all those drama lessons would come in handy?”
“Right! Where’s your Oscar award?”
“At this rate, I’ll be completely ‘rehabbed’ before graduation, ha ha” Elisha said, strutting along.
“Adam’s the scapegoat, huh? You see him much?”
“From time to time. He’s still partying hard as usual.”
“Well, so much for hypnotherapy, huh? Your parents will try anything. What’s next, shock therapy?”
“Yeah, really. Well, that’s parents for you, whatever the doc says goes. My parents didn’t like Adam anyway, figured it’d be an easy out.” Elisha said.
“Yeah, nice one.”
“So, David, you think you can hook me up with a twenty-sack this weekend?”
“Of course. But please, call me ‘Adam.’”
They both laughed.
By Harlan Wells