(Note to self: Not all change is good.)
I wake in the dark with the white plaster “popcorn” of my ceiling stabbing my bare back. My ceiling. I float nine feet above my bed, wearing nothing but my too-small American Eagle boxers and my messy brown hair.
Voices whisper inside my head. My parent’s voices chanting… in Latin.
Wait. They don’t know Latin. Do they? The words get faster, like a wind in a storm, stirring the fear in my chest until I gasp for breath.
Heart racing, I dig my fingertips into the plaster and stare into the darkness at my bed below. It’s like I entered The Matrix. My messed-up navy-blue comforter looks like a still life photo of a wave on the stormy ocean. Dust rains down, bringing it to life for a moment. My book lays open on the floor next to my bed where I must have dropped it when I floated–
No. I’m not awake. I’m still dreaming.
Closing my eyes, I try to remember my dream. That’s right, I was climbing the rope in gym class. After finally making it to the top for the first time, I had plummeted toward the floor. Only then, the gym turned into a real mountain and the rope a real cliff. The fall stretched on for hundreds of feet. In my dream I’d screamed, terrified, arms flailing like I was flying. That’s when I woke up.
On my fucking ceiling.
No, I’m not awake. I’m NOT awake. Sucking a breath in through my clenched teeth, I nod once.
“Okay. When I open my eyes, I’ll be in bed. One, two….”
The chanting returns to my head, louder than before, followed by a surge of white-hot energy that vibrates through my bones. I picture myself like those old-time cartoons where the cat shakes hands with the mouse and gets electrocuted and you can see his skeleton through his skin. The power surges through me and at its peak, my teeth crash against each other and I drop. Hard.
The support boards of my full-sized bed crack with a loud snap from the force of my body slamming into it. Bouncing off my mattress and onto the floor, my loud yelp is quickly muffled by the thick gray carpet. Heart pumping fast, I lay there for a minute trying to catch my breath.
The sound of feet pounding in the hall grows closer, and my bedroom door flies open. My parents run in, wide-eyed, grinning ear to ear. I flip over onto my back, like lying on the floor in the middle of the night is normal.
Invisible ropes pull against me, urging me toward them. I dig my fingers into the carpet.
“Everything okay, Zaidyn?” Mom brushes her wild black hair off her face. Dad stands right behind her in his red plaid pajama pants and white sleep shirt. Light from the hall spills into the room and I squint against the brightness.
Pushing myself up, I stand next to my bed, locking my knees to keep them from shaking. Or from taking me closer to them.
“Uh, yeah. Bad dream I… uh… fell.”
Not a complete lie.
Crossing his arms, Dad leans against the doorframe, grinning at Mom like they just won the lottery. “It worked this time.”
She claps her hands together and holds them over her mouth.
“What worked?” I ask. “What are you talking about?” My breath speeds and the Latin words come back to me. Familiar voices. My cheeks tingle as the blood drains from my heated face.
“Want to talk about your dream?” Mom walks toward me smiling.
(Note to self: I want to freak out alone. I just fell off my fucking ceiling!)
“No.” I run a hand through my bed head and dust flakes off. “What is Dad talking about?”
Mom brushes pieces of ceiling off my shoulders.
“What is this stuff?” She grabs a chunk of white plaster and frowns, lifting her gaze above our heads. “Is this from the ceiling?”
Dad’s smile grows. “You owe me ten bucks, Diana.”
Their voices were in my head. They’re a part of… whatever this is. Glancing between them, goosebumps cover my body. “What’s going on?”
“Your father thinks he’s being funny.” She smirks at him then turns her gaze on me. “Must have been some dream. Why did you scream?”
Dammit. I’ve never been able to lie to my parents. Mom always seems to know when I do. She’ll stare into my eyes like she’s reading my soul and I’ll cave. But how can I tell her this truth? I look at her and try to think of something to say that doesn’t make me sound like I need a first-class ticket to the psych ward.
She sighs. “Sorry, Zaidyn. I hate to do this without permission but need to know.”
She puts her hands on either side of my face and my body locks up. I can’t look away. Can’t blink. Can’t move. My stomach clenches and I have the distinct unpleasant sensation of a finger stroking my brain. The room seems to warp and I’m back in Matrix mode again. Or maybe it’s Dr. Strange. Whatever it is, my heart has bypassed racing and gone on to massive heart attack status.
The light from the hall melts into my brain then my brown eyes replace Mom’s green ones. My breath freezes like my blood and I see myself from her point of view. My short hair sticks up at odd angles, my eyes so wide my long lashes touch my eyebrows. Every muscle outlined on my bare chest and arms as I struggle to breathe.
(Note to self: Who the hell is she and when the hell did I start looking like that?)
Images from my dream scroll through my mind, like I’m watching a game replay. I fall from the cliff again and my stomach lurches until I’m gaping at Mom’s eyes again. I haven’t moved an inch. The only thing moving is my dizzy brain.
Before I can ask her what the hell is happening, her voice reaches me—inside my head.
Oh. Sure. No big deal. It’s just my mom—crawling through my head.
I do the opposite of relax. Every cell in my body tightens. With cold sweat coating my body, I swallow hard and instinctively push back at the finger, imagining my fist punching its tip.
Mom releases my face, winces, and presses a hand to her temple, dropping her gaze to the floor. Finally, I can blink. Breathe. Move, shuffle backward until I bump my heels into the wall next to my window. When did aliens replace my parents?
“Ha!” Mom smiles at Dad, still rubbing her forehead. “Did you feel that power? You owe me ten dollars.”
“He has ceiling in his hair.” Dad uncrosses his arms, shaking his head. “The Mitchell traits came out first.”
Mom laughs. Dad joins her. I scrunch my eyes.
“I’m really kinda freaking out here.”
“It’s okay, honey.” Mom takes a step toward me and I press my back into the cold wall.
Dad nods. “Sorry, we don’t mean to be vague. We’ll tell you everything.”
They smile like I just won my first spelling bee or hit a home run in t-ball, not fought off my mother’s brain attack after levitating out of bed in my fucking underwear.
Clenching my fists, I glare at them fighting the urge to throat punch my parents. The magnetic pull of their nearness sets my teeth on edge and clouds my thoughts. As freaked out as I am, I want to get closer to them.
“It’s okay.” Mom takes a step toward me and I flinch, looking at her from the corner of my eye. “We finally unlocked your abilities.”
“Abilities? What the hell?” She moves closer and my stomach rolls, but I have to grab the window ledge to hold myself back from her. I shake my head. “Stay away from me.”
She frowns and stops moving. “I’m not going to hurt you.”
“You already did.” I rub my forehead.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to.” Mom’s voice breaks on the last word.
Dad steps into the room, moving to her side. “He doesn’t understand yet, honey.”
Sure. Comfort Mom, not the son freaking out because his parents turned out to be aliens.
I grab yesterday’s t-shirt from the floor at my feet. Can’t run away half naked. They block my access to the door, so I turn my eyes to the darkened window behind me. Yanking the shirt over my head, I consider the drop to the cement patio at least twenty feet below. The steep slope to the backyard used to be my favorite part of our house, but now I wonder, will the fall break my leg or just my ankle?
Keeping my eye on them, I slide on my board shorts. Not the best get-away clothes, but they’re the closest.
Mom leans her shoulder into Dad’s side. “Zaidyn, don’t leave. Let us explain.”
She knows what I’m thinking? Chills race along the back of my neck. I glance again at the darkness outside my window.
“I know you’re hurting. That’s normal.” Dad holds his hands out and takes a step toward me. “We need to complete the cycle and you’ll feel better.”
I slide a step closer to the sill. “Don’t come near me. And I’m not staying here. I don’t even know who the hell you are.”
Dad follows, moving closer to me. “Nothing has changed. We’re still your parents.”
Fire explodes in my chest. “Everything has changed. I woke up on the fucking ceiling! Mom talked inside my fucking head!” I rush to the window, ignoring Dad’s gasp. “And I don’t know what the hell is going on, but you are not my parents.”
Feet catching in the pile of dirty clothes on the floor, I stumble then grab the window.
“Zaidyn no!” Dad yells. He dashes toward me.
I lift the sash and tear the screen, leaping out into the muggy late summer air. Mom’s frantic scream follows me.
“Help him, Greg!”
Falling, I brace for the painful landing, covering my head with my arms and wishing I’d thought enough to go feet first. Or to leap far enough to land in our pool.
(Note to self: Next time you want to get away fast from your freakishly warped parents, use the damn door.)
It’s like time slows down to half speed. Flipping in mid-air to take the worst of the fall with my shoulders, I force my eyes open and my heart stops. Every small detail explodes in my vision. Stars glitter on the black sky. Warm humid air instantly clams up my skin. And Dad rushes out the window toward me, his vibrant red hair almost brown in the darkness, arms spread wide, brows mashed together over his eyes.
I suck in a breath and throw my arms to the left, hoping to cushion my fall or block Dad from grabbing me or… something. Instead, I stop falling and my body sails to the side, following the direction of my arms. I sail through the warm air, over the stamped concrete surrounding the bean-shaped pool, arms windmilling like in my dream, the electric tingle of adrenaline prickling my skin.
“What the hell?”
Now I’m flying.
Jerking to a stop, I hover ten feet above the dark water for a moment, Dad laughing behind me. The jolt of adrenaline fades as I exhale.
(Note to self: Plug your nose. You’re about to get wet.)
Glancing from Dad’s face to the darkness below, I gasp and drop into the water with a splash
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