14 – What Now?

Everything is scary. Maya used to be afraid of what her friends would think of her when they found out about her. Now she was afraid because she didn’t know what was coming next. In all of her imagined scenarios she never expected them to accept her. She knew they were her friends and that they loved her but she always assumed there was a limit to that love. That at any moment something would happen that would end it all. Years of friendship, all of the good times, it would all be over. And she always thought that something to ruin it all would be her. In some way or another, whether it was something she did, something she said, or the truth about her being exposed. Or maybe they would wake up one day and realize that she just wasn’t worth it. But that isn’t what happened at all. She was accepted. Just the way she was. Every fault. Every failure. Every unexplained mystery about her past. They accepted her. They love her. It was a relief but also a burden. Her plan had always been to run but now that was off the table. What now?

Abby walked back into the apartment seeing tears on Maya and Alice’s faces, their hands still intertwined.

“What now?”

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13 – It’s me.

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Maya slammed the door behind her fell backwards against it, sliding to the floor after rushing to the safety of her room. Her vision blurred and then focused again with every beat of her heart. She wanted to throw all of her things into a bag and start over somewhere else. She wanted to collapse against the door and never face the outside world again. She could do neither. She couldn’t bring herself to day anything. There was just too much going through her head right now. It was taking all of her energy just to process all of her thoughts. Everything quickly came back into focus when she heard the front door open.

“Maya?” Alice called. “You here?”

“Her door’s shut.” She heard Kyle say. Not him too. Not now.

“Her door’s always shut but where else would she go?”

“Mags?”

“Too many people.” Abby finally said, slowly approaching the door to Maya’s room. “Hey, Maya?” A certain sweetness added to her voice as she tapped on the door. It was one Maya heard often, Abby’s comforting voice, but never directed towards her. Even though they have been best friends for so long Maya still didn’t open up too much to her. “You okay?”

What was she supposed to do? She had never imagined this day would come. Her plan had always been to keep her secrets and bury the fear deep inside of her so her normal life could go on despite whatever was wrong with her. But she had been wrong. It was always just a distraction. Everything she had ever done had just been to give herself the illusion of a normal life. But she wasn’t normal and maybe now that everything was out in the open she would finally accept that. Well, almost everything. Her eyes were focused on the still unemptied trash can next to her desk cursing herself for not emptying it before now. Gathering her remaining courage she stood up and backed away from the door, opening it to face her friends. And Kyle.

“Are… are you all right?” Abby asked.

“Y-yea.”

Alice immediately hugged her. Maya wasn’t the hugging type but Alice didn’t care. She knew her friend needed her and nothing would get in the way of that. Not even Maya’s protests. But, for once, Maya did not try to wriggle her way out of the hug. She could see them clearly now faces red, tears in their eyes. Her friends.

“But how?”

“Abby!”

“I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be dismissive here but seriously, you were hit by a bus. A bus, Maya. And instead of letting us help you. Your friends. You ran. From us, Maya. You ran from us. We’re the power duo, remember?”

“Trio.” Chimed in Alice, still embracing Maya. “But seriously.”

Maya moved her gaze from Abby to the trash can once more and broke Alice’s embrace as she began digging past discarded scraps of paper until finding what she was looking for. The bullet. She placed it in Abby’s hand and took a step back, avoiding everyone’s gaze. Worried. Anxious. She just wanted all of this to be over. Abby opened her hand and looked as the crumpled bullet Maya had handed her.

“Maya what is this?”

“It’s me.” She began, unable to come up with a better explanation. “From the video. I’m the bulletproof girl.”

There was a long silence. Her words were still hanging in the air and her eyes were on the ground. She was not yet ready to see the reaction on her friend’s faces. Maya didn’t know what else to say. She was afraid of any questions they might ask her. Questions she did not have the answers to.

“Uh, maybe I should leave.” Kyle said finally, breaking the silence in the room.

“Yea, that would probably be for the best.” Abby’s voice made Maya look up. She had never seen Abby’s face look so cold. “I’ll show you out.”

“I think I can man—“

I’ll show you out.” Abby insisted. “Let’s go.” She said as she grabbed Kyle by the arm and led him out of the apartment.

Alice, on the other hand, didn’t look shocked at all. She had on her sad, teary eyed face on and Maya just knew she was in for another hug. She was right. Once the door closed behind Abby and Kyle Alice wrapped her arms around Maya even tighter than before. This time Maya hugged her back. Not as tight but more than she would when she was only being polite. This time she meant it.

“I think Abby is mad at me.” Maya choked out between the tears. She hadn’t realized that she had started to cry but it didn’t come as too much of a surprise. She knows that she needs her friends and the fear that Abby and Alice learning about her would push them away was more present than ever.

Abby did not let go of Kyle’s arm as she led him out of the apartment. She did not let go of his arm as she led him down the stairs. And she didn’t let go of his arm as they approached the door to the building. Just before Kyle made it outside Abby turned him around, pushed him up against the wall, and looked him dead in the eyes.

“You DO NOT talk about this with anyone.”

“I won’t I prom–“

“You don’t walk about this with Lottie. You don’t talk about this with Zena. You don’t talk about this with your wonderful little grandmother.”

“Look I –“

“I don’t want you to talk about this with ANYONE. Do you understand?”

“I understand.” Kyle finally said, eyes lowered to the floor. Abby was almost a head shorter than Kyle but she was in absolute control of this conversation.

“And you definitely do not talk to Maya without talking to me first, you got that?”

“Yea, I got it.” Kyle knew Abby was only trying to protect her friend but he thought he was their friend too. He knew that there were probably personal things he should not be involved with and maybe this was one of them but being told that he can’t even talk to Maya without someone else’s permission, that hurt.

“Alright, I’ll see you around Kyle.”

“See ya.” He said as he left, still avoiding eye contact with Abby. His day could not get any crazier but he knew his brain was not going to let this go.

12 – No.

Be-doop.

Her phone. Maya never set alarms for her days off. She always enjoyed waking up naturally whenever she could, to get the rest that her body required. Also she was lazy. Well, maybe not lazy but she was up all night. With no reason to wake up in the morning she could find no reason to necessarily go to sleep. Just one more episode, she kept telling herself barely even able to keep her eyes open.

Be-doop.

“Wwwwhhyyyy?” She groaned from beneath her pile of blankets. There was some shuffling somewhere beneath it all and then a lonely hand shot out blindly searching for the phone then retreating once more to the safety of her fortress once it was finally found.

“You up yet?” The text read. It was Abby.

Brunch! Maya shot up in her bed tossing the covers aside and quickly pulling herself together. She had completely forgotten that she had agreed to go out with them. It was probably the reason she just kept watching TV all night. Anything to keep her mind occupied and off of Kyle.

“I’m so sorry. I slept in. I—“ She started as she ran into the living room. But the room was unusually empty.

“Alice?” She called looking into her roommate’s room next to hers. Empty.

“Abby?” She looked down the hall to see Abby’s door open, also empty.

She checked her phone again. She had only read the first message when she woke up but the second one was still sitting there marked as unread.

“We’re not waiting around. Meet us at Elle’s.”

Elle’s was a café only two blocks from their apartment. She could make that in no time. She was just about to throw on whatever clothes she found first in her closet to head out and meet them when she caught sight of herself in the mirror on the wall between the two girl’s rooms and remembered Kyle. Oh no. This will definitely not do. Maya was never one to dress up unless the occasion called for it. She also didn’t want Kyle to affect the way she thought and acted but those desires quickly faded when she saw the mess of her hair taking up a good portion of the mirror in front of her. Alright, let’s make this quick.

Maya could see the patio of Elle’s from down the block but she didn’t see any of her friends. They would usually take up residence in the far corner outside the restaurant, free from the indoor noise yet still far enough away from the street. Sitting outside was also a perfect excuse for Maya to wear her sunglasses and avoid eye contact without looking too rude during their conversations. Maybe they’re waiting for me inside. But I did take my time. They wouldn’t wait that long would they? It wasn’t a long walk down the block but Maya’s brain worked in overtime all the time so any amount of time, no matter how short, gave her enough time to turn a perfectly ordinary situation into a worrisome mess in her head. As Maya walked inside she still saw no signs of her friends. But she did see Kyle. He was sitting in the waiting area fiddling with his phone so he didn’t see Maya walk in which gave her the perfect excuse to turn around and head back outside.

“Where are you at?” She added to their group text.

Be-doop. Immediately.

“We got caught up. Grab a table with Kyle, we’ll be there soon.”

Caught up? We live right around the corner. Maya was suspicious of just about everybody but she wasn’t used to feeling that way about her roommates. Her friends. She took a deep breath and turned around and headed back inside preparing herself to face her fears.

This time Kyle looked up when she entered. And he smiled. I can’t do this. She told herself yet willed her body to move forward.

“Let’s get a table.” She told Kyle, her sunglasses still on. She could face him but she still wasn’t prepared to make eye contact so she just looked past him. This just might work.

“Okay…” Kyle was unsure of what to think. He hadn’t known her for very long but he did know that Maya wasn’t usually this forward.

The waitress recognized Maya right away. She came here often. Sometimes with her roommates but also by herself but always sitting in the same area. The same table if at all possible though that wasn’t really that important to her. She was just a creature of habit. “Patio?”

“Yes please.” She could look the waitress in the eyes. That was never a problem. Even though she didn’t really know her she felt like she wasn’t just another stranger. The why is it so different with Kyle? She knew why but she still wasn’t ready to admit or even accept it.

Maya took her usual seat, back to the glass, facing the street. Kyle sat across from her an odd nervous look on his face. He wasn’t sure what to say next which was an unusual feeling for him. He had never lacked words before. But lucky for him it didn’t look like he was going to have to make the first move. She was looking right at him. Maybe she’s gonna say something. Kyle thought. But no. It wasn’t even him she was looking at. Past his head, standing on the corner across the street she saw them.

Be-doop. Her phone.

She knew who it was before she even looked at it.

“Sorry, we’re not gonna make it. Have fun. ;)”

And with that one text Maya was gone. Her phone in one hand and bag in the other, she took off through the gate the separated the patio from the sidewalk leaving Kyle behind. Those two was all she could think as a blind rage began to brew within her. She was having trouble processing these emotions. Anger definitely. She had never felt anger like this before. Frustration, yes, and annoyance, definitely but not an anger like this and never towards her two closest friends. Whenever she felt the tiniest bit angry she would normally just get quiet and wait for it to fade away. But this was different. This was a loud, fiery anger. AN anger that burned to her very core. She could not believe that her friends, the people she trusts most in this world, would try to deceive her in such a way. But she didn’t even have time to process these things, to think things through. Her friends were right there across the street. They weren’t saying anything when she was walking towards her or if they were Maya could not hear them. She couldn’t hear anything. She was too focused on what had just happened and what they had tried to do to her that that she wasn’t paying any attention to her surroundings. She didn’t see the bus coning at her as she ran across the intersection. The driver didn’t see her angrily storming across the street. It wasn’t even moving that fast but it still knocked her off her feet as the driver slammed on the brakes.

“Oh my god, Maya!” One of her friends cried out. She couldn’t tell who.

Her vision went fuzzy and a dull hum was ringing in her ears. She sat up putting her head in her hands trying to collect herself. No. Not now.

The ringing had stopped and the fog in her head had started to clear by the time Alice and Abby made it to her, kneeling next to her checking for wounds.

No.

“Maya, don’t move.” Abby said.

No.

“No,” she was finally able to say aloud. I can’t deal with tis right now. Not this too. She noticed a crowd of people starting to gather made up of passersbys, restaurant goers, and bus passengers. And I definitely can’t do this here. So in typical Maya fashion she stood up, grabbed her dropped bag…

“Maya, no.” Alice said.

And ran.

“Maya!”

NEXT CHAPTER

11 – Things Will Always Be Weird

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There is a very short list of people that can show up unannounced and it not bother Maya. That list ends at two: Abby and Alice. Or Alice and Abby. There is no correct order, they both mean just as much to Maya and even though she had known Abby just a bit longer, she still spent a large majority of her time with Alice in the time when she had first met her two closest friends. Abby’s appearance at Mag’s that morning made Maya feel infinitely better. Much like her books and movies and TV shows, she could always count on getting lost in her friends whenever there was something particularly troubling on her mind. Even though today she talked about some things she would have rather avoided, it did feel good to relieve some of the pressure that had built up inside of her. If she had known that opening up and talking to someone about this kind of stuff had this freeing feeling then she would have tried it years ago. At least with the guy stuff. She had no idea how she would even bring up her bullet catching or her res=cent revelations from her strange dreams. OR how they would even react to them. Her mind keeps going back to the crumpled bullet at the bottom of her trash bin making her want to fold the entirety of her being inside of itself and hide. Hide forever. I need to do something about that bullet. She manages to tell herself in a brief moment of strength.

The day’s customers were just enough to keep her mind occupied but Maya knew that there were thoughts still stewing in the back of her head and that life would soon catch up to her. The knowledge that Zena would soon arrive to work peaked in at her whenever there was a break in her distractions and little bits of dread slipped through the cracks to the forefront of her mind. It was Zena, in an uncharacteristically sincere moment, who spoke up when she first saw that spark between Maya and Kyle. Zena had known Kyle most of her life, and while she did enjoy giving him a hard time, she truly did consider him a friend and knew enough about him for Maya to trust her judgement. She was also present at last night’s meltdown, another recent even in Maya’s life that she would rather not revisit and, unlike Maya, Zena was never one to avoid a conversation.

“Have you been outside? It is the worst.” Zena yelled after checking that the store was clear of any customers and walked past Maya without even giving her a hello. This was common for the two of them, Maya likes to avoid interactions if at all possible and Zena abhors pleasantries so Maya just smiled and looked outside to see a calm, sunny afternoon. Zena and Maya could not be two more different people.

“I should have brought an umbrella.”

You could try wearing something other than black. Maya wanted to reply but obviously kept her comments to herself. If it wasn’t one of her many black dresses, Zena could be found wearing any combination of other black garments. It was definitely her color of choice when it came to her attire, very rarely would it be accented with any other color.

The day moved on and the moment had come and gone for Zena to say anything to Maya about the previous night as Maya’s shift came to an end but before her anxiety could be alleviated the absolute worst thing in her mind that could happen did. She was ready to leave, for her day to be over, anxious, even, to get home, bury herself in blankets, and lose herself on her laptop, aimlessly browsing at first and then settling into a long stretch of binging anime but her daydreaming of her evening’s plans was interrupted by an all too familiar figure of the very person she was trying to ignore stepping through the door. She should have seen this coming but her over obsessing of everything going on in her life seemed to forget the fact that Kyle had been rekindling his friendship with Lottie which included walking her to work whenever he wasn’t working himself. Dangit, Abby, give that boy more hours. Then, as if on cue, Abby trailed in behind them.

“Abby?! You’re back.”

“Yea, I thought I’d walk back to the apartment with you seeing as there’s some strange stuff going on on our streets as of late.”

Don’t remind me.

“And then, upon hearing of our worries, Kyle here even offered to escort us both home.”

Abby why?

Behind them Maya saw Zena smirk as she was stocking clothing rack at first trying to look busy while eavesdropping in on the drama she full well knew would unfold upon Kyle’s entrance. “But then who is going to protect Kyle?”

“What a gentlemen.” Lottie chimed in.

Were they all in on it? Maya was beginning to suspect something more was going on with her friends. She did not like how this day was going.

“Hey look Maya,” Kyle began. “About the other night, I’m really sorry, I didn’t mean…”

“No. It’s okay. It wasn’t you.” Maya wanted control of the situation. Diffuse things before they got worse. Redirect. Control. She wanted control of the conversation so she could avoid yet another scene. “It was everything else, you were in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s okay, really.”

“Cool. We’re good then? I don’t want things to be weird between us.”

“Yea, we’re good.” But things with me will never not be weird.

Bullet catching was the least of her worries right now. How a simple boy could upset her world more than weird dreams, super powers, and different worlds was beyond even her. But at least with Kyle she could do something. She was in some sort of, even if just a little, control. Or at least try to be. Stifle her feelings. Hide from her emotions. Anything. She was desperate.

“You ready?” Abby asked, bringing Maya back from the void that was her thought processes.

“Yea…” She began to trail off, trying to remember if she truly was ready checking her bag for her keys and whatever else she may not wasn’t to leave behind at the store. At least Abby will be there. Maya was trying to think on the positive side of things. Hiding behind her more talkative friends was her go to strategy when dealing with conversations with strangers. But Kyle wasn’t necessarily a stranger. She may have been distracted by Abby’s performance at the show that night but a lot of what Kyle as talked about actually stuck with her. He liked art, both digital and traditional, and hoped to make a career out of it but was beaten down (his words, not hers) by the educational system. He had trouble with art on demand and while Maya recognized this as a fault, him lacking the discipline to act when needed, but she liked how he treasured the purity of his work and the passion he exuded when talking about it. Most of Maya’s own passions were consumption based, she liked to watch things, or listen to things, or read things but Kyle loved to create and she admired that about him. She didn’t like that she admired it. She didn’t like that she knew enough about him in the first place to admire anything about him. It made things far more complicated. It would me so much easier to push aside any thoughts about him if he was only a complete stranger or just a friend of a friend but she knew just enough for him to keep popping up in her thoughts and she was afraid that the longer he stuck around then the harder it would be for her to ignore those thoughts.

“Alright, let’s go.” Maya clung tightly with both hangs to the strap on her bag, keeping her eyes on the ground as they walked down the sidewalk and towards her apartment making sure to stay several paces behind both Abby and Kyle, just enough to make it look like she wasn’t trying to avoid their conversation.

“So, Kyle, Superheroes. Real or fake?”

“Oh man. That’s tough. The realist in me says ‘no way. Either the video is fake or there’s something missing’ but the kid in me wants to believe it so so bad. What did you think of it?” He asks, turning to an obviously not paying attention Maya.

“Huh? What?”

“The bulletproof girl?” Abby reminds her.

“Oh. That.” Anything but that. “I don’t really know.” She says, finally looking up. “We’re here.

Maya picks up her pace and quickly passes Abby and Kyle, making her way into their apartment building without even saying goodbye. Freedom! She was so caught up in escaping Kyle that she instantly regretted not at least giving him a polite goodbye but there is no way she is going back out there to correct her mistake.

“I’ll talk to her.” Abby tells Kyle before heading in after her.

“Alright. See you guys tomorrow.”

“Bye”

Abby had to run to catch up with Maya who was already in the apartment. By the time Abby made it to the front door Maya was already closing the door to her room and she knew that once that door shut Maya would be locked away for the rest of the night.

“Maya, wait up.”

“Yes?”

“What are you doing tomorrow?”

“Tomorrow? Nothing. I’m off. Why?”

“We’re all going out to brunch, you should come along.”

Maya knew that when Abby said “all” that meant more than just her and Alice.

“All?”

“Yea. Me, Alice, and Kyle.”

Say no. Say no. Say no. A voice repeated inside of her.

“Yea, alright.” Why? Why did I just say that?

“See, getting out’ll be good for you.”

“Maybe”

Or maybe not.

Updates and Edits

Today’s update is a bit different. No new chapter this time because I’ve been busy editing the previous chapters. Mostly the Friday chapter. I did not like the state it was in when I posted it so I’ve made some significant changes and rearranged a few things to make it a bit easier to read. From there I also made minor changes to some of the other chapters but nothing too significant.

Chapter 8 – Friday

10-This Is Not What I Need Right Now

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This was never going to work. It had taken her years but Maya had learned to live with her nightmares and dreams, they have just been affecting her far more than they used to these past few weeks. Looking around her room, closet open, belongings scattered, she realized it had also been a while since she cleaned things up a bit. Just one more item to add to her always growing to do list.

“Morning!” Abby called from the kitchen when Maya finally left her room.

“Morning,” she responded, unenthused as she dumped the contents of her bag onto the dining room table. “Have you seen my keys?”

“God, Maya, you look terrible.”

“Thank you?”

“No, I mean … you know what I mean.”

“Yea, probably. I didn’t sleep too well.”

“Need some coffee?”

“What I need is to find my keys.” She ran her fingers through her hair, pulling it back frustration trying to remember where she had them last.

“Have you checked the floor? You always toss your bag on the floor when you come home, maybe they fell out.”

Maya darted back into her room, immediately returning with her arm in the air, keys in hand, triumphant and went to shove everything back into her bag.

“Sit down. Coffee’s almost ready.”

“Can’t. I don’t want to be late again. I’ll see you after, Abby. Thanks.”

“Alright. Bye.” She called after Maya as she quickly left the apartment.

She made it to work on time. Not that anyone would notice if she arrived late. Mags and Zena were taking care of one of their regular customers leaving Maya to handle the walk ins. She was disappointed to find that everything looked so pristine and perfect when she came in. She needed something to keep her mind busy. Anything to help her not think about last night’s dream, or that video of her catching a bullet with her bare hand. Or Kyle. Especially Kyle. Of all the reality shaking things going on in her life, Kyle was the one she wanted to avoid the most. Of course that is the one subject her mind keeps obsessively moving towards. The chiming of the bell of the front door wakes Maya from the spiral of emotions she was being pulled into. Thank you. Customers.

“One coffee and one best friend, I’ll waive the delivery fee just this once.”

“Abby. Thanks. You didn’t have to come all the way down here.”

“Yea, I kinda did. You’ve been out of it a lot lately. Like, more than usual. So spill, what’s been going on? Is it that Kyle kid? He didn’t know what he was saying last night. He felt super bad afterward.”

“No, it’s not that. I mean, it’s not just that. It wasn’t about what he said it’s just… I don’t know. He’s been around a lot lately and you know how I am around new people. I’m just … I’m just freaking out a little bit.”

Is it because he has a crush on you?” Abby smiled. “Because he totally does.”

“Can we not talk about this?” Maya said, hiding her face in her hands.

“You can’t keep running from how you feel, Maya.”

“Yes. I can. I mean, can’t it just wait a bit? It’s just one more thing on a long list of things I don’t want to deal with right now.”

“Look, I know you like to keep these things to yourself but you know you can come to me with anything, right?”

Can I though? Some things are just too weird. “Yea, I know.”

“That’s what we’re here for. Me and Alice. We’re your friends, we want what’s best for you and if Kyle isn’t what’s best for you, if you don’t like him or don’t want him hanging around then we can do something about that. You should have to deal with this kind of stuff by yourself. You are not alone,” Abby assured her, placing her hand over Maya’s. “And you don’t have to do something you don’t want to just for our sake. You don’t have to be afraid of hurting our feelings like that. You know that you come first, before anyone else in our lives.”

“Well, I mean, except your families.”

You are family, Maya.”

“I’m not… I’m not afraid of hurting you guys like that. What I’m afraid of, what truly scares me is that I might actually like him and that’s just not what I want. At least not right now.”

This admittance makes Abby smile. Maya has never been one to open up too much, even to her closest friends so this little bit means so much to her.

“Shut up.” Maya tells her, smiling back.

“I didn’t say anything.”

“Ugh, why? This is not what I need right now.”

“Maybe it’s exactly what you need. Something to keep your mind off of everything else. Or, in this case, someone.”

“What am I going to do?” she wondered aloud, laying her head on the counter next to her half empty coffee.

“Say something.”

Maya shot up. “No. No no no no no.”

“Why not? It’s better than waiting and freaking out until he finally says something.”

“Is it though?”

“Look, I’m just surprised he hasn’t said anything yet.”

Abby is interrupted by the chime of the front door. Actual customers this time.

“Hi, welcome to Mags.” Maya called to them, stashing the cup Abby brought her underneath the counter.

“Alright, that’s my cue, I’ll see you later.”

“You off today.”

“All day.”

“Have fun.”

“Bye. Love you.”

Tell him? What was Abby thinking? That would not calm my mind. If anything, it would only make it worse. It already has. Now she was not only worried about what he may or may not say but now she was worried that she might unwittingly change her mind and say something as well. But if he asks me I can definitely turn him down. That’s the best case scenario. That would fix everything. Well, everything with Kyle. Hopefully.

NEXT CHAPTER

9-The Gray Dream

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Maya squinted in the distance and had to put her hand over her eyes to take in the view around her. She was back in the field. The field that haunts her dreams. But this was different. Usually when Maya dreams of this day she is stuck in her body, unable to change the events of this day. But here, now she was standing in the middle of the field, her present self, with full control over her body. This isn’t right, she thought. Maya looked around her. The sky was gray, the grass was gray. Everything was gray. Everything was wrong. She shuffled her feet and lightly kicked the gray grass leaving a muffled crunching sound floating the air. It sounded as if she had her fingers in her ears. She tugged at her ears trying to fix the sound, hoping her ears would pop and everything would return to normal but it was still quiet. She bent down to run her fingers over the ground but instead of finding healthy grass she instead felt a brittle grass that instantly resumed where it was once her hand had passed over it. Standing back up, her eyes moved to the sky. The sun was hanging above her, showering everything in its eerie white light. Maya’s eyes were still trying to adjust to it. Even with the world made of different shades of gray shadows seemed to be nonexistent. What is this? Why am I here?  She took a few steps forward, trying to remember where everything was. She wasn’t used to seeing this day from this angle. The memory of her trip up here came and went as it pleased, sometimes returning to her in vivid detail but often throwing her into a panic as she struggled to even remember the faces of her parents. Where was the city? I remember I was facing the city when everything happened. I was on a hill. To her left she noticed the land slowly sloping upward. It wasn’t much of a hill but maybe to her childish eyes it seemed like a mountain. The crunch of her feet on the ground trailed behind her as she moved up the slop and noticed the horizon getting closer and closer, she looked back to where she came from and she had climbed much higher than she expected to. Maybe it really was a hill. It didn’t look so high from the field. Then she saw it. At the top of the hill she finally had a good view of her surroundings. Where she expected to see the city off in the distance she instead saw the blast that threw her into the air. It was bright. Brighter than the sun and frozen in place. An unmoving white fireball engulfing her entire field of vision. What is this? Turning back to look at where she came from she noticed something hanging in the air. Her younger self stuck in place. This is definitely strange. Circling her younger self Maya wondered why now. Her dreams about this were normally nightmares, thoughts that continued to haunt her well into her adult life. Why are things suddenly so different? What purpose could this dream possibly have? The air was eerily calm as she sat on the grass below her suspended body, she began to pat the stiff grass just to break the silence. Her dreams usually ended at the highest point of panic but nothing here caused her to feel even remotely afraid. She had never had a boring dream before. Maya could not even keep track of the passing of the time, the sun still hung in the sky, slightly dulled by the frozen explosion behind her but still unmoving. Despite her traumatic experience here as a child, picnics were still a big part of Maya’s life. She, Abby, and Alice would often pack lunches and drive in whatever direction until they came upon the first park or open field they found once they began to get hungry. It was an exercise to break the temptation from living the rest of their lives in the same tiny neighborhood. They loved it there but complacency was their enemy. It was mostly Alice and Abby’s enemy, Maya had no problem cuddling up next to complacency and comfortably hiding away for the rest of her life but she often understood that following her friends on whatever adventures they had planned was probably healthier for her life in the long run. After they would eat Maya would lay in the grass and watch the clouds make their way across the sky, the sun darting in between them as it made its own journey towards the next day. Now she is laying in a bastardized version of her worst nightmare watching as things remain unmoving and motionless. Her gaze drifts back to the body hanging above her, dress and hair floating in the stillness of the wind. In her dreams it felt like she was flying through the air forever and had always assumed that to be an exaggeration brought on by her dream state but looking at herself now, twenty or so feet in the air, far enough away from the top of the hill and not even halfway to where she would land. Where I should land. Would I have even survived the impact if I had stayed here? Did crossing over somehow save my life? Then it hit her. Where exactly did she cross over? She sat straight up, bringing her gaze to the tree her parents had set up their picnic. She squinted and could just barely see it. A shimmer in the air. Like when you’re looking at the empty road on a hot summer day. Getting up, Maya made her way towards the tree. The crunch of the grass got louder and louder the closer she got and slightest of hums began to fill the air. This is it. This is where it happened. I wonder— Her outstretched hand inched closer and closer to the shimmer and the familiar sound of her alarm got louder and louder. No! Not now. Not yet! Her eyes open and she shot up in her bed. What. Was. That?

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