The first thing she registered was the chirp of a bird. She blinked lazily a few times and yawned. With a low hum, she stretched forcefully and flopped back down onto her bed, resolving to get back up again in a few minutes.
A few blissfully silent moments passed of her lounging in a half-asleep fog before she realized what it was that she’d just heard – what it was she’d just done. At this revelation, her eyes shot open, twin electric-green stars, wired in and focused on the world around her. A white plaster ceiling. Narrow strips of sunlight streaming in from the window. The bird chirped again merrily.
The first thing she did – the first thing she ever did when she felt out of her element – was check the code. And instead of feeling that ethereal energy, that information, flow through her mind, instead of feeling the fabric of the world around her unravel at its seams and spill its inner workings for her to ponder and peruse as she pleased, she felt nothing at all. And she tried again and again to read the code, and each time, she was met only with the chirps of a bird, the cracks in the white plaster ceiling above her, and the sunbeams shining overhead.
Her eyes traced the sunbeams until they rested on a mesh hamper that slouched in the corner of the room. From there, her eyes traced the wall and found a desk. Half a dozen pencils were arranged in rows at its head, and a shelf of books of all different sizes occupied the space above it. Next to the desk was a door that was shut tight, betraying nothing of the house that lay beyond.
The girl looked down at herself and saw a lumpy mass beneath a heap of bedcovers. She checked the code again. No response. Her breathing was now coming only in short, shallow gasps, and it took her a moment to muster up enough impetus to reach out and touch the topmost sheet. Soft. Sleek. She realized that she was wearing clothes underneath the bedsheets. She realized that the bed was a little bit too warm.
That she felt warm.
She kicked off the sheets. Gray sweatpants. A school pride t-shirt with a mascot on it, striking a pose. She touched the mascot tentatively, traced the lines of its face, felt the fabric bunch and wrinkle beneath. She grabbed fistfuls of her pants. A thicker, sturdier material. It was real. It was real. It was…
It was overwhelming. She was hyperventilating. She was falling out of bed, stumbling to her feet. She was yanking open the door to her room, running through it (Monika’s Room! it said on the outside). A hallway. A red rug. A bathroom – finally. She fell to her knees, took half a second to make sure that the seat was up and that she was aimed properly, and vomited into the toilet.
Knots of pain screwed their way through her midsection. Now feeling considerably more light-headed, she clutched onto the porcelain bowl for dear life as the room around her tilted dangerously, attempting to bully her stomach into heaving again.
But if nothing else, the president of the Literature Club was resilient, and in time, the room stood still again. She gazed down into the tainted toilet, its water swirling with galaxies of green-brown sludge, arms reaching for edges where they could touch the porcelain, making shapes that she’d never imagined could be real. Pockets of gunk spun aimlessly like stars, caught in the vast reaches of the vile universe around it.
She attempted to get her breathing back under control by switching from her mouth to her nose. Big mistake. Completely unprepared for the horrendous stench, she reeled back, audibly hacking. In an effort to get away from the smell, she stood up and resumed breathing through her mouth. After another minute or so of just calming down, she looked up and surveyed the room.
Her eyes rested on a mirror, and looking back at her was the most disheveled girl she’d ever seen in her life. Her eyes were wild, her pupils dilated. Her chest was heaving up and down, the mascot on her shirt stretching cartoonishly to accommodate. The girl’s long, brown hair was unkempt and ragged. A strand of it was actually stuck to the corner of her lip, where a small, green chunk of puke had taken up residence. She absentmindedly wiped it away with her thumb and looked down at it, as though in a trance.
She checked the code. No response.
“Oh my God.”