Foreshadowed: Lance's chapter
The first chapter of Foreshadowed, reimagined from Lance Hampton's point of view.
PAIN…NOT LIKE A HEADACHE or a sore muscle, but true down-to-the-bones, fire and ice kind of pain. For what feels like a long time—too long—it’s the only thing I’m conscious of. That and the sound of my breathing. Then, slowly, my eyes open.
Mom and Dad sit in the seat in front of me. Just like before. But now we’re upside down. Mom’s long dark hair brushes the roof of the car. I mutter a curse, something I never do in front of my parents and stiffly turn my head. It’s probably a mistake…hot, sharp pain ripples down my neck and into my shoulders.
There’s a man dressed in all black sitting next to me. Hanging upside down like the rest of us, only he isn’t strapped in. He’s just sitting there.
He watches Mom and Dad, a contented smile on his pale face. Confused, I return my gaze to the front of the car.
They’re blanketed in darkness, shadows dancing across their still forms. It’s dark outside, but so much darker in the car. And there’s a strange, disconcerting sound growing louder and stronger by the second. Almost like someone slurping through a straw…
The shadows move.
Not shadows. Monsters. Pale blue eyes stare at me before fixing on my mom. I see a flash of small, but pointed teeth, as its mouth attaches to one of her arms. More slurping.
I look back at the man. My mouth opens, but the command to help them won’t come out. He smiles at me. His lips spread too wide, stretching his face unnaturally. The inside of his mouth is dark, contrasting his perfectly set, white teeth.
My heart thumps painfully as I realize whoever he is, he is not human. And he’s not here to help me.
What looks like black smoke spills from his clown-like grin. The smoke takes shape and shadowy monsters with flashing blue eyes fly at me.
IT’S TOO SOON. I’VE SEEN death and lived to tell the tale. After that, high school shouldn’t be so terrifying. But then, there are a lot of shouldn’ts in my life. And number one? I shouldn’t be alive.
“You’re going like that?” my uncle Eric asks as I zip up my jacket. “You look like you just rolled out of bed.”
“I did,” I tell him, and then shrug a shoulder. “I brushed my teeth.”
He gestures down the hall, toward the kitchen. “I made pancakes.”
I shake my head. “I just brushed my teeth.”
“So, brush ‘em again. Come on, Lance, you’ve got to eat something.”
In answer, I yank open the front door and step out on the porch. Eric follows me, grumbling about wasting food.
“You don’t have to come,” I remind him for the bazillionth time. “I can get there by myself.”
“Sure—just like yesterday. And the day before that. And the day before that.”
I blow out a breath. It’s Thursday. I was supposed to start school on Monday. Actually, I was supposed to start at the beginning of the year. It’s April now. When I moved in with Eric, we both agreed I would return to school as soon as I finished physical therapy. Then, it changed to as soon as I felt ready. Eric kept telling me there was no rush, and that I could take my time. But, about two weeks ago, he decided I’d had enough time. He thinks it will help me—meeting new people, letting go of the past. That’s because he thinks it’s the grief and the headaches holding me back. He doesn’t know what really has me dragging my feet. I haven’t told him about the visions.
I turned eighteen last month. I could move out and find my own place—drop out of high school officially. With the money Mom and Dad left me, I could live comfortably for a few years…even more if I live uncomfortably. I’ve brought it up before, but Eric told me, “Shut-up, you’re staying.”
Truthfully, I don’t know what I would do without him. Some days, he’s the only thing keeping me from ending it all.
And maybe that’s exactly why I should move out.
Eric interrupts my thoughts with, “You’re really going like that, huh? You’re not even going to comb your hair?”
“I’m not into all that superficial crap.”
My wit is wasted on him. He shakes his head at me. “You’re not even going to try? Think of it as a fresh start.” I don’t say anything. I don’t even look at him, so he slugs me in the arm. “Ooh, sorry, did that hurt?” he teases when I glare at him.
I punch him back—hard—and almost smile when he howls in exaggerated pain. “Did that hurt?”
He rubs his arm. “I can’t move it,” he complains. “I’m useless now. May as well call in sick.”
The small bit of humor shrivels up, rolls over, and dies. He took the morning off to make sure I made it to school, which is something he can’t afford to do. His job is fairly new, and he doesn’t have any kind of paid leave. And, he stubbornly refuses to accept money from me, other than a few bucks for pizza on poker night.
Eric gives up trying to lighten the mood and hops off the porch. As he walks past the truck he’s been working on since I moved in, he pats the hood affectionately. I’ve never been one of those guys who develop relationships with their cars. Sure, I’ve drooled over a few, and I was as excited as any sixteen-year-old to get my license, but cars were never more than cars to me. Now, I can barely look at them.
So, when Eric climbs into his weather-beaten Mustang—another project car of his (at least this one runs)—I stop in my tracks and stare at him. I had assumed we would walk to school. When the engine turns over, I flinch.
It’s not like I haven’t been in a car since the accident. I sat in one for two hours during the move from Cheney, but I had help in the form of magic pills. I can’t go to school drugged up. It sort of defeats the purpose.
I don’t know how much time passes, but eventually, Eric turns off the car and steps out. For a long time, he watches me. Then, gently, he says, “It’s a nice day. Why don’t we walk?”
Grateful, I nod. “Sure.”
We fall into step together. When we round the corner, he lights up a cigarette. I narrow my eyes at it, thinking, and he misinterprets my reaction. “I know, I know,” he says. “I’m sorry. Just the one, okay?”
“What is it like?” I ask.
“What do you mean?”
“Smoking helps calm you down, right? What does it taste like? What does it feel like?”
He tries to hand me the cigarette—like I want to put it in my mouth after he’s sucked on it. I make a face and push it away. He laughs and replaces it between his lips before handing me a fresh one.
I shake my head. “I don’t want one. I want the whole pack. And your lighter. Just in case.”
“Just in case what?”
“In case I need it later,” I say. “I’m fine right now—I think—but after a few hours…”
He releases a breath of smoke. “I’ve done a great job with you, haven’t I? Your mom and dad will be so pleased when I turn you into a chain smoker.”
“They’re dead,” I say bluntly. “They won’t know.” I hold my hand out. “And there are worse things.”
Eric reluctantly hands over his pack of cigarettes and lighter, which I shove in my pocket. “You shouldn’t smoke,” he tells me very seriously.
“Neither should you.”
“I know.” He takes another drag.
WE CHECK IN AT THE office, where I’m handed a printout of my new schedule. There’s a cute girl helping out with filing or something, and she volunteers to show us around.
“I’m Amanda,” she says.
“Lance,” I answer back. “This is Eric.”
“I’m not a student,” Eric clarifies. “I’m his uncle.”
She snickers. “I didn’t think you were a student.”
It’s an open campus, so most of our time is spent outside, while Amanda points out the various buildings. She tries to make conversation, asking questions about where I’m from and why I moved, and all of that. I keep my answers as short as possible. Eric, on the other hand, tries to play matchmaker.
“What grade are you in, Amanda?” he asks.
“I’m a senior.”
“No kidding. So is Lance.”
“I’m a junior,” I correct.
“But you would be a senior,” he says.
I can feel Amanda watching me curiously. “I was held back,” I say. I don’t want to talk about the accident. It will bring up too many questions.
“That’s okay,” she assures me.
“He’s actually really smart,” Eric tells her. “And he cleans up nice. Don’t let his hair fool you.”
She laughs. It’s a nice sound. I haven’t heard a girl laugh in a long time. I’m torn by the dueling desires to hear her laugh again, and to turn and run away. I have no intention of making friends here, and definitely no desire for a girlfriend. I had a girlfriend back in Cheney. Debbie. I really thought I would marry her someday, but life—or maybe death—had other plans.
I came back different that night. Now, whenever I look in someone’s eyes, I see how they die. How can I possibly have a relationship, when I can’t even do something as basic as look into a girl’s eyes?
“I think his hair looks fine,” Amanda says.
Eric nudges me. I think he expects me to say something. She probably does, too. I chance a glance at her, careful to avoid her eyes. A soft smile plays on her lips. In another life, perhaps—if that drunk driver had never crashed into us…. No, if that had never happened, I would still be in Cheney, with Debbie, getting ready for graduation. Getting ready for the rest of my life.
All of that is over now.
“Thanks,” I mumble, because I can’t think of anything else to say. Amanda and Eric exchange a glance. By the time we reach my first class—Biology—she looks eager to leave us.
Eric sighs, watching her go, and then claps me on the shoulder. “I guess one thing at a time, huh?”
“I guess so,” I answer.
He hesitates, and then says, “Try…okay.”
It’s too soon. I really shouldn’t be here.
I put a hand in my pocket, wrapping my fingers around the pack of cigarettes. Simply knowing they’re there calms me a little. If it becomes too much, I can leave, I guess. But…I will try—for Eric.
I nod, and then walk through the door to my first class.
THE DAY DOESN’T GET ANY EASIER. I’m the new guy. Everyone is curious about me. Everyone wants to talk to me, and ask why I moved here. And, for some reason, the more stand-offish—and even rude—I act, the more curious people are (at least the girls).
As the day wears on, a hopeless sort of dread settles on me. Each class gets more difficult to face. Each person who tries to talk to me gets harder to ignore. The temptation to glance up and meet someone’s eyes is overpowering. Pretty soon, I’m going to mess up. I can feel it. I can’t avoid looking up forever. Even if I make it through the entire day, how am I going to get through the rest of the semester? And then all of next year?
How am I going to get through the rest of my life? Is this it for me now? A constant vision of death everywhere I go?
My last class for the day is Language Arts. Luckily, the teacher, Mr. Kimoto, isn’t big on looking people in the eye either. And, thankfully, he doesn’t put me on the spot in front of the class, asking me to tell a little about myself. He simply introduces me, and mentions there’s a seat in the back I can have.
Of course the desk is in the very back. That way, I get to walk past everybody—the new guy on parade—and try to avoid eye contact. One girl, a skinny thing with brown hair, has her head on the desk. I figure she’s safe to look at. But what if she lifts her head? No, better to keep my gaze on the ground.
I start moving. I can feel eyes on me. Eager eyes waiting for me to meet theirs. This is hopeless. This is impossible. My own eyes burn, desperate to meet each curious gaze.
It’s almost over, and it can’t possibly get any worse…but the anxiety is building. I need my pills. This is just too soon. Too soon: my mantra for the day. It will always be too soon.
I make it to my desk and practically collapse in my seat. A girl next to me introduces herself. Chandra. I like the sound of her voice. It’s friendly, but not so bubbly it’s annoying. I pretend I don’t hear her.
There’s writing on my desk: the F-word over and over again. That’s about how I feel right now.
I shouldn’t be here. It’s always going to feel too soon. As long as this curse stays with me. Something happened to me that night. I’m supposed to be dead. I should be dead. I know it. Eric knows it. The doctors know it. Would it really be so terrible if I just did it?
For the first time, true conviction to end my life pumps through me. Enough wishing and whining. It’s time I take matters into my own hands and do it. End the pain. End the curse. Be with Mom and Dad again.
But how? I need a gun.
There’s sudden movement out of the corner of my eye. The brown-haired girl who had her head on the desk a moment ago, straightens.
A gun is the easiest solution. I can’t slit my wrists. I can’t stand the sight of blood. It’ll make me sick. Maybe jumping off a building, but from what I’ve seen, none of the buildings here are high enough to actually kill me. I need it to be quick, and hopefully painless. A gun is the only logical…
The girl with the brown hair is turned slightly in her seat toward me. With her eyes closed. She has her head cocked, almost as though listening intently to something. What is she doing?
Her eyes open, and before I have the chance to avert my gaze, they meet mine.
The world goes dark. I see nothing. Panic creeps in. It’s too late to stop the vision. I have to wait and let it play out. But, why can’t I see anything?
There’s heavy breathing. Someone is scared…tired…in pain.
Horror washes over me. She doesn’t die a natural death. She’s about to be murdered, and I’m going to have to “see” it.
Along with the breathing, there’s a strange clip-clop sound. Uneven footsteps on a hard surface. High-heeled shoes. I think she’s hurt in the vision—that explains the unevenness of her steps. She’s in pain. She’s terrified. She knows what’s coming.
The footsteps stop. The breathing grows louder, more frightened. There’s an almost indiscernible dull, yet wet sound. Then, a gasp in pain, followed by a light thud as her now-dead body falls to the ground.
The vision ends abruptly. I see her wide brown eyes staring at me, almost accusatory, and she blurts out, “What the hell was that?”
Everyone laughs. The inappropriate sound cuts through me. What…? Did she see…no, there’s no way she saw it, too.
“Ms. Murdoch,” Mr. Kimoto chastises. “I’m sorry you don’t find me as interesting as our new student, but please try not to have any more outbursts.”
She sheepishly turns to face the front and says, “Yes, sir.” I cradle my head in my hands, my stomach churning. She’s going to be murdered. Stabbed, I think. I stare down at the F-words scrawled across my desk. Each one of them seems to pop out and circle around me, echoing in my head.
“Mr. Hampton?” Mr. Kimoto asks.
Why her? Why me? Why do I have to see these things?
And the vision was blanketed in total darkness. I can’t see who kills her. I can’t tell when. I can’t even warn her. But then…she seemed to see it herself.
That’s impossible. There’s no way she could have seen it. Unless she was inside my head, somehow seeing my thoughts.
“Are you feeling all right, Mr. Hampton?”
I look up at her again. She’s watching me. Like a moment ago, her gaze is almost accusatory. She looks as though she wants an explanation as much as I do. I can’t explain it—not rationally, anyway—but I know she saw it. If I can have death visions, I suppose there’s no reason she can’t read minds.
She waits, along with Mr. Kimoto for my response. I decide to test my theory.
I know what you’re doing, I think, and her eyes widen with surprise. She heard me.
As I watch her eyes, the vision begins to unfold again. Before it can get going, I stand and bolt from the room.
Time for that cigarette.
You can find FORESHADOWED here.