Cassandra Hollingsworth stared at her best friend who was hastily opening the box to the board game. Well, Cass thought board game, but Abbagail Cutler (who was Cassandra's best friend, by the way) thought of it as something more. It was a portal into another world. It was proof that there was something beyond the grave, beyond death which every living being must eventually succumb to. Cass wasn't sure why such a powerful object would be fifteen dollars at a store in the mall that was fraught with keychains that had goofy sayings like "I have PMS and a gun... now what were you saying" or "I can only please one person per day, and I've already filled my quota" (Cass was pretty sure that she was remembering those sayings incorrectly but she really couldn't be bothered to figure out what they really were, though she probably should have since not knowing seemed to weaken her argument with Abby,) and stupid figurines like a guy who mooned you when you pressed a button, or many glow in the dark sex toys. It was not the kind of store that you should get a device that allows you to commune with the dead through.
But Abby was convinced, and when Abby was determined to do something, then nothing that Cass could do was going to stop her. Especially after Abby had given Cass her long speech about how they never saw each other anymore since Cass had started dating her new boyfriend. Way to lay the guilt trip on there, Abby. Cass was used to it though and barely even though of it as a guilt trip.
"Isn't a bit, I don't know, cliche to be doing this on Halloween?" Cass asked
"But it's the night when the veil between the spirit world and our world is at its thinnest."
"I highly doubt that's based in any actual fact. It was just a superstition that your European ancestors--"
"Shut up, Cass."
She grumbled and sat down on the floor next to Abby and the Ouija board.
They were sixteen years old and Cass trusted Abby with everything.
Abbagail and Cassandra were twenty-one and they trusted each other with everything. They sat on the living room couch at Abby's parents house, and stared at the scary movie on the screen. They'd been drinking a little, but left the party when it got boring.
"Remember when we had that Ouija board like four hundred Halloweens ago?" Cass asked out of nowhere.
"I kind of think that might be a slight exaggeration, Cass," Abby rolled her eyes and plunged her hand into the bowl of popcorn. She managed to imitate one of those crane arcade games very well because when it came back up, she had only a few kernels.
"Yeah, but remember when we did?"
"Remember Vince? What do you think ever happened to him."
"Uh, Cass. I think what happened to him, was that he retreated back into your imagination."
Cassandra sat up so quickly that her head swam around and she felt slightly dizzy. "No way, Abby!" she said in a voice that resembled a shriek. She wasn't happy with how she sounded, but she was too indignant to stop sounding like it. "He was totally not my creation."
"Uh, yeah he was, Cass." Abby rolled her eyes and scoffed.
"He was totally yours."
"After I started dating Tom--"
"Here it goes."
"After I started dating him, you were all sort of alone without me around," she began.
Abby finished for her: "So you made up some ghost on the Ouija board that was in love with me, so I wouldn't feel bad."
"I would never do that! Oh my god, Abby."
"Ok whatever, Cass. If you didn't make him up, then what. He was a real ghost?"
"We had this discussion before," Cassandra said while grabbing some popcorn from the bowl.
"Yeah, like five years ago."
"I didn't make him up. It was the collective consciousness of us together. There's some sort of phenomenon that goes along with how those Ouija boards work. The people using it kind of want to see a certain thing happen, and then they make the little eye thingy--"
"The planchette," Abby corrected her.
"They make the little planchette thingy move to where they feel like it should go next. It's not a conscious thought, it's just what happens. It's why people can legitimately say they aren't moving the eye--"
"Planchette, but they subconsciously are."
"So, subconsciously, you were trying to make me feel like there was a ghost in love with me."
"That's not what I'm saying."
"What are you saying then?"
"I am saying that we were both subconsciously trying to make us feel like there was a ghost in love with you."
"Way to ruin the magic, Cass."
"I hardly think you still believed it."
"I might have," Abby said quietly. "Cassss..." she whined and rolled over from her stomach onto her back. "We need more popcorn."
"Go make some."
"You go make some."
"I'm not your servant."
"But you always make me popcorn!"
Cass grumbled and grabbed the near empty bowl and stomped off to the kitchen.
Though it was Abby's kitchen, Cassandra knew her way around it just as well as her own. Maybe better. She had grown up in this house just as much as she had grown up in her own. She knew exactly where to get the popcorn, where to get the glass plate to set the bag on in the microwave... She knew that she had to even get a glass plate to put in the microwave, because it was some weird toaster oven combo and if you just set a bag of popcorn in there, then it would not pop the popcorn correctly, it would instead just kind of burn the sides of the bag and not give actual popcorn throughout the bag.
Three and a half minutes later, the microwave dinged and the bag was large and fluffy and full of delicious snack popcorn. She dumped it into a bowl, after nearly burning her fingers on the hot bag, and sprinkled a bit of the popcorn salt that she’d pulled from the cabinent on top.
Walking back into the living room, she saw Abby on the floor, right where she'd left her.
Only something seemed wrong.
Abby was laying flat on her back, as if she were staring at the ceiling. But her eyes couldn't have been staring at anything. They were completely devoid of color. They were completely white. "Abs, what are you doing?" Cass asked, not out of concern for what bizarre situation Abby might have fallen into, but out of slight annoyance. It was Halloween after all, and it wasn't beyond Abby to try to pull some sort of Halloween prank on her best friend.
She poked her with her foot. Abby didn't move. Her eyes didn't flicker. What was going on with them anyway? Were they contacts? Where the hell had Abby gotten weird contacts like that? It seemed to be a bit of an investment in a silly Halloween prank.
She still wasn’t moving.
Panic started to set in on Cassandra.
"Abby?" She set the popcorn down on the table and knelt down to her friend. "Abby, whatever it is you're doing, knock it off. It's not funny. Don't even think of all of a sudden popping up and screaming to scare the shit out of me. Cause it will. Abby. Abby!"
Cassandra tried shaking her, but nothing was happening. Abby’s small, usually pale face seemed even paler than usual. Sickly pale. Vaguely blue.
"Abby! Jesus fuck what are you doing?!" her voice was a shriek.
She ran to her purse that was sitting on the couch and began to frantically fumble through it for her phone. But her rushed actions and panicked mind only served to make it harder for her to find. When she couldn't find it, she dumped the contents out on the floor. She had barely begun to reach for her phone, when she heard a loud, near inhuman shriek come from behind her.
Whirling around, Cassandra saw Abby sitting up, eyes still white and blank, mouth wide open and an earsplitting curdling scream emanating from her mouth.
The girl fell back to the ground, her dark hair in a tangled halo on the floor around her head. A stream of blood was coming from both nostrils, and there was some gurgling up from inside her mouth as well.
Cass suddenly remembered the phone that she had so frantically searched for and dialed nine one one.
They didn't let Cassandra ride in the back of the ambulance when it came to take Abbagail to the hospital. So instead she had to drive her own car instead. And she got separated from the ambulance too. She swore and screamed and pounded the steering wheel the entire time.
She had been a panic the entire time she was on the phone with the nine one one dispatcher, rambling and babbling about how she didn't know what happened, and everything was fine when she'd went to the kitchen, and she was only gone for like five minutes at the most.
When the blood started coming into Abby's mouth, Cass had turned her on her side so that she didn't choke on it, and where had it even come from anyway? Cassandra had never had anything like this happen to her. Ever. She lived in a nice neighborhood. Ok, more like a really nice neighborhood. And people from nice neighborhoods in Pittsburgh don't often experience their best friend randomly losing the iris and pupil from their eyes and having blood ooze out of their nose and mouth for no particular reason. And they most certainly don't have their best friend have all that happen along with hearing bizarre inhuman screaming coming from inside of them.
She arrived at the hospital and didn't know where to go. Fuck hospital parking! she wanted to scream. So she did scream it in the safety of her own car. She wouldn't have even whispered it out loud if she hadn't been in her car.
The person at the front desk with cat ears on wasn't very helpful. Why the fuck was she wearing cat ears? What the fuck was this. Was it a hospital or a costume party?
Cassandra forgot that it was even Halloween until she looked down and saw her own little devil costume. She had already shed the horns and the tail that she'd worn to the halloween party with Abbagail earlier, but she still had the little red dress on. Fuck halloween!
The halloween party. Of course. What the fuck had Abbagail drank?! She needed to find the police and tell them. They needed to get the fuck over to that party and find out what was going into the drinks of girls there.
"What was the last name?" the girl at the desk had asked Cassandra.
"Cutler. C U T L E R," she spelled it out as calmly as possible.
"Oh. And the first name?"
"I told you al--- Abbagail," she said, rather than letting her anger get the best of her.
"No one admitted by that name right now."
"But I just saw them load her in an ambulance and--"
"You might want to check with the Emergency Room if she hasn't been admitted to a bed yet."
Cassandra ran around for another half hour before finally finding someone who could tell her where Abbagail was. But even then she couldn't see her. There was another fifteen minutes before she had the sudden epiphany of calling Abbagail's parents. They probably would want to know that this was going on.
The emergency room was full of people in costumes, with stupid injuries. It was almost sitcom-ish, looking around the room, seeing people in their assorted "sexy" costumes, like sexy werewolf or sexy bottle of mustard, there for silly reasons like nail through the foot. What the fuck would Abbagail be classified under.
It was morning, and Cassandra was sleeping on a chair, waiting around with Abbagail's father. Her mother was still out of the country, doing some sort of business deal in Germany. They'd gotten word that whatever it was wrong with Abby, it seemed to be over now. There was no more bleeding, no more bizarre eyes, and certainly no more screaming. But they still had her in a bed in the emergency room, until they could either determine if she could be discharged or assigned to a bed somewhere in the hospital.
But the two sat there, alternating between drinking coffee and nearly falling asleep,
When suddenly Abbagail's father's phone rang. Cass could only hear one side of the conversation, and it sounded something like this: "Yes, this is he. ... Yes. ... Ye-Uh huh. Yes. ... He WHAT? Where is he? ... What room? ... What happened to him? ... How do you not know? ... Uh huh. ... Uh..huh. I'm actually already here. What was the room again?" He fumbled around for a piece of paper and a pen and wrote 617 on it. "Yes. Thank you. Uh-... uh huh, thanks."
Cassandra let her curiosity get the better of her. "Is everything okay?"
"My brother seems to have gotten himself admitted to this place last night as well."
"You have a brother?" Cassandra had known Abby her whole life, and as an extension, she knew Abby's father her whole life as well. Not nearly as well, but she knew him. And never once had he said anything about a brother. Never once had Abby said anything about an uncle. She knew that Abby's mother had two sisters, giving Abby two aunts. But she'd never heard of a brother from Mr. Cutler before.
"We don't get along too very well. It's," he began saying, but seemed to have difficulty finishing. He let out a sigh. "We haven't talked very much lately."
"I didn't know Abby had an uncle."
"He lives out in Monroeville."
"Not too far."
"Do you want to stay here and see if they have any news on Abby? I probably should go see about my brother."
"Um." Cassandra was hesitant. She didn't want the responsibility of having to speak with any doctor or nurse that came out with news on Abby.
"You have my cell number in case anything changes."
"Uh. Yeah," she said finally. "No problem."
And of course, not even a few minutes after Abby's father left the waiting room, a doctor came out to speak with him. They were moving Abby up to a room on the third floor just for one night of observation. To see if anything would happen again.
"What even happened to her?" Cassandra asked.
"That's what we're trying to find out. We can't seem to find a cause."
"You're a doctor how do you not know the cause?"
"We're running tests."
"How do you not know the cause?!" she repeated.
"Cassandra," he said, and she was slightly impressed that he actually remembered her name. "These things take time. Do you think doctors knew what they were dealing with the first time they saw cancer?"
"She has cancer?!"
The doctor pinched the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger. "It was an example. I apologize."
"No, no," Cass sighed. "I've been up all night and..." her voice trailed off. "I just want her to be alright. She's my best friend, okay?"
"I understand. This is why we do want to keep her for the night, to observe and see if any more complications arise."
Abby was asleep when Cass walked into her room, and other than the wires hooked up to her elbows, she looked fine. She looked nothing different than any other time she was sleeping.
To her surprise, Abbagail opened her eyes and looked right at her as she walked in the room.
"Hey, Cass," she said in a somewhat scratchy, weak voice.
"Abby. Hey. I didn't think you were awake."
"Yeah. I kind of don't feel like sleeping right now."
"How are you feeling?" Cass asked. She sat down on the chair next to Abbagail's bedside.
"I've felt better. I mean, I've felt worse too, but I've felt better."
"Do they know what happened to you?" Cass asked.
"No," she answered simply.
"Do you know what happened to you?"
"No," she answered in the same voice.
"What do you remember?"
"I remember," she began to say, but nothing came after it.
"You don't remember anything?"
"No, I do remember some things. Most things. I remember you going into the kitchen, but then..." Abbagail drifted off into silence that she seemed to want to not break.
"But then? But then what?" Cass tried to nudge her friend towards finishing.
"Nothing." She shook her head, and Cass thought that the way she'd done it, it was almost like she was trying to shake a bad thought away.
"Nothing? You remember nothing? Or there was nothing."
"I'm not sure."
Cass knew that Abby was lying. You're not best friends with a girl for the better part of ten years and not know when she's lying. Cassandra leaned forward a bit, and spoke in a hushed, almost husky voice, "What happened, Abby?"
"Nothing." She shook her head again.
"There wasn't anything odd in your system, they said. So it wasn't like you were the recepient of some weird new roofie at that party."
"It wasn't that. Probably. It probably wasn't that."
"Not drugs either."
"You hadn't drunk nearly enough."
"I only had like two wine coolers."
"Yeah, exactly. There was nothing in your system that would have caused that. So," Cass leaned back on the chair. "What then was it?"
"I don't know," Abby spoke quietly.
"Why won't you tell me?"
"Because it's stupid okay?"
"What happened is stupid. It's some stupid halucination and I mean, I don't know where it came from, but it's embarassing that it happened to me."
"You had a hallucination?"
Abby pressed her pale lips together, and the look on her face told Cassandra that she really hadn't wanted to say that this was the case. "Yeah," she said, dragging out the second syllable. "I kind of did. It was the weirdest shit that I think has ever happened to me."
"What did you see?"
"It was like," she squinted, making her already narrow eyes even narrower looking. "Like I was there, but I wasn't. Like I was watching some sort of surveilance camera footage as it was happening. But I was the camera itself maybe."
"Uh huh, and what were you watching while you were the camera?"
"It was..." she looked up from the spot on her hospital blanket that she had been staring at, and looked at Cassandra. "It was darkness. It was like night spreading outward, instead of like from side to side, how normal nightfall would happen."
"That's vaguely ominous."
"And it wouldn't stop spreading either. Like, there was nothing that could be done. And in the darkness, all these shapes of horrifying creatures were crawling out, and just worming their way around all us day-loving people. They were like vampires, or maybe worse."
"Vampires? Did they sparkle?"
"Shut up, Cass! This is serious!" She punched Cass in the arm. Hard.
"That hurts," she said with a wince and rubbed the spot on her arm that had been punched.
"They clearly weren't sparkling since they were in the dark. You couldn't barely even see them. You could only tell they were there from tiny movements that you'd catch out of the corner of your eye, or when you felt them on your neck right before they attacked and tore you open with their teeth."
"Yeah. And in the center of the darkness, the eye of the storm, there was someone trying to wrangle it all in. Like, trying to pull all of it back in. Into a bottle or jar or something."
"Were they succeeding?"
"The darkness was already out. It couldn't be put back in. You needed something to counteract the darkness. Light. But there was none left. The only way to really stop it was to never let it escape in the first place. And that's kind of what the person in the center was doing. He was trying to... It was weird. He wasn't pulling the darkness back in, he was trying to pull time back to where the darkness wasn't out. He was preventing it."
"Do you know who it was? Or didn't it matter?" Cassandra didn't care how crazy any of this sounded, it was a fascinating hallucination, and made for an excellent story.
"That's the weird thing. It was my uncle."
Cass felt her heart stop for a second and her blood run cold.
"I mean, I haven't talked to him in, what, years? Not since I was in high school. And that was so long ago. Weird that I would have a hallucination involving him of all people."
"Yeah, well, um," Cassandra swallowed hard. "I mean, sometimes you dream about the weirdest things."
"It wasn't a dream though. It was... I was actually there, Cass. It felt nothing like a dream."
"It sounds like a dream."
"Yeah, well it wasn't!" Abby snapped, and Cass kept her mouth shut. "I'm sorry, Cass. I didn't mean to--"
"Abby," a male voice came from the doorway to her room.
Both girls turned to look and see Abbagail's father standing there. His eyes were tired and hair even more of a mess than when Cass had seen him less than an hour before. "Dad."
Cassandra stood up to let Mr. Cutler take the chair by the bedside.
"Thank god you're awake now."
He sat down in the chair Cassandra had been in and took Abby by the hand. "They haven't told you anything yet?"
Cass wandered over to the window and looked out. Five stories down, she could see the parking lot of the hospital of UPMC. She saw people getting in and out of cars, ambulances maneuvering around. She hated hospitals. She had no real reason in particular to, but she just did.
"Nothing about what would have caused you to... to react like that?"
"No, dad. Nothing."
He sighed heavily. "You didn't drink too much at that halloween party did you?"
"No, dad! I was just telling Cass that I barely had anything at all. I've drunk a lot more with a lot less consequences."
"What do you remember happening even?"
Cass glanced away from the window and back at Abby, who was glancing back at her.
"Nothing," Abby said when she turned back to her father. "I remember Cass going into the kitchen to make more popcorn, and I guess I felt a little dizzy, and next thing I know, I'm waking up here."
Her father sighed heavily. "Abby, you had me worried."
"I'm sorry, dad. Trust me, I would have rather have this not happen."
"You and me both, kiddo. And hey, I would have been up here sooner, but I'd gotten a call saying that your uncle was here too."
"What?" Cass could see what little color Abby had left in her face nearly drain all out.
"Your uncle. You remember your uncle Jonas?"
"Yeah, I remember him."
"I know it's probably been a while. But something happened with him last night."
"Is he okay?"
"We don't really know. He, uh, he's in a coma right now."
"They don't know. There was a nine one one call, and when paramedics arrived at his place, he was just..." he sighed again. "This is too much to handle in one night, Abby."
"It'll be okay, dad," she said softly and placed her hand on her dad's arm.
Cassandra turned away and looked back out the window. There was no movement outside now. No one walking around in the parking lot. No ambulances milling around, trying to find where to go. A solitary car drove through the parking lot, but didn't park or stop.
"They can't seem to find what happened, or what's wrong. He's just not responsive. At all."
"And. Apparently he had a will prepared."
"What?" Cass repeated Abby's question as she turned away from the window.
"It was right near him when the paramedics arrived."
"Oddly convenient," Cass finished for Abby.
"Yeah. And, it names me as his next of kin. So I get to handle all of this insurance and paperwork bullshit." Cass could hear the frustration and anger in Mr. Cutler's voice. Well maybe not anger. But something closer to helplessness.
"Why would he have that right there like that?"
"Did he plan on going into a coma?" Cassandra asked.
"We don't know, Cass."
"It seems like he might have," Abby's eyes were wide as she looked up at Cassandra. "And if you said they don't know why he's in a coma, it's not like there's any clear evidence of a suicide attempt."
"Jonas would never kill himself. He's not the type."
"They say that about a lot of people that kill themselves, dad. I mean, were things going alright wi--"
"Not now, Abby. And you know it's been years since I talked to him. I'm even surprised he's still in the Pittsburgh area.”
"No, Jonas was a lot of things. But suicidal was never one of them. He must have known though. He must have known something was going to happen to him."
There was a long silence between the three of them. Abby scratched at the IV in her arm. And finally, she asked, "Should we go see him?"
"He's in a coma. There's no point."
"They say people in comas can hear when someone is speaking to them."
"I saw it on TV lots of times," Cass added.
"And it can help them wake up."
"If Jonas is in a coma, it's because he wants to be in a coma. No amount of persuasion from me is going to help him out. He's always been a stubborn bastard that way."
Cass could see the concern on his face. The helplessness. She felt bad for him. His daughter and brother both in the hospital from a mysterious, unknown condition, and his wife out of the country, unable to help him out in this difficult time.
He groaned and stood up. "I better go see about completing some of that godforsaken paperwork."
"You gonna be alright here?"
"Of course. I really feel like I could even go home right now. I don't think I'll be blacking out again any time soon."
"I have my cell on. Cass, you be sure to call me if anything happens. Anything. Okay?"
"Okay," Cassandra said with an enthusiastic nod.
"Alright. I'll be back when I can."
The second her father disappeared out of the door, Abby burst out with "Oh my god, Cass, what if what I saw wasn't just a hallucination." Her eyes were wide with excitement.
"It was a coincidence."
"Me having a vision that my uncle--"
"Hallucination," Cass tried to correct her.
"I had a vision that my uncle was trying to contain an evil darkness that would spread across the countryside--"
"Across the countryside? Abby, where are you even from?"
"--only to find out the next day that he's in some mysterious coma? A coma caused, perhaps, by excessive forces that would need to be at work inside of a man to give him the power to control a humongous mass of darkness!"
"Abby, calm down."
"I can't! Cass, this was for real!"
"It..." Cass didn't know how to deal with Abby when she was like this. And she was often like this. She just jumped to conclusions that involved magical forces that threatened to, as she put it, spread across the countryside. While Cassandra would have liked to believe in magic and darkness-fighting uncles as much as the next delusional early twenty-something, she was too rooted in reality to even give the idea a bit of credence.
"Will you go up and visit him?"
"I don't even know him!"
"See if a nurse or something can let me get up to go visit him."
"Abby, you probably should stay resting for now."
"I feel fine," she sneered. She threw the blankets back and shivered at the sudden cold around her lower half of her body. "A little cold now, but I'm fine."
"I just need to be, like, unhooked from these machines."
They had a staring showdown that lasted exactly thirteen seconds before Cassandra caved and wandered out in the hall to find a nurse for Abby.
Half an hour later, they were on the elevator, heading up to see Jonas Cutler. "I just can't help but think that this is related," Abby explained.
"Related? What, your hallucination and him being in the hospital now?"
Cassandra let out a heavy sigh. She wasn't sure how she could convince Abby that it had to be some sort of coincidence. There was no way that her uncle had been fighting the darkness the night before. But then again, she had to admit, it was an odd coincidence. It was really odd that she'd never really even seen him for years, and then the one time she does even think of him is on the same night he goes into a coma? And it wasn't even a casual, 'I wonder how uncle Jonas is doing' type of thought. It was during a bizarre fit in which she was bleeding profusely from the mouth and nose while making inhuman screeching noises. She really hoped that the doctors would be able to find out what was wrong with Abby.
In the end, she didn't even try to explain to her that it had been a coincidence. It seemed too silly to argue that it was coincidence.
There wasn't much to see in Jonas Cutler's hospital room. He was hooked up to about a dozen machines, breathing and feeding tubes in all of his face holes. For being Abby's uncle, he looked a lot younger than her father did. Probably like at least ten or even fifteen years younger. Cassandra wanted to ask what the age difference between the two of them was, but decided not to after Abby said, "He looks older than I remember."
"That will happen when you only see someone every five years or so, Abs."
"Shut it, Cass," she snapped back. Cassandra hadn't meant for her comment to be sarcastic. "But the odd thing. He looked like this last night," Abby said after the defensiveness left her voice. "In my vision--"
"In my vision, he didn't look like I remembered. He looked like... Well, he looked like this."
"You really believe that was real?"
"I have no choice now."
Abby stared down at him for a while, and Cass could almost see what she was thinking. She wanted him to tell her the answers. For him to wake up and explain to her that yes, he had been fighting back creatures of the night, and fighting back the night itself. But Cass knew if he were to wake up at that second, those would not be the words he spoke. He would explain some medical reason, if he had anything to explain.
If only reality would match up with Abby's imagination some times, then the world might have been a much more interesting place. Cass wasn't even sure if it would be a world she'd want to live in. Too much goofiness for her.
Cassandra went home eventually. She told Abby to call her if and when she got out of the hospital, or if they found out what was wrong with her. She hoped it wasn't, like, brain cancer. Or anything super serious like that.
Walking in the back door of her house after parking in her spot in the garage, Cass was suddenly very aware that she hadn't told her parents anything about what happened to Abby. They knew that she wouldn't be home on Halloween night, and that she was going to be at Abby's. She wondered if they'd ask about her night when she came in the house. But after wandering into the kitchen and then to the family room, she came to the realization that no one was home.
They both had successful jobs that they had to be at during the day. Cassaandra, on the other hand, had a semester and a half of college, and that was it. No job, little more than a high school education-- though a very successful and enriched high school education at one of the best private schools that western Pennsylvania money could by, with an honors diploma to boot.
Something that her parents really never let her forget easily. She could have done anything. She could have been anyone. She had the resources that someone of her race and gender would have never had a hundred years before. She'd heard the speech a thousand times growing up, and once upon a time, she actually took it to heart. She lived in fear of disappointing her parents. She was going to be a role model for black females everywhere. She worked until she thought her brain might explode. Until she didn't even feel like there was anything to her besides being hardworking.
And then, one Saturday afternoon in high school, after she had to deny going to the movies with Abby so that she could work on essays for college applications, it just kind of hit her. What was the point of being successful if she wasn't happy with what she was doing, if all the hard work she was doing wasn't to please herself. She wasn't doing it for herself. She barely realized it, but those very words were going into her essay for Case Western Reserve University. She was very surprised when the acceptance letter for Case western reserve university came in the mail a few months later.
Two notes on the dry erase board on the fridge. One from each parent. They'd both be home later than usual.
Staring at that just made Cass even more sure about knowing that the choice to go all Office Space on her life was the right one. She didn't want to be closing in on fifty and barely able to spend time with her spouse or child. Even if her child was some sort of slacker who didn't go to school and didn't work, and spent most of her time bumming around with her best friend who also didn't go to school or work and spent a lot of time watching movies on her computer.
Cass thought sometimes that maybe she could be a movie critic or something. That would be a career she could get into. She wondered if they let people be movie critics if the way the person obtained the movie was from downloading them off of Chinese bootleg websites.
"Probably not," she mumbled to herself while pulling a bottle of water out of the fridge.
She fell asleep on the sofa in the family room while the television was tuned to a channel showing a vampire movie, despite the fact that halloween was now over. She fell asleep quickly, no surprise seeing as the night before she had little to no sleep.
She couldn't sleep long though. She was worried about Abby. She sent her a quick text, "you home yet???" and immediately regretted the use of two extra question marks, then continued watching the vampire movie. She had already seen the Japanese movie that this American remake was based off of, and she liked the original better. Vampires were scarier in that one. And that's how she liked her vampires-- pants shittingly terrifying. Lately, all American movies tried to make vampires seem so glamorous, and it kind of pissed her off. They were ruining classic story elements.