Here we are with the fourth chapter of our story. This has turned out to be a very fun game and I thank you all very much for playing and reading! Thanks to Polly for writing this week's chapter and also for giving our characters names and bringing things some closure! You did an amazing job, as did Ginny and Maria! I thought it might go on past here, but once I read it, I decided I like this as an ending. So, enjoy this, the final chapter of our game! :)
If you're just joining us, click here for chapter 1.... chapter 2.... and chapter 3. :)
The sense of terror might not have come to anyone else that looked through that door, but I had always had an unnatural aversion to them. Only now, with so many before me, did I realize that this was beyond personal preference.
Lucy, my best friend in second grade, who showed me jump rope rhymes and handclap games, was the first victim of my relationship with them. Her Max always sought me out, his hateful and hurtful eyes glowering. I postponed and curtailed my visits with her, and because I could feel him near her when she visited me, asked her over less often. I lost my first, and only, true friend in just a few months of Max's arrival. She became a casual acquaintance at school, finding friends who made time for her and trusted her with their secret crushes.
Mrs. Evans, the crazy old lady next door, had a piece of her heart (and probably her sanity) plucked away each time I refused her afternoon tea. I really didn't mind her incessant rambling about her daughter who moved too far for a job, her granddaughter, whose mother forced her to participate in every sport, activity, and community event, her cousin's son-in-law who had an opinion about everything, and scandalous chatter about Mrs. Riley on the corner and her tiff with Mrs. Barker down the street; it was all I could do to nod politely, but mostly because I didn't know what she expected me to say. I assumed she was happy to just do the talking. But after she found Sam and his knowing stare bore through me, I never entered her house again. Even as a child I knew it was wrong for him to react to me so harshly. I didn't understand it, and so, filed it away in the 'inexplicable moments in my life' section of my mind. I will never forget it. It was a look that pierced my mind and soul - stifled my words and choked my breath.
And here I stood staring back at dozens of them. Even without their seeming hatred for me, and I for them, I never understood cats, or their cat people. The sickly sour-sweet overpowering aroma wafting around this man was reason enough. Since I avoided all contact, I never had to experience the hatred that consumed me now. Once again, I was stuck; as much as I told my feet to move, they wouldn't. I angrily met each icy brow, every menacing frown, with a rage that exploded within me. The year that I had spent experiencing Collin's somber intensity, and then his anger, had finally become a part of me. Or had it? Was this his reaction to the threat, or my own? Such intense emotions were new to me, and I realized, as I stared into the faces of malevolence, that something within me was just awakening!
Through the suffocating wave of new emotions and confusion, I heard a small sound. It was door number three, finally! With a loud breath, I instinctively spun with enthusiasm at my reprieve. The face that I saw there brought tears to my eyes; my anger flared and was joined with terror. Panic and horror overcame me as I struggled to breath through pain that this new presence brought. His face flashed a thousand images through my mind with a pain that was so intense I couldn't scream, I couldn't run, I could only watch the slide show playing inside my head.
So this is why I chose this door. Zane. In all his monomaniacal glory. I knew everything in an instant. I had seen him every year for his research, except I had forgotten that until now. Now it was all clear. His project, his testing, his study, his monitoring. Me. Project Me, courtesy of 'Doctor' Zane.
"I've been expecting you. I knew that you would return. It is too much a part of you."
"Nice security," I spat, tossing my head across the hall.
"I knew you'd appreciate it. We have work."
Until this day, this moment, standing before a mad man with venomous stares at my back, I had always felt the strength of others. I gravitated toward them. I needed them to guide me as I blindly fumbled my way through my life. I was doing what they wanted, and now, I was doing what Zane wanted. Even my rebellion was under his control. The helplessness that this knowledge brought fueled new emotions inside me; not just emotions, a new voice. My voice. The intimidation I had felt was washed away with determination, which brought strength and direction.
I didn't need to listen to Zane anymore. I didn't need to listen to my friends, to the dagger thoughts from across the hall, to the 'mom' voice inside, or even Collin. My voice was all I would hear now. Zane was the reason I couldn't hear it before. Now something deep within me awoke.
I thought I knew the meaning of the word, 'relief', but the peace that I settled upon me when I finally felt Collin's presence again overwhelmed me. Peripherally, I saw him, hesitating in the opening of the building. My mental awareness made me understand everything he was thinking and feeling, and a new intensity in my senses caught the whisper of a smile that almost escaped his sedate face. Even after I ran from him, twice, Collin willingly came to my aid. I felt his pride and confidence in me, which is what I had always felt for him. I also felt his fury directed at Zane.
I wanted to destroy Zane. I wanted be sure he would never control me again.
And then I heard a voice. My voice. 'Put your hands in your pockets and walk away.'
And I did. To Collin. Not really to him, but with him. I was walking away from Zane. I was walking away from the fear and pain. I was going with Collin because I knew now that he was right. I had been with him, waiting. Waiting for something great from him, but really, he was the one waiting. Waiting for something great from me. He would allow me to listen to my own voice. He would help me. This is what he was waiting for. I was the one with the answers now.