I think I might be dead.
Of course my mom would say I’m silly. She’d assume my complaints were over a boy or cheerleading or something trivial. And sad part is, I can’t even tell her she’s wrong.
Because I don’t know what’s wrong. Not exactly. All I do know is that I haven’t had control of my body in two days. I can walk and breathe, do all the things that might appear normal to the outsider. But I have zero control over anything else.
It’s like I’m dead.
“You’re quiet.” My best friend, Lindsay, shoves an armful of books into her locker and gives me the stink-eye. We’re at school.
I nod. Because that’s all I can do.
She rolls her hazel-green eyes and huffs a breath. “Fine. Don’t tell me. But if this has anything to do with Shawn Lankins and what a jerk he is, then I told you so.”
Lindsay straightens her shoulders, flips her perfectly curled blonde hair over her shoulder and heads to first period—AP senior English. Our school’s token Haitian exchange student, Myrlande, falls in step behind her and I bring up the rear. Which is super weird, since I’m usually at the head of any social leading. Especially where Myrlande’s concerned. She hasn’t been able to take a hint all year that she doesn’t belong. No matter how many ways Lindsay and I have tried to embarrass her.
I grind my teeth but can’t utter the words I want to say. I can’t say a thing. No matter how hard I try, I can’t convey a single thought or feeling.
This came as a slow realization on Monday morning. When I first awoke, I sensed something off, but couldn’t quite place my finger on it. I went about my routine of getting ready for school until my body took me downstairs for breakfast without allowing me to put on make-up. Who goes to school without make-up? I fought and fought against the direction my feet led, but they did as they pleased.
When my mom tried at conversation over eggs and coffee, I had nothing—even though I screamed a-million-and-one thoughts inside my head. She took it to mean I was in ‘one of my funks,’ as she calls them. If only I were.
“I hope you have more to offer at cheer practice this afternoon,” Lindsay says. “I may be your friend, but I’m still captain. The team only has room for serious athletes, Constance.”
Ouch. She used Constance. I haven’t heard that since Kindergarten.
Lindsay throws Myrlande a nasty look and stalks into the classroom. The exchange student merely gives me a funny little smile before she sits. I swallow against the lump in my throat. Another boring class of taking notes. Sweat floods my armpits. What if I couldn’t figure out how to break this crazy spell before graduation?
I slide into my seat. Why did I have no memory of the weekend? What happened that could make me so catatonic? So…lifeless?
The morning passes in a blur and lunchtime smacks me in the face.
“Hello?” Lindsay says. “Crazy much, Connie?”
She shakes a milk carton in front of my nose then slams it on my tray. The other girls at the table laugh. I can’t even smile.
“What is with you? Did something happen at the camping trip?”
“Camping trip?” I say. I almost hiccup that I actually said something other than ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
“Yeah. Have you forgotten it already? Last weekend…you, me, half a dozen girls? Outside in the woods?”
My throat constricts, palms sweaty. This does sound familiar.
“I have an idea! Let’s tell ghost stories!” Lindsay says.
We’re gathered around a campfire. The sky is black. The faces of my friends are close around me. It’s chilly, so we’re bundled up.
“I have story,” Myrlande says. “Although, it not ghost.” Her accent is clipped and short. “It Haitian story. About Zombies.”
“Zombies?” Trish says. “Ooo! Love those!”
Sydney glances around. “Is this going to give me nightmares?”
“Zits give you nightmares, Syd.” Lindsay rolls her eyes.
“This is legend,” Myrlande says. “Many believe it real. In Haiti, we have witchdoctors, those who heal with herbs and tinctures. But many believe they have powers, magical ones.” She pauses. “Powers to bring dead to life.”
“What?” I say skeptically as I roll my eyes.
A few of the girls laugh. Lindsay twirls a lock of her hair around a finger and looks off into the trees with a snort.
“It is true. Many have seen them…these zombies. They are people, once dead but now alive, who roam streets. They cannot think or speak. I have seen them.”
“Whatever,” I say. There’s no way I’m listening to a crazy girl rattle on all night.
“Connie!” Lindsay yells like I’m leaving her stranded on a lifeboat or something.
“I’m getting another blanket,” I lie.
I jump. The entire lunch table of girls stare at me.
Lindsay looks entirely too angry for her tuna salad. “Wake up. It’s time for class.”
Everyone moves at once. Myrlande sneaks another silly grin at me, then leaves.
A flashback. I had a vision of the weekend. Why had I forgotten it?
I slog through the afternoon with impatience. Every time I glance in Mylande’s direction, she has a strange expression. Like she knows. Could she?
But it does no good. I can’t ask her a thing. I can’t order my brain to give me more information when I can’t remember. I can’t do a thing but allow my body to act of its own accord. Not even when Shawn Lankins grabs my butt in the hallway in front of his friends.
Tears swell in the backs of my eyes, but can’t come out. It’s after the last bell rings and I’m in the girls’ locker room, changing for cheer practice, that things change. Myrlande comes in, even though she has nothing to do with the team. We’re alone, just the two of us between metal lockers, amid the smell of stinky shoes and hairspray.
Myrlande, I want to say. What happened last weekend?
But nothing comes out. I just stand there and stare. Like an idiot.
She stares, too, although not in a way that makes me think she hates me. She probably should, since Lindsay and I haven’t made her life pleasant since she arrived. Her old-fashioned ways and lack of knowledge of our culture have made her a target. And Lindsay and I have made sure everyone knows it.
“Follow me,” she says.
And I do. Why am I following her?
She takes me to the closet, the one where balls and nets and all things gym-class are kept. It’s even stuffier in here than the locker room. Lindsay’s inside rummaging through the cheerleading cabinet. Someone probably forgot their pom-poms.
“What are you doing here?” she says as soon as she sees me. Her brow furrows and she crosses her arms over her chest.
I can’t figure out why she’s so angry with me.
“She help,” Myrlande says.
I look at her. Help with what?
“Help with what?” Lindsay says.
“Help you understand.”
Lindsay blinks. “What are you talking about, weirdo?”
“Drink this.” Myrlande holds out a cup of black liquid that smells like old books.
“Ew. No.” Lindsay glances at her iPhone. She’ll want to start practice soon.
“You drink.” The exchange student pushes the cup closer.
“Why?” Lindsay has her hands on her hips now. Her patience won’t last much longer.
“For last ten pounds.”
My friend raises her brows. “Excuse me?”
“Last ten pounds. You and Connie always talk of last ten pounds. How you can’t get rid. How you hate. Look at Connie. She skinnier, yes?”
Lindsay looks at me, narrows her eyes. Then they widen. “Yes, she is.”
I look down. I am?
“She drank this. Lost weight,” Myrlande says.
Wait, what? I drank that? When?
An image forms in my mind. Camping. Tents. Laughter. The girls are around the fire but they don’t see me, hidden in the shadows. Myrlande has me cornered, has offered me a drink from her country. Something guaranteed to help control my weight. We have an important cheer competition coming up and I need to make sure I fit into my uniform.
I drink it—
No! I have to stop Lindsay. I try to knock the cup from her hand, but can’t move. I don’t even flinch.
Lindsay looks at the drink, then Myrlande. “Okay. If you promise it’ll help me lose a few pounds.”
“It will.” Myrlande smiles. “Tell her, Connie.”
No. Don’t drink it! It’s a trick. Myrlande just wants control—
But instead I say, “Yes. It works. Drink it, Lindsay.”
It’s the most I’ve said in days.
Then Lindsay picks up the cup and drinks.