Author Topic: Katie’s Path to Culthood (Part 1)  (Read 540 times)

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  • Favorite Pasta: The PIZZA That Eats YOU by AustinTheWeird
on: 06:55 PM, 06/ 4/18
You could say I was part of a cult in high school. It wasn’t all punch bowls and hooded cloaks, though I’m savvy enough on the subject to know that’s not how it usually goes. But high school isn’t something I enjoy thinking about, much less discussing with strangers. You’re all lucky though. Now that it’s on my mind I pretty much have to share it here, otherwise it’s going to spill out all over my next date after a few too many glasses. We can’t have that. What if she’s actually cute?

2012 was a year of shake-ups for my family. Lured in by business positions with more potential advancements for my parents, and a better school district for the rest of us, we moved to a small Midwest suburb of a midsize city. Somewhere in there, I stopped being my mom’s favorite daughter and became something else for her and my dad to frantically manage. Once all of our stuff had been moved in over the summer, her infamously detailed “Katie’s Path to College” poster never re-appeared in the new kitchen. That was probably a relief for my two siblings. For me, it left a bigger absence than our smaller refrigerator and dining table.

Mom and Dad started commuting to their respective companies right away, leaving us to fend for ourselves until school started in the fall. That went well enough. The town was just on the edge of the countryside. Beyond our few blocks of near identical houses were large swathes of corn fields and forest groves that just dared a couple of city kids to explore them. My older sister Jun and my younger brother Dave would bike for hours together as we familiarized ourselves with our new home and communed with the locals. I would much prefer to dwell upon this part of my life but it has little relevance.

As my freshman year commenced, I did not settle in well. My sister found a boyfriend, a very nice boy with eyes that lit up whenever he saw her, and I think that’s when I stopped being her favorite sister again. We had both been growing out our hair for several years, and had been planning to get it cut short together. She abruptly backed out of our plans and lectured me on the need to take better care of how I’m seen by others. I did grow closer with Dave, and he began to tell me everything, even things I would rather not hear. In hindsight, I wish I had done the same.

The friends I made over the summer also felt different when they were with others. Jenny had told me my thick glasses looked cute when we were sitting together by a watering hole near our neighborhood, both of our necks reddened by the sun above our tank tops. I thought about daring to take her hand. On the second day of school, as I was walking near her lunch table, she loudly told two of her friends how ugly my glasses were. To punctuate her warning that things were not to be the same, Jenny called me a word I’d last heard screamed at my dad by a bearded man who could not stop stumbling all over the sidewalk. I sat alone during lunch for a long time.

I began to notice a particular girl often looking at me in our classes. Her name was Mikayla and she had striking red hair and green eyes that even now I still find myself thinking about. While I spent most of class reading fantasy novels, she spent most of class drawing in her many notebooks. Sometimes I would only pretend to read, and instead spend most of class daydreaming about approaching her to ask about one of those drawings. I never did.

She took the initiative herself. I noticed Mikayla right away, especially since our lockers and classes were very spaced out in school and she had no reason to be there after lunch period. Feeling my chest seize up, I pretended to be very invested in tidying up my already organized locker, my bent head half-buried inside while doing so. That must have looked ridiculous, but she still approached once the two other students in the hallway drifted away. I could feel her behind me before she spoke.

“Did you lose something Katie?” she asked. There was amusement in her voice, but it was gentle enough to reassure me that I wasn’t being made fun of.

“No… not really.” I replied, still awkwardly brushing hair out of my face after turning around. It’s a well-known law of the universe that the only days that pretty girls talk to you are the days where you forget something important, like a scrunchie.

“Oh, good,” she said. She was smiling but seemed uncertain how to continue.

“You wanted to talk to me about something?” I was smiling more, emboldened that she was nervous too.

“You eat alone right? I uh, wanted to invite you to eat with us in the library. If you want to.”

From there began my new daily routine. Not just Mikayla, but the rest of her group, welcomed me in a way I hadn’t felt since the summer. School stopped being a challenge to face but became a means to be with my friends. Once the awkwardness of getting to know each other passed, our daily conversations over lunch and in passing mainly focused on our classes and the books we were reading. Kiera somehow loved Anne McCaffrey novels even more than me, though Jordan and Jenny loved horror and would bring it up at every opportunity. I learned Mikayla almost always drew fairies in her notebook and was creating a comic that featured all of us as characters. I was content. I was happy.

The only notable bit of weirdness was Mikayla’s fixation on a certain senior guy. After getting her lunch from her locker, she would interrupt any conversation we were having to talk about him. She used words to describe him that would have gotten us in trouble if the librarian had overheard, but she was across the room and unaware. Mikalya deeply hated this senior. Even after hearing about him on a near daily for a semester, I’m still not sure why.

She would outline his behavior for the day, which to me sounded harmless, and use very colorful language to inform us how disgusting she thought he was. His ugly glasses, his terrible smell, his disgusting complexion. Her insults would get very personal. It made me uncomfortable in many ways, but I didn’t want to risk driving away my new friends by speaking up. Only Kiera, who was never good at hiding the way she felt, displayed the same discomfort I was feeling. But she never said anything either.

After a couple months, Mikayla invited me over for my first sleepover. Just us, none of our friends. I spent way too long choosing which sleepwear to bring, finally deciding on my tank top and pajama pants with long traditional dragons wrapped around the legs. My parents were out of town, but after a few requests Jun drove me over to her house so that I wouldn’t have to change out my sleepwear. It was two blocks away and looked nearly identical to our house, just a different shade of gray. Like a dutiful sister, Jun walked me to the door, and appeared wary to leave me upon learning Mikayla’s parents were out of town as well. Her concern was not enough to make her willing to crush my clear excitement at learning the same fact, and she let me stay.

Mikayla’s smile when she looked over my pajamas made every second of decision worth it. In contrast, she was wearing a floral house robe that was two sizes too big for her, that I now suspect she borrowed from her mother. At the time I was only impressed at how mature I thought it looked. Once inside, we hurried off to her room to snack on bowls of popcorn and watch a movie that actually managed to frighten me. I think it was The Craft, but that movie has never scared me since then, so I can’t be sure.

As the credits rolled for the movie and we sat together in darkness lit only by the television, Mikayla took a deep breathe and sat still for just a bit longer than was comfortable to watch. Ignoring my shy inquiries, she began to move around the room with all the flair of a stage production. She had planned this, and I was her very willing audience. From beneath her bed, my friend produced two long white candlesticks, a shiny gold lighter, and two notebooks with covers I had never seen before. Her stunning green eyes now locked with mine, she lit the candles, flipped off the tv, and took both of my hands in hers. I thought I was going to die of embarrassment.

“I have something to tell you Katie,” she said. I was caught up in the moment, but her voice still came across as unusually monotone.

“Yeah?” I managed. Too many thoughts were in my head for my mouth to move correctly.

“I can see spirits. And people’s auras. I’ve been so excited to tell you.” The wave of the candles’ flames made her green eyes flicker. Once I processed what she said, I felt like I had been drowning in them, and had finally broken through for air.

“Wait. What? Ghosts? Dead people?” As I was trying to re-gather my thoughts, I reflexively tried to pull away my hands, but her grip kept them there. It must have meant a lot to her tell me this.

She grew more excited when I said that. Her grip on my hands tightened even more, but it still didn’t hurt.  “Yes! Dead people!” she exclaimed. “They come to me at night. Here, especially in my bedroom. Sometimes they’re standing above me in the morning. Sometimes they yell in my ear until I wake up and help them.”

I tried to look around the room at this, but a sudden tug on my hands told me to keep my gaze locked with hers. The only remaining sliver of my former infatuation with the possibilities of this night was being stirred by the feeling of her warm, excited breathe wafting over to my lips.

I didn’t believe in ghosts, but I couldn’t bring myself to tell her that. Only later, when I was thinking clearly, would I able be to even try to think about whether or not she was lying, or truly believed this nonsense. Instead, I indulged my curiosity. “Spirits. Okay. What do they look like?” I asked.

Her gleeful expression told me this was the right question. I’d never heard her speak so quickly. “Gray! And if they died, they look the way they did right afterward. Nearly severed heads, stab wounds, a lot of the time they’re even bleeding. It’s just that they’re gray all over and  almost see-through. It’s actually terrifying!” she exclaimed. She didn’t sound very scared.

I let myself smile again. It felt like talking about a story she was writing, which was back inside my comfort zone. “Oh wow… I bet. I can only imagine waking up to that! And what was that about auras?” I asked.
“It’s how I found you! I’ve always seen… colors, and sometimes symbols, just. Around people. Some people are orange, and some people are purple. You were gray, the most gray I’ve ever seen. I could tell you were going to give up soon.” she said. Her excitement dimmed as she explained this, and her grip on my hands became softer and more comforting.

“Oh.” I said. That was a bit too true to dwell upon. “And what color is it now? Did it change?”

“Oh yes!” Mikayla replied. “It’s bright blue now. It suits you much better.” Her smile distracted me a bit more again after she said that.

I had to think harder before replying. “So why are you telling me all this? Because you helped me?” I asked.

She shook her head, her gaze still never leaving mine. I could tell she was getting excited again. “Not just that. Because you’re special Katie. I told you some people have symbols with their auras, and all of us do. Me, Kiera, Jordan, Jenny. And now you!” Mikayala was leaning close again and it was clouding my judgment and ability to speak properly.

“And…. n-now me. What symbol?” I asked. That wasn’t the question I meant to ask, but it was still on my mind.

She shook her head vigorously. “I’m not allowed to tell you. I can only tell you that you’re meant for something greater. And…” She paused dramatically, breathing in deeply and letting it out. “Tonight will be your first step. Will you do it? Please? Just do what I tell you.”

Mikayla pulled me over to one of the notebooks. For once it wasn’t filled with colorful fairies. Instead, it had pages and pages of text I couldn’t recognize. Some pages were even written in languages I knew, like English and Traditional Chinese, but her frenzied movements barely let me grasp a few words before the page was turned. She finally stopped at a page with four signatures and a fifth empty line below them. Mikayla’s was first, and the most recent was Kiera’s.

For a frightening moment I glanced around for a knife, but then she thrust a pen into my hands. “Sign. Please. For the sake of the future.” Her eyes returned to mine and her expression was so urgent.

I didn’t think I believed any of this. It could even be dangerous. But I couldn’t imagine being with my friends after rejecting something like this. I signed the page.

After a gloriously tight hug, more snacks, and another movie I found myself lying on an air mattress next to her bed and finally able to feel the full force of my regret. What would my parents think? We weren’t exactly practicing Buddhists but this had to violate something we weren’t supposed to be doing. I surprised myself though. After all the pressure and amid this lingering guilt, I was content. I was happy.

I was not happy when I awoke to the man standing above me. His eyes were as wild as a newly caged animal, and he screamed at me incoherently from a nearly detached jaw. If the blood hadn’t been as gray and immaterial as his body, it would have been pouring over my prone body. I gripped the mattress with my fingers as I lost all sense of time, consumed in his wail. Somehow, I had the faintest fantasy of the dragons on my pajamas coming to life to defend me. And then it was over, the world was quieter than it had ever been. I think I fell asleep again.

She would tell me in the morning it was just a nightmare. Maybe it was. But that was the first night I joined a cult.
« Last Edit: 10:02 PM, 06/ 4/18 by DoviDoes »