Eighteen-year-old Cassie Meadows was riding her bike to Jefferson High that early May morning when a light blinded her. She shielded her eyes as the bike spun out of control. When she opened her eyes, a wall of old books stared back. She blinked, taking in several of the titles: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Ulysses, The Odyssey, La Commedia… The bindings were old, yet pristine.
She tried to focus, turning her head a bit. The shelves extended from ceiling to floor, the whole length of the room. Sunlight filtered in through thick parted drapes along a wall of windows. Unlike her house, where dust particles danced in the sunlight, the stagnant room was devoid of even that much life.
But how did I get here? she wondered. One moment I was riding my bike, then the next…
Her thoughts drifted off as she gazed across the room. Awe overtook fear in the moment. Marble pillars stood on either side of an archway leading into another room across the vast space. A large Oriental rug covered most of the hardwood floor. The wall opposite the windows housed a mammoth stone fireplace with a mahogany mantel. Cassie was remained of the ski lodge’s fireplace at the place in Calgary her parents had taken her and her younger brother last Christmas.
A wrap-around leather sofa dominated most of the central space. End tables with Tiffany lamps perched on either end of it. The room was the library in some wealthy person’s house, the type of place she’d never visited.
After her eyes settled on her surroundings, her hearing tuned in to a faint noise in another part of the house. Curiosity claimed her caution as she took a step. She glanced down and nearly fell over. Her hands were thick, hairy, and covered in blood!
She gasped, but the croak of a deep voice reverberated out of her mouth. Reaching for her throat, she felt her Adam’s apple bob. Her breaths came short. She was being doused with ice water, the burn throbbing through her body with each step. But her steps were short-lived. She halted as she noticed a trail of blood on the otherwise spotless floor leading to an archway. Her nerves fired in overtime, her head spinning. She followed the trail, exited the elaborate room into a hallway.
The sound was louder now. The unmistakable sound of running water.
“What’s going on?” Cassie whispered and stopped in her steps when a man’s voice came from her mouth.
Something moved out of the corner of her eye. She turned her gaze to the right and landed on her reflection, only it wasn’t her face. A tall, well-built man of about forty stared back at her. She ran her hands through the trim brown beard that contoured her strong jawline. Liquid brown eyes under a deep brow held confusion, panic. Her hair was wavy, thick, greying only at the temples. She was dressed in a black business suit, like a high executive wore to meetings overseas and then dined on caviar and Champagne under the lights of Paris. But against the black of her suit the blood that was on her hands extended, weaving an unknown horror story in her mind.
She shook her head. “This is impossible.” Yet the voice that wasn’t hers told a different truth.
Her body trembled, and she realized for the first time that her whole being felt different. Her eyes, if she could call them that, fell on a picture frame on the table below the mirror. With shaky hands, her ridiculously thick fingers fumbled to pick up the picture. The man in the photo was a younger version of the body she inhabited. He was smiling, his face next to a gorgeous auburn-haired young woman. The woman’s hazel eyes crinkled around the edges, her freckles standing out against her fair skin in the sunshine. This was a wedding photo of a happy couple.
Cassie returned the picture to its place, the frame now coated in blood, and swallowed, hating the feel of her Adam’s apple constricting. Her insides clenched with every step down that hallway. A drop of blood marked the floor every few inches. She knew this body must have taken this trip in the opposite direction, for how else could she explain the blood everywhere? She rested a hand on the railing at the base of the stairway and gazed up the twisting steps. The water was coming from upstairs. She took the first step and steadied herself. Something was drawing her to the source of that sound. Like drifting through a hazy dream, she moved without thought or purpose.
She reached the top of the landing and glanced behind her. Her mark was on the railing, another path of blood. The occasional drop of blood decorated the floor as she went down the hallway toward the sound of running water. Her knees wobbled as a dizzy spell overtook her. She steadied herself with a hand to the wall and blanched at the bloodied handprint she left.
Just call the cops. What are you doing?
The cops. Right. I don’t even know what the hell’s going on.
She questioned her sanity as she argued with herself. Either outcome, she’d lose this battle.
She pushed herself from the wall and arrived at the bathroom. Water leaked out from under the door.
What am I doing?
She turned the knob, and it slid under her slick hand. She used the end of her sleeve to grip it and pushed the door open enough to peek inside. Pinkish water covered the entire marble floor. Her gaze traveled to the bathtub, the source of the running water. A woman’s body lay sprawled in the tub, her vacant eyes staring at the ceiling, her mouth open in a silent scream. Her head lay at an odd angle, her neck nearly severed in two. Blood ran from the gaping cut into the water.
Cassie tried to scream, but her stomach tightened. Bile rose to her mouth, and she puked. She slammed the door shut and collapsed against the outside of it, pulling her knees up to her chest. The tall frame of the man’s body convulsed with the sobs of a teenage girl as she cried into her hands, which weren’t hers.
“I want my mom,” she whispered. “This…this can’t be happening.”
She couldn’t get the dead woman’s face out of her mind. As the scene replayed through her head, she realized where she’d seen the woman before. She had been this man’s wife.
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