Light snores carried through the air into Kaylee Kabec's waiting ears. Ten minutes passed before the snores signaled a deep sleep. Kaylee rose from air mattress on the floor and crossed the darkened bedroom the loftily raised bed.
More minutes passed while the shadowed figure hovered restlessly around the bed, unblinking gaze filled to the brim with pure, undisguised hatred. A calculating air hung about her like heavy robes. Apparently having made a decision, she slinked out of the bedroom and stepped gingerly into the hall. On the raised bed, lay Nicole Shielder, Kaylee's so called "best friend." Two days ago, Friday, Nicole had presented Kaylee, in a gesture of friendship, a gorgeous cross and an invitation to spend the weekend at her house. Nicole's parents would be in Miami, taking a well deserved vacation. Kaylee graciously accepted both and expected a fun-filled weekend.
The cross that now hung between Kaylee's breasts was by all accounts a miracle of gold-smithing. Eight blood red rubies offset four sapphires that gleamed at pointed ends. The jewels seemed to glow with an inner light, set in white gold. A delicate chain wound its way across Kaylee's alabaster skin, completing the illusion of perfection.
At Nicole's house, Kaylee had received nothing but insults. She endured endless tortures from which there seemed no escape.
Nicole, on the other hand, noticed Kaylee becoming extremely aggravated and aggressive ever since arriving. She constantly clutched her chest, protecting the cross from enemies seen only by her.
The cross itself had been found on a visit to Nicole's grandfather. He had asked Nicole to get some cards to play with. He cheated outrageously, and Nicole let him, so he always loved to play when she came. In the game chest was something Nicole had never noticed before, a small steel box rested there, unlocked, under Parcheesi and Monopoly. The cross lay inside, surrounded by red velvet. The beauty of it seemed to call to her. Nicole stuck it carefully in her pocket after making sure no one noticed; it probably belonged to some crackpot who didn't know he even had it, much less miss it.
When leaving New Orleans' Mental Infirmary, her grandfather looked at her. His head tilted sideways, his eyes narrowed, and his mouth, usually filled with drool, became puckered in concentration. He reached his clawed hands out slowly to her and pulled her close. "Be ever wary of things you have no knowledge about." The raspy voice whispered.
It was an odd thing to say, but then again he sometimes said, and screamed strange things. Even though Nicole rarely listened to her grandfather, his comment had unnerved her enough that she didn't want to wear the necklace herself. Under inspiration's wings, Nicole presented it to Kaylee.
Now leaning against the hall wall, Kaylee fingered the cross, having no idea who Nicole had acquired it. Even if she had known, she really wouldn't have cared. Something gripped Kaylee's insides, her blood stirred in a strange, oddly comforting and familiar way. The feeling of hatred, so incredibly intense, was new to her. She licked her lips in anticipation, pushed of the wall and headed down the hall, toward the laundry room.
Kaylee flung open a small cabinet and examined its contents. With a slight frown she gently shut the little doors and moved to the next cabinet. These bottles pleased her, wonderful little bottles, complete with Mr. Yuck's face. She selected three and reclosed the doors.
She shuffled slowly out of the laundry room and down the hall, bottles pressed to her body. Halfway down the hall she stopped in mid-step. A small ray of goodness and light had reached down to her. What was she doing? How could she? Nicole had been like, no, was more than a sister to her! Why...? Those thoughts were abruptly cut off with a dull knife as a horrid conflict for power began in her mind. Pain came, pressing at her temples, twisting her neck, squeezing her stomach and collapsing her legs. It forced her to the floor. Bottles scattered as she convulsed and fought her inner battle.
The pain reached its zenith, Kaylee gave up, and her mind obediently fled back to the diabolical role that was given. Trying to atone for her horrendous sin, Kaylee frantically scrambled about like a lost mouse, trying to collect the precious bottles. When all three rested safely in her arms, Kaylee heaved a sigh of relief, shakily got to her feet, and stole back into the bedroom.
Nicole slept soundly. Kaylee maneuvered past unseen obstacles with disturbing grace, making her way to Nicole's bed. Next to the bed sat a night stand, a small cup upon it. Twitching fingers closed around the plastic cup; Kaylee drank the water quickly and then gently replaced it on the night stand. She carefully opened each bottle, wafted the sweet acidic sent into her nostrils and poured the liquids down together, making a beautifully deadly mixture.
She returned her poisons and walked past the bedroom into the end of the hall and top of the stairs. She began her descent, emitting a small cackling laugh as she flipped the thermostat to heat and twirled the switch as high as it would go. What fun!
In the darkened kitchen, Kaylee felt around for the fridge. Her middle finger painfully jarred into the door. She shook it in frustration more than pain and used the other hand to open the door. When opened, she cursed. The little light had gone out. That would make things difficult, but not impossible. Every single item that contained liquid in the fridge was dumped out. Down the drain, and out of reach.
Kaylee's silent shadow moved out of the kitchen and down the basement stairs. It took a while to find what she needed, a heavy wrench and an exposed water pipe. Perfect. Her unstable hands came together in a vice-like, white knuckled grip on the wrench. There was a moment of silence as she tilted her head, eyes searching the metallic exterior of the pipe. She found what she needed and the air sang as her instrument swung through it. It flew in the direction of the spot her eyes pinpointed. At such a powerful blow the metal buckled and a torrent of water gushed through the jagged hole.
Kaylee's mouth tilted upwards in her first true smile. It was done. She replaced the wrench and headed for the stairs. She didn't move very fast, and why should she? It was fun to gloat and she had enough time to get her stuff and get out before Nicole woke. Luck was with her, Nicole slept so soundly. She slept like the dead.
She was only a part of the way up the stairs when she had to stop, out of breath. What the heck? Within moments her breath returned to her and the small incident disappeared from her mind like a thief in the shadows. Kaylee continued on, only to get up three more steps before she had to stop again. She shuddered and leaned against a convenient beam for support. Why could she not breathe easy? Kaylee closed her eyes, concentrating solely on getting breath to her body, in and out, in and out, in and out. These actions only made matters worse and she was beginning to feel light-headed, almost like she had drunk too much.
She swallowed, feeling the little lump of saliva slide painfully down her throat. At one spot in particular it seemed to almost stop before sliding free, almost like the last grain of sand in an hourglass. Kaylee put a hand up to investigate that spot, located in the dead center of her throat. Her fingers moved down her throat before scraping across the necklace. Its slight chain was pressed tightly to her frail skin like a raw, painful tattoo. A painful gasp erupted from her chest in her surprise.
What is going on? Kaylee tugged at the cross in furtive gestures. I can't get the dang thing off! She thought of Nicole, she would know, she was the one who had given it to her.
A burst of speed propelled her half way up the stairs before she stopped, suspicion lighting in her eyes. Of course! That was the point of the whole thing. Nicole had given Kaylee the cross, knowing it would kill her while she stood by and watched Kaylee plead and die at her feet.
Kaylee’s bitterness consumed her as she stood on the stair, waiting for her life to end, being too stubborn to go to Nicole for help, to give her that satisfaction. Her limbs grew numb and tingly before her head snapped back and her body followed it into the waiting clutches of the water below. It opened for her and she slipped into its icy embrace with barely a ripple of affect.
Kaylee knew she had only moments before she left and her last thought echoed her mindset, “At least Nicole won’t live through the night, see ya in hell, babe!!”
Nicole tossed in her sleep, snuggled deep in her blankets, making frantic swimming motions and coming close to falling out of her bed. In her nightmare she was in Hell, swimming in a pool of hot, fresh blood that slowly dripped from a cavernous ceiling. The shore always stayed the same distance, no matter how hard she pumped her poor muscles. Not as though the shore was a nice alternative. Black demons danced upon its flaming surface, taunting her, telling her to swim harder so she might join their deathly dance. Her fatigued body gave out on her, her face slid helplessly beneath the red surface and, she woke up.
She panicked at the feel of her comforter against her face, not knowing what it was, her mind still replaying the scene from hell. Her pupils all but disappeared in her eyes and she kicked and fought until the blanket came off her face. The steel grip panic had on her relaxed its grip when she looked out to a familiar dark scene and felt a slight breeze play across her sweat soaked hair.
She was home, she was safe. No demons, no lake of blood, no burning hell for her. Nicole threw the rest of her covers off, feeling the wave of heat leave with them.
She drew in a breath, feeling air race down her raw throat. It was parched, a cracked desert had moved in while she slept. She tenderly swallowed and the little glob of saliva turned into boiling acid as it slid agonizingly slow down her throat. Her eyes hurt as well and her eyesight was getting blurry. She blinked her eyes three times in rapid succession, and instantly regretted it. Her eyelids were sandpaper scraping mercilessly down wrinkled leather of her eyes.
Nicole emerged from her sauna of a bed in exaggeratedly slow movements. One foot, then two, came to rest on the hardwood floor. With a heave born of will she launched herself forward and stood, swaying slightly. Her legs felt as wobbly as a colts’.
She swung an arm forward, getting ready to take her first unsteady step when her hand brushed something. Nicole looked down and the sight of her little plastic cup opened the floodgates of relief.
She lifted the cup to her lips, tongue slightly parting them. A sickly sweet smell lifted to her nostrils barely before she drank.
What is this? What happened to my water? Oh well, the bathroom is just down the hall.
Gaining confidence with each new step, Nicole left her room and headed to the bathroom. Every time she left or entered a doorway it seemed like a wall of heat had to be penetrated to continue, each wall gaining in intensity.
She twisted the little gold knob to the sink and waited, but no water came spurting out. Weird.
She left the bathroom and turned the corner to walk down the stairs. Her hand glided along the textured sheetrock, the other down the dark mahogany of the rail. Her feet, when she entered the kitchen, began to blister. Nicole searched the fridge, looking for something, anything that could help her. The inside looked as though a pack of rats had invaded and eaten everything in sight. The only thing left was a couple bottles. Hot Sauce, Tabasco Sauce, and chili peppers, not a good thing for the parched wanderer.
Nicole fumbled with the kitchen sink and she hoped to god, any god, that there was water here. It had the same effect as the bathrooms, no water, no glorious life saving water.
She could only think of one thing that could help her. She turned around and started back up the stairs. Nicole picked up the cup in her bedroom, only moments indecision stalled her from downing the cup. The liquid slid down her throat, cool and sweet. For a moment, she felt safe and relieved. Then the poison set her body on fire, and then froze her, back and forth between the extremes. She fell to the floor, screaming in agony, a thousand knives stabbing into her back.
Her last coherent thought was, “Where’s Kaylee?” Moments later, she was dead.