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that time was ours.
This is a story I've never told anyone before. My mother had asked why I was so quiet when she drove me to school the next morning. I just pushed my books around in my backpack, noticed that we were going to be late, and didn't tell her. Even when Jake and I were separated from everyone else at that one party and we were just lying on the basement floor, I didn't tell him. It was a year later, and the air was so thin between us that we were almost forced to fill it with stories, but I just told him shards of my childhood, let him kiss me, and didn't tell him.
We were young. The sun was gone, and I felt that it was that time in between when night people stop their night activities and when morning people begin their morning business. That hazy time was ours, and when my sister told me her idea, we didn't whisper, because we knew that no one was listening to us.
'I tried it last night by myself, but when I opened the notebook this morning, all I found were these.' She opened up one of her many leather bound journals, and flipped to a slightly mangled page. Scribbles, scrawlings, and incomprehensible words littered the upper left hand quarter of the page. As the lines moved down the paper, they became more like doodles than words.
For the last month my sister's therapist was forcing cocktails of medications upon her, stirring the M&M like balls with the tiny grey pebbles and pouring them all over the blue Smarties until she was intoxicated back into normality. She had discovered on her own that if she popped her sleep meds but forced herself to stay awake, visions would rise out of the ground and her thoughts would begin to warble; entirely uncharacteristic for my clear, methodic sister.
But at that moment in the dim bedroom she was totally herself. She pressed the book into my hands and told me to keep her awake, and then to record, with time stamps, exactly what was happening and what she was saying. Careful documentation of the insane and disorderly: the situation was almost oxymoronic. But this didn't surprise me at all, for that was just my sister, and I was young.
'I don't even know,' I said, lying on the pullout mattress, tracing the diamond weave of the coverlet. 'Someone told me that he didn't sleep for three days straight and started seeing Eskimos camping in his living room. But that was three days.'
'Have you seen this?' She asked, suddenly rising from her slumped position and reached to grab the alarm clock perched on the edge of her nightstand. The clock used to project the time in glowing red numbers onto a wall or ceiling, but the device had broke and now there was just a hole with a mirror that shone a mechanical red light. 'There's a'' She paused to press her face close to the clock's screen. 'There's like' a snake in this clock.' Giggling, she rotated the clock until her right eye was staring into the broken projector. The light twinkled against her eye, and I saw her pupil dialate.
'Cori'Cori! There are people! Little people are living inside this clock!' The dreamy voice was almost not my sisters, and I felt my lungs grow bigger, pressing against my chest as I scrawled down the time and her description of the tiny village. She grasped the clock like binoculars, peering into the ecosystem of the alarm clock, and insanely chattered about the villagers who were balancing baskets on their heads.
I wrote as she went on to the walls, running her hands farther and farther up the porous paint until she was standing on the bed, and then found interest in the bounce of the bed. I kept writing, recording the trees that grew in the corner of the room, documenting the field of poppies that begun to spring up around the bed. Soon two pages were filled with my childlike scribbles and I was lying on my side because I was so tired. My sister was on her back with her arms pointed up, waving them in the breeze that I couldn't see.
'Cori.' She turned her head sharply to face me with her eyes stretched wide. 'Cori, look at, look at your self.' Suddenly the pressure I had felt in my lungs enveloped the rest of my body and gripped it in fear. Her eyes were just a little too wide, glowing almost, fixed on me, scanning up and down my body. A chill ran down my back, leaving my forehead hot as I imagined a swarm of bugs engulfing my limbs.
'You're covered in poppies' You're beautiful.' Suddenly I was covered with pinches, pulling at pieces of my skin, pulling into stalks, blooming out of my flesh.
'Jami, stop it. Stop it!' I swatted away her hands which were swaying in the flowers sprouting from my torso. 'Jami you're scaring me!'
I was young, and almost in tears, paralyzed by the trees, and the poppies, and the little people living inside the alarm clock. My forehead grew hotter and hotter and I pushed away the notebook so I could clutch my knees to my chest. Her eyes didn't stop glowing, but they weren't as lunar anymore. We both rolled over on to our sides, backs facing each other; From above we would have been mirrors of each other, twin fetuses in the womb.
I told myself that I kept the story to myself because of my fear of the reaction the take would receive. But I was young, and now I have heard many stories much worse than my own: stories that have made me hold the base of my neck and stories that took away slivers of my innocence. But I still keep my story, because deep down, under the layers of justifications, in that little niche where I store my insecurities and secrets, I know that the entire night was real. For just one moment, in between when night people finish their night activities and morning people begin their morning business, a tiny tribe of tofu villagers lived in the ecosystem of the silver alarm clock.