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Victoria Peeves stared unblinkingly at the knife, her eyes wide and disbelieving.
“You ain’t supposed to have that,” she whispered fearfully, her pupils darting back and forth. “Put it back, Em! You ain’t s’posed to have it!”
“Shut up,” I whispered back, “Do you want to get caught?”
I had fallen in love with Victoria about two years before. She was a timid southern belle who was desperate to please. Her mother—a mean drunkard—had never helped her boost her confidence. I helped her get a little more comfortable with life, but never really got to the point of standing up to her mother.
She shrank back, and instantly I felt horrible. “Tori, don’t do this to me. If we get caught, we won’t be able to spend any time together.”
“Ever?” Her voice was small.
“Not ever,” I replied earnestly, “What if your mother catches us, Tori?”
“Not ever,” she repeated. A smile grew across her face. “Well, Emmy, that ain’t gonna happen.”
“Em. Remember, Tori. Not Emmy.”
“Yes, yes,” she said, somewhat absently.
“Good, Tori. Now, let’s play a game.” I took her hand in mine, pressed the knife into it, and said, “Think, Tori. Close your eyes. What do you see?”
“I don’ see nothin’,” she murmured, “’s all dark—I don’ see nothin’.”
“Tori, can you feel the knife in your hands? Do you feel the metal?”
“’Course I do,” she said indignantly. “Clear as day, the knife is. Dunno why you make me hold it, though.”
“What can you do with that knife, Tori?”
“Cut things,” she whispered.
“And what do you see yourself cutting?”
I could tell she was lying; the change in her voice, her palms rubbing on her jeans, the sweat on her face.
“No, Tori. What do you really see?”
“I see food,” she said again, sounding desperate.
She opened her eyes and cried out, “I see my mama!” And she burst into tears and pressed herself against me.
I know it sounds strange, but Tori was my best friend. When I say I ‘fell in love’ with her, I didn’t mean romantically. I meant the first time I saw her, I loved her more than anything else I knew. So I hugged her close and kissed her head.
“It’s okay, Tori.”
“N-no it ain’t,” she sobbed, “I wanna cut up my mama! That ain’t okay!”
“Why not?” I asked her.
“Why ain’t it okay?” She looked up, blinking in confusion.
“It’s perfectly okay,” I said, “Your mother is mean and sometimes isn’t a mother at all. I think she deserves it.”
Victoria sniffled and wiped at her eyes. “You do?”
Of course. I wouldn’t lie to you,” I promised. “Come on. Get up.”
“W-what are we doin’?”
“You’re going to cut up your mama.”
Her face grew grave. “That ain’t funny, Emma.”
“No, it isn’t. And neither is the fact that she abused you. So come on. I promise it’ll feel good.”
“Em, please don’ do this,” she pleaded, wringing her hands. “Em, please!”
“Be brace, Tori,” I said gently, giving the knife back to her. “Be brave. It’ll be quick.”
Something changed in her, and before we left, she whispered, “What if I don’ want it to be quick-like?”
I stopped. “What did you say?”
“What if I don’ wannit to be quick-like?” she asked again. “What if I wannit to be slow and painful and terrible like she did to me?” Her eyes were angry and bright. “What if I want her to suffer for hours and hours until she can’t scream for mercy no more?”
“Whatever you wish, Victoria. We’ll have to take her elsewhere though—do you know a place far away from humanity?”
“Yes,” she whispered, “Mai daddy’s warehouse.”
“We’ll drive her there,” I said.
And, hand in hand, we went down the stairs and came face to face with Victoria’s mother.
“’Ello, girls,” she greeted, her voice slurred with the drink in her hand. Marie wore a silk robe around a lace nightgown with a pair of fluffy slippers. I checked to see if she was holding anything but her little plastic cup. Nothing.
I breathed a sigh of relief.
“Hello, Miss Peeves,” I said politely. Victoria bobbed her head, muttering ‘Hi mom’ in a quiet voice.
“Look me in the eye, brat. And don’ mumble,” Marie snapped. She swayed on her feet. “What’s in your hand?”
I reached forward and knocked her out.
Then something strange happened...
I woke up to complete darkness. My head hurt terribly, and I was dizzy with...carsickness? I listened hard and, sure enough, I was in a car.
“She’s wakin’ up,” said a voice. Victoria. I opened my mouth, trying to call to her, but found that I was gagged. What was happening? Why wasn’t Marie in the back? Why was I? “What do’ya want me to do?”
“Just wait,” answered a voice I didn’t recognize. It was throaty, low, and kind of soothing. “She can’t do anything gagged and tied.”
Who was Victoria’s accomplice? Why did she turn against me? I struggled against my bonds and screamed wildly, but it came out as a muffled squeak.
“Does she regret it, do you think?” Victoria’s voice was soft and regretful.
“I’m sure she does now,” the voice laughed. “But, Tori, remember: she’ll say anything to get you to stop. Don’t listen to her.”
“Don’t listen to her,” Victoria echoed, “Okay.”
There was complete silence for a while, then we turned onto the gravel road. Her father’s warehouse. I whimpered.
“Are you ready for this, Tori?”
“Yes, um, ‘course I am.”
“Was she hesitant? I couldn’t be sure. I tried freeing myself again, not with success, but I did manage to loosen the ropes around my hands a bit.
“Tori, get back there and retie her hands,” the voice said abruptly. The ropes on my hands tightened. I cried out.
“Serves you righ’,” she muttered. What have I done, I wanted to ask, Let me go so I can talk to you!
“Shut up,” the voice growled. “Tori, come back up here.” The car rolled to a stop, and two doors opened. The voice became muffled. “Help me carry her in.” Doors opened behind me, and as I was lifted, I was overwhelmed with a sense of utter terror. I was going to die. Victoria would kill me instead of her mother. Why was this happening?
I was set down into something cold and uninviting. Was it a chair? I think it was a chair—yes, I could feel the chilled metal against my back.
“Put her hands behind the chair,” the voice ordered. My hands were yanked back to an uncomfortable position. “Now take her blindfold off.”
I saw Victoria first. Her wide blue eyes gazed fearlessly into mine. “Serves ya righ’,” she said again, frowning, “Fer all ye done to me.”
Who’s your accomplice? I tried to shout; What did she say to make you turn against me?
“Um, she looks a’frighten’.” Victoria said timidly, her eyes flitting to someone behind me.
“It doesn’t matter. Do you have the knife?”
“Nah. I left it in the cah.”
“Go get it, then.”
Victoria rose to her feet, gave me another hesitant glance, then disappeared from my view. Somebody else replaced her. Someone with dark designer jeans, leather boots, and a black hoodie. Their hair was blonde and curly. The voice—I assumed this was her—knelt by me.
I felt like I had been hit by a bullet. The voice was me. No, I don’t mean a mirror image. The voice was really me. And for some reason, perhaps because of the shock of it all, the first thing I thought was, ‘Does my hair really look like that?’
The voice (for the sake of the situation, I couldn’t bear to call this being me) smiled cruelly and reached out to touch my face. “It’s a strange thing, the universe. Didn’t think this would happen, did you, Emma?”
My eyes widened. The reality was clear, and though I didn’t want to believe it, I had to. It was real. This was actually happening. This was no dream.
Upon seeing my horror, her smile grew. “I see you understand. We were switched, you and I. I don’t know how or why, but I’m not complaining. I get a young, healthy body, and I have complete control over Tori.” Marie laughed wildly. “Did you ever see it? Did you ever notice the complete power you have over her? It’s all mine, now, Emma. And I intend to get rid of you so you’ll never tell.” She paused, eyes glinting maliciously, then called, “Tori! Do you have the knife yet?”
“Listen.” Marie’s voice was low. “You say anything about this, and I’ll kill her, too. Do you understand? I’ll kill your little pet.”
I nodded frantically.
“Here I am, um.” No, I realized, not um; Em. She had been saying my name all this time and I hadn’t known it.
“Gag on or off?” Marie inquired.
Victoria studied my eyes. “Off,” she decided, and I felt like cheering. I could tell her to run—run far away and—
Marie’s breath tickled my ear as she leaned closer. “Remember whose body you’re in.” My heart fell. She was right—Victoria would never believe me while I looked like this.
“Don’t hit her heart, or she’ll die quickly,” Mari instructed, “Hit her legs and stomach.”
My heart beat wildly. Maybe I could switch it before anything happened—maybe I could switch it back and everything would be alright. We’d kill Marie and escape.
Victoria raised the knife.
Marie removed the gag.
“Tori,” I whispered. My voice was slurred and ugly. “I’ll love you forever. I hope you remember that. No matter what happens, I’ll love you forever—?
Victoria brought the knife down.
She pulled it out and stabbed down again.
And even though I screamed, I never once asked her to stop. Because she needed this. Victoria needed somebody to hurt after all of her pain.
So I screamed.
And blood spattered her tear-streaked face.
And Marie shouted, “Keep going, Tori!”
And she stabbed and stabbed.
And she sobbed.
And I screamed.
And I screamed.
Until I was too weak to make a sound.