Note to the reader: The following is a sequel to my short-story Rescued, posted on 12-2-14. It was written to be stand-alone, but I strongly recommend you read Rescued first. Rescued Again explains in detail all the events occurring in Rescued, while developing an entirely new back-story for Melissa and her friend Jason, introduced in Rescued. The two characters sets are separate and unique, each reacting to a central scenario. Everyone is greatly at risk. If this story is successful, I have another sequel planned, investigating the unexplained events in this story, possibly with a third character set.
Rescued Again contains elements of two of my other short stories: Me, Myself, I (posted under a different pen name) and Jena Flies.
Note that the first page of this story and the original are identical. They deviate when Melissa hears an unexpected ping.
It was Thursday afternoon. Melissa was home alone, as she always was at 3:32 p.m. on a school day. Both her mom and dad worked and never arrived home earlier than 5:45 p.m., her mom always first. Mr. Kendall usually hit the front door somewhere between 6:30 and 7 p.m. He had a long commute.
Melissa was busily texting away on her new iPhone 6, a birthday present only three days old. She grinned widely at the bang she'd just put on a fellow student at Martin Luther King High School. Melissa and her friend Dee Dee were both tenth grader's there, same as the victim of her snarky remark, Adriana, who was so irritating sometimes. Deciphered, her text message read: I almost asked, is that a burka, Adriana? But I wasn't sure she'd know what that was and didn't want to explain it to her, you know?
Dee Dee came back with an LOL, followed by: Burkas are so hot this year though, aren't they? Maybe we can go shopping for one this weekend?
Grinning to split her face in half, Melissa replied, OMG Yes! Aeropostle has them, you know... ?
Aeropostle was not a store she or any of her friends would set foot into nowadays.
I do want to go shopping this weekend, Dee Dee wrote.
Melissa replied: Mom might not let me. She is SO bugged out over Monday night. I don't know what the big deal is. So I got a little high. She gets high all the effing time, you know?
Melissa looked up, and then around the room, blinking. Was that a ping? It sounded just like her cell phone, only the iPhone was in her hand, and it hadn't pinged.
Did you just text me? she texted, anyway.
Melissa realized how stupid a question that was. Of course Dee Dee had texted her. Only it wasn't her cell phone that had pinged. The mystery phone pinged again.
She was suddenly nervous. She was standing here in just her panties and ankle socks, after all.
Her naked upper body erupted in gooseflesh, her eyes bugged out and a shudder like an earthquake tore down her spine. It was somebody else's cell phone?
Oh, my God! Oh, my God, she thought, panicking. Her bedroom door was wide open, and someone was climbing the stairs to the second level.
Only, that ping had been right here in the bedroom with her, like a couple of feet away, not halfway downstairs. Right here in the bedroom with her!
A sound that frightened her even more escaped her throat; she tried to swallow and couldn't. She tried to move, and couldn't. Again, she emitted that frightening mewling sound.
The phone atop her dresser rang and she squealed. Her three-day-old, 15th birthday present went flying and she panic-danced in terror, knowing how stupid an overreaction this was, and unable to stop. She tripped and landed on her narrow derriere, right atop her brand new iPhone 6, and thank God it didn't break. She convulsively clutched hands and phone to her chest, was this close to hyperventilating.
Struggling off the floor, she crept forward and eyed the silver iPhone warily. Her iPhone was gold, but you'd never know that from the gaudy, teenybopper case the phone was in. The ringing iPhone was out of the box, naked silver.
"What do you want?" she asked stupidly. Why was she so scared of a silly cell phone, anyway?
"I'm not answering until you tell me who you are," she informed it petulantly.
Now she felt simply foolish, talking to a cell phone. It wasn't the cell phone that had her panicked, of course, but the situation. She feared being raped, sodomized and murdered by the owner. Was he in the closet, she wondered? She hadn't opened the closet door yet, so he could be. Under the bed, maybe? Extremely possible ... she never looked under the bed during the daytime. She gazed anxiously around the room, thinking, he could be effing anywhere.
Put some clothes on and get the eff out, her voice of reason shouted. The ringing phone short-circuited all reason. Why in hell didn't the effing thing stop ringing, anyway, go to voice mail like hers would? It said incoming call at the top, with the familiar green and red buttons at the bottom like normal. She should press Message, she thought, make the thing shut up. Why wasn't there an Ignore button, like on her old LG?
She reached out and touched the green button with a trembling fingertip. "Hello?"
Siri answered. "Good afternoon, Melissa. Or do you prefer to be called Mel?"
Melissa gawped at the phone.
"Don't be afraid," Siri advised. "No one is in the house with you, Melissa."
Melissa scowled distrustfully "Carrie, is that you?"
Siri gave a short laugh. "That would be Carrie Cartewell, Melissa? Would you like me to call her for you?"
Melissa was effing pissed. Someone was effing with her bigtime.
"Who is this?" she demanded. "And how do you know my name?"
"I was programmed with your name, Melissa, and to recognized your voice. My programming excludes operation by anyone other than you."
Melissa held up her own iPhone and compared it to the one talking. Except for hers being gold, they were identical.
"Why are you in my room and who put you in here?" she demanded.
"I'm sorry, Melissa, I have no information on that matter. I have been programmed to initiate an application, however."
"What application?" she asked nervously.
"I am unaware of a name. It is a short set of instructions in binary code. Please hold me aloft and scan the room in a 360 degree pan, please."
Melissa laughed, confused. "Excuse me?"
"There is no danger, Melissa. It is simply to determine the bounds of the room and establish coordinates."
"I'm sorry, I'm not doing that. In fact, I'm hanging up right now," she said hotly. Her attempt to hang up failed, of course, because there was no incoming call. Then she blundered, picking up the cell phone, an act she came to regret almost immediately.
Siri advised: "Failing compliance with my initial directive, Alternate One is in effect. Activating the echolocation program now. Please hold me away from your ear, Melissa."
She did so, holding it far away as she could in alarm. The device emitted a five second series of staccato beeps, then beeped once loudly.
"Parameters established. Activating auto-transfer at 3:10 p.m. exactly in ten, nine, eight-"
"What are you doing?" Melissa squawked, voice cracking on the last syllable. She began to thumb the Off Button frantically, attempting to shut the phone down. It refused to power off.
"--five, four, three, two, one-"
"Siri!" she cried in almost panic. An instant later the room collapsed on itself, the floor, ceiling and walls becoming, on the one hand, a translucent, screaming indigo, while being somehow unbearably colorless at the same time, as though seen differently by each eye, or interpreted differently by the two halves of her brain, leaving Melissa horribly nauseated. The floor and ceiling reversed, the furnishings turned inside out, exposing their normally invisible innards, and Melissa sensed every molecule suddenly become self-aware and fix her with a baleful glare. Then suddenly the room was simply the room again and Melissa threw out her arms and hurled the IPhone away. A girl caught it neatly one-handed, a girl with her back to the bedroom door, which Melissa didn't immediately notice; she was too busy panic dancing again.
"It won't hurt you," the girl at the door said softly.
Melissa squealed and stumbled back and away from the voice, wind-milling frantically to stay on her feet. Her attempt failed painfully. The girl chuckled softly as she went down with a thud on her butt. "Ouch," she said.
Melissa gaped at her in consternation.
"Hi," the girl said softly.
"Why are you wearing my clothes?" Melissa accused snappishly. Her head ached something fierce right behind the eyes, like she got from sinus infections she seemed so ridiculously prone to, but it faded quickly away.
The girl laughed softly again. She was Melissa's age, awkwardly cute, thin as a runway model, with a runway model's lack of boobs. Brunette with a tousled bob cut. Hazel-eyed and cursed with braces, like Melissa. Where had Melissa seen this girl before and why was she wearing her favorite pale green Jammie's?
"Do I know you?"
The new girl enjoyed laughing at her.
"Stop that!" she complained, rubbing her sore behind with one hand and concealing her breasts with her free arm. She was intimidated, confused and embarrassed. She hated being intimidated. Then the window caught her eye and confused her even more. It was dark outside?
"You're freaked out; I know that," Cute Girl said.
Your first clue came when? Melissa wanted to snipe.
"I can explain, if you give me just a second," Cute Girl said.
Melissa stared at her. "I know you, don't I?
The girl smiled ruefully. "Yes. You've just never seen me in person before. I'm ... well, it's just easier if you come with me over to the mirror, and look at us, Melissa."
Melissa remained distrustful, and more than a bit frightened. Her instinct was to combat that fear with bluster, and battling it was not easy. Still, she tried.
"Help me up?" she asked, only a tiny bit truculent.
Still smiling, the girl moved forward and extended her hand; Melissa grabbed it and worked herself upright. She was so badly out of sorts and bewildered. So embarrassed to be topless in front of this stranger in her own bedroom. Melissa stared at her with the strongest feeling of déjà vu. It made her head swim and her skin feel crawly. Her nipples tightened and puckered against the inside of her forearm. What had that stupid iPhone done to her, anyway? She realized the girl held it in her left hand.
"That's not mine," she muttered defensively.
"I know," the girl said. "I don't know where it came from, either, so don't ask."
Reluctantly, she released Melissa's hand and stepped back. Melissa wondered about that reluctance and tightened her forearm over her breasts in reaction. She did not like what was going on one bit. She liked it even less when the girl herded her in front of the mirror using her shoulder against Melissa's. That was way too intimate a touch in Melissa's estimation. But her discomfort evaporated immediately upon meeting the gaze of her doppelganger's reflected eyes. She emitted an embarrassing mouse like squeak and shivered head to toe. She had a twin?
"Be cool," her twin warned.
Melissa felt anything but cool. Drop-jawed, she gawped from reflection to girl to reflection and back again, a gurgling sound in her throat. An insane need to go pee made her squirm like a desperate four year old new to panties. She instinctively crossed her knees and locked her thighs together.
"Easy Mel," the girl cautioned. "Don't go hysterical on me. We're not alone here, you know."
"What do you mean?" Melissa squeaked.
"Mom and Dad?" Twin sister replied.
Mom and Dad weren't home. It was three o'clock in the afternoon and Mom and Dad were at work. It would be hours before Melissa saw her folks. Only, there was that unexplainable dark window over there, and what time was it anyway? She looked at the clock on her nightstand. That couldn't be right, she thought. The bright red numerals claimed it was... ?
She looked at her twin. "Am I dead?"
Her twin laughed. "That's exactly what I asked too."
This was too much. Melissa shook her head in denial.
"This is impossible. There is no way this is possible," she complained. "Are you really me? Who are you?"
Older Melissa shrugged. "Technically, you're me, 31 hours ago. You left your bedroom and jumped forward into mine, via this cell phone." She held up her hand and jiggled it. "Which, by the way, is your only way back, so you want to take care of this thing."
Melissa glared at the iPhone with animus.
"Been there, done that," Older Melissa sighed. "You will be okay. No I'll effects from the jumps other than disorientation, and a short headache, I promise you."
"But why?" Melissa complained. "Why would anyone send me forward 31 hours to meet myself? It doesn't make sense. Or does it?" she asked, hopefully.
Older Melissa shook her head and shrugged. "I have no answers for you, sorry. My older self didn't know last night, and neither did her older self. This has been going on for a while, but I'm only on Day Two of this little odyssey of ours, so..."
Melissa's brow furrowed. "Day Two? How many days are there?" she demanded indignantly.
Older Melissa laughed darkly. "I am you. We've got 31 hours between us, Melissa. Suddenly we're Einstein's? I repeat, sweetie, I have no answers for you!"
"Fuck," Melissa grumbled.
"That too. And would you please stop doing that, please? You have nothing to hide from me!" She forced Melissa's forearm down from her chest. "See?" She demonstrated by yanking up her pajama top and baring her own small breasts. They were identical to Melissa's ... almost.
Melissa's eyebrows bunched again. Older Melissa yanked down her pajama top, reddening in embarrassment, looking away quickly. Melissa had no hickeys planted on her breasts like those of her older self. She'd never had a hickey in her whole life. Her eyes were drawn to her older self's neck as she tried to hide the bruise there also.
God, who did that, and when? Her face felt ready to melt. Older Melissa looked ready to self-immolate also, arms clamped tightly over her chest, so yes, there were things to hide, weren't there?
Melissa cleared her throat. "Do I want to know about that?"
Her older self shook her head, still looking away, still rubbing her shoulder with her fingertips. "Not right now."
That was fine with Melissa. Hunched, but no longer hiding her breasts, she crossed to her dresser, yanked open the middle top drawer and pulled out the first sleep top she encountered. It was a dark green tank top advising I Would Prefer Not To on the front. She hurriedly pulled it on over her head and smoothed down the front. Older Melissa sported no less than six hickeys under her green top. Had she gotten them from her older self, she wondered anxiously? An older version of herself?
"You had no more warning than me?"
Older Melissa shook her head. "The cell phone rang, and I picked it up. I ended up in Older Melissa's room, completely freaked out, just like you. We basically went through this right here."
Melissa frowned. "Basically?"
Older Melissa shrugged. "It changes every time. I'm not wearing what my Melissa wore, and our conversation is totally different too." She laughed. "I was ready to punch her out right about now, and she threatened to spank me over her knee, bare bottomed. She would have done it, I think, if Mom and Dad weren't home." She glanced at the bedroom door. Melissa guessed it was locked. Her mom wouldn't like that, but this was not your normal weekday evening.
Melissa's brows drew down again. "Our conversation is totally different? How is that possible? Wouldn't... ?"
Older Melissa snorted. "You think I could remember everything she said last night, word for word, and repeat it tonight? I can't remember what I said two minutes ago, can you? She told me I should wear something different than she did last night, and I did. I don't know why that's important. She said her older self told her to do it too, so I guess it just goes down the line."
Melissa jammed the heels of her palms against her forehead. "How is any of this possible? I don't understand what's going on!" she whined loudly. "You had sex with yourself last night? This is so crazy! Why would you even do that?"
"It was fun," her older self said. "It doesn't always happen though. Melissa told me--"
"I'm Melissa!" Melissa caterwauled softly.
"You are, yes. I am. She was. Here, I need to do this before I forget." She grabbed a ballpoint off her desk and held out her hand.
Older Melissa made a scribbling gesture midair. She beckoned Melissa forward; Melissa eyed her distrustfully. Her older self came over and took her hand.
"My older self did this to me, now I'm doing it to you." She forced open Melissa's fingers and wrote the following number onto her palm in blue ink: 1,354,296. Melissa stared at it, blinking. Her twin raised her own left hand and displayed an almost identical scrawled blue number. It ended in five rather than six though. Melissa felt chilled to the bone.
"That's not... ?"
Her older self nodded solemnly.
"Oh, my God!" Her voice was horrified. "That must be like--"
"Thirty seven hundred years. Yeah, I know. Scary, isn't it?"
Melissa jammed her fingertips to her forehead this time. This was so overwhelming. "Thirty-seven hundred years? But... ?"
"One day at a time, yeah. Or none at all, if you look at it the other way. The same day cycling over and over again. Super Groundhog Day ... only more of a loopty-loop, I think." She shrugged. "You're not the only one with a headache, kiddo, believe me."
Melissa had a heck of a one, for sure. She had to get her head around this.
"Who put the phone in our room? And why?"
"I told you I don't know. I had the same questions thirty-one hours ago and no answers, then or now. You just have to make the best of it, like I did."
Melissa stared are her sourly.
"Thirty one hours," Older Melissa reminded her.
"You keep saying that. Is there some significance?" she asked crossly.
"No." Her older self looked away, obviously lying.
"Sorry. I don't mean to be a crab." She glanced at the bedroom door. "I don't believe Mom hasn't come banging on the door yet."
Her older self said: "She reminds us it's bedtime at eleven. After that..." She shrugged.
Melissa was beginning to calm down. "What time did you go back?"
"About three a.m." Her expression turned sheepish. "I was just as weirded as you are. I couldn't accept that someone sent me forward to be with myself. Like you said: it was crazy nuts. But Melissa said we just have to wait and see. She knows more than we do, hopefully."
Melissa indicated the time travel iPhone in her twin's hand. "There's another one of those, right?"
Older Melissa grinned. "Very good. It's in the bottom drawer of the dresser, buried in the back under our sweaters. Turned off," she added with a meaningful look.
"Two of us, two of the phone," Melissa mused. She chewed her lower lip reflectively. "You'd think that wasn't possible. A law of nature, or something."
Her older self nodded. "You'd think."
Melissa colored and looked just past her twin. "Was it scary? When you decided to do it?"
"Totally freako terrified. I shook like a tree in an earthquake." Her expression turned wistful. Then she blinked as Melissa advanced and tentatively let herself be embraced.
Melissa returned to her bedroom at exactly 3:10 PM. She checked the silver iPhone just in time to see it reset from 3:06 a.m., Saturday morning. She wondered what Verizon thought about time traveling cell phones. Did they mess with the system she wondered tiredly?
Her fake-sinus headache was worse this time--she closed her eyes and massaged her brow with her fingertips--but like before, it faded quickly away. All she needed was a brain hemorrhage from this insanity, she thought.
She now sported her own collection of self-inflicted hickeys. She eyed them critically in her vanity mirror, thinking how fucked she was if her mom were to see. She rubbed idly at her left nipple, sore from too much attention. Her right nipple was pretty tender, come to think of it. Her older self had a few more love bites to count in her mirror too. Melissa had seen to that. She grinned at herself in the mirror.
She collapsed on the edge of the mattress. She missed Melissa; it hit her like a heavy pillow against the back of her head. Their time together had been a scant five hours, but the most memorable of her life. She could not imagine a more intimate partner than herself. She thumbed the silver iPhone.
"My older self told me to save my questions about time travel for you. Can I do that?"
"I'll answer your questions to the best of my ability, Melissa."
"You don't know who invented you, right?"
"No, I do not."
"Do you have any instructions for me?"
"No, I do not."
"When you jumped me ahead earlier, you said you were following a preset program. Do you have more?"
"What I executed was a set of instructions. They have since been deleted from my memory. There are no further instruction sets pertaining to forward time travel."
What does that mean, she wondered?
"So, you don't know what to do next?"
"With regard to my time travel capabilities, I do not. I am programmed to execute your verbal or written instructions, however."
"I can travel forward again, though?"
"If you so wished."
"How far could I go?"
"On a fully charged battery, approximately 80 million years."
Melissa expelled her breath in a rush. "80 million years?" she squeaked.
"Approximately, yes, fully charged. But you must never attempt a jump unless you are certain of your arrival space, Melissa. The intrusion of any solid object into your arrival space would be catastrophic. Both for yourself and the surrounding area. Imagine materializing within the confines of a wall or another person. You must be certain of your--"
"OK, OK I get it!" Melissa exclaimed breathlessly. "What you mean is even a 24 jump is full of danger."
"You need to plan carefully."
"Tomorrow night at 10:10 PM, I have to make certain nothing is blocking Melissa's arrival, then." She remembered her older self, lurking by the bedroom door, safely out of danger, and shivered.
"This is so effing weird," she muttered. "Is that 80 million years in either direction, Siri?"
"Either direction, yes."
"This is so effing weird," she repeated.
Only, Melissa had no clue how weird this really was.
The next day at school, she was between classes in the girl's bathroom going pee. Her phone was in her locker as was required during the school day, but the mysterious silver phone was safely stowed in her backpack. No way was she letting that cell phone out of her possession. What she ought to do, she thought, was to walk it down to the Conklin and chuck it in. The river was only half a mile away. Maybe she would do that after class, just rid the world of the damned thing. It was a horror. Who knew what else it might do to her.
What stopped her was fear that she might never see herself again without it. That possibility made her shudder miserably.
"What?" she said to the next stall.
"Jason Milne was staring at you again in trig. He is some kind of lovesick puppy on you, girl."
Melissa groaned. The last guy she wanted crushing on her was geeky Jason Milne. Creepy, the way he was mooning over her suddenly this week. She barely knew his creepy ass. Had she ever even talked to the boy? Not even to say hi to, she thought sourly. He'd been in her science class last year, and sat a few seats behind her in Trig now.
Dee Dee's toilet flushed. "Ouch," she said loudly. "Bitch!" Dee Dee was always cussing about something. Usually about nothing. She was Melissa's best friend.
Melissa flinched at an unexpectedly loud thud at the end of the stalls. It sounded exactly like a sack of potatoes hitting the floor to Melissa, not that she'd know that sound from a horse fart.
"What was that?" she asked in alarm. She'd felt the impact through her shoes and the plastic toilet seat. Hurriedly, she wiped and stood up, yanking up her panties and shorts. "Dee Dee?"
Dee Dee had no idea, either. Her door opened and Melissa twisted her lock open and joined her outside the stall.
"What the fuck?"
A naked girl lay twisted in a pile outside the end stall, bleeding profusely from her nose, which had to be broken from the way it bent crookedly to the right. The poor girls' eyes were blackened and her lips split, swollen and bleeding. She appeared to be missing her front teeth, though Melissa couldn't tell for sure with all the blood.
"Jesus Christ!" Dee Dee cried. "Are you all right?" She rushed to the girl while Melissa stood rooted and frozen. Hickeys spotted the girl's narrow torso. She had Melissa's small breasts. She clutched a silver iPhone in her right hand. Help me, her eyes begged.
And then she was gone, vanished into thin air; Dee Dee stumbled and landed hands down in the space vacated by Melissa's twin.
"What the fuck?" she demanded again. She flung her head all around, searching for the missing girl.
What. The. Fuck.
It had not been her older self. The pattern of hickeys had exactly matched those under her shirt, and that terrified her. Melissa shuddered viciously.
"'the fuck just happened?" Dee Dee demanded.
Marci Howe and Ginger Langston came though the door at that moment and stopped dead, startled at what they saw.
"Dee Dee lost her contact!" Melissa blurted stupidly.
"Oh, yuck!" Ginger cried, disgusted. "You're not gonna put it back in, are you?" Her expression turned horrified.
Dee Dee struggled to her feet. "No!" she said gruffly. "I just want to tear the little prick a new ass hole for coming out of my eye." She leveled a momentary, malevolent glare at Melissa, who was already hunch-shouldered with intimidation.
Ginger continued to make a disgusted face. Dee Dee brushed past her and went to a sink to wash her hands. Melissa joined her and washed quickly at the adjoining sink. She was shell-shocked.
"Who the fuck was that?" Dee Dee whispered.
Melissa said nothing. She was incapable of words.
"Do you have a twin sister I don't know about?" Dee Dee demanded.
Melissa shook her head tightly. Someone had beaten the shit out of her. Someone had broken her nose and blackened her eyes. She was certain now that her front teeth were missing--all four of them, top and bottom, maybe more. She had clutched the cell phone in her hand, that miserable fucking cell phone in her backpack. And she had been naked.
"Jesus Christ, Melissa! That girl looked just like you. What the Eff is going on?"
"Not here!" she whispered harshly. The Barbie's were unabashedly glancing at them, exchanging smirky whispers. Melissa was far from the most popular girl at school, Dee Dee the Goth hardly better. She wanted out of that effing bathroom. She wanted to talk to Siri.
The moment she arrived home, Melissa tore open her backpack and dug out the silver iPhone. She was breathless and her hands shook. She was paranoid and jumpy as a cat in a crowded elevator. The whole afternoon she'd been on the verge of a panic attack and she had to pee so bad she squirmed. She double-thumbed Siri to life.
"Tell me what the fuck's going on!" she demanded.
Siri answered pleasantly: "In what respect, Melissa?"
Melissa gave her an angry account of her nightmare in the bathroom.
"You believe this young girl was you?" Siri asked.
"It was!" Melissa cried, nonplussed. "How did it happen? What happened to her? How did she know to find me in the bathroom?"
Siri answered calmly: "I have answers for none of your questions, Melissa. I have transported you only twice, yesterday afternoon at 3:10 p.m., and again at 3:06 a.m. tomorrow morning. My internal logs agree with that assessment. The version of yourself who appeared in the bathroom must have made a jump in the near future. Beside her injuries, were there any anomalous markings that could help in determining her time-frame, with reference to yours?"
Chagrined, Melissa explained the extent of the girl's bodily adornment, and how it matched that on her own chest exactly. As always, Siri was logical.
"What you describe offers two possibilities, I believe: You direct me to jump us prior to your planned meeting this evening, or that meeting results in a different outcome for you both, leaving you with no additional oral blemishes, after which you direct me to make a jump. I am unable to determine which scenario is more likely in the present circumstances. Keep in mind that it may not have been you at all, but a another version of yourself who jumped. This evening's version, in other words."
"Oh, God," she moaned, fingertips to her forehead again. "That's not possible, I don't think. My hickeys didn't match up with the ones on my later self last night, and hers didn't match up with her later self. We talked about that." She rubbed at her tender left nipple unconsciously. "I couldn't duplicate my pattern without really trying too, and I wouldn't want to anyway. That was too..." She blushed at the admission. "It was way too intimate and personal a thing."
Siri said nothing.
"What if ... even if ... Dammit! I have to help her," she said miserably. "I can't let somebody just beat the shit out of her like that!"
Siri said reasonably: "You may have no way to avoid it, especially if it's you that gets beaten, Melissa."
"Thanks," Melissa muttered bitterly. She grimaced as a thought hit her. "What if she was raped?"
"That is a possibility," Siri admitted. "Indeterminable with the present information, however."
The phone rang in Melissa's hand. She jumped and bobbled it before gripping it again. The caller ID showed only a number, no name. Melissa stared at the number in consternation. "Who is it?" she asked.
Siri responded the number was unfamiliar to her. "Answer it," she suggested.
"Not on your life," Melissa growled. "This could be what gets me into trouble." She waited until the call routed to voice mail, curious and anxious if that someone would leave a message. An alert told her yes.
"Fuck," she muttered. Chance it or not? Listen to it or not? She dropped the phone onto the edge of the mattress between her thighs, unconsciously shaking her head and clenching her hands into small fists.
What if the person calling was the person that had left the phone? What if he (or she) was trying to warn her off a dangerous course if action? What if--
She screeched as a hand appeared out of nowhere and grabbed her dark hair and yanked her forward. She grabbed the wrist with both hands and clawed at the skin with her stubby fingernails, whipping her head back and forth as the hand pulled her relentlessly toward the shimmering spot of air from which it emerged. The arm was a man's, thickly muscled and deeply tanned, a fearsome, swooping eagle tattooed on the inside of the forearm, a tattoo she instantly recognized as that of her high school football team, the Screaming Eagles.
"Let me go!" she shrieked, bare inches from that shimmering patch of air. A second arm reached through, grabbed the front of her shirt and wrenched it sideways, scattering buttons and ripping the thin material. The hand grabbed her brassiere, gripping the left cup and baring her breast, though Melissa was unaware of that. She only knew that someone was impossibly assaulting her from another dimension.
"Siri!" she screamed. "Help me!"
A bat came down and impacted the arms just inches beyond Melissa's overlapped fingers. A howl of pain erupted from beyond the area of wavering light, and Melissa was set free to stagger backward, flailing wildly, tripping over her feet onto the edge of the mattress with an Oof, continuing to wail.
"Shut up, dammit!" someone growled as she slid to the floor in a jumble of arms and legs. She cringed as the figure hauled back and swung at the shimmering oval. The end momentarily disappeared as the bat entered, swallowed by the apparition. Then the oval was gone, mysteriously as it had appeared and the man--a boy, she realized, and one she recognized from school--hunched ready with the bat back over his right shoulder, huffing with effort.
"Jason?" she croaked in astonishment.
Her classmate stood rigid for another ten seconds, bat at the ready, before reluctantly standing down. He turned to regard her with irritation.
"Would it kill you to answer your fucking phone, just once, Melissa?"
Melissa stared at him, disbelieving.
Jason extended his hand. "Are you all right?" His expression of anger was draining away, replaced by one of fear and relief.
Melissa only gawped at him.
"Sorry I yelled at you," Milne said sheepishly. "You had me scared to death there. Are you okay?"
Melissa shook her head, looking back and forth between his face and his extended right hand.
Milne's brow furrowed. "Is this... ?" He cocked his head wonderingly. "Do you know who I am?" His face was beginning to redden.
Melissa gave a combination nod and shake of her head. "You're in my Trig class."
"Jason Milne," he confirmed, looking ever more embarrassed. "This is probably ... you're pretty confused, right now, I guess. About everything."
There was no confusion in her answering nod. "Why are you in my bedroom?"
Jason sighed. "It's not the first time I've been here, Melissa. You remember nothing, do you? Of course you don't," he muttered. "It hasn't happened yet. You've been forward one time?"
Melissa looked at him uncertainly. "How do you know that? And what the eff just happened with those two hands? Whose were they, and where did they come from?"
She was beginning to tremble violently as reaction set in. The hands had meant to drag her right through the opening to what fate? To be raped and beaten like the girl in the bathroom? Had Jason just saved her from that? And what did he mean, this wasn't his first time in her room?
"You put the phone on my dresser!" she accused. "Didn't you!"
Jason scowled and planted the end of the bat against the carpet and leaned his weight on it.
"No!" he said gruffly. "I did not. I have no idea where the effing thing came from. If it was up to me..." He thumped the bat hard into the carpeting, making Melissa jump. She tucked in her heels and circled her knees tightly with her arms. Jason's anger slowly faded again.
"That phone is a fucking nightmare. Whoever made it should be thrown under a train or burned at the effing stake. Look what almost happened to you just now. It's a mechanical fucking demon. Excuse my French. I know you don't like obscenities, but..."
Watching him scowl, Melissa wondered how he even knew that. And what did he mean, it hasn't happened yet? What It? And why did he seem to know so much more about this effing business than she did? It was all so effing aggravating.
"Who was it that grabbed me?" she asked. "Do you know?"
Jason looked off put by the question. "I, uh, have a pretty good idea, yeah. You won't like the answer, though."
It was Melissa's turn to cock her head. "I don't like anything about any of this dammit. Just tell me, okay?"
Jason looked pained. "Michael Gearson, probably."
Melissa flinched, almost comically. "Bullshit!" she responded automatically. "You don't know what you're effing talking about!"
Milne eyed her sourly. He thumped the end of the bat almost absently on the floor. "Of course, I don't, Melissa. Why would I know anything?"
Melissa hesitated at his look of suppressed anger. Oh, my God, she thought dazedly, he's jealous. In reaction, her face began to redden and she was forced to look away. What more could go wrong here?
"He's not your friend," Jason said. "He'll never be your boyfriend, take my word for it."
Melissa blushed harder. "I don't know what you're talking about," she protested angrily, tightening the grip on her knees. "You don't know what you're talking about."
Jason sighed. "Of course, I don't."
"Will you stop saying that? For Christ's sake, I barely even know you, Jason, even to say hi to! What gives you the right to tell me to shut up, and to do things I don't want to do?" She burst into tears, sobbing like a baby, almost hysterically.
Looking at once remorseful, wounded and aggravated, Jason grimaced, and then eased into a sitting position beside her, far enough not to violate her personal space. He rested against the mattress and spun the bat idly between his fingertips. Melissa cried, face buried against her knees. You could see Jason wanted to comfort her, but remained quiet and composed, letting her work through her pent up frustration. Eventually, she quieted, raising her head and wiping her eyes and nose with the back of her wrists.
"I hate this," she sobbed. "Why is this happening to me?"
Jason smiled sadly at her petulant tone. "You don't know the half of it," he said, bouncing the bat lightly against the carpet between his feet. "I've been cursed with this since Tuesday."
She flinched, casting him a hurt look.
"Not cursed with you," he said softly. "The situation. It can be pretty ... frustrating." He dropped his eyes to the end of the bat. "Especially when you don't remember anything that's happened yet."
"What am I not remembering?" she asked anxiously.
His jaw muscles tightened. "What happened Tuesday. Tuesday afternoon to be exact. And everything in between. Not like it's your fault, though. This is your first day--your second day, I guess, really," he amended with a sigh. "Last night's the hardest part for me. That hurts the most."
She was about to respond in exasperation when she realized he was on the verge of tears. He turned his face away, lips tightening to a nearly invisible line.
"You know about last night?" she asked fretfully.
He nodded stiffly.
That's just effing great, she thought. "How? How is any of this possible?"