Taylor had a superpower and she wanted to use it. There was another 4 hours left on the bus ride, Cleveland was still miles away. What the movies got wrong about running away from home was that it was really boring. You end up on charter busses with old women and their grandkids on their way to an amusement park because little Marco just has to ride the Lightning Express, it’s the one that spins.
She’d been listening to grandma praise Marco for three hours. If there was someone who looked halfway interesting at the back of the bus, she’d do it.
Taylor didn’t know when the boredom first began, only that it never seemed to end. It felt like she was a pinball, headed in one direction just to -ohp-nope-let’s-go-over here. Boredom so thick it made it useless to start anything, because she knew she’d find it dull within hours. Schoolwork? Naw. Books? Naw. Movies-games-tattoos-drugs-cigarettes-booze-sex, naw naw naw.
She liked to strut.
That was her word for it, because when she leapt into someone’s mind, it felt like she was taking long, quick strides and barging into a room where she was unwelcome, only to stare defiantly into the eyes of whoever was in there. Strut.
It was the only thing interesting anymore. And it beat laying her head against the bus window and pretending she was in a music video.
Taylor stood up a little, craning her neck to look at the passengers. Most of them were the usual hodge-podge of fleshy colors, but there was a nice looking blonde in the middle rows, a little older than Taylor but richer, prettier. No tattoos or unique clothes, just that generic style that every middle-upper class girl seemed to have because heaven forbid you wear anything that might stand out, right?
The bus hit a bump and the girl glanced up. She locked eyes with Taylor, and oh baby, it was over for her, eyes were the gateway to the soul, sure, but for Taylor they were the highway into another life, another world where she wasn’t so bitter and acidic that she received a locker full of hate mail calling her slut bitch whore kill yourself no one loves you-,
She felt that surge, that headrush, like she was fainting. Her consciousness hurled forward, like she was controlling her detached head as it flew off. She slammed into the girl’s forehead, and nestled in her mind. Taylor looked through Mackenzie Finch’s eyes at her own body, slumped over like a drunk.
Taylor took a moment to brace herself; the next part of strutting was always a bit rough.
Im mackenzie im mackenzie sometimes i say my name aloud and I say MACK like I put too much ACK in it and I just KNOW my teeth look ugly when I do that and I’m going to cleveland for school that’s right cleveland and Im kind of worried because it’s my first time away from home but whatever I NEED to do this right?
Why do I have to do this who said
Remember remember remember when
–Bobby Arnold laughed at you in fourth grade because you sneezed and a bunch of green snot came out
— when it was you, audrey amanda and lexie bouncing on the trampoline and audrey tried to do a backflip and kicked amanda in the face
My elbows itch these seats suck why didn’t I fly?
Taylor gritted her (imaginary) teeth as she got hit with wave after wave of loose thoughts, memories, half-formed ideas and raging anxieties. It was an espresso shot of identity; she was getting all of Mackenzie Finch at once. It was like turning on an old smartphone you’re still logged into and everything tries to update at once.
The stream of thoughts slowed enough for Taylor to grab on and cruise with Mackenzie while she thought about school. Taylor leeched onto her hope and longing, drinking it in, enjoying the relative good mood of Mackenzie. Not for nothing, ol’ Mack seemed okay. A little uptight for Taylor’s taste, but a good kid just the same.
Taylor liked happy people. She liked being in them, enjoying the feeling alongside. People never noticed another person was in their head, and she wasn’t going to go about making a bunch of noise, screaming and yelling until they did hear her. Taylor had never done that; she was saving it for a rainy day.
Mackenzie glanced sideways at a man on the other side of the aisle, a man Taylor hadn’t noticed because he was slumped down in his seat.
–he’s kind of cute he’s really old though that’d be weird but his tattoos are hot–
Taylor noticed the Satanic symbols and it piqued her interest. Like a swimmer, she pushed off of Mackenzie and launched herself at the tattooed guy.
She landed like normal, no problems, and got ready for the rushed download, but it didn’t happen.
The closest approximation she had was when she was 6 and her brother had dumped his fishing worms on her head. Cold nightcrawlers writhing in her hair, one fell down the back of her shirt and she could feel it wiggling against, so cold and alien.
This wasn’t a human mind. She was enclosed, she couldn’t see out of the man’s eyes. There was nothing but heavy blackness. Taylor tried to push off, to strut back out, but there were no grips no visual no –anything.
An eye appeared.. It was small, about the size of a quarter. It was bright blue and bobbed slightly, like it was hanging in the wind. Taylor thought it wa beautiful, she moved closer, but the eye winked out, as if blown out by a strong wind.
She turned around in the abyss, looking everywhere at once, trying to find shapes in the blackness. She turned her gaze down, and began to scream as another eye appeared below her, this one of colossal size, so huge it dominated her entire mind, bigger than the sun, bigger than the galaxy, bigger than God. Bright, brilliant blue with a gaping maw of blackness as the iris.
Taylor could feel it peeling her mind away, pulling her sanity toward it like a drain sucks water in.
There was no escape. She couldn’t push away, there was nowhere to go, blackness was above and all around, and below was Eye, only Eye and it was taking her into the unknown.
Somewhere deep in the tunneled recesses of her mind, that chipped bit of self that caused her to run from home, pierce her nose, dye her hair–everything, came alive. Taylor turned towards Eye and strutted, launching herself with everything she had, at the black hole, because maybe, possibly Eye wouldn’t see that coming and wasn’t that hilarious, the EYE wouldn’t SEE it coming holy shit-,
And then quite suddenly she was out, tumbling back into brightness of the bus, the calm warmth of stale breath and body odor. She spun about, dazed, until she spotted her body.
Taylor jerked awake. She felt sick, clammy, as if she had the flu. But she was glad to feel these things, glad to look down and see hands, glad to feel her Burger King flip-flopping in her stomach.
It was dream. Just a dream. Even though she could jump into people’s minds and ride along like she was strapped in a mental carseat, she could still have fucked up dreams like everyone else. She glanced around, hoping no one had noticed her freaking out.
She spotted the man. He was sitting upright and looking at her.
His eyes were bright blue.