Excerpt from Episode 1: Halves
- (Just a sneak peek for you guys … hope you’re as excited as I am #nerd)
“I swear, if they left without me … Jess? Hey, Jess!” Carsen hollered up from the depths of her dirty clothes hamper, her voice hoarse with a mix of slept-in drowsiness and agitation. The faint squealing of one of Wanburg’s many, ancient doors echoed from down the hallway in response, mixed with the sound of some hungover sophomore surely shuffling for the bathroom. Carsen’s eyebrows knitted together above her eyes as she momentarily held her breath, waiting as the painfully slow steps faded past her own, mostly closed door before lifting her head from her search for some moderately clean jeans to hiss across the room in a more hushed whisper. “Jess?”
“Jessica,” Carsen repeated, a bit louder than before as she fished a dark sweatshirt from her hamper’s mess of wrinkled clothes, slipped it hurriedly over her head and fumbled with the task of squirting too much Colgate over the dry bristles of her toothbrush. Her back arched in a habitual stretch, drawing her surprisingly ache-free muscles taut; with the past two days of practice having been abruptly rescheduled, she’d suffered no stiff shoulders or tight hip flexors. “Seriously, wake up, we have like fifteen minutes and I’m starving.”
Whoever was walking outside stumbled, momentarily, then started down the stairs. But still nothing came from Jess’ side of the room. Rolling her eyes at her reflection, Carsen turned away from their tiny, shared mirror and leaned toward her roommate’s bed over one of her many stacks of poetry books, growling through the minty foam of her half-brushed teeth as best she could.
“Jessica Bruno.” She dipped out over the sill of their open window and spat, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand before busying herself with searching for some pants once more. “I don’t care if you and Austin were out til 3 am,” she said with only the smallest bit of a laugh sewn into her words. “You’re getting your ass up and going with me to breakfast, come on!”
Carsen’s own footsteps slapped angrily over the plainly tiled floor as she made a reach for Jessica’s huge piles of comforter, a lip curling back in preparation of her next poisonous remark. How exactly Jess managed to literally disappear into the mass of bedding, Carsen couldn’t understand.
She yanked back a handful of pink cloth and the bed was empty.
Then the shriek came as one shrill note, something she only half-recognized, shattering through the chilled morning air of the near-silent building.
Carsen started, her hand darting out to instinctively grip the cold, silver handle of her door as the entirety of her body weight fell against the wood and forced it shut. The lock clicked into place beneath the pad of her thumb, and she pressed her ear to the stained surface as the scream seemed, just like that, to be suddenly cut off.
It might have been three minutes or it might have been an hour, she couldn’t be sure, but she stood holding her breath until her lungs seared in protest, until the weight of the dead-air pushed itself furiously into her straining ears. Her eyes flicked to Jessica’s unoccupied bed, lingering uncertainly on the tangled, empty sheets. She pricked up onto her tiptoes and peeked out the door’s old, foggy peephole, allowing her only slightly trembling fingers to spread tentatively out over the wood.
After another immeasurable amount of sickeningly noiseless seconds, Carsen’s fingers found the door handle again. Some portion of her found the will to push down slowly, so very slowly, to snap back the lock and stretch her neck out into the corridor. The plastic blinds of the hall’s only window whispered against one another in a sporadic, rattling song. A large splotch of what appeared to be vomit darkened a section of carpet just outside the bathroom. Talya and Lauren’s door still gaped open. At the far end of the second floor, a girl sat hunched against the white bricks.
“… Hello?” Carsen’s voice came out hesitant and wavering. She cleared her throat.
The girl’s head lolled against her shoulders, as though it might almost be too heavy, and one of her hands flopped out clumsily along the floor to support the uncoordinated weight of her as she swayed in Carsen’s direction. Her every movement was jerking and unbalanced, creaking and clicking with the sound of bones and joints unwillingly grinding against one another. There was blood, Carsen comprehended then, blood slathered about what was left of her face – what was left because the girl looked down the hall at her with one glazed eye and a giant, gaping crimson hole that didn’t match, her jaw hanging and unhinged, with yellowing teeth that clicked loudly at the sluggish turning of her head. The outstretched fingers dug into the carpet, the paling, near-translucent skin drawing taut over the crooked knuckles as she gripped handfuls of the rugged carpet and pulled the rest of her along.
Dragging herself and trying to push with one leg, struggling and groaning because there was nothing more left of the other besides the splintered end of her femur.
- to be continued