In Through An “Out” Door
Dinner was the first time she heard them, but given her state, Hailey ignored the voices. School the next day was another story. At dinner the disjointed conversation between her parents could be reasoned to make sense, somehow. This was different. The unconnected dissonance finally revealed itself in full as she passed through BHS’ rear-doors for its crowded commons area.
A usual morning’s din was sluggish half-speech over silent breakfasting of the less-than-morning students. Today, a sea of whispers crashed against a relative silence beneath it. The sheer magnitude was staggering. Hailey stumbled like a drunkard into the commons, and toward a bench. She clutched her aching head, groping for the mental volume-knob jacked to eleven… and failing to find it.
A voice approximating her best friend’s sounded before her, mired in lisping chaos. It took a couple tries before Elise got her attention. When it finally clicked that Elise Brennan was both before her, and trying to speak, Hailey’s eyes rose slowly. They took in the pear-shaped waist and denim hip-huggers to ascend past her small breasted t-shirt in slack-jawed confusion. It was only once she reached Elise’s thinly-bespectacled, blue-gray eyes that she knew fully whom stood before her.
Elise squinted with derangement, “I asked if you were alright. Hailey?”
She shook off pain, uttered something noncommittal. Elise sat beside her on the bench, scratched the shaved side of her platinum blonde hair, then pawed the blue highlights of her bangs to flatten them; a habitual act.
“You’re out of it today. You get a bag of spacey-weed or something?”
Hailey half-shook her clutched head, fought to sift through the crashing surf to pin down Elise’s voice. She managed dim the others a little, but the constant lisps remained.
“I… something happened last night,” she moaned. “Now my head’s killing me.”
“Were you taking Xanax again?” Elise asked, caustically. “I told you that shit messes you up!”
“No.” She paused to wince and grimace. “I wasn’t taking anything.”
Elise’s face resettled into its usual visage. Her glasses slipped downward. She nudged them back up with a finger, “Good. So, what happened?”
“I don’t really know–” The five minute bell cut her off. Elise stood beside her, helped her up. “I’ll tell you about it later.”
“Are you gonna’ be okay?”
Another noncommittal mutter allowed Hailey to depart for class. Her usual meandering was absent. Class was difficult to focus on. The whispers were a fraction of what they’d been, but much louder, directed. Dozens of voices, too jumbled to be understood, meleed for attention. Hailey didn’t want to understand them. She wanted them to go away. Half way through her last morning class she laid her head on her desk to rest a moment, then was suddenly torn from bliss by a lunch bell.
Oddly enough, lunch was quieter. Internally. Externally, it was the same as ever. Hailey found a secluded corner, and ate from a bag lunch with her headphones fighting valiantly to drown out the ever-present voices. It was a shame the battle was lost from the start, given the voices were coming from inside. Even after finishing her food, she kept them in, hoping to space-out enough to unravel her knotted mess of thoughts.
Everything stemmed from the Dark Matter book. That much was obvious. Nothing made sense without it and everything began after reading it. She tried to piece together– or rather break down, piece by piece– the nature of matter. According to quantum mechanics, its hierarchical structure ended with solid matter. Going backward mentally, she’d begun stripping matter into its more basic forms.
At the time, she’d focused on heat and a leaf. In simple terms, heat was a process acting on a thing, matter, to alter its properties. Conversely, a leaf was the thing acted upon. The collection of energy, or heat, into the matter caused it to warm. The book’s author had often posited a similar transference of energy– from thought– as the cause of dark energy.
Hailey couldn’t even begin to fathom what had caused him to begin formulating his theories, but he fitted them to established facts in a curiously logical way. He’d likened the effects of thought to those of heat produced via friction. Like rubbing one’s hands together, thought and brain-waves produced an effect that radiated from the thinker. EEG machines took advantage of this fact.
However, the author extended these facts to his theory, positing that such brain-waves continued to radiate outward, eventually becoming too sparse to measure via our insesitive instruments. In effect, they did not ever truly fade, merely echoed at lower and lower wave-lengths, transferring their energy from the mind to cosmos. This transference then, might account for the growing increase of dark energy, and in turn, the accelerating expansion of the universe.
When one body exerts a force on a second body, the second body simultaneously exerts a force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction on the first body. In simplest terms, every action has an equal and inverse reaction. Newton’s “Third Law of Motion.” Simultaneously one of the simplest, and most revolutionizing, concepts in history. Hailey knew it well, but the Author might rival Newton’s contribution, if his wild theories proved true. If what was happening to her was what he’d suggested– and not a mental breakdown, it meant a revolution for not only physics, but all of human kind.
Hailey recalled a passage from the book while Pink Floyd soothed her mind into soaring further from the din and the migraine it was causing:
“If dark energy is then the manifestation of psychokinetic processes— that is, mental processes which create energy– it is a fair assumption to find intelligent life as its source. Humanity included, however much our experiences might dictate otherwise.
“If true, should not see our world as one— of possibly many points— from which the universe’s expansion emanates? In theory, yes. Unfortunately, none of our observations supports this. One may only further postulate then, that either natural wellsprings exist elsewhere in the universe, or that other beings with similar mental aptitude exist through-out it.
“Taking this to mean there are multiple points of expansion, we might see how, like the gravity-pocked curved fabric of the cosmos itself, the various wellsprings could mesh into a form deceptive at smaller scales and only evident at larger ones. In other words, that while the entirety of the cosmos’ expansion is not fueled by our minuscule place in it, we might nonetheless remain yet a pinhole leak fueling the spillway.
Most things regarding alien life was beyond Hailey’s realm of knowledge, at least logically speaking. Her suspension of disbelief could be extended for the posterity of scientific theorizing, but otherwise, she wasn’t about to speculate on it. In this way though, his theory seemed sound. Combined with her experiences, a lone passage placed him in the realm of right.
“Thus by acting as heat might to molecules, it is possible for pyschokinetic energy, or dark energy, to be manipulated, as well as to manipulate the fields of various, other forms of matter or energy. The only barrier is method with which the force is interfaced. Returning to our metaphor, we bring heat to the leaf only with the right tools. Most of the time, this is a lighter.
“Overall, the interaction of these fields, as evidenced by their effects on the cosmos at-large, might allow for smaller scale interactions (such as telekinesis, precognition, or telepathy) for one who’s managed to harness some method of interfacing with the thought-generated energy. Given the mind may be the mechanism for its creation, the interface itself might be as simple as “the right thoughts, making it no different from setting the leaf alight by passing the proper temperature.”
Whether he’d been right intentionally, or a crackpot stumbling onto one of the universe’s great secrets wasn’t clear. What was clear was that Hailey had begun to access that energy, linking to it through proper, mental stimulation. At least, she hoped that was the case. Otherwise, there was something seriously wrong with her, and she was probably going to end up institutionalized.
When the bell rang to signal the end of lunch, Hailey didn’t hear it. She sensed it– not with her new, special, and completely undesired powers, but by the obvious mass-exodus proceeding around her. She half-stood as something hit her Occiptal. Hard.
She fell to her knees and hands. Crowds surged around outside her, oblivious. She growled an obscenity, fingers nursing with begrudging pressure as she moved to stand again.
A second blow to the temple knocked her sideways to her knees. She staggered. A pained yelp escaped. White-light flooded her vision. Images flickered past. Her lungs fought for air, unable to inflate. A hallway crowded with students parted for EMTs rushing someone through on a stretcher. To her side, Hailey faintly heard Elise’s voice over the tidal wave of whispers.
A moment later, she was staring at the floor from an angle, her head propped against a brick wall and throbbing worse than ever. A small trickle of drool leaked from a corner of her mouth beneath wet eyes. Another groan and she straddled rubber legs for a footing. Her tears wiped black eyeliner to streaks across her fingers.
Her legs half-swaggered, half-stumbled toward the nearest bathroom. The halls were largely vacant already, but Hailey suddenly didn’t care about tardiness. She stood before a mirror, wiping her running eyeliner beneath bloodshot eyes. Her eyes said she’d smoked a joint, her cheeks said she’d been crying. Neither one could be anywhere near the level of reality.
She checked her cell-phone clock: she wasn’t about to be late for class, she was late for class, by fifteen minutes. How? She’d only just heard the bell, only just saw the crowds start to form. What the hell was going on? And what were those images? A vision? It couldn’t have been a dream. It didn’t feel like one. It felt real. Yet to come. Like knowing you were about to vomit, with no way to stop it, but not quite being there yet.
The more she tried to think on it, the louder the whispers grew, and the more sick she felt. Whatever was happening wasn’t good.
She wiped off and reapplied her make-up, then spent the rest of fifth period waiting for it to end in the bathroom. When it was over, she’d have to find Elise, convince her to ditch, and carefully maneuver Elise in the right frame of mind to reveal what was happening. Whatever that entailed, she had to convince Elise of the truth, there was no other avenue forward in her mind.
When the end of fifth period came with the ringing bell, Hailey was once more in the hall near the commons. The geyser of lunch sprayed students into the crowded hall. Hailey eschewed her aloofness and half-ran for Elise’s locker. She weaved in and out of the crowd as fast as possible. Elise was at her locker, prattling on to the girl at the next locker over. Hailey skidded to a stop, doing her best not to pant desperately, and waited for the girls to say good-bye before leaning in at Elise.
“I need to talk to you.”
Elise squinted confusion. She nudged her glasses back up her nose, “Okay. Talk.”
“Not here.” Hailey eyed their surroundings. “Not in school.”
Elise’s brow furrowed, the ring in her left brow catching light. “Oh…kay.”
“Ditch with me.”
She snorted at the thought, “You’re serious? You wanna’ ditch physics?” Hailey was silent, her eyes pleading. Elise sensed the gravity of the situation, and dug her pack out, “Fine, but if we get caught, I’m blaming you.”
Hailey pulled Elise through the crowds that thinned near a stairwell. They were down and into another crowded hall when someone started shouting something. All eyes turned to the disturbance: Vertigo upturned Hailey’s stomach. An Assistant Principal jogged toward them, shouting to clear the way. Behind him, EMTs rushed a student past on stretcher. Hailey’s mind overtook the vertigo, only to see the vision play out a second time.
Time slowed. The Principal jogged past. Whispers rose and fell, internally and externally, Elise’s among them. A second later, the stretcher rolled past, a student’s face upon that she’d never met but had seen once before. As they passed, the crowd’s heads turned to follow with a flocking motion. Only Hailey remained still, blinking hard as time passed outside normal rhythm. She turned her head to eye Elise, mind swimming through molasses. Their eyes met, blackness overtook her vision.
The next thing Hailey knew, her eyes were fluttering open on a tiled ceiling. She lie on her back on something stiffer than a concrete floor. Elise’s face overtook the view above. Hailey squinted at her, head throbbing from fluorescent lights that infected her brain with ultra-bright luminescence.
She groaned and sat upright. “Ugh. What happened?”
“You passed out. The nurse is calling your parents–”
“No.” She lowered her voice, “No, I need to talk to you.”
“Hailey, this is a little more–”
“Just trust me,” she said, standing and swaying. She found the nurse across the room, her back turned and a phone in her hand on the far-side of her desk. “Please, don’t call my parents. I’m fine. I’ll go back to class now.”
The nurse whipped ’round, frail frame and eyes moving much quicker than Hailey thought them capable. “Excuse me?” Hailey repeated her request. “I’m sorry, Ms. Ferguson, but I can’t allow you to stay here in your condition.”
Hailey did her best to lie through her teeth; she hated doing it, but was shamefully good at it. “No, it’s alright. I… I was just a little dehydrated. It happens sometimes. It used to happen a lot when I was younger too. If I don’t get enough water, plop! Down I go. I’m sorry. I should’ve paid better attention.”
The nurse eyed her skeptically, searching her for traces of deception, and finding none; a testament to Hailey’s abilities. She was particularly good at appearing innocent, had to be to keep suspicion off her when high– which was more often than not. Hailey feigned shame and relief until the woman softened.
It was a moment before the nurse sighed and hung up the phone, “Very well. I can’t hold you here if you’re up and moving.” She circled her desk for a refrigerator, fished out a bottle of water, then handed it to Hailey. “Drink this. If you end up back in here, I’m calling your parents. Okay?”
Hailey nodded with a small smile. She uncapped the water, sipped it, and thanked the nurse. The aging woman handed her a stamped hall-pass and shooed the girls out. Elise followed behind Hailey, stunned. They diverted from the offices as if heading for the rear stairwell to Physics. Then, with a cursory survey of their surroundings, they passed for the rear-doors and the school’s parking lot. It wasn’t until they slipped into Elise’s late-90s Civic and pulled from the parking lot that they spoke.
“Elise, I’ve been hearing things.”
They pulled onto the main road, “Did you eat mushrooms again or something? I swear, you’ve been weirder than ever today.”
“Elise, listen to me,” Hailey begged. “Something happened to me last night. This weird, white-light thing appeared after I was like, meditating, or something. Ever since then, I’ve been hearing voices.”
Elise looked at her with a question to her sanity, but redirected her eyes to the road. “Look, I don’t know if this is some kind of joke, but it’s not funny so, just stop. First you pass out. Now you’re talking about hearing voices. What am I supposed to think? That you’re nuts?”
“I hope not,” she said, wondering where the line between that and this lay. “Just listen, okay? I don’t care if you don’t believe it yet. Just listen. Can you do that?”
Elise’s mouth squirmed in a frown but settled into an emotionless line. They pulled to a stop at a light. “Fine. Go ahead. I’ll do my best.”
Hailey instantly launched into the events of the past few days; the book, its contents, her thoughts during and after reading. After explaining that she’d returned the book to Mr. Harmon, she continued, “I was thinking about what I’d read, and making these connections about how it might work. How a field, or something with the right properties, could affect bonds between molecules. Then I started thinking about how that might work for a person’s thoughts, if they generated that field. Then all of a sudden, it was like… reality fell away. This weird white-light appeared. I was there, in the center of it, emitting this blue light. Then my mom walked down the hall, and she was blue light too. And then, today in school, I kept hearing all these voices, but they weren’t voices, they were thoughts.”
Elise squirmed uncomfortably, steering them around a corner from a main road to a rural one. A tense silence that Hailey was almost dreading came. A few dozen whispers rose and fell; Elise’s erratic thoughts, both of fear and concern, with questions of whether it was true or not.
“There’s one way to confirm it,” Hailey said, quieting the whispers. “Think of something. Something I don’t know. Something I couldn’t possibly ever guess. Think it, and I’ll repeat it.”
You’re out of your mind.
“Something less obvious,” Hailey said with a roll of her eyes.
I didn’t say that out loud, did I?
“No. But I need to convince you.”
Elise took a deep breath, “Okay. Give me a minute to think.”
A few dozen whispers sounded at once. They all went silent together. Then, with a depressed longing, and immeasurable fear, Elise’s thought whispered; I like girls.
“Uhm. Oh,” Hailey said, eyes bulging. She stared off at the rural road passing by.
Did she really hear that!? Does she think I’m– no, she’s my best friend, she’d never think that. Would she? Is she like that? I’ve never…
“Like what?” Hailey suddenly asked.
“Am I like what? A homophobe? Jesus, Elise, you know me better than that.”
Elise cleared her throat uncomfortably, “Um, okay. So… why’d you go all quiet?”
Hailey thought for a moment, shrugged, “It caught me off guard. It’s not the kind of thing I was expecting you’d say. I didn’t expect it to be so… personal.”
Elise’s heart visibly sank, “Can we not talk about this, please?”
Hailey turned her eyes at Elise, “Um, okay, but… listen, I don’t care. I mean, not like I don’t care about you. I do care about you. But it’s not a thing to me. Okay?” Elise gave a slight nod. The whispering thoughts raged forward in a jumble. “Quit thinking so many things at once, please.”
“Sorry, this wasn’t what I was expecting today,” Elise admitted, eyes intentionally forward.
“I know the feeling. We’ll just… talk about it when you’re ready, okay?” Elise nodded. “We have bigger problems. Something’s wrong with me. That kid in the hall? I saw him in this vision I had during lunch. It was like a flash of the future. Before I knew what was happening, class had started. I had to blow off the period because I was so late and felt like I was losing it.”
Elise frowned, angling the car along a gravel road toward a circular bluff of trees that surrounded a gravel parking lot. Bacatta’s Grove Park had always been a mainstay for them, and now more than ever, they needed the serenity it provided. Elise rolled to a stop and shut the engine off.
With visible difficulty, her eyes rose to meet Hailey’s. “If you’re not gonna’ judge me for… well, then I’m not going to doubt you. But honestly, Hailey, this is way beyond me. I don’t know anyone it isn’t beyond.” She reached over, fished through the glove box for a bag of weed and some rolling papers, then shut it and pocketed the items. “But I’ll help however you need. I just hope I can.”
She frowned again. It made Hailey wince. They slid out of the car together and headed into the woods.