I'm done trying to act calm, pretending to be oblivious. When did the panic instinct start throbbing in my temples? Four, five minutes ago? Maybe this is one fo those surreal nightmares--the kind where someone's mouth is moving but only white noise comes out. As I sit here contemplating my leap from a moving vehicle, I can't help waiting for Jordan to suddenly laugh and say, "Fooled you!" But Jordan's eyes look like water freezing over slowly, clouding up. He hums as he drives. It's chilling.
I decide to do it when we reach the next bend. Eyes closed, I grip the handle. Almost time. Almost. Now! I start to pull, but I'm a second too late; Jordan slams on the brakes before the door swings free. The force throws me forward, smashing my face against the back of the passenger seat. The loose door rattles as the car lurches to a complete stop. I can hear Jordan breathing heavily and the cat whimpering, but I can see only black. My face is wet. Dazed, I feel around my cheeks, forehead, eyes, chin, nose--that's it. My nose is bleeding. My vision returns with a series of yellow starbursts. My neck sears with pain.
"Ready to talk?" Jordan asks.
"Jordan, please," I croak.
"Talk for real," he clarifies.
I've got to run, but where can I go? We're on a country road that leads nowhere except to some distant farmhouses at the foot of the mountain.
"Where can you go?" Jordan says with a smirk.
"You're not yourself right now," I tell him.
"Maybe not," he agrees, unbuckling his seatbelt and opening his door. For the first time since this hellish car ride, I'll see him face to face. "Maybe I'm a little off right now. But you, on the other hand, are way off. Aren't you? You're just better at hiding it."
He gets out of the car and comes around to the backseat, opening the door across from me. I pull open my door and jump out. No way am I snuggling in the back with him.
"It's not your job to punish me," I say. It's a desperate move.
He circles the car, but I keep moving away, like we're in a dance or a game of tag.
"My job?" he says. He looks at me like I'm a piece of sludge that just appeared on his shoe. "You know what you did."
"It was an accident," I say, stepping backwards, away from him. I pray I don't trip.
"Why bother lying?" he says.
"It's the cat!" I cry. "The cat is doing this to you! It's some kind of demon." If I'm going to get through to him, I have to get rid of the cat. Strangle it, drown it, bash it to death--any way possible, I have to kill it.
Shivering with cold and fear, I glance in the window of the car. The demon cat is sleeping on the passenger side. Nemesis. Sensing my eyes on her, she wakes and locks her stare on me through the glass.
Suddenly, as I'm about to glance away, her face morphs. Her mouth stretches into an instant grin, as if slit open from corner to corner. Two fangs drop down like wet stalactites as her yellow eyes widen like grapes about to burst. She grins at me with grotesque pleasure.
My lungs freeze; I can't breathe. I panic. Beneath my foot, a pebble slips. I stumble and go down. By the time I look up, Jordan has appeared, looming over me like the face of judgement.