tagNon-EroticLevel Ground Bk. 01 Ch. 01

Level Ground Bk. 01 Ch. 01


The nightmare was always the same.

The dark surrounds me. I can hear her calling my name, but I won't turn around, I keep running toward the end. I don't know her name. I've never seen her face before. Her dark hair and pretty, deep blue eyes... they haunted me. In my dream, she is running towards me, begging me to let her explain. But I kept moving forward, running away from her. I was just about to run over the edge of the cliff, but then...

I jolted out of bed with a start, sweating and shaking. I couldn't shake the last images of the nightmare from my mind. I darted my eyes around my bedroom anxiously, and even after convinced myself that nothing was misplaced, I still couldn't slow my racing heart. I felt like I was going to lose it. I needed a release.

I paced around my bedroom frantically, practically hyperventilating until my breath caught at the sight of the scissors on my desk. I went over and picked them up with shaky hands, remembering that summer when I tried to cut my own hair with them.

Last summer, my life was normal, I thought as I remembered the Fourth of July party down at the river and brought the scissors down to my wrist, digging the sharp edge into my skin.

I watched as the blood welled up and I felt the calming effects the cut had solicited. I breathed deep and then returned to my bed. I sat a moment, waiting for my breathing to even out, before giving in to my exhaustion.

Everything happens for a reason.

Things go wrong so that you can appreciate when they go right. Sometimes things fall apart so that better things can fall together.

At least, that is what I have been trying to convince myself, as well as my friends. I look back at my life and I feel as if someone had it all planned. I have this feeling that someone or something is there saying, "Okay. This bit goes here and then this happens."

However, I have also come to realize that if I had not lived through a certain time in my life, then many other events never would have happened.

It was June, nearing the end of my fifteenth year. It was the last day of school and soon my friends and I would be free to do as we pleased for three months. Most kids my age were relieved. However, for me, school was my one place that I could escape these demons inside me. It was the only steady thing in my life at that time and I was feeling... empty and alone. For no real apparent reason, I was feeling so far away from gone. I just wanted to be home.

The next morning, I woke up grudgingly. Today was going to be particularly horrible, when in reality; it should be one of the best days of my teenage life. But my anxiety was at an all time high. I couldn't believe I had another panic attack last night. That was the third one this week. But no matter was my anxiety level; I had become an expert of hiding what I was really feeling. That was the reason I began writing in the first place. I needed an out. However, these days, it just doesn't seem to be enough.

I shoved my nightmare to the back of my mind, sighed and threw the covers off me. I made my way over to my closet. I paused, looking down at my pajamas, which only caused me to groan. I must have slept on my arm. My shirt had lines of dried blood all over it.

I studied the damage I had inflicted the night before, feeling disgusted. There were three cuts total marring the pale skin of my forearm, one for each episode this week. I don't know what made me pick up the scissors that first night. I think I was just sick of feeling as if I couldn't release the pressure inside of me. Something had to give. Now it seemed that each time I had an attack, I wanted to cut myself again.

"Long sleeves, it is," I growled, frustrated with myself.

I dressed quickly, attempted a look in the mirror, and sighed, once again. Dark circles had permanently taken up residence on my pale face, giving my hazel eyes a haunted look. I looked lifeless, which was pretty much how I was feeling.

"Lance!" My mom's voices echoed down the hallway, breaking the staring match I was having with my reflection. "You're going to be late for school. Let's go!"

I grabbed my book bag and headed out of my bedroom, toward the kitchen, where my parents were having their morning coffee.

"Good morning, Honey," my mother greeted. "You should get up in time to have breakfast. You're a growing boy, ya know?"

"I know, Mom. I'm sorry. I have to get outside. Billy should be here soon."

"Okay, Hon. Your father and I are leaving in about an hour. We'll be back in a week, okay?"

I nodded. "Sure. Okay," I said, dryly.

She looked up at me from her coffee. "Oh, honey. I'm sorry we're gone so much."

"No, you're not. You enjoy your work. It's ok, Mom. I'm used to it. I prefer to be alone anyway."

She studied me for a moment. "Okay, Sweetie." She stood up to kiss my cheek. "Be sure to call us if you need anything."

"I will, Mom."

"I love you, Sweetie."

"Love you, too, Mom." I looked at my father, who didn't seem to acknowledge that I was there. "Bye, Dad."

I looked down from the magazine he was reading and nodded, silently. "Bye, Son. I'll see you when we get home."

"Uh huh," was all I could manage.

I swallowed the lump in my throat and muttered another goodbye before going out the door. My father loved me. I know he did. But he was a very hard man; never showed any emotion that I was aware of.

I walked out to the end of the driveway to wait for Billy to pick me up. A few minutes later, I heard the rumble of Billy's mustang just before his car appeared. I was grateful to leave. I hated the days when my parents left for another business trip, which lately had been every other week.

"Hey, Man," I greeted, when I got into Billy's car.

"Good morning, Lance." He looked at me for a moment.

I felt his eyes on me and looked at him. "What?"

"You okay?" he asked me after a moment.

I shrugged and then nodded. "Yeah. I'm fine," I lied. I wasn't fine. But I didn't like to show any weaknesses. I prefer to suffer alone.

He nodded. "You sure?"

I nodded, silently.

"Have that nightmare again?" he asked, suddenly. I just looked at him. "Still no idea who the girl is?"

I just shook my head.

He nodded, again. "Okay."

We pressed on and I was grateful. I didn't want to talk about my problems. Because, in all honesty, I didn't know what my problem was. I had no idea why I was feeling the way I was feeling. It made no sense whatsoever to me so how was I to explain it to anyone?

Billy Cole was one of my four best friends. He lived in the first house at the top of the hill, with my father. That house was huge. I was always fascinated with the size of it. It sat up there, looking down over the valley, as if it were a King's castle, watching over its kingdom.

Billy had dark brown hair, with a hint of gold highlights and cosmic green eyes, which sent most girls reeling. His most prized possession, other than the 1983 Ford Mustang that he worked and slaved to buy, was his guitar. He was a natural talent. He never had any lessons that I'm aware of. His father, Raymond, told me once that music was in his blood.

Billy had a temper, inherited from his father, no doubt. We knew him well enough not to press those buttons, but other people were not as fortunate. I recall a bully at school once accused Billy if stealing his lunch money. Billy beat him to a pulp and was suspended from school for three days. However, He told me once that the punishment that he got from his father was worse. At the time, I wasn't sure what he meant and I didn't press the issue.

Dalton Cole was Billy's cousin. Their fathers were brothers, but they weren't close at all. He lived in the doublewide trailer, just down the road from Billy's. He lived there with his father, Russell, and his older brother, Sam.

Dalton's father drove a truck for a local company during the week. He was usually gone all week, but was normally home on the weekends.

Dalton had always been a much laid-back type of person, and very optimistic. However, when he lost his mother to cancer at age thirteen that seemed to have changed overnight. His personality shifted and he became this person... no one could understand the dramatic change, but I guess it was his way of coping with the loss of his mother.

However, the loss of his mother is what inspired Dalton to learn to play his father's bass guitar. Dalton says that music is what keeps him from losing it on most days.

A hop, skip, and a jump away was the ranch house where Devon Stone lived with his parents. Devon was not a West Virginian. His family moved here from Texas when we were just starting kindergarten. Even though we were five years old at the time, I will never forget the first day that I saw him. He was the tallest in our class and we were all fascinated by his cowboy boots and hat.

Devon's parents owned a trucking company out of Texas. When they moved to West Virginia, they agreed to stay on with the company, which meant a lot of traveling back and forth. So that, in addition to his love for music, was one of the things that Devon and I had in common. Devon had a passion for horses and a passion for music. His talents included both the guitar and his keyboard. There have been times when Devon would disappear for a day or two, He would take his horse and his guitar and go into the woods to be alone. He was a songwriter, which he loved to do more than he loved to sing his own songs. This is why he insists on his playing his instruments.

Ronnie Short was my closest neighbor. He was the youngest of five brothers. His mother was a homemaker, a mother, and a housewife. Ronnie's father worked at the local fruit farm. We always appreciated the free apples.

Ironically, Ronnie's name suited him perfectly because he only stood about five foot two. But his height never seemed to bother him. It was one of his many charms, he once told me. People have a tendency of underestimating his strength. He's tough for such a little guy.

But the love of his life was the 1971 Blue Dodge Challenger, inherited from his grandfather.

Ronnie had been in a car accident when he was around ten years old. He almost died and it scared the hell out of all of us. And because of this, he had somewhat of a reckless personality. He rarely took anything serious and was never concerned for his own safety. There were times when I honestly thought he was trying to kill himself. He told me once that life was too short to take too seriously.

Like most of us, Ronnie also had a talent for music, but his talent was louder than ours. His talent was the drums. His father had brought home an old drum set from work one night. And to his mother's dismay, Ronnie taught himself how to play the drums.

Evidently, the love and talent for music wasn't just in our blood. It was in the mountains, and the trees, and everything that made up our little world. Every little sound could be turned into music. At one time in each of our lives, music was the only stability we had.

The five of us lived only a few houses away from each other. We grew up in this small, in the middle of nowhere town known as Montgomery Town, named after the family that first settled there. Some of the family still lives there today.

Montgomery Town was a small town. The population was approximately one thousand. It had one general store, where everything was priced higher than normal. There was a fire department, also very small.

The winter season was always a rough one, with the icy roads and snow, the roads sometimes became hazardous. When spring rolled around, the mud that was left over was almost just as dangerous, but a lot more fun. Summertime, of course, was my favorite season. With no school to interrupt, I was free to write as much as I wanted to.

However, that, as with the seasons, was about to change.

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