tagNon-EroticLevel Ground Bk. 01 Ch. 04

Level Ground Bk. 01 Ch. 04


The dream was different this time. I'm standing in the corner of a small dark room with no windows or any other form of light. Then I am suddenly aware of the fact I am not alone in the room, regardless of the fact I can't see or hear anyone, I'm positive that there's someone, or more unsettling for me, something in this room with me, standing directly opposite me in the other corner of this room. Not speaking, not moving, and just standing watching me, doing nothing. Despite my best efforts to move or speak to verify my fears, I am unable to, so I begin to panic, but for all my effort it worthless, I simply can't move.

My eyes snapped open and I quickly sat up. My heart was racing and I was having difficulty breathing. My shirt was drenched in sweat. My eyes darted around my bedroom, checking all four corners, making sure I was alone. Then I got out of bed and flipped my bedroom light on, just to confirm it.

I sat down on the bed, closed my eyes, and tried to fight the monster that was clawing at my chest, threatening to steal my breath away. My breathing was coming in tiny gasps.

"Stop," I said aloud to myself. "Stop this."

It wasn't working. I hurried to my desk and picked up my pocket knife. Flipping open the blade, I closed my eyes and let the sharp edge of the scissors glide across my skin. I opened my eyes when I felt the blood dribble down my arm.

The sight of my own blood was calming, in a weird way. I felt my heart rate slow down, slowing getting back to its normal pace. I closed my eyes again, breathing in and then letting it out slowly.

After a few moments, seeming more like hours, I felt almost normal again. Aside from the slight sting from my newest cut. I went to the bathroom to wash and bandage my cut.

That was when the phone in the kitchen rang. It was probably Billy. I fell asleep. He was probably wondering where I was. I hurried out to the kitchen to answer it.


"Hey," Devon greeted from the other side. "Are you coming up?"

"Um... Yeah," I said. "Sorry, man, I fell asleep."

"It's okay," he said. "See you soon."

Yeah," I replied. "Bye."

He hung up without replying. I went back to my bedroom and changed into a clean sweatshirt. Then I put my notebook in my backpack, slipped on my boots and then I was out the door. I considered taking my bike, but instead decided to walk, so that I could take my time.

Last summer, Devon's parents had suggested that we started a band and they agreed to let us use their garage for practice. We all had some sort of musical talents. I was the only one of the four who wasn't interested in being in the band. Sure, I had a decent voice, but I never let on that I could carry a tune. I was a writer, not a singer.

I entered the basement through the outside door, like I normally did. It was empty, but I could hear shuffling coming from the kitchen, so I decided to wait on them.

The garage walls were lined with the usual garden paraphernalia and I could see that Devon had been working on the lawnmower. The drums took up most of the spare space and the bass had seen better days, patched with duct tape, they looked like a Frankenstein creation.

As I was looking around, the boys strolled in.

"Oh, hey, Lance," Dalton greeted. As usually he was rocking the emo look, something he picked up after his mother died. "What's up?" he asked.

I shook my head. "No more than usual, Dalton."

Billy looked at me. "It's about time you showed up."

"Yeah," I said. "Sorry. I fell asleep."

"Premeditated nap," Devon suggested.

I grinned at him and looked around the room. "Where's Ronnie?"

Billy shrugged. "I don't know. He said he was on his way. That was thirty minutes ago."

I looked at him. "But it's only a minute walk."

I nodded. "Yeah. I know."

"Probably got distracted. Doesn't take much with him," Devon said with a grin, as he plugged in his keyboard. It was the newest of all the equipment; a birthday gift from his grandparents in Texas.

"Are you still working on that story?" Dalton asked me.

I nodded. "Yeah. I think this one's going to be the longest one I've written."

"How's that?"

"I don't know. The more I right, the more it seems to write itself. I'm having trouble describing how the girl feels, though."

"That would be a little difficult," Billy spoke up. "Unless you were female."

"Yeah," I agreed.

"Well," Dalton said. "I want to read it when it's finished."

I nodded. "Okay."

A second later, Ronnie walked in the door. "Hey, Guys," he greeted. "I'm sorry I'm late. Had to help my mom."

"It's about time," was Billy's response. "Let's get to work."

Ronnie just shot him a look of annoyance and sat down at his drum set.

I took my notebook out of my coat pocket and sat down on the old couch that was in the garage. I wasn't part of the band but my friends always seemed to need an audience so I was always there.

The music was calming. I was digging the new song that Dalton had written, even though it had a bit of emo-ness to it, seeming to coincide with the mood I was in.

I decided to fill my journal in on today's events. Maranda was more amazing than I could have imagined.

After running through the song a second time, Billy called a break. I was still writing when the music ended, but I didn't pay it any mind. I must have had a stupid grin on my face, because I felt eyes on me. I glanced up to see Billy and Dalton staring at me. Nervously, I clutched the sleeve of my sweatshirt, making sure it was pulled down over my scabs.

My smile faded and I felt myself stiffen. "what?" I asked them.

"What's with the stupid smile?" Dalton asked me.

I shook my head. "Nothing," I said. "No smile."

"I bet I know," Billy followed and came toward me.

"What happened with Maranda today?" he asked, curious.

I looked at him for a moment. "Nothing."

"Maranda Quinn?" Devon asked. I nodded. "Ya'll talking again?"

I shook my head. "No. not really," I said. "she just... wanted to talk." Suddenly feeling awkward, I closed my notebook and stood up. "I need a drink. Ya'll want anything?"

"Uh, yeah," Billy said. "There are some sodas in the fridge."

"Okay," I said and left the garage.

Dalton's song was still playing in my mind as I entered the kitchen. I began to sing the chorus to myself as I got the drinks out of the refrigerator.

Bad idea.

When I turned around, Billy was standing in the doorway of the kitchen, his mouth in an O shape. "I thought you said you couldn't sing."

"No. I never said that I couldn't," I told him. "I just never said that I could."

He raised his arms in protest. "Why? That sounded amazing."

"I'm a writer, Billy. Not a singer," I reminded him.

"Bullshit," he said, grabbing my arm.

I flinched. My flesh was still a bit tender from my last slice. Thankfully, he didn't notice. He pulled me back into the garage, where he shoved his microphone at me.

"What's going on?" Dalton asked.

"Did you guys know he could sing?" Billy demanded.

Dalton raised his eyebrows and exchanged glances with the others, before shrugging.

"We're going to do the chorus of Fall To Pieces," Billy said to Dalton and then he looked at me. "I want you to sing lead."

My eyes widened. Instant panic. "What?" I almost shouted. "Hell no!"

"Come on, Lance," he pleaded. "You know the words."

"I know, but I am not singing," I said, firmly.

"Don't tell us you're scared," Devon said.

I looked at him. "No, I'm not scared. I just..." I couldn't come up with an excuse. "I'm not scared," I repeated.

"Prove it," Billy challenged. "Sing with us."

"No," I repeated. My heart was racing and I had an urge to run, but my feet wouldn't move.

"Lance," Billy said, firmly.

I looked at them for a moment. I was about to give it when... Fear. That's what I felt. A tremendous wave of fear rushed over me, for no reason at all. My heart was pounding, my chest hurt, and it was getting harder to breathe, causing me to gasp for air. I felt the blood drain from my face. I closed my eyes and tried to breathe through it, like I had several times before, but it wasn't helping this time.

"Are you okay?" Billy asked, clearly concerned.

I nodded. "Yeah," I said. "I'll be right back."

I turned and left the garage, before anyone could ask any questions. I went inside the house, finding the bathroom and locking myself in there, I leaned against the door, trying to catch my breath.

I pulled up my sleeve and, using my knife, made a swift slice. I had wanted to let some of the other cuts heel, before cutting this area again. But I needed to feel the release. And it was worth it.

Feeling the blood on my arm, I took a few short breaths and felt normal again. I drew in a sharp breath as I studied my work. The cut was a lot deeper than I normally went. Not dangerously deep, but all the same. After running my arm under the faucet, I took some toilet paper and wadded it up under my sleeve to keep the blood from staining my shirt.

Taking a few more deep breaths, I felt calm enough to rejoin my friends in the garage. I took another deep breath and walked back to the garage. Everyone looked at me when I walked in.

"Lance," Devon said. "What the hell happened?"

"Nothing," I lied. "I just... needed some air," I said.

"You sure?" he asked. "You looked like you saw a ghost."

"No. I mean, yeah," I said. "But I'm fine. Really," I insisted.

He didn't look convinced, but he nodded. "Okay."

Billy was still standing with his microphone in his hand. He held it out toward me. It looked like I didn't have much choice, so I took it from him.

The familiar music began. My heart was racing again, but when I started to sing, I felt myself relax. It was the most calm I had felt in weeks. I felt as if I'd been singing my entire life, when this was the first time I ever sang in front of anyone. When the chorus was done, and the music faded away and all became quiet, it took me a moment to open my eyes. There was another moment of silence.

"Wow," Devon said from behind me.

I turned to face everyone, not really sure what I should expect.

"Damn, Billy," Dalton said. "He's almost better than you."

At my amazement, Billy nodded his agreement. "almost." He padded me on the back. "Welcome to Level Ground."

My eyes widened. "What? I'm in the band?"

He nodded. "Well, you were always a part of it. But now it's official."

I didn't know what to say, so I just smiled. "Thanks."

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