The Flipside #2: Before And After The Impossible
Seventeen-year-old Amanda has an impossible secret and a powerful enemy who doesn’t want her to tell. When the enemy threatens to steal what she cares most about, Amanda must find a long-term plan to best them at their game. But can she survive the odds and outsmart her adversary?
Our Story Begins...
AMANDA LAY UNDER THE covers in the dark, listening to the silence in the hallway outside the closed door. It had no lock. Someone coughed far away. Then a shadow passed underneath the doorframe, his footsteps receding down the long hall. The quiet jangle of keys faded. The rounds were over. For now. It was safe again.
If it was ever safe here.
She rolled over onto her back and the institutional sheets scratched her skin. What temperature did the laundry service use to wash the bedding—nuclear? It made the cotton fabric feel as soft and comforting as sandpaper.
She shivered. Her hands trailed across her ribs, across her belly button, resting between her knobby hip bones. Except they weren’t knobby anymore.
Dr. Olsen had said the average weight gain in the facility was thirty pounds. He’d said it so casually in the morning check-in last week, like weight gain was okay. Like the psycho-pills he prescribed were vitamins, and they had nothing to do with making your metabolism go bonkers. Like people who wanted to kill themselves already, wouldn’t want to kill themselves even more when they realized they had porked out.
Welcome to the new and improved, fatter version of—I hate myself.
But being honest, really, what else was there to look forward to at the QueensView Center except eating? In fact, stuffing food into your face from the buffet three times a day was the only escape from the reality of being locked in a psych ward and being reduced to a diagnosis.
Insurance-billable, of course.
So don’t forget the self-serve ice cream, available for both lunch and dinner.
Amanda fingered her warm skin, ran her hands over the small bulge between her hips. She could barely pull either pair of her jeans over her hips anymore, except she wasn’t getting fat. Not in the normal way Dr. Olsen had so casually mentioned.
Something else was happening to her body.
Something that was impossible.
Amanda blinked into the wide-awake night, into the dark shadows of the tiny room with a desk and a closet that were the boundaries of this sterile home, of the only place she was allowed to keep her few possessions and a fraction of privacy.
It all felt so fucking hollow. So barren.
And that’s what was wrong with her stomach. It didn’t feel hollow. It felt too full. Too warm. Too heavy.
The night pressed down on her, an uncomfortable stranger in her bed. She didn’t dare turn on the overhead light, staff might notice. Sleeplessness would get charted and she’d have to answer to it in therapy. No, it was better to lie and pretend you were resting well, thank you.
We all love it here, it’s just like a magazine vacation in Hawaii. So relaxing.
Amanda rolled over onto her side, curling her legs up to her chest. Don’t cry again, she thought. It doesn’t change anything. It just makes the pain hurt more.
Despite her efforts, a choking feeling wound around her throat and the hot tears leaked out. Her hands probed her belly again and she knew the impossible could not be ignored. Or explained. And especially not denied.
She had been impregnated. She didn’t remember it happening, but the knowing inside her was real. She wasn’t alone in her body anymore, and as crazy as it sounded, she knew the truth in her life didn’t always have to be understood.
It had to be acted on and trusted. But not understood.
If there was baby growing inside her, then it was in horrific danger. They would torture her child and raise it and train it as their own.
The sheets went cold.
A critical decision needed to be made.
How could she kill it before it was viable and the enemy took it? How could she keep this little soul from reliving her exact nightmare, like a little fucking clone?
The choking feeling around her throat spread into her chest, locking the muscles around her ribs until she opened her mouth and a silent scream roared through her body; without sound, without witness.
Water dripped from behind the closed bathroom door to her left. She lay still, hands tightened into fists.
Don’t cry. It doesn’t make it better, it just makes it worse.
The only sharp object she’d ever managed to cut herself with on the unit was the piece of aluminum she’d torn from a soda can she’d found on the ground. Yeah, like how would she ever get a little piece of jagged aluminum up her vagina for an abortion? Staff had confiscated that piece, anyway. What else was there to use—a fork? A butter knife? Her own fingernails?
Amanda paused at that last thought, shuddering.
She thought about the steel rod in the toilet tank. It was narrow and maybe it could be broken off. What about the mattress, did it have springs? Maybe she could escape, find a motel. But with what money? She had nothing, and at seventeen she was still a minor, she’d be a runaway.
A pregnant fucking runaway.
And the enemy would find her, anyway. It was their baby. They’d planned this whole thing. They’d find her anywhere she ran, without exception. They always did.
Amanda took another deep breath. She inched her hands down toward her belly, pausing—fearfully touching her own warm skin. She closed her eyes.
You’ll be gifted like me, I know you will. You’ll have abilities and they’ll take you, they’ll torture you, and train you…and…and…