Chapter 1: Zed
It’s five am. A tundra of rumpled bedsheets are encasing a sleepy Zed. Small Light is talking to Dark of morning Joe. The alarm clock is chirring. Frost is making out with the bedroom windows. Fog is candy-coating the cathedral windows of Zed’s soul. Dim rainbows are shining through a coffee filter.
Zed’s smallish feet are moonwalking across the watery darkness; ricocheting in the probiotic anti-light is sound—slow-moving concentric circles of sound. She is an iron giant being manacled with chains of sleep. Oh Morpheus, let her go! The wood floor is a wino: it is whine, whine, whining; she is slumping towards the bathroom. Her eyes are wine colored.
Zed is climbing into an ivory vat, and is slinging the translucent shower veil closed. Where are the oysters? The pearls are falling freely; or maybe they are dragon balls, because she is Z. Where are the sailors? In the shower, Zed is a mermaid with a fishtail of the thinnest opacity. A mysterious metamorphosis is taking place; and from the chrysalis, the little mermaid is appearing naked, wet.
In the mirror she is dressing quickly. Zed is tangling herself in a pair of skinny leather trousers. She is fitting her black The Beatles tee over metaphysical angel wings. She is stuffing her diaphanous mermaid tail into dark pants. Invisible webs of integument are scintillating between her toes. She is looking at herself.
In the infinity pool of her reflection she is seeing: a medium height Chinese girl, age seventeen. She is albino, and her arctic white hair is falling to her hips. Half of her head is shaven. She is putting on tiny earrings with beer can charms. She has never had an alcoholic beverage before. She is rimming her pallid blue eyes in gel eyeliner. Her hands are shaking, struggling to achieve the perfect cat eye. She is frowning.
Zed is caking her long white eyelashes in mascara; she is smearing on her favorite Mac lipstick. She is looking at her beautiful, strange, diamond-shaped face: her upper lip is cleft, and is shining red like a poisoned apple. Her cleft chin looks strong. She is thinking about how her name sounds alien. I sound like a freak, and look it too, she is thinking.
White hair is flying out the front door.
On the school bus, the shaved part of Zed’s head is resting on wet glass. I hate myself. Look at these ugly scars on my wrist. Oh my gosh! My sleeves are too short! Zed is looking around frantically to see if anyone has noticed the ruby scores on her powdery skin.
Zed’s bipolar depression is interfering with her school attendance. Zed loves web coding and has a high IQ. She is taking several AP classes, and was this close to being valedictorian of her class—but then her wrists happened.
A few months ago, her school sponsored an all-expense paid senior trip for Zed. They flew her out to a web coding convention called Code Con.
She remembers walking through the throngs in the airport. She was dragging her black suitcase, and the scuffed wheels were clicking on the slick pavement. She was smelling cheeseburger pizza, sweat, and java beans. A cosmogony was presenting itself to her. In every face she was seeing, there was a haiku on human origin. She was swimming with a school of souls; and a gyre of meaning turned the hands of her internal clock towards epiphany.
When she touched down on tarmac, she was a pioneer on a new American frontier. She was farther west than she had ever been before. She was staying in a palatial hotel; a chandelier of frozen breath and gold was hanging in the lobby. She was eating steak and eggs benedict for brunch, and ambrosia for supper. She networked like a sylph, but Zed doubted herself tremendously.
Fear was suffocating Zed with a plastic bag.
Zed’s liaison for Code Con was Julian. Julian wanted to surprise Zed with some very special guests. He told them how bright and promising Zed was. “And beautiful—quite beautiful,” he added. Julian led his big connections to Zed’s hotel room. He knocked politely several times. No answer. Julian smiled at his guests, bewildered. After knocking to no answer for several more minutes, he used the extra room key he had for emergencies. They found Zed on the bathroom floor bleeding profusely.
Julian’s hazel eyes widened in disbelief and horror. He grabbed a towel and tried to stop blood from running down her snowy arms. He fought Zed for the razor, and was diced. He tussled with Zed again, until he finally plucked the weapon from Zed’s vise.
Julian’s face was soft and pained; it was spattered with little flecks of her blood. He was scared and disappointed. He blinked his chocolate brown lashes at her slowly. He was trying to quell tears. Zed was a pupil he had a huge personal investment in. She had pilfered his core. He liked this girl—I mean, like liked her.
Volatile and confused, Zed detonated; she ravaged Julian in angry, carmine words. She cried and threw up on the lovelorn Julian. They were surrounded by pink and red towels. The floor looked like a cinnamon swirl of red and white: the red for human hemoglobin, and the white for floor tile.
Julian became very quiet and told her she was going to the hospital. Period. Exhausted she complied. She wound up having to get a blood transfusion, and a host of stiches.
She’s been skipping a lot school ever since that trip. She is too ashamed to face her peers and teachers. They used to look up to her. They used to think she was perfect.
Her grades are awful now. She is still self-harming.
She is thinking about killing herself…today. She is fingering the scores of sad blade-music on her wrist. She is trying to keep her blue feelings inside of a teacup. Sadness wants to push the color out of her eyes; dolor wants to turn her eyes grey, and paint watercolor tears onto her face.
The school bus is lurching to a stop. Sighing, Zed thinks about how Julian’s big, gentle hazels are rimmed with ganache lashes. She is feeling guilt wrench her gallbladder. She is tearful. Off the bus, off the bus, she thinks.
Zed’s white hair is flying through the long school corridors. Zed’s eyes shimmer like those of a Job-manqué. Write me into the Bible, she thinks. Write me into the part that goes, “Ashes to ashes and Dust to dust.”
Zed has something in her book-bag that will do just that; she has a poisoned apple in a capsule; it will taste like dust. She will be drawn into forever, like a chalk silhouette of death is drawn into the skin of a crime scene. She is planning to take the lethal dose. Now.