My back was itching and burning. My arms and legs felt like I was being stretched out on a medieval torture rack. And I had a weird, tingling, pins-and-needles pain at the base of my spine. It traveled up and down my back like an electric current.
I opened my mouth to call out for help, but no sound came. I was lying on my back like an upside-down cockroach that couldn’t flip itself onto its legs again.
That was when I thought I started hallucinating. Of course, I wasn’t hallucinating, but I wouldn’t figure that out until later. Because right then, my right hand turned into a huge black cat’s paw. I would have screamed if I could. It turned back into a hand in the very next moment, so fast I knew I had to be imagining it, but then my left hand turned into cat’s paw. At the same time, I felt a horrible pressure in my jeans, as if they’d suddenly shrunk by five sizes, and I heard the sound of fabric ripping apart. The seams of my t-shirt popped, then the whole back of the shirt ripped up the middle. The pounding in my head kept getting worse and worse, my vision got watery, then really sharp, and instead of sounds coming from down a long tunnel, I felt like I could hear everything happening in the whole damn school.
Usually you can barely hear the announcements from inside the bathrooms, but I could hear them as if the volume was turned up to full blast and I had my ears pressed against the speakers.
“HEY MECKSVILLE HIGH! DID YOU KNOW THAT THERE’S STILL TIME TO JOIN THE YEARBOOK STAFF?!”
I could hear the voices coming from Mrs. Mullhooney’s room and from the room next door where the girl in the hall had come from. Despite distance and two doors between us, I heard them as if they were standing right next to me, shouting at me.
“DID YOU HEAR ABOUT JARED AND JADEN? I HEARD THEY GOT INTO IT AT THE GAME LAST WEEK…”
“AND THEN I SAID TO HER, ‘OMG! I KNOW YOU DIDN’T JUST CALL ME A’–”
“…ANYTHING THIS WEEKEND? ‘CAUSE, YOU KNOW, I MEAN IF YOU WANT, WE COULD…”
“…NO, THAT’S STUPID. SHE’S NOT LIKE HER FRIENDS…”
Somewhere in the girl’s room next to me, a toilet flushed and a stall door opened, then bounced twice. I tried to cover my ears with my hands, but my arms didn’t want to work. I kept trying to move them up towards my head, but they just wouldn’t cooperate. And my hands had turned into big cat’s paws again.
If the noise was unbearable, the smell was worse. The boy’s bathroom had smelled awful when I walked in; now it was as if someone had swabbed the floor and all the toilets with a q-tip and then stuck it under my nose.
That’s when I finally passed out.
Find out more about R.A. Marshall and The Portal & The Panther at the links below:
You can read the prologue here: http://ninja-writer.com/the-portal-and-the-panther/
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