Read an Excerpt
The world changed the year after I turned seventeen, but no one noticed except me.
I admit that it was subtle. Everything looked the same. The sky was still blue, the grass green and all that crap. Telephone poles studded the streets, and pigeons dotted the rooftops like fat, gray and white pimples. Trucks bottomed-out on the dip between Harper and Vine as they always did, tailgates clanking and mufflers scraping the road. Postal workers delivered mail; phones rang, early morning TV still sucked.
My name was still Jamie Waters; I still lived in my mom's house on Midland Avenue. My eyes were still blue, and my hair was that funky color that couldn't quite decide if it wanted to be blond or brown. I was a text-messaging demon with the fastest fingers in town, and I wasn't just a Guitar Hero, I was a Guitar God, rocking out whenever I got the chance.
Things had changed, though, and after I figured out exactly what those changes were, I knew that my life would never be the same again.
The morning I first noticed that something was out of whack started out like any other--with my alarm clock dancing on my nightstand at the butt crack of dawn, doing that crazy vibrating thing it does when I've got the volume maxed out. I always had it set that way so that I wouldn't sleep straight though it. My mom used to say that I slept like the dead, even as a baby. Kind of a creepy thing to say to a little kid--used to give me nightmares.
Anyway, the alarm went off, and I woke up--eventually, after beating the crap out the snooze button a half-dozen times--showered, shaved, dressed, and slapped a Pop-Tart into the toaster. My first class was at 8:20,which left me exactly twenty-three minutes to ride the seven blocks to school. That was plenty of time, more so than usual.
Except that I had the weirdest feeling that morning that something just wasn't right. Not wrong, exactly. Not like when you realize you've forgotten your wallet and do that funky self-frisk thing, smacking your butt and your hips with your hands like you're hoping it's hiding in there somewhere. You know the feeling. It's the one when your chest gets tight and your heart starts to thump in your throat, and you say things under your breath that would make Grandma eat her knitting needles because how in Hell are you going to pay the waitress for those two double cheeseburgers you just ate if you don't have your wallet?
Not that kind of wrong.
Just ... not right.
I couldn't put my finger on anything specific, though, couldn't figure out what was off. I felt okay. I didn't have a fever, a sore throat or the sniffles, and I hadn't grown any extra body parts during the night. The house looked fine, no sign that serial killers had broken in; no maniac had scrawled my name in blood on the wall over the sofa.
My mom was in the kitchen, already dressed for work, throwing carrots, potatoes, and beef cubes into the Crock Pot. It was Thursday, which meant that we'd be having beef sludge for dinner. I never blamed Mom for not being Susie Homemaker. She was a server down at the Curbside Diner; had been for as long as I could remember, and I knew that she worked her ass off serving burgers and whatever else passed for food in that grease pit. Beef sludge was the one of the few meals she could manage on a workday.
I did blame her for Doug, though. Still do.