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Those who have read other books in the Twisted Tails series already know that genre is not the driving force behind them. There is a general theme, sure, but no specific limits to where a story can take off from or a destination to which it should travel. We thrive on surprise and that is what makes the Twisted Tails books unique. Each story ends in the unexpected. Sometimes that's a little subtle, but most of the time the reader is cautioned to be careful of his/her footing. The authors of these little whiplash generators are masters at providing the required back-wrenching twist, so do be mindful of your step and we bid youwelcome.
In this book, Twisted Tails III, we are dredging up fear and wallowing in it as if it were something to be played with, cuddled and fingers lovingly run through its fur like a cherished pet. What we're doing here is tinkering with terror of the primal kind. You know what I mean, the sort of fright that lies coiled and ready to spring from the dark corners of the mind with no warning. It awaits all, lurking in the deeper shadows of consciousness. No one is immune and, frequently, there is no cure, you just sink into its roiling depths and are no more. If you do manage to escape, life will no longer be what it was before and you will find yourself glancing nervously over your shoulder whenever you hear something strange in the darkness or see a shadow move in the night ... or day. Enjoy....
Open the first cell, please.
Have you ever had one of those dreams that just keep going, and going, and..." Biff Mitchell has. Not that it lasts all night, but it comes up almost every night. It comes with enough frequency that it can drive even the most stoic among us stark raving mad and, with Biff being right up there on the brink of it anyway, it wouldn't take much of a nudge to push him over the cliff into the eternal fall.
It may be funny--at first--but after a while you would give almost anything to be freed from it. You would be willing to make a deal with the Horny One himself to be liberated from what is beginning to feel like a trap--a whirlpool of dirty, stinking sewer water with you stuck in the middle of it. One of those traps that is ... inescapable. It becomes a place you are doomed to visit and revisit from now through the rest of time. Come, let's take a peek at what's going on in that recurrent dream world of his.
I can't find my locker. Where the hell is it? Have I been away from here so long that I don't remember where my locker is? But where have I been? And I don't recognize any of the students in these halls. There's nobody who knows me, nobody I can ask, "Where's my locker?" I know this place, but I don't know it. I know I have a locker here somewhere--a place where I store my crap--but why can't I find it? And what am I doing here in the first place? I finished with this place years ago. I'm not supposed to be here. But I am. And I can't find my locker.
The bell rings. The commotion swells. Hordes of students herd furiously to their next class, stampeding in step with their schedules. They all know where they're going and move with the collective mind of a well-timed institution. Except me. I can't find my locker. I know I have one by the sense that this is where I am and this is where everyone has a locker.
Like magic or dream, I'm standing in front of my locker and the door is open and the halls are empty and I'm alone facing a pile of books and binders and I have no idea where I'm supposed to go next. I notice a red fire extinguisher on the wall, freestanding, no wooden case with glass. The panic builds on the emptiness of the hall. I need to be somewhere right now or I'll be late. But where? I'm going to be the odd one out. They all moved to their classes, smiling, talking, certain. And I'm standing here wondering where I'm supposed to take these books and binders, which ones am I to take? There's no schedule here, nothing posted. I've been away too long. Where have I been?
The fear is growing. It's been there for how long? I don't know, but it's just growing. Where am I supposed to be? Where are the signs? What class have I been missing all this time that I need to be in right now? What room? What subject? What teacher? I don't know! I don't have a clue. Nothing is familiar except the place, this hall, this locker, this moment in time. But even these seem strange in a way that sends bumps across my skin and strangles my stomach on the bile of its own fear. I look to my left, to my right, behind me, expecting some horrible truth to pounce suddenly and devour me in the chill of my own ignorance. My stomach is ice. My heart is mercury.
The halls are empty. I'm alone with my fear. My stomach is tight enough to squash diamonds. I have to be somewhere but I don't know where. I have to be doing something but I don't know what. The red, mushroom-topped fire alarm on the wall looks familiar, but it's out of place. I've been here before, but it's all so different. All the angst of that time swells up inside me and fills me with a fear I can't begin to understand.
And suddenly, I'm in my French class. I don't know a bloody word of French. I haven't been here in a long time, maybe never. None of the students look familiar. I've never seen the teacher before. I have a French textbook in front of me. It doesn't look like it's ever been opened. I have a notebook. There's nothing in it. What have I been doing all term ... all year? The teacher is short, dark-haired and French. She's speaking in French, writing something in French on the blackboard. There's a Boston Self-Feeder pencil sharpener screwed to the wall. I have ballpoint pens, just like all the others in this class.
Somehow, I know this is a review of the stuff we've studied, the stuff I'm supposed to know. The exam is in a few days. My stomach twists and grinds. I'm not going to be ready. I'm going to flunk, again. I have three days, maybe two, to learn a whole year's worth of work. How could I have let this happen? My eyes focus on a red, white and blue chalk eraser. They still use those things?
The students open their books and turn the pages to, God, the last few pages of the text. I flip through the pages from back to start and there are all these vocabularies and examples and stories and it might just as well all be written in Martian. None of it makes any sense to me.
And suddenly, the teacher is speaking English and the subject is anthropology. The book still looks unread. I have notes, but I can't read them. They're in French. The exam is still three days away. I'm sweating like a cow smelling death at the slaughterhouse chute. I'm doomed. Done for. Why the hell am I taking anthropology in high school? I never even took it in university.