13.1 Under Pressure

by Matt P.

Antigone woke up with a headache that pounded against her temples like Athena was trying to get out. Or like she was going to give birth to an alien—the kind from Alien. She had stumbled to the bathroom and forced down a couple of Tylenol before getting in the shower, and it hadn’t gone down by the time she got out. She stumbled back in to her room, where Siobhan was just now getting up.

When Siobhan saw her, she blinked. “Annie, are you feeling alright?”

Annie shook her head, stumbling over to her closet to begin pulling out clothing she hoped was coordinated if not fashionable. Hell, she thought painfully, I hope I’m pulling out actual pants. That would be the last thing she needed, to have a headache and be trying to wear a shirt on her legs. She pulled on what turned out to be a glittery dark blue sweater dress and a pair of leggings that coordinated fairly well. The sweater made her pause, as something about it was achingly familiar for a moment. She stared at it until she felt like she just might be remembering what it reminded her of, when Ryan stumbled out of his room in the rest of the house. The door banging against the wall as he stumbled out of his room made her head flare up, and she lost it. Suppressing an irritated grunt she walked out in to the hall.

“You getting breakfast?” Siobhan asked as they entered the kitchen. Antigone shook her head, pausing only long enough to fish her water bottle out of the refrigerator. This year she had bought one that featured one of the school colors, and highlighted it with a sticker from a local band—trying to thread the needle between school spirit, local flavor, and not being too eager. It hadn’t hurt that the band hadn’t actually sucked when she’d gotten around to listening to them, but it also wasn’t the point.

“I feel like I’d be setting myself up for body horror later if I ate anything now,” Antigone explained, rubbing her forehead as if trying to wipe away the pain.

Siobhan’s forehead wrinkled as she looked at her twin in concern. “You look pale, Annie. Do we need to stay home today? Ryan can take a note in, and I’m pretty good with Dad’s signature.” She wiggled her eyebrows, making it in to a joke even though they both know it wasn’t—she was pretty good with the signature.

Antigone thought about it for a moment. Staying home, going back up to bed and letting the covers envelop her back to sleep, and hopefully wait out the migraine. Sleep…

Screaming, someone calling for help. They didn’t have much time left, they were in trouble. The sound of metal rasping against leather like the grim reaper’s own chuckling. Screaming.

Screaming for help.

Nausea churned in her stomach and bile rose in her throat. She turned for a second like she was going to go for the sink to throw up in, but the moment her mind was off of the dream it settled back in her stomach. She swallowed quickly and then took a long gulp of cold water from her bottle. Siobhan was clearly turning back from the door to take her back to bed when Antigone shook her head. “No,” she gasped. “It won’t be better here.” She fished a pair of sunglasses from her purse, even though this late in the year it wouldn’t be very bright. For the first time in her life she blessed daylight savings time, and then put on her sunglasses and walked out the door.

**** ****

First period was hell. Second period was hell’s older brother, Sucksville, where the temperature was worse and the neighbors less pleasant. Third period stayed in that same area code, although it did explore some of the seedier sections of town.

By fourth period she had discovered a whole new state, which she was distracting herself by trying to come up with a new name for. None of the ones she had come up with she would ever be able to say in polite company, however, as the amount of discomfort she was in seemed only explainable by profanity.

She staggered out of fourth period, with Siobhan helping her by taking her arm. The moment she was out in the hall she whipped back on her sunglasses and began staggering toward lunch. Lacey and Monica met them in the halls, the older girls both blinking at how Antigone looked.

“You guys decide to party it up last night? You need a little bit of the hair of the dog?” Monica asked wryly, looking Antigone over with a look of concern. “I know a senior that always has a fifth of tequila in the trunk of her car.”

“Don’t tempt me,” Antigone responded as they started walking their way toward the exit. They never ate in the cafeteria if they could help it; if they didn’t bring their own lunch they tended to patronize what they had dubbed the Sketchy Pizza Van that showed up every day and sold pizza and calzones. They assumed he had some sort of food truck license or certification, but they were also not brave enough to ask.

Antigone looked up at the lights, and was shocked to see smaller rainbow colored lights flickering around them. It looked like a migraine aura but it was…off somehow, different from the scant few times that she had suffered from headaches approaching this bad. She winced, but something about seeing that made it worse. She closed her eyes…

Walter pounded at the door, shaking his head. They were so close, he could hear the breathing of their terrible horses. Morgan was shouting and pounding at the door furiously as well, and he saw a look of fear on her face that he had never seen before.

“We can’t fight them here!” Her voice was strained, and her eyes wide.

“Annie! Bug! Get to the door!”

Antigone stumbled in to a locker, gasping as pain radiated across her whole body. It danced up and down her spine and down her legs, and even her fingertips tingled with the feeling of it. Both hands came up to hold her head, but that no longer felt adequate at all, and there was no way for her to hold her whole body all at once.

“Annie!” Siobhan sputtered, reaching out to grab her and make sure she didn’t fall to the floor. Lacey and Monica looked on in shock. A passing teacher blinked, and walked over.

“Miss Richards, you shouldn’t be wearing those in the hallway,” he said in the officious tone of someone who was going to treat a minor infraction like a very serious offense.

Antigone barely even noticed the teacher, starting to struggle away from the locker. The pressure behind her temples was only growing, and she swallowed in pain as she moved fully on to her feet. She breathed in deeply to steady herself.

The door. Fresh paint glistened in the uneven light, blue so dark that it could have been black. Faint glitters, like her sweater. She knew the door, and she knew if she opened it her head would stop EXPLODING. Where was it!

“Ms. Richards, did you hear me?” The teacher demanded.

“Yeah, five points from Gryffindor, whatever…” she shot back, reaching up to cradle her face. She was shocked to find tears running down her cheeks. The teacher looked like he was about to say something else, but then he saw the tears as well.

“Are you-”

“No,” Antigone cut him off. The look of shock on hi face was mirrored by that of her friends and sister, but Antigone shouldered past all of them. She physically pushed past the teacher and stumbled down toward the hallway.

“Sorry, Mr. Simmons!” Siobhan filled in for her. “She’s got lady problems but good, you know how it is!” Normally that kind of answer would have caused Antigone to blush, but she wasn’t sure that she had the blood to spare. It was all pounding in her head. The pressure continued to increase as she stumbled through the hall in the opposite direction of where she had been going before. After a few seconds the other girls came up behind her and reached out to help support her as she staggered through the hallway. Her head pounded to a frantic rhythm, growing with every step.

“Door,” Antigone managed to mutter. She made it to the stairs, but she almost lost her footing on the first step. Tears continued to roll down her cheeks as the others helped her down them slowly.

“You mean the spooky door?” Siobhan asked. “Annie, your brain is about to explode out of your head, and it has to do with the spooky door? That doesn’t seem good…”

“Open,” was all Antigone managed to say. They made it down to the basement, and rounded to the final steps down to the room where the door was housed. Her head felt like it was going to shatter as she stumbled across the landing toward the door. But now Siobhan paused, and Lacey blinked.

“Do you hear that?” The blond asked, surprised. Antigone didn’t stop—the pain and the pounding wouldn’t let her stop. As her legs started to go out from under her she reached the door with the faded paint and the faded stars, and leaned on it for support. The door was warm, and up close she could see light streaming out from around the door. Although she couldn’t tell if it was real or she was imagining it, like the halos around the lights.

“I definitely hear—” Siobhan started. She didn’t get to finish, as Antigone turned the handle and opened the door. This time there was no resistance. More than that the door exploded back with a force that threw her in to Siobhan, Lacey, and Antigone. The four of them fell to the ground in a clump as light and smoke exploded out of the open door, swiftly filling the room. Sounds of fear and struggle filled the room, and a moment later four other figures fell to the ground with them.

And madness followed after.