I JOLT UP SO FAST I nearly break my neck. I'm drenched with sweat, crying hysterically, and have no idea where I am. Everything is blurry, so I try to rub my eyes into focus, but it's hard because my hands are trembling out of control. Actually, my whole body is trembling.
I plead with myself, C'mon, Kris.
Finally, shapes begin to appear before me, followed by outlines . . . and, like a Polaroid, it all becomes clear.
It was just a dream, you spaz! Just a dream.
Collapsing back into my pillow, I let out the world's hugest sigh of relief. Never have I been so happy to be alone in my own bed.
But it was so real.
The body bags . . . a woman's hand coming out of one of them.
I turn to my alarm clock – a little before six a.m. Good, I can still get a few more minutes of sleep. But the moment I close my eyes, they pop right open again.
I hear something, a pounding, and it's not just my stressedout heart. Someone's at the door.
Throwing on the same blue terry cloth robe I've had since my Boston College days, I trudge across my tiny apartment, which is decorated with the very finest furnishings from the Crate & Barrel factory-reject sale. So what if my couch has only three legs and belongs in a Farrelly brothers movie?
The pounding gets louder. More urgent and annoying.
All right already, hold your horses!
Approaching the door, I don't call out and ask who it is. That's what peepholes are for, especially in Manhattan.
Quietly, I lean forward and squint to look with a tired eye.
I open the door. Glaring at me through a pair of drugstore bifocals is my nosy old neighbor from down the hall, Mrs. Rosencrantz. She's clearly ticked off about something, and that makes two of us.
"Do you realize what time it is?" I grumble.
"Do you realize what time it is?" she shoots back. "Once and for all, you've got to stop this psychotic screaming every morning."
I look at Mrs. Rosencrantz – all four feet ten of her – as if she's the one who's psychotic. I may have been crying, but I certainly wasn't screaming.
"You know, if you really want to hassle someone about noise, Mrs. Rosencrantz, you should find out who's playing that music at six a.m."
She gives me a sideways look. "What music?"
"C'mon, you don't hear that? It's coming from . . ." I step into the hallway, turning my head left and right.
Wait – where exactly is it coming from?
Mrs. Rosencrantz shakes her head and huffs. "I don't hear any music, Ms. Burns. And if you're trying to be a little smartass with me, I'm telling you right now I don't appreciate it."
"Mrs. Rosencrantz, I'm not trying to –"
She cuts me off. "Don't think I can't get you evicted, because I can."
I frown at the old bat, who happens to look even more unpleasant and haggard than usual, if that's possible. You want smart-ass, lady? I'll give you smart-ass!
"Mrs. Rosencrantz, I'm going back to bed now . . . and if you don't mind my saying so, you could use a little more beauty sleep yourself."
With that, I promptly close the door on her stunned, sourpuss face.
I'm about to turn and make a beeline for my bed, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror by the coat closet. Whoa! I'm sporting some serious raccoon eyes and a pretty spectacular case of bedhead. Omigod, I look almost as bad as Mrs. Rosencrantz!
Supposedly, I have this killer wink that everybody loves. I wink at myself in the mirror. It doesn't help. I wink at myself again. Nope, nothing.
I laugh out loud, and for a moment, I forget about the horrible dream and my neighbor from hell.
But only for a moment.
Because I still can't figure out the music and where it's coming from.
Walking around my apartment like Elmer Fudd hunting rabbits, I press my ear against the walls. Feeling totally ridiculous, I drop to my knees and try listening through the floorboards.
Only after grabbing a chair to climb closer to the ceiling do I realize what's going on. The music isn't coming from anywhere.
The music is inside my head.
Copyright © 2007 by James Patterson
Ilyana Kadushin's numerous credits include narration for The Discover Channel, Nickelodeon, and BBC America. She is a singer and songwriter for the duo Lythion, who currently scores music for film and television. Ilyana has also recently appeared in productions for Amnesty International and The Culture Project.
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