It was 4:23 PM of the last day before the mid-semester break, according to the old ticking clock that hung from the wall just above the chalkboard, and as expected the students were eager to leave the room even if there was actually still some class time left. Many students even had particular techniques to exert pressure on the teachers until they let them go. Most simply started packing their things, intentionally making noise so that the teacher knew they were not paying attention anymore. Some placed their backpacks on top of their desks to make it evident they were ready to go. And a few rude ones just straightforwardly stood up from their seat and aimed for the door, and if the teacher was ballsy enough to tell them to sit down and wait they would return to their seats, defeated, otherwise they would just leave. However, Miss Joanne was not the ballsy type, so as soon as the students started showing signs of uneasiness, she reminded them about the final exam next Monday and let them free.
While the young adults ran out of the room as if lacking oxygen inside, Miss Joanne stopped Claudia on her tracks and asked her to wait until everyone else left.
“Claudia, I know this is not your first time taking the course and let me tell you that you are not doing any better this time around.”
Claudia rolled her eyes and loosened her shoulder as she prepared to get lectured.
“If I recall correctly you got a 30 in your major assignment, and you almost never show up in class, if you keep this up you won’t pass the course and you won’t be able to graduate this year. I know, it’s the mid sem and you’re probably going to party, as you should, but please, PLEASE study a bit as well. If you need any help you can contact me through my mail any day, I won’t leave town anyway.”
“Of course I will Miss, thanks for caring but don’t worry, I assure you I will study and pass this time.”
“Perfect, good luck then and remember, you can email me anytime or you can come to my office today before 7 for some study tips if you wish. Enjoy your mid sem. Have fun, but not that much.”
They both left the room afterwards. Miss Joanne headed towards her office to continue working on some school stuff, actually expecting Claudia to step through that doorway in search for some help. But Claudia, being the young, restless woman, she was, never came. It was party time.
On the morning, Claudia woke up with the strongest hangover she had had in her life. Everything she saw was moving. Everything she couldn’t see was moving as well, she felt as if the contents of her stomach and her head were switching places. But the worst of it all were the sounds. Everything, even the sound of the blood flowing through her veins made her flinch a bit on every pump. She screamed in pain when her mother came into her room, shouting and tossing around everything in her sight.
“What the hell is your problem!? Who do you think you are to….”
The words were so loud that Claudia couldn’t listen to them; she merely felt every word, every syllable as a different, independent source of pain. When her mother finally left the room, as outraged as she came in, Claudia let out a sigh and rested her head on her hands, pressing and rubbing her eyes with the palms. Since she didn’t understand what all that scandal was about, she wondered what she had done. And since she couldn’t recall what she had done, she was worried.
Claudia moved to her desk and turned her laptop on — 3:21 PM — she had slept the entire morning. She proceeded to open Facebook with the hope of finding any friend who might know and tell her what she had done the last night. There was no one trustworthy enough to question, but just a few minutes later Cristina logged in.
“duuuude what the hell happened yesterday? plz tell me i didnt do anything stupid”
“loool, i cant believe you dont remember haha, just wait till people tag you in their photos. you were really drunk, like SERIOUSLY drunk”
“come on, dont be a bitch, just tell me what i did, my mom is freaking mad at me and I have no idea why”
“dude, how could she not be angry, you have been drunk since friday and you didnt even sent her a message letting her know you werent going home…”
“what do you mean since friday?”
Claudia dropped her conversation and opened the electronic calendar that every computer has installed and saw it was already Sunday. All the yelling of her mother finally made sense even if she didn’t understand anything she said.
“im so screwed”
Thousands of thoughts flowed through her mind. Could she have had sex with anyone? Did she take any drugs? She tortured herself trying to fill the blank the past two days had left in her mind, but what troubled her most was her exam. If she failed again, now her mother would really have a reason to get properly mad for delaying her professional life an entire year. She immediately brought her books out and started studying, at least as much as her hangover allowed her to. After a few minutes she accepted she was useless and decided to get a coffee nearby while she regained her proper mental functions and senses.
She went back home about an hour later to continue what she had interrupted, and now she was actually able to make sense of words as she read them. She really tried, but Claudia had never been neither clever nor a good student, so she was taking a lot of time on each chapter. It was already 2 in the morning and she still had 4 chapters left. The effect of coffee had long worn off and her condition of the morning had finally caught up with her, plus the mental strain of having studied for over 5 hours in a row. She couldn’t take it anymore, tears started pouring out of the corner of her eyes as she sobbed and accepted that she was going to fail her exam. Mourning, sad and defeated she went to sleep, but just before she lost consciousness one last thought went through her mind.
“I wish there was another me who stayed home studying while I partied, life would be so great…”
She developed the idea a bit while trying to sleep until her mind once again went blank.
The instant she started dreaming was as if death had taken Claudia by surprise. Her life quickly flashed in her mind and her body started twitching and trembling over that nightmare, but she couldn’t wake up. Instead, she fought back and somehow managed to gain control of her mind and started manipulating it freely as never before. She imagined herself sitting in her desk, opening the Urban design methodologies in the chapter she had quitted right before going to sleep. She read a few lines and noticed that the content was textually identical, she could not believe it. She kept on reading the chapters she had missed, and even though she couldn’t confirm the veracity of the content, everything seemed to make sense. Her sleeping body even moved its head backwards and then nodded as a sign of amusement and satisfaction. Without considering twice, Claudia made the best out of this gimmick she had accomplished and continued studying until she understood every single concept perfectly. She read for hours. She even dreamt of going downstairs for a sandwich and a glass of milk and of bumping into her mother in the stairs, who scolded her again for being up so late. After eating her late-night meal, she quickly reviewed everything she had read until she felt completely ready for her exam. She closed the book, proud of her accomplishment and then she started to fall, but the dream ended abruptly as she instantly woke up over the sound of something breaking in her room.
Claudia stood up and turned around trying to find the origin of the noise, and when she saw what had caused the noise, she almost screamed — she wanted to, but that would have woken up her parents and she could not even imagine what would have happened afterwards. She stared at this body, her body, lying on the floor surrounded by pieces of broken glass. Claudia tried to remain calm; she got out of bed, holding her blanket over her chin as a means for protection and slowly waked towards the body. She hesitated for some instants, but when she gathered enough courage, she grabbed the body’s shoulder and something similar to the nightmare she had earlier that night started going on, but it was not quite the same. This time instead of seeing her life quickly flashing in front of her eyes, she had some sort of telepathic conversation with the body. They didn’t exchange words at all, their thoughts simply merged into one. Maybe she and the other Claudia did not have the same body, but they definitely shared the same mind and consciousness.
She immediately knew what to do. It would be crazy to leave her other self-resting on the floor, someone discovering whatever was going on would be too troublesome. This had to be kept secret. She had to be kept away. Claudia carried her second body into the closet and locked it in, no one else had the key so it was as safe and secret as it could get. It seemed a bit cruel to contain her in such a reduced and dark place, but they both agreed it was for the best. After making sure it was impossible for anyone to get through that door, Claudia went down for breakfast. She managed not to generate any suspicion in her family, apparently no one heard the breaking glass and she was grateful with the universe for that.
Upon her arrival to urban design with Miss Joanne, the fully prepared Claudia proceeded to find a seat in the front row, not by choice but because it was the only spot left, every other sit was already taken by quiet, worried students under pressure answering scribbling on their exams. Her pencil rested soft and gently between Claudia’s fingers, but then it started dancing all over the paper, swirling and jumping and sliding between every letter. When the dance was finally over, the pencil fell into the desk exhausted and Claudia handed her test to the teacher, who thought Claudia was simply approaching her to ask for a clarification. Miss Joanne was amazed and a little worried when the young student assured her she was done with her exam.
“All right, if you want you may take a seat and I will grade it right now, otherwise you can simply check your grade online”
Claudia went back to her seat, careful not to make any noise because everyone else was still concentrated trying to solve the test. She started doodling some flowers on her desk. By the time the teacher called her name out loud, there was already a beautiful landscape covering the top half of her desk.
The other students stopped what they were doing for a couple of seconds and stared with disbelief and a bit of jealousy, and many started uttering until the teacher asked for silence, everything while Claudia triumphantly abandoned the room without turning around, leaving her history of failures behind.
Back home, Claudia continued the afternoon as one would normally proceed on exam period, procrastinating online, eating junk food and studying every now and then. However, while her friends continuously complained and felt seriously overwhelmed, she was as chill as she had been the week before, she had a secret weapon. Once she was tired of studying and bored of Instagram and Pinterest, she went downstairs to prepare a sandwich. She left it on her desk, next to a couple of books she had been reading earlier and pulled a set of keys from her bedside drawer. She dragged the other Claudia out of the closet and gently dropped her next to the bed, placed the keys on her hand, walked inside the closet and fell asleep. The instant one pair of eyes closed, the other one opened, it was like a switch for the selection of her active body, changing from one configuration to the other. The awakened Claudia stood up slowly, stretching her limbs after her long uncomfortable sleep, and locked the door with the keys she had given to herself. She then walked towards her studio, took a bite out of the sandwich next to her book and continued reading for a couple more hours. Once she was done, she tried to get some sleep, but she couldn’t manage to do so — she had just woken up from a very long sleep a few hours ago, she wasn’t even remotely tired. She tried to burn some time on Facebook, Youtube and every other webpage she could remember, but it was too boring. She turned around and stared at the closet.
“I wonder if there’s a way we can speak…”
But she immediately abandoned her thought; if there was one thing she believed she understood of how those bodies of hers functioned, it’s that there could only be one awake at any given time.
She went back to bed and continued trying to empty her mind as only she could, and couldn’t at the same time, in order to get some rest. As the sun came up, so did the other Claudia, just after repeating the ritual of preparing the other body for the transfer as she had done the previous night. She then went for breakfast and once again headed to school to ace one of her exams.
This kept on going during the entire exam period and for the rest of the semester as well. She didn’t get a perfect study opportunity every night; she had to be careful about her parents sniffing around searching for something that could explain her unusual behavior and attitude lately. Once she was almost caught playing ‘hot potato’ with her mind. Tossing her consciousness back and forth between her bodies like a ping pong ball, waiting to see which body was awake when her alarm went off. It was quite absurd, but she found it really funny. Even though the conditions were not always ideal for studying, she still managed to improve her grades tremendously. No one could really believe it but she was getting the highest scores in all of her classes, while still partying as hard as she could and being as relaxed and healthy as ever before. Things could hardly get any better for her, thanks to how smoothly they were going.
When graduation days arrived, Claudia was already the top student of that school period. Since she had not been consistent during the entire undergraduate studies she didn’t get a high distinction, but everyone was proud of her for graduating from what many considered the hardest degree that school had to offer, so distinctions didn’t really matter. The ceremony was just a regular graduation ceremony, the female graduates were gorgeous in their dresses which came in every color and shape, while the boys simply formally dressed as expected. The parents even more excited than their kids, taking pictures and video of the entire event, some cheering, some crying, all proud. And the directives were giving their boring and excruciatingly long speeches no one really wanted to hear. When they gave their last words, everyone clapped to celebrate that they were finally done speaking.
After the ceremony was over, Claudia asked permission to join her friends in celebration. It was not the proper graduation party, that would be two days later, but hell the celebration couldn’t wait. Claudia’s parents let her go without complaints, so the young graduate was free to party with the girls. As everyone would have guessed, there was no lack of alcohol in the party. In fact, there was an excessive amount of different kinds of alcohols, and prepared drinks mixing them all together. However, the problem was not the alcohol, since it was a special night, Claudia’s friends had decided to buy different kinds of drugs. She started by simply smoking a bit of weed, and everything was joy and happiness for a while. However, when the magical effect started to wear off, Claudia asked for something stronger. She started smoking, eating and drinking different substances, while still pouring alcohol into her body. Her friends noticed she was taking more than she could handle but they were too drunk and high to actually be able to do anything about it or even care. Claudia went on a frenzy. Her eyes were nearly popping out of their frames, palpitating as strong and quickly as her veins. She started seeing everything blurry, people and furniture moving around her. The faces of her friends staring at her, screaming something Claudia couldn’t understand, she tried talking to them but before any word could leave her mouth, her body hit the ground. Claudia woke up in her closet, scared and locked up but conscious and safe. She tried calling her parents but there was nobody home. She screamed for help hoping her neighbors or anyone at all would listen to her, but no one came.
At the party, people immediately started gathering around Claudia’s body, which was trembling in the ground, her head bouncing up and down, side to side.
“She’s got an overdose!”
“Quickly! Someone call an ambulance!” and someone did.
A few minutes in, the paramedics arrived. They checked her pulse
“She’s still alive! Come one let’s take her to the ambulance”
They began transporting her and one of the paramedics searched Claudia’s clothes for her phone. When she found it, she searched for either “mom” or “dad” in her contact list; he quickly found the latter and dialed.
“Listen carefully, my name is Robert and I am a paramedic. Your daughter is suffering from an overdose and is in a very grave condition. We are currently taking her to the Metropolitan Health Center…”
The man went on explaining some other things to Claudia’s family while the ambulance sped through the city. On the other side of the phone were her parents afraid for their daughter’s life. They stood up with tears on their eyes but not crying. They ignored the bill, left the restaurant and headed towards the hospital.
“Claudia! Claudia!” cried the Johnsons as they ran into the hospital and spotted a nurse sitting in the reception.
“Help us please, we’re looking for our daughter, Claudia Johnson, they told us they were bringing her here.”
“Calm down sir. Your daughter is fine for now, she was having seizures, but the doctors are fighting to stabilize her.”
“Let me see her please. Where is she?”
“She is still in the emergency unit, but you are not allowed in. She should be out soon, just wait here please.”
They waited as instructed, worried about the life of their daughter, pacing back and forth the room and hugging. About half an hour later a nurse came out and called them in to see their daughter. They explained in detail what had happened, but they were using a medical language which the Johnsons couldn’t quite understand, but they knew what was going on just by looking at her. She was in a state of coma and they didn’t know how long she would remain that way. But things seemed to indicate it was going to be a long-term coma. Claudia tried breaking the door, she hit her with her full body, she tackled it again and again, but the door wouldn’t budge, it was indestructible in the eyes of Claudia.
“Please understand Mr. Johnson, there is nothing we can do to help her here. Yes, we managed to stabilize her, but we do not have the equipment necessary for the treatment necessary to attempt bringing her out of this coma.”
“What do you mean there’s nothing you can do? There must be something”
“We have contacted with a hospital in the US which has the resources necessary to treat her, we are ready to take her there, but you must complete some forms for the transfer”
The Johnsons immediately agreed to everything over the faintest glimmer of hope they could find, they had to save her. Claudia was screaming and crying in her jail, her fingers, elbows, and knuckles bleeding from her attempts of bringing down the door. She tried to fall asleep. Her mind constantly and insistently knocked at unconsciousness’s door, but unconsciousness never answered. As long as her other body remained asleep, she would remain in that awoken nightmare.
Claudia was taken to the states. The doctors did everything in their hands to save her. For six days the odds of full recovery seemed to grow larger and larger until suddenly at 10:18 AM of the sixth day, her heart completely stopped without any apparent reason. The doctor called out her time of dead, her parents yelled out their pain. Mrs. Johnson buried herself in the arms of her husband, crying. He wanted to cry as well but managed to keep himself together. He had to be calm so that others could grief, someone needed to remain strong and talk to the doctors.
They offered funerary service in American soil, but the Johnsons refused. Claudia had to rest in peace in her own land, where they could visit her regularly. The body was eventually taken back home to provide for a dignifying burial to the body before it decomposed any further. The burial was programed for the day following their arrival. The Johnsons left the body in the funerary for preparations and went home to get some rest before they could say goodbye to their daughter forever. That was their longest drive ever even though it was probably within walking distance. None of them spoke a word; none of them shed a tear, not because they were over it already, but because their body couldn’t physiologically do it anymore. There was no life present in that grieving silence.
When they got home, they parked in the usual spot. They got down and gave each other the strongest hug they had ever given. They remained there hugging, without speaking or moving for several minutes trying to take it all in. When they finally managed to get themselves together, they opened the front door. As the door swept open a heavy stale smell escaped from the house. They went on trying to find its source. They could not identify it nor find it but it was flooding and drenching every room, every wall, every piece of furniture in the house. After searching in the living room, in the kitchen and the bathrooms they noticed the smell came from Claudia’s room, from within her Closet. Mr. Johnson remembered that there were some keys among the belongings the hospital had given them. They tried it at the door, and it opened. As they peeked inside it was no longer a smell what flooded the atmosphere, but the sound of pain felt by the Johnsons as they cried and screamed over the death body of their daughter all over again.