Illusions: the blinding truth


photo by Alex Schroeder

Nicole Schroeder

Illusions is a novella written by Nicole Schroeder and Ashley Tanner, about a girl named Gemma who has the ability to see people’s true character at a single glance. Each post in the following blog series is one chapter of Illusions.
Gemma awoke some time later on the couch in her apartment, her hand numb from having slept on it for over an hour. Nevertheless, as she blinked to let her eyes adjust to the sudden dimness in the room, she refused to move, instead focusing on her head and the dull ache she still felt pulsing behind her eyes. It had certainly subsided from the pain she had felt earlier, which was in itself a slight relief. Still, it brought with it a nagging worry that something had happened to her in that office.
What had really happened back there? Had Elijah’s Label really changed?
Of course, she could’ve imagined it all. Besides, she hadn’t seen a Label do that in all the years she had seen them — for all she knew, they couldn’t do that. If they did, it would imply that the person — Elijah himself — had… changed somehow. And not just temporarily, but changed who they were, their most basic defining characteristics.
Yet she swore it was different. The aura of the words had changed and almost become foggy in her mind, and the next thing she had known, they were different.
Then again….
“What if it was the migraine?” she muttered to herself. There was only one way to be sure. Pulling herself off the couch, she headed into her room, shutting the door behind her out of habit. Moving over to her bed, she carefully peeled back the sheets on her mattress, laying them neatly over the edge of the baseboard so as to keep them from getting wrinkled in her search. Revealing the duvet cover underneath, she found the edge with her fingers and unzipped it at its seam, just enough to reach her arm through.
It took a bit of searching, but it wasn’t long until Gemma found what she had been looking for. She grasped at the familiar object and smiled, pulling it out from between the folds and the cover where she had hidden it for so many years. To everyone else, it didn’t look like much — just an old leather-bound journal, its cover scraped and torn in places. Some of the pages had loosened with time and use of the small notebook, and she was careful not to lose them as she flipped through the book.
Inside was a list of entries, dating back to February of her freshman year — the first time she’d ever seen a Label. Well, second time, really — the first time she’d seen one she’d had a hard time convincing herself she’d actually seen it, blaming it instead on grief and a sign of PTSD after the accident. The accident that had nearly killed her father. The accident that had sent her into a coma for three days, a time she hadn’t ever been able to recall but had left her family shaken and, in some ways, wary of her ever since.
She shook her head, trying to clear her mind from the thought. Turning back to the pages in her hand, she began flipping through them carefully, studying each one briefly before turning to the next. She was looking for something in particular — a certain date in her book, one that had stuck in her mind as the first time she’d truly seen Elijah, and not just from across her drawing tablet in the newspaper’s computer lab.
Finally, she found it, her eyes shining in a moment of celebration. October 11. The night of the Homecoming dance in her sophomore year. The entry that night had been short — she herself had been exhausted as she wrote it. But amid the chaos and commotion that had happened that night, she had felt a certain buzz in her veins, like electricity from the excitement in the people around her. The colors of the Labels had blended together and swirled in indescribable patterns — it had been the only time she hadn’t felt uneasy about the thought of being in a large crowd of people. And Elijah… it was the first time they had talked, after one round of dancing that had left them both breathless and laughing. She had looked at him then, really looked at him. And his Label had stuck in her mind, echoing like a song until she’d written it down that same night before falling asleep.
Dependable. Resolute. Contented.
The same one from before her headache. His Label had changed, there was no doubting it anymore. As she felt the lump form in her throat with this realization, however, a knock sounded at the door, startling her away from her agitated thoughts.
“Hey, Gemma? I forgot my key again….”
It was Irene. With a start, she leapt up, tucking the journal back into its hiding spot before throwing the covers back over the bed. In her haste, she ignored the zipper, deciding it was covered enough by her sheets that no one would question it. “Coming!” she shouted at the door, hurrying to meet her roommate before she got an earful for taking too long. Figuring out what all of this mess with Elijah truly meant would have to wait until life was done getting in the way.
What do you think will become of  Gemma and Elijah? Leave your comments below.[vc_empty_space][vc_basic_grid post_type=”post” max_items=”10″ element_width=”3″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1449902902876-e470f2fd-d58e-9″ taxonomies=”12779″]