Authors: Melanie Hooyenga
Tags: #Romance, #Mystery, #Young Adult
by Melanie Hooyenga
Left-Handed Mitten Publications
Flicker vertigo (also known as the Bucha
An imbalance in brain-cell
activity caused by exposure to
low-frequency flickering (or flashing) of a relatively
It is a disorientation-,
vertigo-, and nausea-inducing effect of
strobe light flashing at 1 Hz to 20 Hz—approximately the frequency
of human brainwaves.
The effects are similar to seizures caused by
epilepsy, but are not restricted to people with histories of
Clarence E Rash: Awareness of Causes and
Symptoms of Flicker Vertigo Can Limit Ill Effects:
Human Factors and Aviation Medicine: Vol 51:
Number 2: Mar-Apr 2004: Flight Safety Foundation.
By Melanie Hooyenga
Published by Left-Handed Mitten Publications
Copyright © 2012 by Melanie Hooyenga
All rights reserved. No
part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any
electronic or mechanical means, including
informational storage and retrieval systems, without
in writing from Melanie
Hooyenga except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a
FLICKER is a work of fiction. Names, characters,
places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s
imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual
persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely
eBook ISBN 978-1480200845
Book design by Ink Slinger Designs
Cover design by Ink Slinger Designs
Ebook formatting by The eBook Artisans
Sunlight pulses across the dashboard—light,
dark, light, dark—and catches the dust dancing on the imitation
My eyes stutter, but I blink it away. My
heart jumps around in my chest. I stroke the grainy piece of cement
stuck between my back teeth with my tongue. The orthodontist swore
he got it all, but that was as true as his promise that it wouldn't
A tingling sensation pricks the tips of my
fingers. I press them together, watching the blood shift beneath my
skin. The tingling turns to those sharp needles that remind me of
anything but sleep.
I press harder and my toes start
What the hell?
The dancing on the dashboard gets faster.
The trees here are taller, straighter, and the sunlight strobes
through the branches. My breath catches and a sudden heaviness
pushes me deep into the seat.
I glance at Mom but she's concentrating on
the road, humming along with golden oldies or whatever the hell it
is she listens to, oblivious to the fact that something very weird
is happening to her daughter.
I close my eyes. The heaviness lifts. Too
much. Now I'm floating and—
"But Mom, I'm fine."
Mom crosses the kitchen and leans against
the counter. "Biz, you're going. The dentist said your face will
change if you don't get braces. Your entire face could look
A sense of déjà vu slams me over the head.
I've had this argument. Next Mom is gonna grab the stack of mail
that Dad left on the counter and toss it in the basket.
The words tumble out of me. "Mom…" The déjà
vu doesn't lift. This isn't a memory. I'm not in the car
I've gone back to yesterday.
I've been flickering—jumping back to
yesterday—since I was thirteen. The first time I thought the
orthodontist gave me more laughing gas than he was supposed to, but
in the four years since then I figured out I can use the light to
my advantage. I’ve retaken tests, undone fights with friends, and
repeated more than a few memorable dates.
Unfortunately this is not one of those
Music blares from a speaker in the corner of
the gymnasium, the heavy bass vibrating through me and everyone
else flailing on the dance floor. A disco ball throws flashes of
light spiraling off every surface in the room. I throw my head back
and close my eyes, pretending to lose myself in the music, when
really I'm just trying to block out the damn light.
"I love this song!" Amelia, my best friend,
grabs my arm and bounces next to me. Her dark wavy hair sways with
the music, unlike mine which hangs limp over my shoulders.
My eyes open a slit. "Didn’t disco balls go
out in the 70s?"
She laughs, a throaty giggle that makes me
smile. "So keep your eyes closed. I won't let you run into
Yeah, right. I sway next to Amelia, scanning
the crowd for Robbie, my boyfriend, and spot him against the far
wall laughing with a couple friends. His blond hair practically
glows in the blinking lights. He notices me watching him and
smiles. As I lift my hand to give a half-hearted wave a low chuckle
behind me makes me turn.
"How long did you promise to dance?"
Cameron, my other best friend, stands flat-footed with his arms
crossed, indifferent to the movement surrounding us. His dark eyes
twinkle, a smile lifting the corner of his mouth.
Amelia spins, sending her hair flying.
"Three songs! This is number two."
"And thank god it's almost over."
She laughs. "Come on, Biz, you love it." She
throws an arm over my shoulder and we knock hips.
Cam nods at our friends near Robbie. "I'll
be over there."
The song ends and the blinking lights
slow to a lazy loop around the room.
. I also promised Robbie one slow dance, and
from the look on his face as he weaves through the couples already
pressed close together, I'm not getting out of this.
He smiles. "They're playing our song."
"We don’t have a song"
"I know, but I requested it so that makes it
our song." His lips graze my cheek and he places my hands behind
his neck. Our bodies brush as we turn in a small circle. "Is this
really so bad?" he whispers.
"No." I rest my head against his
shoulder. My eyes close but my thoughts are anything but relaxed.
This is supposed to be what I want. A boy who wants to dance with
me and spend time with me and seems to think I'm cute. So why do I
feel so antsy when he's around? I mean, I
why—he's hardly the first boy I've dated
and I always get this feeling after a couple months. But why can't
I just be happy?
Robbie trails his fingers up and down my
back, then pushes my hair off my shoulder. His warm breath on my
neck gives me the shivers, but it's not the reaction he was going
I pull away. "I think I need to get some
He looks at me tenderly, misinterpreting my
I turn away and push through our classmates,
but he grabs my hand, stopping me. I face him.
His eyes are clearer, the smile gone. "You
don’t have to run away from me. I'll come with you."
let him lead me into the hallway, but he turns around a corner into
a darker corridor. "Robbie, wait." I stop, his fingers still linked
through mine. This isn't what I want.
"Biz, you just said you wanted to get some
air." He does air quotes around the last part.
"It wasn't code for making out. I really
needed to get out of there. The lights…" My fingers touch the side
of my head. That's the downside of flickering. I get wicked
migraines that sometimes last longer than the time I flickered. But
it's usually worth it, and I’ve gotten used to the constant
He rolls his eyes. "It's practically pitch
black in there."
I've never explained my deal with light to
Robbie, and I sure as hell am not going to clue him in now. "Forget
His hand snakes around my neck and he tries
to pull me close.
My hands flatten against his chest.
"Robbie…" I warn.
A noise behind us makes me turn. Cam is
standing at the end of the corridor, bathed in light from the main
hallway. And he's glaring at Robbie.
Robbie looks at Cam then scowls back
at me. "If I didn’t know better I'd think
your boyfriend." He releases my neck and
stalks down the dark hall, away from me and Cam.
"You know that's not true," I say to his
"What do you see in him anyway?" Cameron's
at my side, his hands stuffed in his jeans pockets. His hair falls
over his eyes as he looks down at me.
"I don't know anymore."
He smiles. "Well you still owe Amelia one
more dance, then everyone's heading to the boat ramp for the
I sigh dramatically. "Fine. As long as you
promise to help me drag her out of there. She's eyeballing the
soccer team and if I know her she won't want to leave until she
talks to one of them."
I glance over my shoulder to see if Robbie's
still there, but he's gone. I should probably feel guilty or
worried or something, but all I feel is relief.
On Monday Robbie stops me in the hall after
trig class. "How'd you do on the quiz?"
I guess he’s not mad at me anymore. “Not
well. Why'd Bishop make you stay?"
"Just giving me crap because I didn't
finish." He slips his arm around me and tugs me down the hall.
I don't mean to stiffen, but my body pauses.
I avoided his calls all weekend but I guess he didn’t get the
"What?" Frustration laces his words and the
corners of his eyes crinkle the way they do when he's about to go
off on someone.
"Nothing. I just…"
Don't like the fact that you've gotten too close to
"I didn't finish the quiz either and I'm worried
I'm gonna fail."
Robbie follows me to my locker and waits
while I switch my books. "That's not it. You've been acting weird
since before the dance." He touches my arm, a gesture that used to
send ripples through me but now makes me want to scratch where he
touched, as if that would undo his caress.
I turn to look at him. "It's nothing. I'm
just worried about my dad." I hate myself for playing the sympathy
card, but it's the easiest way to deflect attention from what's
really bothering me.
He drops his hand and his eyes soften. "Did
I close my locker. Nothing happened, but
that doesn't mean I don't live in an eternal state of worrying
about my dad, something most of the kids in school would never
understand. "No, but thanks for asking." I hurry down the hall
before he can press further, his eyes burning into my back. I feel
like a complete bitch for not telling him the truth.
Sunlight filters through the low hanging
clouds as I drive along the river. Thank god there won't be any
flickering today. I'm worried about how bad I did on the quiz, but
I don't think it really makes a difference at this point. Bishop
knows I don't give a shit about math and as long as I pass the rest
of my classes I should be fine. Or at least that's what I keep
The shades in my house are drawn when I park
in my spot next to the giant pine tree.
This can't be good.
I race through the front door, scanning the
couch, the kitchen, the bathroom, trying to find Dad. I find him in
Dropping the book to his chest, his smile
loosens the tension in my shoulders.
"I thought you had another—"
"I wish you'd stop worrying about me so
much. I'm tired so I decided to read until you got home. Now that
you are, I'll get up." Tossing the covers aside, he swings his
pajama-ed legs over the side of the bed. "Did the school tell you
about the kidnapping?"
"Kidnapping?" I mentally skip through to the
jumble of texts I received today, but I would have remembered
something like that.
Pain creases his face as he stands. "Little
girl. I think they said she was seven."
He cocks his head at me.
"You don't know that she's dead. I hate when
people talk like someone is dead when you don't know." Crossing my
arms over my chest, I’m not sure why I picked this as my battle
today. Dad certainly doesn't deserve this.