They said I could go anywhere, so long as my blood was there first. In hindsight, I really should have questioned the deal, but I wanted to travel, and they were handing me a key to the world, no flight reservations required.
I started with short distances. I poked and prodded my finger with a needle for over a minute before I found the courage to draw blood. It barely hurt, certainly not enough to put me off wanting to do it again. Were that I had been more sensitive. Or sensible.
Four drops of blood in an egg cup in the kitchen. I stood in the hallway and I felt it, the ever-so-slight pull, the shadow of energy drawing me to myself. The first time I tried I barely moved at all. Then the fear turned to excitement and I overshot the eggcup and slammed myself against the kitchen counter. I felt an intense heat in my chest; nearly painful, and a sensation of being suddenly stretched in all directions, as the world slipped out of sight, then back into view five metres from where I started. Imagine being very slowly pulled apart by forces beyond your control. I would give in to the pull, and a split second later, there I was, egg cup before me. It was that hard, and that easy, and I was a quick study. First, locally. Rain and wind and heat meant I had to renew my favourite spots fairly regularly, but the smear of blood on the back of a bench on campus meant I was never late to class, and the drops I’d taped to a lamp post around the corner from Pacific Coffee, hidden behind a poster, meant I could get my soy hazelnut latte at a moment’s notice.
There were rules, of course. Four drops, at least, together and undiluted, or the connection wouldn’t be strong enough. The dilution rule turned into my best friend when my period kicked in two weeks after the deal. Things get strange when you feel a sudden urge to dive head-first into your toilet.
The more I travelled, the stronger I got, and by the beginning of the second semester I could comfortably travel from home to class in the mornings, head out to Sai Kung for an afternoon at the beach, and be home in time for dinner. Nights out in LKF and my parents never suspected a thing. I graduated in July, and by the end of the month, I had my gap year planned out. I kept the official list short so as not to cause suspicion.
I sent the drops via airmail. The blood had to be fairly stationary for me to reach it, though I could feel the pull at all times. I didn’t know what would happen if I tried to travel into a moving plane. I found it was hard to concentrate on so little an amount of blood at such speed. Like trying to keep your eyes on one blade of a spinning ceiling fan. I had a few unpleasant theories. I never tested them.
I mailed a letter with four drops to a hostel in Sydney. Another to Melbourne. A third to Cairns. It worked beautifully. I could feel it, at this point, even from so far away. The pull, the inexplicable force that drew me to the blood I had scattered. I never wondered about how strong that pull might get; instead I lived my life of experiences, posted photos, met strangers in hostels who became friends and, more often than not, strangers again. It was a good life, and it suited me. I was happy, if a little lonely at times.
It wasn’t until December that I realised I had spread myself too thin, and it wasn’t until the new year that I discovered that I could take people with me.
Christmas in New Zealand then up to Bali for Boxing Day.
On the 27th I fell ill.
By the evening of the 28th I was too weak to enjoy the waves, and by the 29th I realised it wasn’t just a migraine. I couldn’t think for the pull, it tore at my brain and heart and fingertips, and infested me with feverish dreams of the fjords and cities and beaches I had left behind.
On the 31st, I woke up in Queenstown, 2000 kilometres from my Bali beach hut.
I had always meant to burn the envelopes before I left. But I had kept drops in my favourite places, for convenience. I spent the last day of the year frantically erasing all reference points I had created and felt my mind and body ease with every smudge, smear and drip I rubbed away. My favourite coffee shop in Melbourne. A bookstore in Wellington. A small fish ‘n’ chips joint in the middle of nowhere. On my last stop, at a favourite bar in Cairns, I ran into some old friends. It wasn’t long before we were having a drink. We ended up at Marco’s place, the four of us all jumbled up on the sofa. When we woke up, we were back in Bali.
They reassured me that they were all thrilled by the sudden displacement, though it took a while to calm me down. I sent a letter back to Cairns, and in the meantime, I showed them Bali. Java. Sumatra. I was never starved for connections in my travels, but till then I had had no one to share my gift with, and suddenly I had friends to plan my trips with, and it felt wonderful.
The pull grew in strength, at times a dull longing, but occasionally it yanked at my chest, an acute, almost painful yearning. I learned to distract myself with friends and sights and adventures. I find it hard to distract myself now, though the sights and adventures persist.
It was Marco who found out I used my own blood. He kept my secret–until I wanted to head back home. I’ve told them, all of them, four drops is all it takes, but their desires are… excessive. The latest letter landed yesterday, and I can feel it, the loss of it, pumping like void through my veins. I can’t escape. They all have vials, and they guard them carefully. But I suppose I don’t feel that loss as much, three vials of blood is nothing when they’re always so close.
I tried to run, once. To get as far away from them as I could.
I felt the strength of it then, like an elastic band in my chest that kept on stretching, but would never break.
They only send a single letter at a time. But they are heavy letters. They have taken us–I have taken us–to France. Italy. Argentina. India. Every time I think, this is it. One can only want to see so much. But they are determined to see it all. And every time, it’s a new needle. A new envelope. A new letter. This one is on its way to Hostel Himalaya. I no longer feel the needle; my fingers are numb.
I’m tired. I’m so tired. And I have tried to resist, am trying to resist even now.
There is a pain in my chest. The mountains are calling, and I must go.
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