Experiment #331

Near Enough Part 1

Samara’s body shook with the force of the electric pulse. The EMT pulled the defibrillator paddles away. The EMT’s partner felt for a pulse on Samara’s wrist.

“Nothing,” he said.

“Clear!” The EMT shouted and shocked Samara again. Her body contorted and convulsed. The second EMT tried for a pulse on Samara’s neck.

“Still nothing.”

The EMT turned up the voltage, shouted once more, and shocked Samara’s body, but Samara’s lips were turning blue.

Cara looked on from the sidewalk, her view of Samara obscured by the back of the EMT. The second EMT shook his head. The EMT pronounced the time of death.

Cara’s world drained of color. Silly plans for marrying hunky twin brothers and real plans for rooming together in college both burned to ash.

Cara stood there aghast.

Marissa sidled up to Cara and put her arm around Cara’s shoulders. “Come on, Cara. Time for us to go.”

Cara let Marissa guide her. Marissa walked her back into the house and sat Cara down in one of the overstuffed, comfy chairs. Cara’s mom had brought them back from a yard sale two towns over. Samara had always loved them. Marissa sat on the footstool. Cara slumped down.

Cara’s Mom came in carrying a tray with warm milk, cookies, and Benadryl laced pudding, “to help her get to sleep, the poor thing.” She set the tray on the end table nearest Cara. Cara shifted away from it.

Cara’s Mom opened her mouth to protest, but the doorbell rang. “Who’d come at this hour?” she mumbled as she walked toward the door. Cara and Marissa both knew.

“Ma’am, I’m Detective Chu. This is Detective Peters. May we speak to your daughter?”

“What’s this all about? I already spoke with an officer.”

“We’re with the N.D.I.P. unit, Ma’am.”

“You can’t think—”

“I’d like to be certain.”

“Well, I can tell you, she—”

“Pardon us, Ma’am,” Peters said, “but we’d like to hear it from her.”

Cara’s Mom backed up. Chu pushed past her into the house. Peters followed.

“Are you Cara Stevenson?” Chu asked.

Cara nodded.

Marissa had disappeared.

“We have a few questions we’d like to ask you.”

“Am I in trouble?”

Chu frowned. “Your friend Samara, she was in trouble.”

Cara looked away.

Peters put his hand on his partner’s shoulder. “Can you tell us what happened tonight?”

“We were watching a movie—”

“Who’s we?” Chu asked.

“Me and Samara,” Cara said.

Cara’s Mom opened her mouth to speak, but closed it again when everyone looked at her. “Nothing,” she said then mumbled to cover herself, “Grammar…”

“About what time did you start the movie?” Peters asked.

“I don’t know. Ten?”

“Kind of late start for a school night,” Chu said.

“We’re seniors.”


“Tomorrow’s senior skip day and I don’t have gymnastics. We were going to sleep late and hang out or something.”

“Okay. About what time did things happen?”


“What happened?”

“Samara choked on popcorn or something. I tried mouth to mouth, but—you know the rest.”

“So we won’t find any substances in her body?”

Experiment #332

Near Enough Part 2

“Why would you—” Cara’s Mom started, but Cara answered them.

“Nothing illegal.”

“Both Cara and Samara are… were 18.” Cara’s mom said.

“That may prevent possession charges, Ma’am,” Peters said. “But assisting in a death, even as a guide or an angel, is still against the law.”

“Will we find Ketamine?” Chu asked.

“Ketamine’s not illegal,” Cara snapped at him.

“Not by itself.”

Cara shrunk in the chair even while her face stayed resolute and defiant.

“What else was in the Ketamine?” Chu asked.

Cara shook her head. “I don’t know.”

Peters dropped to his haunches so that his eyes were level with Cara’s. “Look, if you talk, you can help us find the dealer and save more lives.”

Cara shook her head again.

“Suit yourself,” Chu said. “For ten years you kids have had access to every drug imaginable. Every negative side effect and addictive property removed. And you do this with your lives? Play Ketamine roulette? You kill yourselves for fun?”

Peters leaned over to his partner and whispered something.

“I can’tleave him out of this,” Chu said to Peters, then he swallowed his anger and spoke through clenched fists to Cara. “When we learn the truth, we’ll be back. And then you’ll get a nice orange jumpsuit and some pretty bracelets to wear. That sound fun?”

Chu stormed out, but Peters nodded at Cara and her mother. “Sorry.” Peters said, “He lost his son.” Then he followed his partner out.


Cara stayed in bed the next day. She’d woken up refreshed, but then swiped down on her sleeve interface to text Samara and… She pulled the covers over her head.

Her mother arrived at lunch time with avocado toast, a butterscotch sundae, and a peanut butter banana sandwich. “I wasn’t sure what you’d want, so I ordered a couple things from the food printer. Eat up now,” she said. She put the tray down and left. Two hours later when she came back to check on her daughter every bite of food was there, but her daughter wasn’t.


Plink, plink. Tiny stones bounced off the window. Marissa opened the window of her second-story bedroom. One rock shot into her mouth. She gasped and spat and waved Cara up. Cara climbed like a monkey and landed in the room like a cat. Years of gymnastics had honed every muscle.

“You could have texted instead of chipping the photoelectric paint with those rocks. My Dad’s gonna go volcanic when he sees them.”

“My mom’s checking my stream, or worse, those creepy detective guys from last night,” Cara said. “I couldn’t let them know. You’d go to the detention center for sure.”

Marissa smirked and turned away. “Wouldn’t be the first time.”

“I just can’t get over Samara,” Cara said.

Marissa shrugged. “We all knew what could happen. By the smile on her face, it was the trip of a lifetime. It was one of the best I’ve ever had.”

“But Samara’s dead!”

“You and Samara’d been friends for a long time, but you never really knew her. The trip excited her. The possibility of leaving for good was half the point.”


“You know her Dad.”

“Just cuz he’s kinda mean—”

“You really didn’t know, did you?”

“Know what?”

Marissa shook her head. “You were always on your gymnastics trips. You didn’t have to change her bandage or cover for her.”

“What are you talking about?”

“She never fell down the stairs, Cara. She was never in a car accident. And those welts on her back weren’t from something kinky with that schmuck Bradley. They were from her mouthing off at her Dad, or trying to protect her little brother from him. Her Mom wasn’t much better, yelling herself hoarse to keep Samara ‘in line’ so her father didn’t.”

“What?” Cara’s eyes widened.

“Oh, don’t even act like you never saw it, never thought there was something going on.”

Cara’s mouth hung open in answer.

Experiment #333

Near Enough Part 3

“Cara.” Marissa’s expression softened as she took Cara’s hand. “That was her life. she ended it on the best terms she could, in the happiest way she could. If it hadn’t been this trip, it would’ve been another. She’s gone, but she doesn’t have to deal with this crap again. I’m happy for her.”

“You’re saying she committed some kind of suicide?”

“Near enough.”

“No! She wouldn’t. We’d made plans. We were gonna room together next year, we were going to—to—”

“All plans she intended to keep. Her ticket got punched early.”

“She was happy. She was my best friend. She—”

“If you wanna call yourself her best friend, see her for who she was, not who you wanted her to be. She’s in a better place now. It can’t be any worse than where she was.”

“Where she was, was with me,” Cara shouted and pushed herself out the window. Tears blurred her vision. Anger made her careless. Heartbreak wreaked havoc on her muscle control. She lost her balance in the window. Her shoe snagged on the sill long enough to swing her down and smack her against the side of the house. The impact tore her loose. She dropped, head first, toward the ground.

Her life flashed before her eyes.

Everything she saw the night before and more.

Until she hit.


She woke in the hospital, the first of many disappointed awakenings. Her vision was obscured by bandages hanging off her forehead. After a moment, she recognized her mom, then Detectives Chu and Peters.

“Oh, sweetie, you’re awake,” her Mom said.

“What’s going on?” she asked.

“You fell out of a tree and hit your head. You nearly died.”

“What are they doing here?” Cara asked pointing at the detectives, except she wasn’t pointing. Her hand stayed where it lay on the bed.

“Well, honey, they’re—”

“We’re still trying to find the killer who sold you the drugs,” Chu said.

“Why can’t I move my hand?” Cara asked.

“Honey, when you fell, your spine kind of went,” she turned her fist in her hand. “And… well… the doctors said you might have some paralysis.”


Cara’s Mom nodded. Tears filled her eyes.

“Will I be ready for Nationals?”

Cara’s Mom shook her head.

“The Olympics?”

Cara’s Mom shook her head again.

“Will I… Will I walk again?”

Cara’s Mom shook her head once more.

“Miss we need to ask you some questions,” Chu said.

“She needs time to process,” Cara’s Mom yelled over her shoulder.

Chu opened his mouth to protest but Peters pulled him out of the room.

Cara’s Mom breathed, wiped the tears from her eyes, and put on the biggest, fakest smile Cara had ever seen. “Everything will be okay.”

Experiment #334

Near Enough Part 4

The detectives arrived early the next morning. Though Cara didn’t want to talk, she didn’t have the energy to protest.

“Thank you,” Peters said to Cara and her Mom.

Chu was not so cordial. “Toxicology reports came back on your friend,” Chu said. He held up a little baggy with two white and blue striped, square pills. “Wanna tell me about these?”

Cara shook her head.

Chu cleared his throat. “I’ve found kids dead from these pills. Who sold it to you? I need to get it off the street and keep kids safe.”

Cara brooded.

“Who sold it to you?”

“Samara bought the drugs,” Cara said after a long silence.

“Do you know who she bought them from?”

“Kid at school.”

“This kid have a name?”

“You’d have to ask Samara.”

“You know nothing about this guy?”

“I was a clean sheet.”

“Were you at the sale?” Chu asked.


Cara, Marissa, and Samara stood at Cara’s locker. Cara put her school tablet on the charger and stowed her gymnastics gear.

“Well, if it isn’t the loveliest lady in all of Pulaski High?” said a tall boy with curly hair and a churlish smile. His eyes were only for Samara.

“Well, if it isn’t the annoying-est jerk in all of Pulaski High?” Samara said in a bored but playful tone.

“You ladies have plans for skip day?” the jerk asked.

“Just a movie night and a lazy Friday,” Cara said.

“And since Cara, here, turned eighteen, and won’t be hip deep in gymnastics tomorrow, we’re celebrating with a little munchies party,” Samara said.

“Marijuana?” he shook his head and mumbled, “lightweights.”

“Oh, and what would you do, DT?” Samara asked, her eyes flaring up. “Cocaine? Heroine? We want to ease her in not scare her off with a weird trip.”

“We’ve got a clean sheet here, huh?” DT asked. “I didn’t think it was possible for someone like that to be friends with you.”

“Shut your stupid mouth. She’s been doing gymnastics for like ever. She hasn’t had time for fun.”

DT laughed.

Cara looked at Samara, shocked.

“It’s kinda true, Cara,” Marissa said. “It’s been months since we’ve seen you outside school.”

“Look,” DT said, all innocence and nobility, “I want Cara’s first one to be special. I got a new mix in this morning, guaranteed to be the best trip of your life.”

“We don’t need your crazy mixtures. Last time I tried ‘the-best-trip-of-my-life’ all I got was hallucinations. Though Mr. Jones face when he looked at my Math test was worth it. Mom was nothappy though.”

“Nonsense, this is an ND mix, no hallucinations, just great memories.”

“Aren’t those dangerous?” Cara asked.

DT looked at her. “Of course they are! You can’t have a ‘near death,’” he air quoted, “experience if you ain’t close to death. When they remade all those drugs to be legal in the twenties, they took out everything that made them good. The high ain’t nothing like it used to be.”

“Says the guy who sold me crappy old LSD last week,” Samara said.

“You should hear the stories my Nanna tells.” DT said. “Highs so long and good she wouldn’t know where she was or what she’d done by the time it was over.”

“That sounds terrible!” Cara said.

DT dismissed her with a wave of the hand. “It’s the hottest drug on the market. They’re calling it Heaven Squared.”

“You come up with that stupid name?” Samara asked. “How much for three hits?”

“But we could die,” Cara said.

“Live a little, Cara,” Marissa said.

“The possibility has to be there,” DT said, “or it ain’t the same, but that don’t mean it’ll happen to you. Would I steer you wrong?”

“Probably,” Samara said.

“I’m going with, ‘Yes,’” Marissa said.

“Quite possibly,” Cara said.

“I know my stuff, though. What do you think DT stands for?”

“Doofus Tool,” Samara said.

“Dingleberry Toot-fairy,” Marissa said.

“Daniel Thomas,” Cara said.

“Come on ladies,” DT said. “It stands for Death Tripper, unless Principal Watkins or a teacher is listening and then–”

“It’s what Marissa said,” Samara interjected with a smile.

“So what you got?” Marissa asked.

DT held up a little baggy with three blue and white striped, square pills in it. “This is a mix of Ketamine and a special agent I’m not even allowed to say. Perfect for a birthday bash. But wait,” he danced around Samara to lay his head on Marissa’s shoulder. “This little flower’s only seventeen. Should I make it two?”

“Shut up, jerk-wad. You’ve sold to me before.”

“Yeah, but that look of horror on the clean sheet’s face was priceless.”

Cara’s cheeks reddened, and she closed her jaw.

“You should have nothin’ but the best for your eighteenth, Cara,” Samara said.

“Fine.” Cara swiped open her sleeve screen. “How much?”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” DT said, “this ain’t the mini-mart.”

“Relax, Cara,” Samara said. She pulled a wad of bills out of her pocket. “I’ve got you covered.”

Experiment #335

Near Enough Part 5

Cara stared into space as she answered Chu, “Samara did it. I-I’m not sure…”

Chu looked at Peters. They left.

Cara shuddered. She wasn’t sure why she’d protected DT. He was the reason Samara was dead. But protecting him felt like loyalty to Samara and that felt right.

“You okay?” her mother asked.

Cara gave her mother the withering stare only family can inflict on someone. She turned away with the force of a slammed door.


They discharged Cara six weeks after Samara’s funeral, four weeks after graduation.

Cara’s Mom had tried to get Cara out to attend Samara’s funeral, but the doctors were nervous about her moving so soon. Cara’s Mom tried to make it happen anyway, but Cara moaned such that her Mom called it off.

It was just as well. Cara was a convenient scapegoat for parents who’d known nothing of their daughters’ drug use, legal or not. Marissa’s parents forbade her from visiting or even writing Cara.

Cara’s Dad called once from California, but busy with his wife and three kids he made no other attempt at contact.

On discharge day, Cara wore a black dress her mother had wriggled her into. She shivered as she waited for her mom to bring the car around despite hot sun.

The orderlies helped Cara’s Mom get Cara into the car. Cara looked anywhere but in her mother’s direction.

The silence was thick enough to slice and butter. Half way home, though, her mother piped up with. “I recorded graduation for you. We can watch it later.”

Cara continued to look out the window.

“They had a moment of silence for Samara and the rest who died,” her mom continued, babbling.

“Just stop, Mom,” Cara said, “I don’t want to talk about it.”

Cara’s Mom breathed out through her nose.

“What?” Cara asked, poking the bear in the eye.

“Nothing,” her Mom said.

“No, it’s clearly something or you wouldn’t be huffy.”

Cara’s Mom clenched her fist on the steering wheel. “You haven’t said three words to me since the night this started. And when I try to talk about something else, something happy, you shut me down.”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Then how’re you going to deal with it? You can’t sulk your way through life. If you push it down so hard you can’t feel it, you won’t feel anything again.”

Cara laughed darkly. “I won’t be feeling much anyway, Mom.”

Cara’s Mom pushed on too fast for those words to sink in.

“I loved her too, you know. She was like a daughter to me. But she, at least, respected her elders. And Marissa’s Mom? My best friend? She never wants to see me again. Samara’s Dad accused me of neglect, abuse, and every other parenting failure. The hypocrite. You may have taken the brunt, but don’t think you’re the only one who suffered.”

“Mom, Samara died in my arms, my big useless arms.” Cara tried to shrug, but couldn’t.

Cara’s Mom opened her mouth to continue, but Cara’s words hit. She swallowed her response.

They rode the rest of the way home in silence.

Experiment #336

Near Enough Part 6

A few days later, Cara sat in one of the comfy chairs her Mom had moved up to her room. She binge-watched all the media she’d missed while in the hospital, but barely registered what happened on the screens. She heard a soft rap at the window behind her. “Come in!” She said.

The soft rap came again.

“Come in!” she hollered.

Again the soft rapping.

“COME IN!” She shouted at the top of her lungs.

The soft rapping came again.

Before Cara could blow her top, her mother opened the door. “WHY ARE YOU—” Marissa stood outside the window tapping on the glass. Her face softened, and she walked over to let Marissa in.

She helped Marissa in and said, “Marissa June Wright, you are welcome in this house at all times and in all circumstances. But you come in the door and you leave by the door. I don’t want another—err—anything to happen to you. You got that?”

“Yes, Ma’am,” Marissa said.

“Now, I’ve got cookies baking and if you play your cards right, I might just share a few.”

“Thanks, Mrs. S.”

“Don’t worry about it.” She turned to Cara, “you holler if you need anything.”

“I need feeling back in my toes,” Cara hollered.

Cara’s Mom held her tongue and left.

“Did you bring it?” Cara asked. “The special kind?”

“You sure you want to do this?” Marissa asked.

“There’s nothing left for me here,” Cara said. “I can’t do gymnastics. I can’t go to college. I can’t even use the restroom without help. I want to remember the good times, the competitions I won, things I did. I wanna go out on a high note.”


“Please, before my Mom comes back.”

Marissa nodded. She put the blue and white striped, rounded off pill on Cara’s tongue and then lifted the water straw to Cara’s lips. Cara sipped and swallowed.

In a few minutes, her heart slowed. She became unresponsive.

She felt loose and free. She watched herself run and play as a child and use all four limbs as if they were nothing. Every one of her medal winning gymnastics rounds played before her. But she also saw the one two years ago where she broke her toe and was out for six weeks, missing the championship. Her acrobatics wowed the crowd, but she also saw the day her Dad brought his girlfriend to her exhibition. She saw her Dad laugh and the day his car pulled out for the last time, the wedding that took him away forever. Samara smiled with her the night they made prank calls to different boys’ houses in junior high. She saw the day they both got kicked out of Math for giggling and each bruise Samara explained away. And then she saw the night Samara didn’t wake up. But that wasn’t the end.

Her mind kept showing her images. She saw Marissa’s first day when the bully had pushed her into a puddle. When she’d tried to help Marissa up, Marissa had pushed her into the puddle to save face. She saw how they’d eventually bonded over a love for oldies music from the eighties and the time they dressed up like gorillas to deliver a presentation at school. She saw eighteen years of ups and downs and zigs and zags in wave after wave of joy and pain, glee and sadness.

All too soon Cara awoke, and despite her intentions, despite her circumstances, she wasn’t disappointed.

Marissa slept sitting on one arm of the chair and had draped herself around Cara.

On the other side lay her mother also asleep. She lay the wrong way in the bed, her face turned toward Cara.

Cara looked left, then right and back again. And she decided that despite its faults and challenges and the long road ahead, this was a place worth staying in.