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from Sasha's Journey by Sheri Conaway

Copyright © 2014–2021 Sheri Conaway

Chapter 1

The blazing desert sun offended Sasha with its efforts to raise her mood above abject misery. The voices in her head had been getting louder, but each carried the same hostile message: “Go back where you came from, Girl. You and your family aren’t welcome here.”

Sasha trudged blindly along the now-familiar sidewalk towards the white and yellow clapboard house which was nearly as forlorn as Sasha, surrounded only by Joshua trees and hard-packed sand on the outskirts of town. She sought sanctuary from those awful voices. Ironically, they echoed her own thoughts. Had it really only been five months since her parents had brought her here? Would they ever explain why it was necessary to leave friends and family behind, only to spend so much time at their new jobs that she rarely saw them? Never before had their careers taken precedence over their daughter.

Her mind reeling with unanswered questions, her body repeated her daily routine on autopilot. She kicked the gate in the white picket fence with a scuffed sneaker and slipped through before it swung back, catching the latch on its own. With her eyes focused on her toes, she climbed the three steps to the porch. It was only when she raised her eyes enough to insert her key in the lock that she noticed an enormous gray tabby blocking the front door.

“Would you be so kind as to remove yourself from my foot?” the cat growled.

Accustomed as she had become to hearing voices in her head, Sasha found comfort in the familiar, which this one definitely was not. Jumping back, she swung her backpack around to her chest and clutched it tightly, reassured by the small protection it offered.

“As a shield, I suppose you could do worse” the voice continued to resonate in her brain. “A bag of books is unlikely to do more for you than impart a bit of knowledge.”

Sasha heard a soft chuckle, almost purr-like, in her head and felt, for a moment, reassured by the sound. The respite was brief, and she wrapped her arms more tightly around the backpack.

Deciding that her best option was to pretend ignorance, she side-stepped across the wrap-around porch picturing the back door in her mind. Maybe she could get inside, run up to her bedroom and lock the door before her visitor noticed. After the day she’d had, the last thing she needed was a telepathic cat rudely joining the rest of the voices in her head. Surely, this voice, too, was a product of her misery and overactive imagination?

“Stop trying to pretend you don’t hear me and pay attention, Girl!”

This was really freaking her out! In what world did a perfectly normal, if unnaturally large cat start speaking English, of all things, inside a person’s head? 

Before she could respond, the cat herded her back towards the front of the house, alternating between encouraging and berating her to unlock the door and move inside where they could talk undisturbed. She had no desire to let a cat into the house, especially one who was talking in her head, but it seemed she had little say in the matter.

Losing the battle, she unlocked the door, sat down on the stairs, put her...

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