A/N: This is my first time writing a one-shot/short story like this. Until now, I've just done poetry and my novel-in-the-works 'Incarnate.' I hope you enjoy my story and any feedback is greatly appreciated.
This topic is very close to my heart. The rituals in this story are based upon a composite of my own compulsions, some from people in my therapy group, and some that I made up. Again, I hope you all can enjoy this.


Though the entire hallway was packed as the morning bell rang, the students at Oakridge High left ample space around Brittany Lane's locker. Everyone in the school knew to stay away from her and her oddities.

Just as she did every other morning, Brittany stood in front of her locker and repeatedly opened and shut the door. She was fully aware of how weird it was, but she was unable to stop herself, forever trapped in her own mind. That was her curse.

"… Three… four… five…" she muttered absent-mindedly. All the while, her mind was buzzing and counting the letters in her words and making sure that they added up properly. If she needed to, she would add an "I" here, or a "T" there. After so many years of counting what she read, wrote, spoke, heard, and thought she had become quite good at producing 'perfect' sentences--even if they sometimes sounded a little strange.

The second bell rang and she was still in the hallway, in front of her locker, opening and shutting the door.

"Forty-eight… forty-nine," she said with a tired sigh.

She looked at her locker for a moment and nodded. Yes, it felt right--she could go to class now. Before shutting the door for the final time, she looked in the small mirror that she had in her locker. Her hazel eyes were tired and her blonde hair was flat and mousy. She felt sad as she saw herself, but was resigned to know she would be that way for a long time to come.

Walking down the hallway, Brittany took care not to step on any of the lines in the checkerboard linoleum. Like her expertise at counting the "I"s and "T"s in words, she had mastered walking to all of her classes without touching a single line on the floor. She had even been able to make it look normal, for the most part.

But, her stride was broken when a tall, brown haired boy collided with her, causing the unthinkable to happen. She'd stepped on one of the lines. In Brittany's mind, nothing was worse than doing that. But she was also surrounded by hundreds of students, all soon to be witness to another of her breakdowns.

Then, after staring, gasping for air, at the unfortunate boy who had done this to her, Brittany started to scream.

Only she knew what, or for that matter, why, she was screaming. The kids around her only heard a jumble of hysterical cries. Brittany, though, knew every idiotic word that she was screeching. She was shrieking about how much she hated the person who had gotten in her way, and how stupid she was for not seeing the line, for stepping on it. Mixed in with the fervent words, though, were also senseless howls of anguish.

Brittany had no clue what was going to happen now that she'd done the unforgivable by treading on that line on the floor, but she did know that it couldn't be good. All she knew was that every cell in her body was screaming with her in protest at what she'd done. Her very being knew that something terrible would come from her blunder.

It didn't help her any that the entire school seemed to be quickly gathering around her. Some students tried to get a better view of her, to taunt and to laugh, while others wanted nothing more than to get as far away from her as possible.

Almost without thinking, Brittany pried herself from where she was and, the kids hastily moving to get out of her way (lest her insanity rub off on them), bolted through the crowd.

Brittany ran as fast as she could through the halls of the school, earning more confused and wary looks from teachers and peers alike. She looked a mess with her pained face covered in tears and her hair flying out behind her. But still, she ran, trying more than ever not to make contact with the cracks in the floor tiles.

When she was in the music wing, she stopped and collapsed in the doorway of one of the classrooms. She didn't care if the students inside could hear her crying and muttering to herself incoherently. She just needed to calm herself down a little.

But just how much she could steady herself, she wasn't sure. Nothing this bad had ever happened to her before while she was at school. She'd had similar episodes while out with her parents at the mall, or visiting family. But that was different. Brittany could avoid those people if she had to. She couldn't avoid school, though. Her parents would never let her stay home for longer than a day at a time, and didn't have the time, or energy, to home school her.

She sat there, cried, talked to herself, and counted the letters in everything she could see or think of. It took her nearly half an hour, crouched in the doorframe of one of the music classes, to calm down enough to make her way to the class that she was supposed to be attending. She knew that she'd be in trouble when she got there. But she didn't care. She wouldn't argue with her teacher; she'd had enough stress that day.

When Brittany entered her English class, Mr. Williams, like nearly all of her other teachers, simply frowned at her as she took her seat in the middle of his lesson. The students all stared at her, some whispering and snickering at her. Looking at the clock, she saw that there were only ten minutes left in class.

"You can't keep showing up so late, Brittany," he said, disgruntled.

"But--" Brittany stopped herself just short of telling him why she was late. The extra "T" in her sentence gnawed at her mind and she quickly added, "I'm sorry," to even it out.

I can't tell him, she had thought. He'd think I'm even more of a freak than he does now. He wouldn't understand… even I hardly understand why I am how I am.

She struggled to copy down the notes on the board while still arranging the words 'perfectly.' The result was a page of disjointed scribbles that nobody but Brittany would ever be able to understand. That was the reason why she was failing most of her classes--none of her teachers had a hope of reading her assignments, let alone giving her a decent mark when her grammar was so inexplicably and hopelessly terrible.

But her teachers didn't know why she wrote, or for that matter did anything else, so strangely. In fact, nobody but Brittany's parents and the school principal knew what was wrong with her and why she did the peculiar things that she did. When her parents had enrolled her in the high school two years before, they had specifically told the principal that Brittany wanted nobody to know about her disorder.

So, for the past two years the students and staff of Oakridge High had been trying to figure out exactly what made Brittany as weird as she was. Some of the kids thought that she was actually from another country where they had bizarre customs that none of them could ever understand, while others joked that she was an alien from the Horsehead Nebula. Some students thought that her behavior was the result of a drug trip gone wrong. Most of the teachers, though, thought she was just plain crazy, and Brittany had to agree with that at times. The most believable, and least bother to her, was the theory that she had just taken too many drugs and so it was the one Brittany had protested against the least.

I'd rather they think I'm like this because of drugs or something else, she always thought, than knowing the real reason for it.

When her English class ended all too soon for her to copy down more than a page of notes, she realized that she'd forgotten her psychology textbook in her locker. Normally, she would bring all of her books with her in the morning so she could go to her locker as few times as possible. Dread filled her stomach as she neared her locker once more.

And You win again, she thought miserably as she stood in front of her locker once more. Why does that not surprise me?

Brittany shoved her English binder into her locker then grabbed her psychology textbook. Shutting her eyes briefly, she began the draining task of opening and closing her locker exactly fifty times. If she lost count, or even doubted that she had counted correctly, she would have to start again. And if it didn't feel 'right' when she reached fifty, she would have to do it another fifty times. No matter what, it had to feel right. There could be a fire right then and there and Brittany would stay rooted to the spot opening and shutting her locker until it was just right.

That time it took her nearly half an hour to get it right before she could leave for her psychology class. That was about average for her, though there had been a few times when she had missed an entire class while her mind tortured her into submission.

Mrs. Jensen smiled at Brittany when she walked into the room and continued her lecture. She was the only teacher who took pity in Brittany. Perhaps it was because she taught psychology and knew a lot about mental disorders. Or maybe she was just the kind of person who was nice to everyone--even the freaks. Whatever the reason, Brittany didn't care. She simply sat and scribbled, her mind abuzz with numbers and words.


A/N: This was meant to be a one-shot, but upon editing it grew quite a bit from its original length. So, I have split it into two parts. Any feedback is greatly appreciated. Thanks!