Untethered –A Novel Started on My Basement Stairs
by Katie Hayoz
I left my body when I was young. I don’t remember how old I was – six? seven? – but I’ll never forget the incident. I was standing at the top of the basement stairs, my hands stretched out to touch the smooth walls on either side of the stairwell. The door at the bottom was open, the piercing sound of a circular saw blasting out along with the sweet scent of wood shavings. My dad was down there working on some project, and I was to tell him it was time to eat.
It wasn’t the first step, or even the second. But three or four steps down, I managed to trip on nothing and my body catapulted forward. Without me in it.
I saw myself — eyes wide, mouth open, hands out. I saw my body fall down the stairs, but I, myself, felt like I was flying. Like I had taken a dizzying jump that sent me to the ceiling of the stairwell where I watched from above. It lasted maybe a second . But the memory has stayed with me since.
Suddenly I was on the basement floor, my palms and forearms and elbows stinging. I had apparently made enough noise falling that my dad even heard me from behind his saw.
That was my first and only real out-of-body experience. It was so quick and so strange, I never shared it with anyone. At least not for another ten years.
As a teenager, I read the book Stranger With My Face by Lois Duncan. In the novel, the main character learns to astral project – to send her soul, her essence, out of her body to travel around and watch things from above. It fascinated me. It floored me. And it tugged at my memory, bringing back the feeling of flying over the basement stairs. When I told my mom about it she nodded.
“It happened to me once,” she said. She was making meatloaf, leaning her weight into a shiny, silver bowl of ground beef, ketchup, onions, mustard, and bread crumbs. She squeezed the mixture through her fingers over and over as she talked. “When I gave birth to Stephen. I was floating near the ceiling like a balloon, watching myself, watching the doctors.” She shook the excess mess off of her hands and looked me in the eye. “Ever since then, I’m not afraid to die.”
That same week, I went out and bought books on out-of-body experiences, on astral projection. I devoured them – both intrigued and completely freaked out. The books documented all sorts of incidents – the good, the bad, and the really bad. And that’s where my imagination got going. In my head, a story began. A story about a girl who wanted nothing more than to be loved by a boy who didn’t care. A story about a girl who could leave her body and spy on the object of her obsession. A story about a girl who let the dark side of herself take over, only to find herself in a situation beyond her control.
I wrote the story when I was seventeen. More than twenty years later, the characters and the idea of astral projected still haunted me. I turned the story into a novel, and finally gave voice to Sylvie – an anti-heroine who thinks she knows what she wants, but who gets more than she ever bargained for. That novel is Untethered. A novel that started from a quick fall down my basement stairs.
Genre – YA Paranormal / Coming of Age
Rating – PG13