MyNanoWriMo 2016: A couple of graphics

So, I’ve been toying with different ideas for graphics for my NaNoWriMo project, “Time Of Our Death.” Just thought I’d post and share them in case anyone is interested. The first is a cover design or header I created from three different elements. 

The second one here is my original vision for Lori. It’s actually a picture of my wife as a teenager turned into a painting 😉

So there ya go. Just a few things I was trying to create to add a little visual to the tale. Have a great evening, everybody.

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My NaNoWriMo 2016 Day 28: Chapter 28

Time Of  Our Death

By Paul D Aronson

Twenty-Eight

There are moments in one’s life, when you stop in the middle of everything and say to yourself, “I’m going to remember this for the rest of my life.” Holding Lori to me and dancing across the gym floor, breathing in her hair and the scent of her skin, would have been one of those moments. But the truth was the rest of our life had already ended and we were now just two wraiths discovering the true affection of another that was denied us in life. Still, the moment was eternal, seemingly endless, and I hoped beyond all hopes, that if I could take one memory with me when our ghost life was over, this would be it. 

The DJ, having reclaimed his turntables, spun the perfect songs for young lovers. Cutting Crew’s “I’ve Been In Love Before,” Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time”, and my personal pop favorite, “Purple Rain.” It was during that song, we finally came up for air and dared to say a word.  

“Wow,” Lori breathed. 

“Yeah,” I agreed. “Wow.” 

She looked around at all the other kids. “I wish they all could see us.” 

“Me, too.” 

“I guess we are still nobodies.” 

“That’s alright,” I said. “I kind of like it that way.” 

She raised her face to me again. “Yes, so do I.” 

“Why did I wait so long to kiss you?” 

She smiled slyly. “Because any earlier and I would have kicked your ass.” 

I grinned. “True.” Then I kissed her again, not worrying if I had butt kicking coming or not.  

The song changed mid kiss, and the sounds of excited kids applauding and cheering us on made me smile. But pulling away from Lori, I realized it wasn’t us they were clapping for, it was the song the DJ selected. Michael Jackson. Thriller.

Lori laughed, and it was the most joyous sound I ever heard. She grabbed my hand and said, “Come on,” as she led me over to where a large group of students were doing the signature dance from the popular video. Thankfully, the only living dead in the room were us. Still trying to avoid “bumping” into other students, we joined in the best we could, though neither of us knew what we were doing. Brian and Kelly were better at it, except they didn’t care if they passed through the other students or not. They were having just as much of a blast as anyone else. The same could be said of Donald, as he randomly danced beside other students, mocking their moves with great exaggeration. I got the feeling his silliness was for our benefit. If you’d stood us all next to each other, you would have thought we were all friends. That for years we’d been close companions through and through. Seeing us at the dance, it would be hard to believe that just days ago most of us spent the majority of our school life trying to avoid the others. For three of us anyway, we just wanted to be invisible. And now we were. 

“You want to get some fresh air?”  

Lori smiled. “I wish we could.” 

“Okay, let me rephrase that. Want to get out of here?” 

She nodded. “Yeah, I think I’m done with my Molly Ringwald at the prom moment.” 

“Pretty In Pink wasn’t that bad.” 

“Oh no, it wasn’t. I loved it actually. Though it pissed me off. Ducky should have got the girl.” 

We left the dancers to the gym floor, making our way for the exit. The rest of the Dead Kids Rule gang were lost in their own evening that they didn’t notice we were escaping the scene. 

“I wish we could have seen it together,” I said, as we passed through the wall and into the night.  

“It would have been a nice first date,” she agreed. “And it would have given us a year together instead of a few days.” 

I didn’t want to get depressed, and certainly not over a movie that had come out last year. “I like the first date we were given,” I said, reaching for her hand. She curled her fingers around mine. 

“Oh, you think this is a date?” 

“Well,uh..” 

“You didn’t even buy me dinner, shame on you. You dance with me, kiss me, and now you want to take me home already. Am I that bad a kisser?” 

I looked at her a moment, trying to gauge if she was being serious or not. She wasn’t. But I was. “You’re the best, Lori,” I said, and pulled her close, enveloping her spectral form into my arms. “And you make me feel the best, too.” My lips found hers waiting, and our mouths softly collided as the stars blinked overhead in the October sky. 

“You guys are starting to remind me of the face sucker in Alien,” Donald said from behind us minutes later.

We stopped kissing and nearly laughed in each others mouth. “Donald,” I said. “You would interrupt Madonna losing her virginity.” 

He laughed this time. “Like I’m that old.” 

“Is the dance winding down?” Lori asked him. 

“Nah, it’s just boring when no one can see you making fun of them.” 

“I can imagine.” 

“And you know the party is winding down when they start playing oldies,” added Brian, who had also arrived with a flushed Kelly in tow.  

“Oh yeah?” I asked. “What are they playing?” 

“Don’t You Forget About Me.” 

“Dude, that was only two years ago.” 

“Like I said, oldies.” 

“So, what’s next, guys?” Kelly asked. “I’m tired of being the bride.” She closed her eyes, and like Tabitha on the old Bewitched TV show, nodded her head with a wrinkle of her nose and changed back to the clothes she was most comfortable in. “There that’s better.” She put her hands to her hair, teasing it with her fingers. “I like my hair big, but not that big.” 

Brian decided he didn’t want to be Frankenstein any longer, as well, and changed back into his usual kind of lumbering idiot. “It is Friday night, everybody.” He looked at me. “Headbanger’s Ball,” he said with a grin. 

I didn’t take him for one who watched the popular MTV show, even though for me it was like watching the Bible reveal itself to sinners. “So?” I asked, with a noncommittal shrug. 

“So, everyone should be watching it, dummy. And I do mean everyone.” His mischievous grin told me he was back to being the king of pranks. 

“Yeah!” Kelly whooped. 

“Oh god,” Lori mumbled. “Now it’s Bon Jovi for everyone.” 

We left the dance behind, but not its memories, and hours later we were going house to house, turning on televisions and tuning them to MTV, cranking the volume as loud as it could go. For those Television sets that were already on, it was fun to walk by them and watch the channel change, enraging unsuspecting viewers. Some nearly jumped out of their seats, when the volume went up and Twisted Sister’s ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’ assaulted their sensibilities. Just the visuals alone was enough to send them into cardiac.

We’d gone through about a dozen houses, when Lori and I started stumbling on the secrets. I had never really thought about the lives that other people lead. I’d always just known what went on in my house, and didn’t really care about what my neighbor was doing. As far as I was concerned, everyone had their own lives, and whatever they did with theirs was on them. But being a ghost gave you a different view of things. You were able to move among people in their own homes virtually undetectable. All the things they didn’t want you to see, you saw. All their private moments could be exposed to you if that’s what you wanted. It is not the way I intended things to be. Ive always been respectful of one’s own space and privacy, but the crying baby changed all that. 

Lori and I had split away from the others, choosing to move as a pair through the houses on our hair raising Headbanger’s Ball adventure, when we entered a house who’s quiet was being shattered not by heavy metal on the TV, but a baby squalling like somebody stole his milk and blanket. We quickly followed the headache inducing sound to a small room set up as a nursery.  

The room was your typical baby friendly place. Done up in pink with My Little Pony and Rainbow Brite as its motif, it should have been a calm and peaceful place. But it wasn’t. A Bay was screaming its head off in the crib, desperately trying to get someone’s attention. When Lori leaned over the crib and opened her mouth to “shhh” the baby, I didn’t think anything would happen. After all, we were ghosts, and only one other living person had even seen one of us in this state. Infant babies were different though. Uncluttered with all the emotional, rational minded baggage of age, they obviously could see us. 

The screaming infant girl saw Lori leaning over the railing. It was clear right away she could see the teenager who had come to her cry. She stopped screaming, yet still awash in sobs, and cooed at Lori. 

“Hush,” Lori said quietly. “It’s okay, baby girl. Mama Lori is here.” 

I stood there in shock, wondering if the baby could both see and hear her, and when I too leaned over the crib, the infants eyes turned to me and widened in joyous surprise. Now there were two friendly faces come to comfort. 

“It’s alright, little one, “ I whispered. “There’s no need to cry.” 

As if fate were attempting to prove me wrong, the baby’s door banged open, the knob striking the wall as it came to rest against it. Into the room walked a woman, clearly out of her mind and removed from her senses. A rubber tube was wrapped loosely around her arm and in one hand she held an empty syringe. Her eyes were wild and crazy, but not nearly as bad as Lori’s in this moment. It was the easiest thing in the world to know what was going on. This mother, if you really wanted to call her that, had left the baby to shoot up. For her, the drugs were more important than the well being of her child. This may seem like a harsh assessment, but the fact the baby had been crying for so long, showed where the mother’s concern lied. 

“What the shit is going on here?” The woman slurred, her damp unkempt hair sticking to her sweaty face. “You shut up just as soon as I get here?! Are you just trying to punish me, you little whiny bitch?” 

“No, I am,” Lori said, picking up a small metal trash can that sat beside the crib. She hurled it at the woman, who was too slow to react. The metal clanged against her head, and dirty diapers spilled out of the can to land on the woman, now sprawled out on the floor. I would have laughed at the scene, or called out Karma, but in her drug addled state and armed with a syringe , the woman clambered to her feet, looking for her assailant. Any normal person would probably have freaked out and ran in terror from the room, But she wasn’t normal or freaking out, at all. In fact, she was charging right at Lori. 

Even though she had nothing to fear, natural instinct and surprise made Lori back pedal to get away. The woman passed right through Lori and hit the floor with a thud. “Damn you, “ she snarled. “What the hell are you? Get out of my house!” 

She got back up, and shook her head, as if trying to make sense of it all. She could clearly see Lori, and turning in my direction she saw me too. Perhaps the drugs had opened the doors of perception, allowing her to see all states of reality. We were as real to her as the crying baby itself. 

“Get away from my baby!” She screamed, suddenly acting like any normal mother would, protective and angry. She lifted the syringe as if it were a weapon. “What do you people want from me?!” 

Lori swung. Her open hand smacked the syringe right out of the woman’s grip. It went scattering across the floor, and stopped at my feet. I lifted my foot and crushed it under my heel. “We want you to be a mom, “ I said. 

Tears welled up in the woman’s eyes. The wildness seemed to dissipate replaced with anguish. At first, I thought her sorrow was over the crushed syringe, but she took the rubber tubing from her arm and flung it in the corner, letting out a wail born of guilt and regret. She sank to her knees on the floor, with her head in her hands. “Oh god, I’m sorry, “ she cried. “Please, don’t take my baby.” 

I don’t know what she thought we were. She knew we weren’t human agents from welfare or the Police. Perhaps in her drug altered mind we were avenging angels or demons of justice sent to punish her for the life she lived.  

Lori took a step towards her. “My mother was selfish too, “ she said. “And now it has cost her her family. Step up or let somebody else raise her.” 

The woman was shaking. If Lori could, she would have smacked the drugs clear out of her bloodstream. Instead, she turned from the woman and walked back to the crib. She looked down at the child , who had started crying again. “Shhh, it’s okay, little one, “ she said. “Mommy has been gone from your life awhile. But she’s coming back.” She turned her gaze back on the woman. “Aren’t you?” 

The woman hung her head in shame. “Yes,” she said quietly. 

“And what kind of mother are you going to be?” I asked. 

She dared to look up at me. “A good one,” she promised. 

I instantly regretted I ever smoked weed. Though I wasn’t a regular user by any means, I thought to myself that if I had lived, I too could have progressed to this stage eventually. For this woman, drugs had taken her over and become her life, her happiness, her very reason for being, when it should have been the baby she brought into this world that provided those things.  

Lori, having successfully quieted the baby, stepped aside, as the woman got to her feet and approached the crib. “I’m so sorry, Bethany. I..” she sobbed in her tears and she picked up the baby and held her to her chest. She lay the side of her cheek against her daughter’s head. 

“Don’t make us come back,” Lori said. She walked across the room to where I waited. 

“I won’t,” the woman said. “Thank you.” 

“Thank yourself. We’re all in your mind. You woke yourself up.” 

We both passed through the wall and left the room. “You want me to find her drugs and dispose of them?” I asked. 

“No, “ she replied. “She has to do that on her own.” 

We left the woman’s house, trusting her to do the right thing, and start life over as the mother she should have been all along had the drugs not taken hold of her. Lori sat down at the curb and began to cry. “Donald’s right. I don’t want to know everyone’s secrets.” 

My NaNoWriMo 2016 Day 27: Chapter 27

Time Of Our Death

By Paul D Aronson

 

Twenty-Seven
To be honest, I had been to only one school dance in my whole life. That was back in Junior High, eighth grade. In that stage of school, all dances took place during fifth and sixth period, and was more of a way to get out of class than to take a girl to a dance. Most of the boys stood around pencil fighting or finger flicking, while the girls sat on the gym bleachers wishing they were older so they could go to a real dance. The All Hallows’ Eve dance at Murray Senior High School was much different. It took place at night for one, as most teenagers had drivers licenses and could drive to the school themselves. For another, boys had noticed girls in a big way, and pencil fighting was so stupid when there was a real DJ playing records that teenagers actually liked.

When the five of us sauntered through the gym wall, we were assailed with the sound of Def Leppard’s Hysteria and I knew it was going to be a good night, if we could survive it. A bit of fortune had come our way. Earlier that evening, the news had spread that the cranes and winches they planned to use to bring the bus up malfunctioned. Mechanical difficulties, they reported. We hadn’t done anything ourselves, so maybe Sister Fate had a little mercy left for us. No matter the reason, it was being said around town that they wouldn’t be able to get things working again until tomorrow afternoon, or even later. We all drew a collective sigh on that one. We could relax and enjoy the dance. Well, as far as any ghost could anyway.

We were taking the Halloween dance seriously. It wasn’t just another to crash or place to play pranks. We dressed up in costume just like anyone else, though us five were the only ones who could see it. And we had to rely on things we had already owned. For some reason, we just couldn’t go into a costume shop and take what we wanted. If we had, everyone would have seen bodiless clothes just moving around the dance floor. Not a good thing if you were trying to blend in. But like we had done a few days ago, we learned we could ‘think’ our way into clothes we owned, or had owned at one time.

Brian took advantage of this by creating a makeshift Frankenstein costume and then allowing Kelly to apply green and black makeup to his face. For bolts in the side of his neck, she used two of her favorite lipstick holders. Apparently, you could share these items you owned with other ghosts. I made myself a mental note that if we had enough time I would write the ghost handbook to help other spirits that might come after we are long gone.

Kelly had taken an old white dress and some of Brian’s Ace bandages he used for football sprains to fashion herself as Elsa Lanchester in The Bride Of Frankenstein. An entire bottle of hairspray and temporary black face paint helped her create the bride’s frightening hairdo.

Donald took the easy way out and made himself into a punk rocker again, down to the misfits t-shirt and safety pin through the eyebrow. He had let Lori draw the anarchy symbol on his cheek, and to top things off, he spiked his hair and applied four different colors to it. You would have thought Johnny Rotten had just crashed the dance.
Lori dressed herself as a dark gypsy. With her black goth make up, she looked like a cross between Stevie Nicks, Elvira (minus the revealing cleavage), and that chick from the Lost Boys movie. In my honor, she had adorned her cheek with the Kiss logo. Of course, I’m not sure if she intended it to represent the hard rock band or a target spot for Robert Smith’s mouth.

For myself, that’s right you guessed it, I cheated and went as a long hair rocker. Jeans so tight I could hardly move in them, a spandex shirt that revealed way too much of my bare chest, and black boots with chains wrapped around them. On my head I wore a Guns and Roses headband, on my hands black leather fingerless gloves. Lori had gotten me with the makeup too, adding a bit of painted flourish to bring out my eyes and cheeks in ways that made me look like I was auditioning for a spot in Poison. Brett Michaels would have been proud, if not downright jealous.

We drifted among the costumed dancers. Many of the boys were Freddy Krueger, Jason, and Michael Myers, with a few Klingons and Imperial Stormtroopers thrown in. Girls had selected Princess Leia, the wicked witch of the west, and She-Ra. One adventurous lass was dressed as Sheena, Queen Of the Jungle, but several chaperones made her cover up.

The DJ, a young man with mullet and beard, changed the song to Whitney Houston, and altered the tempo of the dance floor. It was easier to dance to Whitney than Leppard, so the gym floor found itself with a lot more kids dancing. Some swayed as couples, but most seemed to be single individuals hoping for someone to dance with. Because of the nature of costumes as disguises it seemed our peers were braver than usual and actually approached each other to ask for a dance. Or perhaps it was the newly realized notion that life was short and could be taken away at any time that caused everyone to take a few extra chances.

I looked at my favorite companion. I had to ask myself how in the world I had missed her all this time. How did she move through high school without me taking real notice of her? She was beautiful. Not just pretty like other girls, but strikingly beautiful. She’d hidden it all under her goth attitude an make up, but really when it came down to it, she put others to shame. Kelly may have been the reigning queen of the high school, but Lori was like the gorgeous princess hiding her true self from the wicked stepmother.

“What are you staring at?”

Her voice brought me out of my thoughts with an embarrassed flush. “Um, no reason. Just glad to be here.”

She smiled. “Me too. I don’t think I’ve really been envious of anyone, but I’m feeling kind of jealous now.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Jealous? How?”

“They get to enjoy this next year. We wont be here.” I thought I saw a glistening tear at the edge of her eye. “I can’t believe how I never appreciated any of this. How I just came to school because I had to.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean. But hey, we don’t have to miss it just yet. We’re here now. At the All Hallows Eve Dance. Together.” I took a deep breath. A thousand butterflies invaded my stomach. Under the gym lights, she looked so beautiful I wanted to cry and just take…

“Look at them silly asses,” Lori said, pointing out on the dance floor, and making the butterflies scatter as if hiding from a collector’s net.

Brian and Kelly were in the middle of everyone, Frankenstein and his Bride doing a hilarious variation of the twist. While it threatened to become dirty dancing, it was quite comical as they were exaggerating every move. You would think they believed all eyes were on them and that they were still the king and queen of the ball. Perhaps they were.

“I’m going to go to the punch table,” she said. “See if I can sneak a glass without being noticed. You want anything?”

I hesitated. There was, but I couldn’t speak it. “No, I’m alright, “ I said.

She flashed a brief smile. “Okay. Be right back.”

I watched her walk over to the refreshment corner, careful to avoid as many people as she could. A few passed through her, but none had the effect that had overcome me at Brian’s house. Her gypsy dress swayed around her, her bare feet gliding across the polished floor. I couldn’t take my eyes away from how she moved with a slight swish of her dark hair as she lightly bounced up to the table. She reached for a glass of punch, and I turned my head away to see Donald out on the dance floor now acting like a fool. No, that wasn’t right. I was the only fool here.

A new song began. Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes. I’ve Had The Time Of My Life. I looked to heaven as if to utter a prayer, and then went on the move. I dodged around dancers, shifting from foot to foot, graceful and fluid, as if I were Johnny Castle in the movie. I reached the table where Lori was standing. She had spotted me swaying towards her across the floor and was laughing at my antics. I bounded up to her and held out my hand with the biggest, bravest grin I could muster.

“Nobody puts baby in the corner,“ I drawled. “Not even herself.”

We both stood there a moment, me with my hand held out, and her savoring the moment. Finally she smiled and took my hand, allowing me to pull her out on the dance floor. We tried our best to emulate the signature moves from Dirty Dancing, but it was no use. I was no Patrick Swayze, and thank the stars she wasn’t a Jennifer Grey. But we were Christopher and Lori, having fun under the gym lights, and dancing the best we could, not caring how goofy our attempts to be footloose and fancy free might look. Only three other people in the whole place could see us anyway. Lori laughed as I spun her, one hand holding hers straight out from her, and the other lightly on her hip. Then someone scratched the record.

It was a loud, scraping sound, like long nails on a chalkboard, as the stylus needle was drawn across the black vinyl of the record, interrupting the whole mood. We turned our head to the DJ table and found him looking at his twin turntables in complete confusion. A hush fell over the room, except for a solitary snicker. Donald stood beside the DJ with a finger to his lips, grinning foolishly. Then the DJ’s second turntable started to spin a new song.

“Oh My God, “ Lori whispered, with an exasperated sigh. It was Whitesnake. The song, ‘Is This Love?’ began to play and she looked up into my face. “Well, it looks like you get your wish after all.”

“I don’t see a disco ball,” I replied.

“You can’t have everything. This is 87, not 79.”

I smiled. I did have everything. I pulled her close to me, and folded up into my arms easily. She lay her head against my shoulder as I began to sway with her in time to the power ballad. If you’d asked me days ago if I would be dancing with Lori O’Donnell in my arms to Whitesnake under the gym’s bright spotlights I would have accused of messing in the super weed, but tonight it was just as natural as breathing. The slow yet steady bass and drums of the song propelled us in slow circles to new dizzying heights of existence. We were truly ghosts now, because for me nothing else existed but the girl in my arms. And as the verse moved into the chorus, with the singer pondering the notion whether it’s love or a dream, Lori lifted her head to me and I kissed her. Her lips met mine softly, as if they had always belonged there, pressed against mine and breathing in my kiss. Her arms slipped around my neck, mine around her waist, and we danced so close we could have been one entity. And in this embrace, her hips swaying gently against mine, her mouth partially open on my own, I no longer felt like me. Now I was us, and nothing, not even the reaper himself could drag me away from this girl, this song, this dream. And no matter that the song ended four minutes later. We swayed, and turned, moving like forever lovers that none could separate through three more songs, our lips never once leaving the other.

 

My NaNoWriMo 2016: Opening Theme

So to celebrate my NaNoWriMo win, I thought I’d share a little song with you tonight. If “Time Of Our Death” were being made into a movie, this would be the opening theme. As I was writing the early chapters, I kept on imagining this being played on a boombox somewhere on that fateful bus. Having lived through that time period myself, it seems to fit the generation of whom I’m writing. Not only that , it helps to fit with the Bon Jovi wisecracks that come later in the story 😉 I also like the line in the song that says, “if you want to cross that line, break on through to the other side.” Just kind of seems to fit the story…

Hope you enjoy! Rock on dudes and dudettes 🙂

My NaNoWriMo 2016 Day 26: Chapter 26

*Wow, I can’t believe I did it! I hit the 50k mark, and as I type this blog out I’m so excited that I completed NaNoWriMo during my very first attempt. For years, I had always put it off as this big impossible task, so I never even attempted it. But this year, after the suggestion was made to me by another writer, I started thinking on it more as something that could be achieved. I have never written a novel as fast as this, but having a word count deadline gave me something extra to work for. I’ll actually be sad when the month is completely over. Now, I haven’t officially validated my success through the NaNoWriMo site yet, but the Month is not over yet. I thought I’d get that word count a little higher while I continue to work on the novel. With that said, no I did not write a complete novel in 30 days, but I got over half of the way through it. The important thing, and what I’m being judged on, is the 50k word count, so I’m clearly happy with the results of this month. For those who have been following the story as I have been posting it, that is not going to change as we move into December. I plan on to keep writing this without taking a solid break until it’s finished. I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep up the momentum of November, but I’m going to certainly try and stay on the same writing schedule. I’ll also keep this story under the menu and title heading of My NaNoWriMo 2016 to make it easier to keep up, and so that any new readers can start from the beginning. 
I have had a blast and thank you all for your support. Now here we go with Chapter 26….*

Time Of Our Death

By Paul D Aronson.
Twenty-Six

We spent the rest of the day having fun at the mall. For me it seemed like the last act of teenaged defiance. One of the guys I had partied with recently had a t-shirt emblazoned with a picture of this tiny mouse giving the middle finger to an eagle that was swooping down to eat him. That’s how I felt about our relationship with death. We were defying it every moment we spent here as ghosts. Soon, Death would tire of the game, and either we waited for him cowering in fear or give him a big “up yours.”

The five of us seemed to blaze a trail of pranks and confusion throughout the mall. Going through nearly every store, we did something to mark our visit. In one shop, Brian disrupted the security cameras long enough for Kelly to rearrange the window display mannequins into a rude scene of simulated sex. In another, Donald turned on all the faucets in the customer’s bathrooms and let them overflow. The store employees were none too happy.  

Lori and I switched all the tags in a bridal shop, before moving on to a hair salon and removing the screws from the chairs. Then we sat down and watched the ensuing mayhem as patrons found themselves in the floor when their seats collapsed. The things teen ghosts do when they are bored and killing time. 

Eventually, the five merry pranksters ended up at Layton’s Electronics, probably the largest shop in the mall. Here they sold the latest in technology for us to mess with, but before we could play any pranks I saw something on all the display televisions that stopped me in my tracks. There in big bold letters, caught on film for everyone to see, were the words “Dead Kids Rule.”

It was a news report shot live at the rescue squad earlier that morning. Scenes of our destruction intercut with the words I’d left behind soon faded, to be replaced with the newscaster out front of the building reporting that authorities believed it was the work of a teenaged gang bent on marking their territory. 

“Whether this incident has any connection to search and find operations that are going on now to recover the bus that fell from Bay Bridge days ago has been unconfirmed. However, this is where most of the equipment for that operation was housed. Authorities are treating the vandalizing of the building behind me as serious, but are more focused on recovering all the bodies from the bus accident. There are still over half a dozen students that remain unaccounted for, but were confirmed to be on the bus. We should have more details on tonight’s evening news after the bus has been pulled from the river bed. In other news, Halloween preparations are well under way, as the youth of our town get ready for trick or treating excitement, starting with the annual All Hallows eve dance at Murray Senior High. ..” 

We stood there for a moment, silent, all lost in our own thoughts. If the report was to be believed, they were getting very close. Kelly was on the verge of tears, and Donald was teary eyed as well. I don’t know when it happened, but at some point Lori had reached for my hand. Our fingers were barely touching, but the need for comfort and reassurance was there.  

“It can be anytime now, I guess,” Brian flatly stated. 

“What are we going to do?” Kelly asked. 

“There’s not a lot we can do. They are going to pull that bus up no matter what we do and discover the truth.” 

“Discover what truth?” Donald asked. 

Lori squeezed my hand and then let it go. I turned to others. “I didn’t tell you guys because I wanted everyone to just go on living the best we could.” 

“Tell us what?” Brian asked. 

I sighed. “When Lori and I went down to the bus, we found something. It doesn’t look like what happened was an accident.” 

Donald had a concerned , frightened look on his face. “What did it look like then?” 

“I think someone planned it. Call it murder, homicide, whatever, but under that bus a lot of wires and lines were cut. I followed some of those lines to the brakes. I’m no mechanic but I think someone either severed them enough to break or they cut them completely.” 

“Who would have done that?”  

“I don’t know exactly, but I have a theory.” 

“Alright, let’s hear it,” Brian demanded. 

I told them first about Lori’s prophetic dream and the little clues it planted. They didn’t seem ready to accept that until I told them about the bug van, the flower shop lady and the work truck at the end of the bridge.” 

“So you think it was some guy who drives for the exterminating company?” Donald asked. 

“I think it’s a possibility. The news said there was a witness to phone in it. I saw no one else around. The driver of the truck could either have driven to a phone booth and made that call, or maybe called his dispatcher on the radio if they have them in their vehicles.” 

“That doesn’t make him….the killer.” 

“No it doesn’t. But this flower shop lady. When we saw her leaving the theater she was distraught over the fact a child , or child in the making, had died in the movie. She’s here in the flower shop now and she still looks visibly upset.” 

“Maybe she had kids on the bus with us, “ Kelly reasoned. 

“Or she felt guilty about kids on the bus,” Brian added. “Okay, I follow you, I guess. It’s very loose connections but its worth looking in to.” 

“Yet we don’t have much time,” Lori said. 

Donald nodded his head in agreement. “Where’s the flower lady? We can wait until she gets off of work and follow her.” 

“Yeah, maybe we can learn something from her.” 

“And what if we don’t?” Lori asked. “What if we learn nothing from her? What if she is just upset over her own children or something? What if the truck on the bridge was just a witness and nothing more? Then all our running around after them will be a waste of time.” 

“Don’t you care that we died, you stupid witch?” Kelly asked, anger in her voice.  

“Yes I do, “ she answered “But I care more that we are here right now. This may not be living. This may not be life. But it’s the closest we’ll be to it ever again, and I want to hold on to it.” A tear dropped from her eye and ran down her cheek. “You had everything in life, Kelly. I had nothing. But now, I have something. I have a reason to want to live and I don’t want to see it fade away before my eyes like Reginald did. If we find out what happened to us, it’s the end. The wrong that was done will be resolved, and we will be nothing but fucking vapor.” 

“Lori..” I said, reaching for me, but she turned away and walked away from us all, her head in her hands. I looked at everyone else. “She’s right. I spent a lot of time dwelling on this, wanting to figure out who did this to us, but in the end it doesn’t matter. Its not going to change the facts. It might bring the killer to justice, but that will do absolutely nothing for us.” 

“You should have told us sooner, “ Brian said. “We could have done something before now.” 

“Yeah, I know. I’m sorry. I didn’t think it out. I just wanted everyone to enjoy what was left.”  

Donald put his hand on my shoulder. “Thank you, Chris.” 

“For what?” 

“For letting us forget and just live.” 

I shook my head. “My reasons were selfish,” I admitted, and then went to join Lori.

Lori had returned to the flower shop. She sat on a bench right outside, where she could see the flower lady at work. “Look at her,” she said, as I sat down beside her. “I’m just like her.” 

“How so?” 

“Look at her face. Its written all over it. Her sorrow. Her grief. She has nothing left but these flowers. And when she picks one she likes…” She hesitated and looked at me. “…it eventually withers and dies, no matter what she does to keep it.” 

“Are you saying I’m a flower now?” 

“Maybe a scraggly looking one, but a flower just the same.” She leaned her head over on my shoulder.  

“I found a flower too, you know. And to keep it alive, I’ve been trying to keep it in water.” 

She sniffled. “I know. Thank you.” 

“I just thought if we could find the killer it would delay them. That they would focus on him, instead of us. But I know I’m just fooling myself. The inevitable truth is we don’t have long. So, how about we go look for costumes for the dance, hmm? We can at least try to get that in before someone stomps on our flowers.” 

I couldn’t see her face because of how it lay against my shoulder, but I could feel her smile spread gently across my skin.  

“You know, I went by your house last night,” Donald said, minutes later when he found us. “No one was home.” 

“Yeah, “ I replied quietly. “I haven’t been spending much time there.” 

He sat down next to us. Lori’s head was still over on my shoulder, and he looked at her. “Don’t worry, Lori. I have a feeling you guys will get through this okay. Just stick together and wherever you end up, there you’ll both be.” 

“Donald, the poet, “ I said. 

“Hey, somebody has to do it. You might be able to play guitar , but you can’t write a love song worth shit.” 

I opened my mouth to protest. I wanted to say he had the wrong idea about us, that it wasn’t like that, we were just friends. But he would have just laughed and said, sure you are. So I kept my mouth shut and smiled a little bit inside.  

“My mom is starting to do better, “ Don said, changing the subject. “I worry what will happen when they find us, though. I won’t be here to help her, I don’t guess.” He was silent for a moment. “But maybe that’s the way its supposed to be.” 

Lori raised her head from my shoulder. “How did this conversation go from love songs to grieving mothers in two seconds?”  

“Sorry.” Don shrugged. “What I was trying to say in a roundabout way was we know how the rest of our parents are doing, but Christopher’s folks are missing in action.” He looked at me. “When I went there last night, it didn’t look like they’d been there for days. No food in the garbage cans. Mail uncollected. Newspapers piling on the porch. It’s weird.” 

“Yes it is,” I agreed. While all the other parents were fighting their way through the loss of their children, mine were just gone. While we’d always had what I thought of as a normal family life, this was not normal. Something was wrong or off. How could they just disappear like that? That mystery to me was more baffling than the mystery of who killed us. “Maybe they just don’t care, “ I reasoned aloud, and no one knew what to say. Not even Brian and Kelly who finally rejoined our ragtag bunch of dead kids. I looked around at everybody. At least I had this. We may not all have been the best of friends in life, but in death we were changing, becoming closer, and leaving all that social order bullshit behind. 

My NaNoWriMo 2016 Day 25: Chapter 25

Time Of Our Death

By Paul D Aronson

Twenty-Five
Brian and Kelly had spent the night at her house, being as normal as any living teenager could have been. According to her, they had raided both the refrigerator and liquor cabinet while her parents slept. Their experiment with food and drink had been fun, and to their surprise quite appetizing. It was something I myself hadn’t attempted as yet. I figured with being dead, why bother with eating. We didn’t exist off of human food now. And while that might be the case, Brian and Kelly made the most of it.

“It sucks though, because we couldn’t get drunk. I put away three bottles and it didn’t do nothing.” Brian shook his head. “But spin the bottle is pretty fun with just two people.” 

Kelly blushed, and smacked him in his arm. She looked at us. “Mom and dad are bowling partners with the Housemans. We hitched a ride out to see how many showed up for the funeral. I’m surprised they are even having school today. I mean, he was on the football team, for god’s sake.” 

“It’s all cool, “ Brian replied. He looked at us. “Things go on, right? No matter what, the big old world keeps turning.” 

“Yes, I suppose so,“ I agreed. “So, you going in?” 

“Nah, I’ll just go to the grave side. You know they found somebody else, didn’t you?” 

“I heard. Just don’t know who it was.” 

“It was a senior named Jacobs. I didn’t know him. They said on the news he would have graduated this year. Honor roll, college bound frat boy in the making. I guess not anymore.” 

“This sucks,” Kelly said. “We’re just like him, except nobody knows it yet. Our funeral could come at any time.” She looked at us, and it appeared she wanted to cry. “I don’t want to go to any of you guys funeral.” 

I’m not sure if she meant it as a heart felt thing, or if she just dreaded seeing someone she had spent time with being put in the ground. Either way, I took it kindly. “If I had my way no one would ever find us,” I said. I looked at Lori and frowned. “But I don’t think its going to work out that way.” 

“Why is that, hoss?” Brian asked. 

“We saw on the news they plan on bringing us up within twenty four hours.” 

“You mean, we only have a day left?” Kelly asked. 

“Looks like it could turn out that way.” 

“Well, shit bricks, we better skip the graveside and party it up right then.”  

I looked at Brian. Maybe he had the right attitude all along. We had known for awhile that we were dead. Though I hadn’t told them about what we found on the bus yet, did it really matter anyway? We were existing on borrowed time. Would solving what happened to us fix anything? Maybe it was best to just spend what time we had left living life, so to speak, to the fullest. 

“That’s probably a good idea,“ I agreed.  

“So hell, where’s the party?” 

One look at Brian and I knew he was itching to have fun again. “Wherever we want it to be,” I said. 

“Hell yeah! The mall cops are going to regret ever kicking me out!” He looked at Kelly. “Hey babe. Let’s go to Spencer’s Head Shop and see what we look like under the black light…naked.” 

She laughed and punched him in the arm again. If he’d been alive, his shoulder would have been all bruised up by now. She looked at us, probably figuring if there was anyone interested in a drug paraphernalia store, it would be us. “Ya’ll coming?” 

“I’m not a Spenser’s gal,” Lori said. She looked at me. “But I would like an Orange Julius.” 

I looked at the door of the funeral home. I had two choices. One was to wallow in the misery of what had happened and what was yet to happen still. Or, I could say to hell with it, and ride off into the day with my most favorite sidekick ever. I looked back at Lori and realized that there had never really been a choice to make. “Okay, Let’s go.” 

Northview Shopping Center was relatively new. Built a year earlier, it was where every kid wanted to go. Unfortunately, it was built on the outskirts of town near the interstate, making it difficult for kids to get to, unless they had their drivers permit already or could talk their parents into bringing them. I had been only twice, and Lori said she had only been once. Brian and Kelly practically lived there, however. And they would, considering their social circle. Northview is where all the up scale shoppers went for high quality designer clothes and gifts that screamed its exorbitant price tags at you. Everyone else went to K-Mart. 

Because it was Friday, the mall was fairly busy. While kids were in school, parents shopped. One thing I noticed while standing in front of Orange Julius waiting for Lori was that here were collected all the parents and families not affected by grief. These were the untouched. No one here today had a child that had been on the bus with us. This was a true example of how life goes on. Completely oblivious to the misery and tragedy of others. All except for the woman in the flower shop. 

While Lori had been dunking her head under the soda fountain, and letting her favorite orange drink pour into her mouth straight from the tap, I had been drawn to the woman with haunted eyes working at the shop across from us. It was a floral shop whose specialty seemed to be elaborate arrangements and flower themed gifts for birthdays, anniversaries, and the like. The storefront window seemed to scream that sheer happiness was to be found inside. That’s why the sad woman stood out so much. She truly looked like she didn’t belong there. Or anywhere. 

She was also familiar to me. I had seen her somewhere. She hadn’t been dressed in a floral print apron then. Nor had her brown hair been pinned back away from her face either. It had flown freely in the October breeze, walking across the theater parking lot to get in the exterminating van.

Kelly came up along side of me, Orange Julius still on her chin. “What are you looking at?” 

“It’s her.” 

“Who?” 

“She was with the guy in the exterminating van. She walked right by us.” 

“Yeah, she was upset about Penny’s abortion,” she remembered. “I didn’t like that part of the movie either. Well, except when Patrick Swayze jumped the railing to kick that dude’s ass.” 

“She’s connected to what happened to us. Somehow she’s a part of it, I know it.” 

She put her hand on my arm. “Chris, maybe we should just let this go. What are we really going to accomplish by finding out who sabotaged the bus? Maybe we’re not meant to know. Ignorance is bliss, they say.” 

I looked at her. I knew what she was saying. I knew I should just forget it, but something was drawing me on. Something that said the woman knew the truth about the accident. “Yeah, but don’t you see, Lori? Its all connected. Come on, you dreamed of the bugs. Now here’s the flowers. All the pieces of your dream are staring us in the face.” 

She seemed to consider this. “So what are you proposing we do now? Find the killer? Bring him to justice?” 

“Yes.” 

“That’s a noble idea, but its not going to help us. If anything, it could end up righting the wrong that keeps us here as ghosts.” 

I hung my head. I didn’t want our ghostly state to end, but I also didn’t want a killer out there running free either. I had never been the heroic type. Sure, like any other teenage guy, I’d dreamed of rescuing the princess and saving the world, but I always knew that was out of reach, until now. 

She seemed to know exactly what I was thinking. “Look Chris, I know you want to do the right thing, and I’m in this with you whatever you want to do. But you don’t have to save me. I’m not some princess. I’m quite unremarkable. And forgive me for saying so, but before the accident, so were you. Let’s just go on being unremarkable. Together.” 

“Is this what you want? To ignore it? What if this is why we are here? To fix things?” 

“Maybe we’re just meant to fix ourselves, “ she replied. “Maybe we’re not here to be Sherlock Holmes. Perhaps its simpler than that.” 

“You’re afraid, aren’t you?” 

“Yes I am. I’m terrified actually. This may be our very last day. I don’t want to spend it like Riggs and Murtaugh.” 

I couldn’t help but laugh at the analogy. After all, in the Lethal Weapon movie, Riggs had been suicidal, and Murtaugh had been over the hill. “Okay then, “ I replied. “Tell me what you want to do.” 

“I’m going to be really pissed if you don’t take me to the Halloween dance.” 

I smiled. “I thought you weren’t that interested in it.” 

She shrugged. “Im not, but what the hell? Might as well go out dancing, right?” 

“Sure. But you need that wipe that orange drink off your chin first.” 

We caught up with Brian and Kelly, not at the head shop, but at National Record Mart. They were browsing through the albums and doing their best to freak out other shoppers. One guy was looking at a Huey Lewis and The News record cover, when Brian smacked it right out of his hand. A pair of girls were gushing over Duran Duran trying to convince themselves they were Simon Le Bon’s ideal type. Kelly blew in their hair, making the girls shake their heads trying to rid themselves of the pesky fly attracted to their hairspray. And not far away, Donald was taking all the plastic off of the Lionel Richie albums, so they couldn’t be sold.  

I was so glad to see Donald there and having fun again. When I approached him, he looked up at me with a jovial grin and said, “Lionel is so yesterday, man. I mean, come on. Dancing On The Ceiling. What kind of drugs is he on anyway?” 

“It’s good to see you, Donald,” I said, with a smile. 

“Hell yeah, its good to see me too,” he agreed. We both laughed at his jab and it almost felt like old times. “By the way, I think that girl over there likes me.” 

“Which girl?” I asked, turning around to look. 

“The cute blonde. She wants me to shake her love.” 

I shook my head. It was great to see him in a better mood. “Yeah, but that’s only in your dreams,” I replied, seeing the big hanging poster of Debbie Gibson he was referring to.  

“So, besides lusting after the unattainable, what you been doing?”

“Just needed some time to breathe, man. Think things over. You know how it is.” 

“Yes, I suppose I do.” 

He looked over at Lori, who was now browsing through albums too. Whoever thought of specialty shops where they sell nothing but music was genius. You could distract a whole crowd of teenagers and keep them occupied for hours. “So, how’s things with Lori?” 

“What do you mean?” 

He gave me an exasperated look. “You know.” 

I shook my head. “It’s not like that, Don.” 

“Sure it’s not. You want her to be Robert Smith’s girlfriend forever?” He pointed to The Cure banner that was hanging directly over her head. Across its face, Mr Smith’s hair was standing straight up, and he was wearing bright red lipstick that looked like it had been put on by a monkey. “That dude is a freak.” 

“I don’t think I can compete with that,” I replied.  

“What the hell is going on?!” 

The screaming voice that interrupted our conversation was standing not far from us. The store manager was looking at a cardboard stand up of the Christian metal band, Stryper. Decked out in yellow and black spandex with matching guitars, with the album title, “To Hell With The Devil” across the top, I didn’t see what was so wrong. After all, weren’t there supposed to be hand drawn pentagrams painted on their cheeks with eyeliner? 

I looked at Lori, who bit her lip and smirked guilty, still browsing through records.