Okay, here we go with Day 4 of National Novel Writing Month. It’s been a decent writing time today, though when you read the chapter below you may find some mistakes. Feel free to let me know if something glares at you, as I’m posting this unedited, and even without proof reading, so it’s probably a mess. But the story is screaming to be told, so here we go.
“I can’t believe we’re dead,” Donald lamented, shivering in his wet clothes. I didn’t know whether his chills came from being in the icy river or the shock of knowing we no longer walked the earth as flesh and blood teenagers.
“No, this can’t be,” echoed Kelly. “We can’t be dead. We just can’t.”
“You saw what happened,” I answered. “Both Donald and I passed right through the dude.”
“Maybe its him then. Maybe he’s dead.”
“No, I don’t think so,” Brian spoke. We looked at him and noticed he was occupying the very same space as a tree.
“Whoa!” Don exclaimed. “But wait! If we can pass through solid objects, how come we still stand on solid ground?” He stomped his foot on the earth. “Shouldn’t we pass right through it?”
“Interesting question,” I agreed. I paced a couple times over the ground , never once hovering over it or passing through the dirt.
“Maybe its because we know from the moment of birth that ground is solid. As babies we learn we won’t go through solid matter, like walls or furniture, whatever is in the way. We know almost from day one the earth beneath our feet has substance.”
“So maybe it’s ingrained in our head somehow,” I added. “One of the first truths we discover as a child. Its so impacting in our lives that it remains with our spirit after death.”
“Whatever you two bitches just said,” Brian griped.
“What we said was that somehow after death our spirit form remembers certain irrefutable things, like the ground being solid.”
“I don’t know. I suppose we’ll have to figure it out as we go along.”
“Go along?” cried Kelly. “Go along where?”
“I don’t know. Home, I guess.”
“Well hell to that,” Brian answered. “There ain’t nothing for me at home.”
“Once the news gets out about the accident, our families will probably need us,” I said. “We should try and be there for them.”
“And how are we going to do that?” Kelly protested. “We’re dead.”
“We should try to comfort those who would miss us,” Lori said. There was no escaping the sadness in her tone, and possibly because of that, Kelly went on the attack.
“No one’s going to miss you,” she said. “You were nobody in life. You are an even bigger nobody dead.”
I stepped in. “Come on, everybody. We have to work together here. None of us know exactly what’s going on or how to deal with this. Lets just try and get along.”
“You’re a nobody, too,” Kelly muttered.
I did my best to ignore her comment, but it did sting. “Well, regardless, we can’t just stand here doing nothing. I think we should all go home and see how our families handle this.”
“My dad will go buy a case of beer and celebrate,” Brian said.
“I don’t really want to go home alone,” added Donald.
Lori hung her head, so her dark hair obstructed her face. “Yeah, I don’t know if I can face this by myself, either.”
“Okay, well why don’t we all go together to each other’s houses. We’ll see how everyone holds up and then we’ll decide what to do next.”
I could tell both Brian and Kelly were reluctant to do this. It’s strange but there are some things death doesn’t change, and their better-than-everyone-else attitudes sure wasn’t going anywhere without them. When they didn’t say anything, I just shrugged.
“Whatever,” I said. “Ya’ll don’t have to come.”
“Here comes the ambulance,” Donald interrupted. We all turned to the sound of the siren as the ambulance came up the road away from where the other kids had come to shore. Its red lights were flashing, but it was driving slow, as if trying to be mindful of its injured passengers. It slowly passed us, and we all stood there watching as it went by.
Donald sighed. “That could be us on there.”
“If we hadn’t died,” said Lori.
As the ambulance passed us, I looked at the rear doors. I could see light through the windows as if someone were working on a patient. Suddenly, a face reared up and pressed itself hard against the glass in terror. We all jumped. It was a girl. Her wet red hair was stuck to her pale skin, her eyes bulging in fright, a wordless scream erupting from her lungs.
“Oh my God, it’s Sarah Whitney!” Donald yelled, looking over at me. Both Don and I had known Sarah since elementary school. We had gone to church together, played with the same kids, hell, we even lived on the same street.
“Well shit,” Brian said. “What are they doing to her in there?”
Sarah screamed in silence again, and this time she made eye contact with me. Her pupils moved frantically from me to Donald, and then to the others.
“They are trying to bring her back,” I realized.
“Back from where?”
“Oh no, “ Lori said. “She can see us, can’t she?”
“Yes, I think so. I’m going to ask her to be sure. Come on, Donald.”
My buddy let out a yelp as I took off after the ambulance and jumped onto its back bumper. “Come on!” I yelled.
He had been frozen to the spot, but even he could catch the slow moving vehicle. He jogged after me and tried to make the jump. Just then the ambulance stopped and he plowed right into it. Actually, he went through it mid-jump. Instead of landing his bulk on the bumper with me, he passed through the back doors and landed inside. I followed him through to see the shocked Sarah standing there looking at us both in horror. I would have been to, because Donald was starting to sink through the floor.
“Concentrate, Donny!” I yelled at him. “Solid floor!”
He closed his eyes and gritted his teeth in concentration. It helped. He wasn’t sinking through anymore.
“Well, at least we know the difference between solid matter and the spirit world all comes down to will power,” I reasoned.
He was looking at himself in surprise. He seemed to be happy he wasn’t bound by his weight anymore. “Wow, that was awesome!”
“What’s going on?” Sarah screamed at us. We had temporarily forgotten her as we marveled at what we had just learned in regards to the spirit world. At her outburst however, we both looked at her. She was still in her wet clothes, pink neon jogging pants, and a turquoise blue sweater. She wore a headband that said “Frankie Says Relax” and she was dripping water on the ambulance floor. To say she looked stressed was an understatement. Her eyes were taking in everything as she frantically searched her surroundings. Her face, though make up heavy, had gone very pale, and it was easy to see why. She stood before us, but her physical body lay on a gurney behind her, lifeless and cold, while paramedics were working over it. Donald hung his head; he couldn’t watch that. Neither could I for that matter, so instead I focused on the Sarah in front of me.
“I think we’ve died,” I told her, bracing myself for another outburst.
“No, that can’t be,” she screamed, looking back at her body on the gurney. “I don’t want to die!”
“It’s not like we do either,” Donald told her.
“But I’m supposed to go stay with my dad this weekend!”
Suddenly, her head jolted back and her eyes went wide. She jerked wildly as if an electric shock was passing through her spirit form.
“No!” She screamed. “Come with me!”
“Wish we could, “ Donald lamented.
“Yeah,” I added. “But our bodies are underwater an out of air.”
She jerked again, her arms thrashing at her side. A painful anguished gasp erupted from her throats and then she was gone, vanished before our very eyes. Within seconds, we heard her gasp again, this time coming from the body on the gurney. She convulsed for a moment, her eyes trying to focus on everything, while the rescue workers seemed very pleased at their efforts.
“Welcome back,” one of them said.
Her eyes darted around the room, as if she were trying to locate something. Finally, they settled on us, but I knew she was just focused on the spot where we were. She could no longer see us.
“No, Donald,” she whined. “Don’t be dead. Christopher, don’t go.”
“We’re sorry, Sarah. We’re ghosts now.”
Whether or not she heard us I don’t know, but she began to cry. It was a sorrowful wail that said she knew she lost many friends this day. I looked to Don, who looked like he was ready to cry as well.
“Come on,” I said. “We should get out of here.”
We both stepped through the rear doors and jumped to the ground, just as the ambulance began to forward again. I looked back at the emergency vehicle as it drove off. As selfish as it sounds, Part of me wished I could have traded places with Sarah. But another part of me reasoned that the others needed me, and I could not abandon Don, Lori, or even Brian and Kelly. We had to stick together and go through this experience as one.
“What the hell happened in there,” Brian asked, as we made it back to where they waited for us.
“I think we almost added another to our number, but she went back into her body.”
This seemed to perk Kelly up. “So we can go back into ours too?”
“Not likely. We are probably still underwater somewhere. Until they pull the whole bus up, I guess we won’t know.”
“Do you think they know we’re dead?”
“At this point, they probably just think we’re missing.”
“I want to go home,” Donald said. “My mom will be worried.”
I could see the tears welling up in his eyes. Within seconds, I knew he’d be bawling like a baby. Brian knew it, too. That’s why he started in on him the moment Donald sniffled.
“Aw hell, don’t be such a crybaby, fat boy!”
I gave him a dirty look, not that it mattered to him. I had a notion Brian would always be a prick, dead or alive.
“Come on, Don,” I said. “I’ll walk you home.”
“I’ll go with you, “ Lori added. She cast a scowl in Brian’s direction.
The bully just laughed. “Right. I got better things to do.”
“Like what? It’s not like you are having classes or practice today. Maybe at Donald’s we can find out if the news is out yet.”
He thought about it for a second, and then glanced over at Kelly. “Okay, whatever. We’ll go.”
Kelly shook her head. “When I woke up this morning I didn’t think I would be hanging out at Donald’s house.”
“Well, I didn’t think we’d be dead and wandering the streets together either, “ I replied.
“I did,” Lori mumbled.
I don’t think the others heard her, but I certainly did. “What do you mean by that?”
“I dreamed this, “ she whispered, hanging her head as if embarrassed.
“You did? When?”
“A couple nights ago.”
“Hey, what you two whispering about?” Brian had realized he wasn’t part of a conversation, and I wasn’t about to let him in on this one.
“Promise to tell me later,” I said to Lori.
She gave me a look as if she was trying to judge if I was really interested in her dream, or just diffusing a possible situation with nobody’s friend, Brian. She brushed the hair out of her eyes, and for a moment I found myself staring at the purple streak, almost imagining what it was like for her to change her look all the time, to never feel comfortable within her own skin. She allowed herself to smile slightly at me, and I noticed the Depeche Mode logo she’d drawn on her cheek this week hadn’t washed off in the river.
I turned from her and looked at Brian. “Don’t worry about it. We were just talking about the math test we were supposed to take today.” Lucky for me, he didn’t realize the fact Lori and I weren’t even in the same grade. She was a year behind me.
Donald sniffled. “As if school even matters anymore.”