NaNoWriMo 2016 Day 10
It’s funny how when you are writing, the story begins to evolve away from what you may have originally planned. Good thing I mapped out my outline on note cards, so I can shuffle events around. When I write I often find things change, the characters change and morph on their own it seems, creating new scenarios or sequences of events. That to me is one of the big thrills of being a writer, discovering the story just as a reader does. Sometimes if someone says to me, what is coming next, Ihave to answer back, I don’t know, I’ll have to ask the characters. That is what I am experiencing in my project for National Novel Writing Month. I have a basic plot and some outline bullet points, but other than that the story unveils itself to me word by word. It reminds me of those “chose your own adventure” books they used to make for kids, where you chose the outcome of different scenes by multiple choice. So anyway, I guess I’m saying that here I’m just as much a reader as a writer, because I am experiencing this story for the first time. And I’m finding it exciting and fun. Hope you are too. Here’s Chapter 10….
Time Of Our Death
I suspected it hadn’t been the first kiss for Brian and Kelly, but the way they held each other you would have thought so. Perhaps it was the complete joy of just being able to touch. It was almost beautiful. Maybe if it had been someone else but the two biggest bullies in our school, I would have been deeply moved. But as it was, I was more impressed that we were discovering things about our new state; its limitations, its capabilities, and advantages. My fear however was once we learned everything we could, it would all be over. The fates, Gods, or whatever, would be through having their thrill and let us evaporate into nothingness, joining all the other dead who went before.
I’d always questioned what comes after life. Everyone wants to believe they know, and sometimes their so-called knowledge lines up with someone else’s, but to have one hundred percent, irrefutable proof of what happens to our souls, is impossible. We can hope there is another realm of existence, have faith that this is not all there is, but in the end it’s really a wait and see notion. We’ll find out when it happens. The only problem is it happened to us, and we still hadn’t found out.
There was no point lingering at my house. It wasn’t likely mom and dad were coming home anytime soon. If they weren’t at the river, then they would probably be at the town hall meeting. So, that’s where we decided to head next. It would serve several purposes. First, hopefully we would learn what was going on in regards to our deaths. Second, if anyone else from the bus was walking around dead like us, chances are they would make their way there. And lastly, it would let us know if we were able to leave the boundary of South Maine Heights.
The meeting was held on the other side of town, close to where both Brian and Kelly lived. There really was no town hall to speak of. There was what was referred to as the municipal building, but it was all offices with no space for a large gathering. It was St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church where those were held. Sandwiched between the municipal building and the only McDonald’s, its steeple made me think of a finger pointing to the sky and declaring ‘help, there’s sin on either side of me.’
It took us awhile to get there, bound as we were by certain laws of gravity, and when we arrived, the place was packed. I guess even those who hadn’t heard the news had shown up, curious about why the sheriff and mayor was holding a public meeting. We entered through the wall, having grown tired of doorways, and though we tried not to walk through people, it couldn’t be helped. It was just too packed to do otherwise.
We stood at the back, not trying to share a seat with anyone or stand too closely to their shadow. People talked loudly amongst themselves, and trying to pick out just one topic of conversation proved difficult. On the stage were several chairs, in which sat the sheriff, a bulk of a man with a commanding presence, and the mayor, a more diminutive creature with black frame glasses and wiry black hair. Beside the mayor, a couple more chairs were occupied by town council members. The sheriff stood, and the room fell into a hush. Part of me expected him to launch into the drill sergeant’s speech from Full Metal Jacket, but instead he walked up to the podium and quietly cleared his throat. He looked down and it was obvious he was getting to read from a prepared statement.
“Early this morning, school bus number thirty eight, crashed through the railing on Bay Bridge and went into the Murray River. On board was the driver, Buddy Mills, and an unknown number of high school students. We do have some figures to share in a minute, but we don’t know for certain how many passengers he was carrying or who all of them were. Recovery operations have been hindered by the fact that the river is at its greatest depth at Bay Bridge, and the bus is completely submerged. We do not have the means or resources to bring the bus out of the river at this time, so we have local divers searching the area for possible survivors. More divers are being sent to us by the governor, though with the expected storm it may be after Halloween before we are able to recover all the victims. What we do have is this. Five students have died as a result of this accident. We have over a dozen students at the local hospital, and from them we are compiling a list of passengers, so we can determine who is missing. We speculate there may be as many as fifteen missing students. “
I looked at the others. “Fifteen?” I mouthed.
“That’s a lot,” added Donald. His face had turned almost ashen.
“So where are they?” Lori asked. “Shouldn’t they be wandering around like us?”
“If they are dead, I would think so.”
As if to give answer to Lori, a commotion broke out on the other side of the room. “Hey I made it! I’m right here!”
It was Reginald Dawson, otherwise known as Reg. He had been in science class with me last year. A lanky geek with acne scars and a disposition for sometimes laughing too loudly, he was now shouting at the top of his lungs, walking down the church aisle.
“What is wrong with everybody?! I’m right here! Look at me!”
Brian shook his head. “I don’t think he gets it.”
The tall boy was looking around at everyone. Waving his arms, he desperately tried to get their attention. But no one saw him. He began to cry. “Why doesn’t anyone see me?”
Donald look a bit worried and sad. “You think we should do something?”
Just then the boy reached out and touched a man sitting at the end of one of the aisles. The man twitched in his seat, startled. He looked around , trying to find who had touched him. Reg touched another person, and it was the same result. They felt it, but could not see him, and this made him more upset and agitated.
“This could get bad,” Lori said.
Reg was touching more and more people. They were turning around, questioning their neighbor, asking why they had tapped them. It was beginning to descend into confusion, with voices growing louder, some even getting angry.
“What is happening?!” the nerd boy screeched. I couldn’t take anymore. The place would turn into a riot before too long, people accusing others of touching them or pushing them in their seat. Before I could do anything though, Kelly shouted at the boy.
“Hey, shut up!” she yelled. “We hear you already!”
He stopped and looked in our direction. It was apparent that he saw us. I guess we stood out from everyone in the fact we weren’t showing signs of bewilderment. “When you’re done freaking everyone out, why don’t you come over here so we can talk to you?”
He hesitated, looking at all the people around him. They were ignoring him completely, muttering and mumbling amongst themselves. They seemed to know something was wrong, that the room was a little off, but none could put their finger on what had happened. Eventually, the room settled down as Reginald made his way towards us, instinctively trying not to walk into people. He navigated successfully around everyone and soon was face to face with us.
“Hey reg,” I said. “You okay, dude?”
“Yeah, it’s me. We had classes together last year.”
“What’s going on? I got off the bus. Others didn’t, but I did.”
“You sure about that, pizza face?”
Reg noticed Brian for the first time and stepped back. Everybody feared the bully, even after death.
“I..I”, he stammered. “I escaped. I really did. I went out through the front window. It was broken, but I put my hand on the edges and pulled myself…”
Suddenly he stopped and looked down at his hands. “Oh,” he said. The palms of his hands were cut to pieces. We couldn’t see any blood, but perhaps he could. To us, he had scars. To him, a gaping bleeding wound. “I..no..I can’t be…”
“You are,” Brian said.
“That’s why no one…”
“Yeah, “ I nodded sympathetically.
He looked over at Lori. “Are you the reaper?” He asked worriedly.
I had to bite my lip. I could see how her goth look set her apart from the rest of us, but to be mistaken for Death was a new one. It made it more humorous that she wasn’t offended. “Yep, that’s me,” she replied.
At first it looked like he believed her, but then he realized the joke. “Are we ghosts, then?”
“Afraid so,” Donald said.
“I don’t understand. Why are we still here? Why do…”
Suddenly he froze. A look came across his face telling us something was dreadfully wrong. For a moment it looked like he couldn’t catch his breath, but then we realized that wasn’t it. He was frozen in place, as if someone had pressed pause on a VCR. An aura seemed to emanate from him, and the air around him crackled. We all stepped back. Static electricity seemed to be building up around him, and he took on the appearance of someone changing channels and getting intermittent static. In a way, it reminded me of watching a polaroid develop, except in reverse, because it seemed to me he was going out of focus, becoming unclear. And before anyone could say or do anything, he was just gone.
We all looked at each other in shock. Now we had reason to be afraid.
“What the hell just happened?” Brian asked.
“I think he went to the light,” Donald replied.
“I didn’t see no damn light,” Kelly said in a shaky voice.
Something touched me. In alarm, I looked down at my hand. Lori had reached to grasp it and I felt it. I pulled my hand back.
“I didn’t do anything,” she said. “Honest, it wasn’t me.”
I was getting ready to say, ‘then who touched my hand’, but I realized that wasn’t what she was referring to. She was talking about Reginald. Still, I kept my hand to myself just in case.
“Hey look, guys,” Donald said. He pointed to the stage. The room had calmed down among the living, and a deputy was walking across the stage towards the sheriff. He leaned close to him and whispered something in his ear. The sheriff nodded and appeared to thank him with a grim look on his face.
The sheriff cleared his throat in the microphone, getting everyone’s attention. “I’ve just been informed that divers have recovered another body from the river. Once we get identification and notify next of kin, we’ll release the names of the victims so far. Please bear with us in all this.”
Donald was close to tears. “I think we know who they found.”