Time Of Our Death
By Paul D Aronson
The experience of seeing Reginald vanish before our very eyes left its mark. This was different than when Don and I saw Sarah return to her body in the ambulance. That was life telling itself it wasn’t over. This was life run out of energy, Death catching up to the escaped. When it happened, we all looked upon each other with fear. The realization it could be over any second terrified us. But what could we do?
Brian’s idea was that we couldn’t do a thing, and so we should just live it up. Treat it like the guy whose doctor has told him he has a week to live, so go out with a bang doing wild and crazy shit. And while this did sound adventurous and fun, I wanted my death to mean something. My life had been zip. At sixteen, I hadn’t left my mark , and would not get the opportunity to. The way I saw it, if I was a ghost, maybe I should use that to finally accomplish something. Help someone else. Bring people together, solve a mystery, something. When I mentioned this to the others, it was received lukewarm. No one felt about it the way I did. Not even Donald. Lori expressed she wanted her death to mean something too, but seeing we were ghosts now, there were no mysteries left.
“Sure, there is,” I told her. “There’s the mystery of why we went off the bridge. Did the bus driver have a stroke or lose control of the bus? Why did he cross the lane and crash through the railing?”
“Sometimes accidents just happen, “ Donald answered me. “It’s not a mystery. It’s just an accident.”
“But what if it wasn’t?”
Brian rolled his eyes. “Now you are just making shit up, dude. Creating a mystery where there is none. What are you thinking? There’s a town conspiracy to kill off all the kids because we’re lazy and just want to rock?”
“No, I don’t think that. I just feel likes there’s more to this than what we can see in front of us. And now, we have Reg disappearing in front of us the moment they find a body. What do you think is going to happen when they find ours?”
“What exactly are you proposing?” Lori asked.
“We find our bodies and make sure no one else does.”
Everybody shut up. Behind us, the meeting still went on with a question and answer session. Brian seemed to think about what I just said. “Are you saying you want to hide our bodies, or are you saying you want to cut them up in little pieces and feed them to the fish?”
I shook my head. “No cutting up. That’s sick, man. No, they said they couldn’t pull the bus up yet. I’m thinking we try to make it harder for them to do that. We know we didn’t really make it off the bus.”
“Maybe we all drowned in the water after escaping, “ Kelly suggested. “My last memory is of getting the back exit open. That means my body isn’t going to be on there.”
“Unless it’s a false memory. Our minds telling us we made it when we didn’t. Maybe every last one of us are still on that bus. And there’s only one way to know for sure, and that’s go down and see for ourselves.”
“That’s nuts,” Brian said. “A complete waste of time.”
“What if we found our bodies?” Lori asked. “And managed to hide them or something. We don’t even know how this works. Maybe when our bodies are brought up it’s all over. But maybe also the moment we get close to our own bodies, the jig is up. We just don’t know. I say we leave them alone.”
Donald agreed, as did Brian, then Kelly. I was alone in my idea. “I’m not asking anyone to go with me. I’m not sure I want to see my own body myself. But I don’t want to end up like Reg either. Like somebody just switched off a TV. “
“Yeah me either,” Lori agreed.
Brian nodded his head. “I like this too much to watch it all go poof. But I want to have fun too. What’s this point in figuring everything out, if you haven’t gone out with a blast?”
I grinned. Brian was not only the town bully, but now he was the ambassador of partying. “We’re all going to have different ideas on what to do. That’s cool. But for me, I don’t want them pulling my body out of the river. At least not now. Maybe never.”
Kelly ran her fingers through her hair and tossed her head back, as if her mousse was giving out and she was needing a trip to the salon. “I think everyone should just do their own thing. It’s. to like we are all best friends forever or anything.”
She had a point. Before all this, none of us had been friends, except perhaps Donald and I, and we had been drifting apart for a long time. I was kind of getting tired of holding our little group together. I still thought it was best to stay in a group, but if everyone else wanted to split, I got that too.
“Okay, how about this then? I’ll go down to the bus. Everybody just do whatever while I’m gone. It’s evening now. I don’t know how long this will take, so let’s all meet up at the school in the morning.”
“We don’t need to go to school anymore, “ Brian relied. “The only thing I liked there was football and Kelly.” He looked at her and she afforded him a kiss. “And picking on you guys. I liked that a lot.”
“As if we couldn’t tell,” Donald agreed.
“School just seems like a good place to meet. And I’m curious on how everyone is going to be in the morning.”
Lori seemed to think this was a good idea too. “Any news that spread through the night will show up at school,” she said. “No secrets there, right?” She cast Kelly a look. She still hadn’t forgot the crack she’d made about slitting wrists.
The look didn’t faze Kelly. She grinned back, as if to say their strange rivalry was just beginning.
I looked back to the stage. The question and answer session was winding down, and we hadn’t heard a thing. The sheriff had invited Reverend Gaines up to the podium to lead everyone in a prayer before dismissing. That was our cue to go. It appeared God was through talking to us. He’d made his decision; we couldn’t change it.
Outside the church, night was coming in and so were the dark clouds. We could feel something in the air. Perhaps it was just the storm approaching, but to me it seemed more than that. To me, it felt like borrowed time was wanting its due.
“Okay, I’m going down then. See you all in the morning.” I turned to Donald. “What you going to do?”
“I’m going back home,” he replied. “I’m sorry, Chris. I just can’t go back down there.”
“I understand. You go be there for your mom.”
I looked at Brian and Kelly. I didn’t want to know what they were going to do. Either make out or tear up shit, I imagined. “You guys be careful,” was all I said, and I half wondered if I really meant it. It was hard to get over what he’d done to Don and I over the years, as well as how Kelly treated Lori.
Turning to Lori, I tried to smile. “I’m really sorry about your mom. You should check on your sister, make sure she is going to be okay.”
“No,” she replied. “I’ll go with you. You shouldn’t be alone down there. I’ll check on Dawn tomorrow.”
“Yeah,“ she said.
Though I wasn’t convinced she wasn’t worried for her sister, I was glad she was coming with. When we’d come out of the river, we thought we were alive, but now going back in we knew we were dead. But how were our ghostly bodies going to react? Would we need air? I guess we’d find out soon enough.
After parting ways with everyone, Lori and I headed for the river. It was dark now. Night had fully descended and there weren’t many streetlights after you got out on river road. We walked in the dark, but neither of us were afraid. Every now and then car headlights lit the road as they sped by, but other than that the only illumination came from the few stars in the October sky.
“Wish I had my Walkman,” Lori said, as we meandered down the road in silence.
“Yeah, it’s too quiet out here.”
“I’m going to miss music most of all, I think.”
“Yeah.” I thought of my Charvel guitar sitting in the corner of my room. I had just learned to play ‘Somebody Save Me’ and ‘Shake Me’ by Cinderella. I had been making pretty good progress on learning the instrument and hoped one day maybe I could learn to write me own songs, but that wasn’t going to happen now. The days of going to weekend concerts or just sitting in my room blasting out tunes through my cheap Emerson stereo were over. All I had now was this, walking along a dark road with a girl I barely knew or remembered.
“I’m sorry if I ever treated you bad, “ I suddenly said.
She shrugged. “You didn’t really treat me at all, so no worries.”
“Yeah, but still. I’m sorry for that too.”
Again she shrugged it off. “We are who we are. Or I guess who we were. If I judged my happiness by all the people who ignored me…”
“I was ignored too,” I said. “Sometimes.”
“Don’t sweat it, Chris. That was then, this is now.” She looked at me and grinned. “I’m kind of hard to ignore now. I could hide in your closet and it wouldn’t freak you out.”
“I don’t have a closet.”
“So I still freak you out..”
“I guess. A little.”
“Well, I don’t bite. I used to.”
I laughed. “You did?”
“Yeah, all the time. I would bite my friends. Just for fun. Guess that’s why I didn’t have many friends.”
“I don’t know if St. Peter allows biting in heaven,” I said.
“As if that’s where I’m going.”
We both laughed, but it wasn’t really a joke. Neither one of us had a clue to our final fate. And every moment seemed like it was drawing us closer to it.
“Well, you ready for a moonlight swim?”
She frowned. “I didn’t bring my suit.”
“Yeah me neither. I guess you don’t get to see my chicken legs.”
We both stood on the bank of the river. We could see the shadow of Bay Bridge looming over it. I didn’t know exactly where the bus had sunk, but I could see where the railing had been destroyed, so we’d have to take a guess. I didn’t know whether to hold my breath or what, so I just looked at Lori. “Okay, here goes, “ I said, and entered the cold Murray river.