As I type this out it is really Day 13, but because I work up until midnight, my updates are a day behind. Still, the good news is that I’m only 1000 words shy of being halfway through the novel. I can’t believe I’m still on point, but through reader encouragement and likes and general well wishes , I’m pushing on to see this thing to an end. I’ve come too far to stop. After all, I want to know how the story ends, too.So, if you are just joining my blog thing here, I am in the midst National Novel Writers Month, where the goal is to write the first draft of a novel in thirty days. The novel has to be at least 50,000 words. It doesn’t have to be a complete novel as long as you have done the word count. The goal is to get writers do what they are supposed to do: write.
My novel project is a young adult paranormal adventure called “Time Of Our Death”, and follows the afterlife of five teenagers in 1987 who have been killed in a tragic accident. As we pick up the tale here in chapter 12, the group has split up and two of them are returning to the scene of the accident. Hope you enjoy 🙂
PS if you are participating in NaNoWriMo , feel free to Buddy up with me. I’m there under my own name Paul D Aronson, so look me up. Thanks!
Time Of Our Death
By Paul D Aronson
Being a ghost does have it’s advantages. For one, you didn’t feel the cold anymore. Two, you could move more easily and quickly through water. There was no resistance against the elements of nature when one is reduced to spirit. And lastly, light and darkness had no bearing on your ability to see. This was made very apparent as we walked out into the depths of the river and sank beneath the surface in the dead of night. Any divers or rescue efforts had been halted due to the arrival of the dark, but we could see just as clearly as if it were daytime. This was a good thing as I hadn’t thought to try and bring any material objects like flashlights with us.
It was strange to go underwater without worrying for air. If I thought we’d be bound by the physical act of breathing, I needn’t have worried. Though at first it was disconcerting to take a breath and realize we weren’t taking in real oxygen, we soon relaxed, instead imagining ourselves as if we were in a bubble and unaffected by the freezing chill of the river.
We also learned the equally unnerving act of talking in water. If we’d been alive it would have been impossible, but again as ghosts the laws of nature didn’t necessarily apply anymore. It reminded me of being in the midst of a dream, where your actions were so surreal that they went beyond belief. Descending into the depth of the river had this quality, with the murkiness of the water contributing to its almost hallucinatory effect.
The bus had appeared to have shifted its position in the river bed. It was lying on its side. The window we had “escaped” through was now face down in the silt. If we were going back in we’d have to go through the back, because even the front door was face down. Either that, or we could gain entrance through the front window. We decided on the rear exit. If Brian and Kelly were to be believed, they had gotten out through the back door, so this would help us determine how much our imagination or mind had lied to us about escaping the accident.
The back door was open that much was true, and there was no sign of the corpses of Brian or Kelly, but there were other bodies. Some were face down and I did not wish to identify them for fear that it would set in a chain of motions to undermine our own current experience. Perhaps it works like action and reaction. To every action, there is a reaction. And to that reaction, another reaction, until eventually the one thing you were trying to avoid comes to pass. So I left them alone. There were a few however that remained face up and I recognized them by name. Carlton Means had been class president back in sixth grade, but once entering high school he had become just another guy. Now he was a corpse, and possibly a ghost as well, out there wandering around like Reginald, not knowing he was dead. Sheila Branson was on the cheerleading team with Kelly. Even if you don’t hang out with them, everyone knows the cheerleaders by name. It’s the great social status enhancer. But no matter how many people knew her by how high she could kick, there were few who would see her like this, buried under the weight of a seat that had somehow come loose from its moorings and pinned her to the floor. I half wondered if a shoelace had been her undoing too.
I looked at Lori. A look of horror and sadness had come across her face. Not necessarily for Sheila or Carlton but for everyone who met their terrible end on the bus. And though this bothered me, it was the fact that anyone was still on the bus at all that caused me concern. After all, I had remembered before getting free from my captured shoelace that I had looked around to see if anyone else was still on board. I hadn’t seen anyone, and yet now here were two bodies at the back of the bus. If my memory was faulty, how many others never got free? How many others did I leave to die?
I must have said this out loud because Lori came around to face me, her ghost frame passing through steel and seat cushions to do so. “No one expected you to save them, Chris. You are not Aquaman. You had to save yourself eventually. Hell, saving me is what probably got you killed. If anyone should feel bad, it should be me.”
I looked at her. It was weird to see her lips move, mouth open, and water just pass through her as if she wasn’t there. To an observer, maybe even death himself, I imagine it looked humorous, two people talking under water. But there was no humor in this loss of life. Whether our own or somebody else’s. “I..I just thought everyone was out, “ I said. “I would never have left…”
“And you didn’t leave, Chris. That’s the thing. You stayed. You helped others. Maybe that’s why as spirits we’re all together. Because you connected us all. You helped me. I know you helped Donald. I’m not sure if you helped Brian and Kelly.”
“I was getting ready to, but then they got the back door open.”
“See? You saved people.”
“No, I didn’t. We died. And our minds just told us we escaped until physics caught up with us. So now what? Are we still waiting for something to catch up? This has an end to it, I can feel it. I know it.”
She put her hand to my mouth, covering it. I could feel the texture of her skin, soft and shaking, just as if she were flesh and blood. “Shut up,” she said. “Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Or for us, or for anyone. This is what we have. Right here, right now. Let’s do what we came here to do, because as much as I think it’s cool to be underwater without running out of air, it is starting to freak me out.”
I nodded my head, and she took her hand off my mouth. “I’m sorry,” I said. “This is just too overwhelming.”
I started passing through seats to move further through the bus. Up ahead I could just about judge the spot where our escape window was now face down on the river bed. Lori stayed behind me, almost cowering, as we edged closer. Several bodies came into view. There were three corpses pressed against the wall and window. I couldn’t see who they were in the tangled mass of limbs. Two of them were caught forever in an eternal embrace, as if their last attempt at breathing had something to do with each other. The third body obstructed their faces, but one of the corpses was missing a shoe. Another was female with dark hair the length of Lori’s. I could see it defying gravity floating outward from her scalp. The water buoyed hair moved and the face started coming into view…I didn’t want to see anymore.
“Don’t look,” I said.
“Is it us?”
“I think so, but don’t look.” I didn’t want her to see the bodies, or the position they had been in. I didn’t want either of us to see the faces and then be suddenly torn away from each other like Reginald had been claimed in his final hour as spirit. It was enough for me to know that if it was us, we never escaped but stayed for each other. And if it wasn’t, then we were out there in the river somewhere, maybe tangled up in reeds and rocks, buried in this watery graveyard until someone found our bodies. But I was now afraid that if it was us to find our own bodies, to see them, to lay our eyes on our own dead visage would be the catalyst to end our time as ghosts. Like prisoners on a chain we would be yanked free from this and dragged kicking and screaming to whatever waited.
I steered Lori past the corpses and we continued through the bus. More bodies were floating inside, wet matted hair and soaked clothes weighing them down so much they appeared to be just hovering there. A thought came into my head of one saying, ‘We can’t leave. And neither can you.’
I began to panic. There was still enough of my soul grounded to the physical world to give me anxiety attacks, it seemed. It’s one thing being a ghost, and hanging out with other ghosts, but to be surrounded by the corpses of your schoolmates is a terrifying thing. I still had the barest semblance of life, yet as far as I knew, they had nothing. Just floating. It made me think of a line from a book I had just finished reading: We all float down here!
I reached for Lori and grabbed her hand. Again, she seemed to have substance and I pulled her through the bus, dragging us both to the front. We were unencumbered by solid matter, and passed through any obstacle, yet I could feel her grip on my hand, both soft and firm at the same time.
The front window, as I expected it to be, was a gaping hole, with rings of glass clinging to its edges. It was here that Reginald must have tried to escape and then bled to death. In my curiosity, I looked around to see if I could spot his body. It wasn’t there. He must have went through and bled out in the river where he floated to the surface and was discovered by divers. But why hadn’t divers discovered the bodies on the bus? Did they even know where the bus was? When the bus shifted, falling on its side, possibly rolling, had the current somehow pushed it away from where it went off the bridge? And just why did it go off the bridge?
I stopped at the driver’s seat and let go of Lori’s hand. She came up short by my side. “What’s the matter?”
“I don’t know. I just want to check something.”
I reached for the steering wheel, willing it to feel solid for me. The first time my hand went through it, as I was aware of my nervousness. I steeled my nerve and tried again, this time grabbing hold of it. I tried turning it, but it wouldn’t budge.
“We’re on our side,” Lori said. “The wheel’s not going to turn. The tire is against the ground.”
She was right. There was no way to test if the steering had malfunctioned or went out. I allowed my hand to pass into the steering column. I don’t know what I hoped to accomplish. Perhaps I thought I would have some supernatural power that would tell me if anything had gone wrong with the steering.
“What are you doing?”
“I don’t know. I can’t help thinking something went wrong with either Mr. Mills judgement or the mechanics of this bus.”
“I guess we could look under its hood, but I wouldn’t know what to look for,” she replied.
“Yeah me neither. I skipped auto mechanics.”
We left the passenger area of the bus, and passed through the heavy metal hulk of its engine. I didn’t see anything strange. It was just a motor, battery, transmission. All the normal things you’d find under the hood. I knew very little so if a part had been needing replacing before the bus took to the road that morning, I would never know. The look on Lori’s face said it was the same with her, and so we faded through the bottom and came out into the river once more. It was there we were brought up short. Lori opened her mouth to scream. Under the bus, floating right in front of us, was Donald.