I got a little behind on my chapters. My original intent was to have a chapter for each day of this month, but it doesn’t seem to be working out that way. I’m still intending my novel to have 30 chapters, but I’m getting slow on writing them. Despite this, at my current rate of writing I will still make the 50k goal by the 30th. I can’t miss any more days though; got to keep pumping them out. The story is evolving quite a bit from my original outline. Changes are being made and the unexpected happens. The characters themselves surprise me with how much they want the real them to emerge and show the reader. I really like this aspect of writing. For me , being a writer, an author, is an act of discovery. As it is being penned, I’m just like you, a curious reader wondering where it’s all going. Thank you for following along. Here’s the unedited draft for chapter 14.
Time Of Our Death
By Paul D Aronson
In life, Lori may have spent time in the rain wishing for it to take her away, but for me I had avoided it, dodging raindrops as I ran down the street, a little boy forever at play. It was different for us now though. The rain couldn’t touch us unless we wanted it to. Perhaps that’s why, as walked to our school that she got drenched, and I remained dry. I don’t think she had to worry about catching cold, but it was weird to see her soaking wet in the rain. I wondered to myself how all this really worked, our interaction with the elements and solid objects. Would the rain dry on her? Would she need to brush her hair? Or would she walk around the rest of the day looking like a wet rag doll?
Another thing I noticed was the rain was washing the eyeliner drawn Depeche Mode logo from her cheek. Maybe it was like when the others had changed outfits; when you wanted to change you could. You just concentrated and willed it to happen. But what it would it take to change a person inside? Could you change who you actually were, or as spirit were we forever locked in to the people we had been?
The sky was starting to lighten when we got off the river road and started seeing the neighborhood again. We skirted South Main Heights, no need to pass so closely to home now, and made our way to the high school instead. The rain still fell like crazy, and dark clouds hovered of us, but daybreak was here. If school was happening today, buses would soon be making their rounds and picking up students. All the buses, except one.
Sometime before we reached the school, Lori changed clothes. I don’t even know when it happened. I was just walking along beside her and the next thing I knew she was dressed differently. She now wore jeans to match mine, faded with holes in the knees, fitting tightly to her small frame. For a top, it was a black t-shirt depicting a toilet with a knife sticking up where your butt was supposed to sit. Emblazoned across the shirt was the slogan, “Metal up your ass.” She still had on dark eyeliner and had added a dark purple to her lips, but now the hand drawn logo on the side of her face was a gold medallion with a big ‘WS’ in its center. Whitesnake.
“Um, are you feeling okay?” I asked.
She laughed. “Just thought I’d be a little different today. How does it look?”
“I like it,“ I said. “But it’s not you.”
She raised an eyebrow. “I didn’t realize you liked the old me.”
“Of course I did. It was who you are.”
“You didn’t pay attention to me before.”
I knew what she was getting at, and I couldn’t deny it. Sometimes we are prisoners of our own clique. Only hanging out with others who look like us, or enjoy the same things we do. Very rarely do we step outside our own social group to become friends with someone who isn’t us. In this, I guess Brian and Kelly had it right in believing they were above everyone else. At least they had the balls admit it. Most of us just lied about it.
“I’m sorry, “ I said. “I wish I’d taken the time to know you before now.”
“I wish you had too.” She looked at me. “But I understand. I wouldn’t have been caught dead walking to school with a boy who worships Bon Jovi.”
I protested. “I don’t worship him, and for the record, you are caught dead. So there.”
She grinned. “Smart ass.”
We turned the corner and the school loomed in front of us. To me, it reminded me of an insane asylum from which there was no escape. Here we were dead, and free from the sometimes painful high school experience, and we were walking right back into it. We must be either mad or bored, maybe a little of both.
“This is really weird,” she said, as we walked through the parking lot towards the building. I’m not sure if she meant the weirdness came from going to school as ghosts or from the fact a school bus drove right through us. You half expected everyone to see the world as we did, or at the very least to see us, but we were like shadows on a summer day, following behind the students as they got off the bus. I wondered if there were those among our peers who had the gift of feeling an unknown presence. If so, nobody ever gave it away. They were all oblivious to the fact ghosts walked among them.
The students seemed a bit subdued. Perhaps, it was the loss of classmates that had put a hush into the air. Maybe it was fear, the knowledge that no one knew how much time they had, that at any minute you could leave this world in unexpected ways. Being dead certainly made me appreciate living more.
“I wonder if the others are here yet?”
Lori’s question brought me out of my thoughts. “I don’t know. Everyone agreed to meet here. Maybe they’re inside already.”
“Never mind,” she replied, pointing to an incoming bus. Brian and Kelly were riding on top. If anyone were to make grand entrances, I suppose it would be them. Laughing and grinning atop their perch, I had to wonder how they may have spent the evening. Something told me they were making the most of our situation, and in a way I envied them, though I hated to admit it.
The bus stopped and dropped off its passengers, including Brian and Kelly, who drifted from the roof, through the interior, and were standing there on the pavement as it drove off. “Now, that’s the way to travel,” Brian said. “No more of that walking shit for me.”
I noticed right away that Lori hadn’t been the only one to change their appearance. Brian was wearing red leather pants and white ruffled shirt. He had teased his hair so one side was spiked and the other lay flat. He even had on eye shadow and lip gloss. He looked like he had just stepped out of a Duran Duran video.
Kelly had dumped the Madonna look in favor of Cyndi Lauper. She wore an old style red prom dress, was barefoot, and looked so weighed down with costume jewelry around her neck and arms that if she’d been alive it would have been tiring to carry. She was no longer blonde, but had seemingly sprayed her hair in a myriad of colors, so as to stand out even more in the ghost world. Bright red lipstick and pink mascara topped off her look, and together with Brian they looked like MTV’s version of what a new wave wedding would look like. I shook my head. To even think I’d ever crushed on her was a bizarre thought in itself. We’d come a long way since seventh grade, and to be honest, I was thankful.
“Oh come on,” Brian said, as they came up to us. “Are you going to wear the same old thing every day?”
“What’s wrong with what I wear?” I asked.
He laughed. “Everything. You got no style. Jeans and t-shirt every day. It’s so boring.” He looked at Lori, who of course, was now dressed similar to me. “Now it looks good on you. Real good.” He flashed her his most winning smile, right before the tree branch hit him in the back of the head. It wasn’t attached to the tree or anything. In fact, just moments ago, it had been lying on the ground at our feet, discarded from the storm, which had calmed down a little.
“Ow! Hey!” he exclaimed, spinning around to see what had hit him. The branch was in Kelly’s hand, and she was red-faced and furious. She knew she couldn’t lash out at him in anger with her fists, otherwise it would just pass through him, but it didn’t stop her from grabbing an object to do the job for her. I had to smile. It was a good day if it starts out with Brian being pummeled with a tree limb.
I looked to Lori and noticed she had changed back. Gone was the rocker chic look, replaced by her usual dark garb and makeup. The Metallica shirt was replaced by one which depicted an angel laying across a tombstone with the words “Love will tear us apart” across the top. Black stretch pants. Black hi-tops with gold glitter. And on her cheek ‘Joy Division’ had been etched in gray eyeliner. This was the Lori I knew. I smiled, but I knew why she changed. She didn’t want Brian’s attention at all. It helped remind her why she liked staying lost in the crowd.
I turned back to the warring couple. Kelly had put the branch down, but she was still mad that her boy toy had tried to find someone else to play with him. “Where’s Donald?” I asked.
“Who the hell cares? He wasn’t with us. Guess he went home to mama.”
“We were all supposed to meet back here.”
“So? I ain’t his keeper. I don’t even like the fat little bastard.”
I wanted to pick up a whole tree and hit him with it. Just when you thought he was on the verge of changing from who he had been, he said stuff to make me wish they would hurry up and find his body. I was clinching my fists and everybody saw it.
“You want a piece of me?” Brian asked, rising to the challenge. He stepped away from Kelly, as if he was still the living, breathing bully of the school.
“Don’t try to fight on my account,” Donald said, coming up behind us. “If I had my way about it Chris, he’d be dead.”
“Ha! I am dead,” Brian taunted.
“Not dead enough it seems.”
I wanted to tell them both to shut up about death. We were the way we were because someone killed us. But I didn’t tell them. Even when Don asked us what we found on the bus, I didn’t tell them the whole truth. In fact, I didn’t tell them much of the truth at all. I just said we were all still down there and that the bus had rolled or shifted away from the spot where it had went in.
“Did you see your own body, then?” Donald asked.
“I think so. I didn’t get a good look at the face.”
“Chicken shit, “ said Brian.
“Yeah, that’s me, “ I agreed. “You wouldn’t want to see your own face either if it meant the end of this, now would you, tough guy?” I waited for an answer, but I knew he couldn’t tell me truthfully. He was just as scared as I was. I turned around and walked in the direction of the school and its waiting front doors. I didn’t look back to see if the others were following.
I went through the front doors and stopped in the main hallway. Lori came up alongside me, as did the others. The five of us stood there, as students milled about us, heading to their lockers, classes, or perhaps the bathroom to get a smoke in before school started.
“Okay,” Lori said. “Time for some payback.”
“Alright!” Brian shouted, clapping his hands. “Who we paying back?”
Lori grinned. “Every filthy boy who walked these halls.”
“Huh?” Brian would never understand his real place in hierarchy of the female population.
Lori looked at Kelly. There was a mischievous glint in her eye. “Want to do an ass slap run?”
“I’m going to raid the boys locker room. They did it to the girls enough. I think it’s time they get their privacy violated.”
Kelly’s face lit up. “Hell yeah!”
Lori looked at us. “Sorry guys. You can’t come. It defeats the purpose.”
“I don’t want to smack no boy’s ass anyway. That’s stupid.”
“It wouldn’t be stupid if it was a girl though, right?”
He looked at Kelly and didn’t answer. My guess is he didn’t want to get hit with a tree limb again. “Whatever,” he sighed. He looked at Don and I. “What you guys doing?”
Donald shrugged as if undecided.
“I’m going to the guidance counselor’s.”
“What the hell for?”
“If there’s news to be discovered, that’s the place to hear it.”
Lori looked at me. “What about obscenities on the chalkboards?”
Lori frowned. “Sure you will. You’re too nice for that, I know.” Then she leaned close to me and whispered so the others wouldn’t hear. “But that’s okay. That s what makes you adorable.” I looked at her in surprise, but if I thought she meant anything by it, she deflated me quickly.
“For a big hair headbanger, that is.”
I watched her as she and Kelly walked down the hall, a bounce in both of their steps. Kelly knocked a purse off a girl’s shoulder, causing that girl to accuse another of messing with her, while Lori banged her fist against one of the metal lockers, right beside this big guy who nearly jumped out of his skin in fright. I couldn’t help but smile. They might be dead, but they never seemed more alive than now.