*Wow, I can’t believe I did it! I hit the 50k mark, and as I type this blog out I’m so excited that I completed NaNoWriMo during my very first attempt. For years, I had always put it off as this big impossible task, so I never even attempted it. But this year, after the suggestion was made to me by another writer, I started thinking on it more as something that could be achieved. I have never written a novel as fast as this, but having a word count deadline gave me something extra to work for. I’ll actually be sad when the month is completely over. Now, I haven’t officially validated my success through the NaNoWriMo site yet, but the Month is not over yet. I thought I’d get that word count a little higher while I continue to work on the novel. With that said, no I did not write a complete novel in 30 days, but I got over half of the way through it. The important thing, and what I’m being judged on, is the 50k word count, so I’m clearly happy with the results of this month. For those who have been following the story as I have been posting it, that is not going to change as we move into December. I plan on to keep writing this without taking a solid break until it’s finished. I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep up the momentum of November, but I’m going to certainly try and stay on the same writing schedule. I’ll also keep this story under the menu and title heading of My NaNoWriMo 2016 to make it easier to keep up, and so that any new readers can start from the beginning.
I have had a blast and thank you all for your support. Now here we go with Chapter 26….*
Time Of Our Death
By Paul D Aronson.
We spent the rest of the day having fun at the mall. For me it seemed like the last act of teenaged defiance. One of the guys I had partied with recently had a t-shirt emblazoned with a picture of this tiny mouse giving the middle finger to an eagle that was swooping down to eat him. That’s how I felt about our relationship with death. We were defying it every moment we spent here as ghosts. Soon, Death would tire of the game, and either we waited for him cowering in fear or give him a big “up yours.”
The five of us seemed to blaze a trail of pranks and confusion throughout the mall. Going through nearly every store, we did something to mark our visit. In one shop, Brian disrupted the security cameras long enough for Kelly to rearrange the window display mannequins into a rude scene of simulated sex. In another, Donald turned on all the faucets in the customer’s bathrooms and let them overflow. The store employees were none too happy.
Lori and I switched all the tags in a bridal shop, before moving on to a hair salon and removing the screws from the chairs. Then we sat down and watched the ensuing mayhem as patrons found themselves in the floor when their seats collapsed. The things teen ghosts do when they are bored and killing time.
Eventually, the five merry pranksters ended up at Layton’s Electronics, probably the largest shop in the mall. Here they sold the latest in technology for us to mess with, but before we could play any pranks I saw something on all the display televisions that stopped me in my tracks. There in big bold letters, caught on film for everyone to see, were the words “Dead Kids Rule.”
It was a news report shot live at the rescue squad earlier that morning. Scenes of our destruction intercut with the words I’d left behind soon faded, to be replaced with the newscaster out front of the building reporting that authorities believed it was the work of a teenaged gang bent on marking their territory.
“Whether this incident has any connection to search and find operations that are going on now to recover the bus that fell from Bay Bridge days ago has been unconfirmed. However, this is where most of the equipment for that operation was housed. Authorities are treating the vandalizing of the building behind me as serious, but are more focused on recovering all the bodies from the bus accident. There are still over half a dozen students that remain unaccounted for, but were confirmed to be on the bus. We should have more details on tonight’s evening news after the bus has been pulled from the river bed. In other news, Halloween preparations are well under way, as the youth of our town get ready for trick or treating excitement, starting with the annual All Hallows eve dance at Murray Senior High. ..”
We stood there for a moment, silent, all lost in our own thoughts. If the report was to be believed, they were getting very close. Kelly was on the verge of tears, and Donald was teary eyed as well. I don’t know when it happened, but at some point Lori had reached for my hand. Our fingers were barely touching, but the need for comfort and reassurance was there.
“It can be anytime now, I guess,” Brian flatly stated.
“What are we going to do?” Kelly asked.
“There’s not a lot we can do. They are going to pull that bus up no matter what we do and discover the truth.”
“Discover what truth?” Donald asked.
Lori squeezed my hand and then let it go. I turned to others. “I didn’t tell you guys because I wanted everyone to just go on living the best we could.”
“Tell us what?” Brian asked.
I sighed. “When Lori and I went down to the bus, we found something. It doesn’t look like what happened was an accident.”
Donald had a concerned , frightened look on his face. “What did it look like then?”
“I think someone planned it. Call it murder, homicide, whatever, but under that bus a lot of wires and lines were cut. I followed some of those lines to the brakes. I’m no mechanic but I think someone either severed them enough to break or they cut them completely.”
“Who would have done that?”
“I don’t know exactly, but I have a theory.”
“Alright, let’s hear it,” Brian demanded.
I told them first about Lori’s prophetic dream and the little clues it planted. They didn’t seem ready to accept that until I told them about the bug van, the flower shop lady and the work truck at the end of the bridge.”
“So you think it was some guy who drives for the exterminating company?” Donald asked.
“I think it’s a possibility. The news said there was a witness to phone in it. I saw no one else around. The driver of the truck could either have driven to a phone booth and made that call, or maybe called his dispatcher on the radio if they have them in their vehicles.”
“That doesn’t make him….the killer.”
“No it doesn’t. But this flower shop lady. When we saw her leaving the theater she was distraught over the fact a child , or child in the making, had died in the movie. She’s here in the flower shop now and she still looks visibly upset.”
“Maybe she had kids on the bus with us, “ Kelly reasoned.
“Or she felt guilty about kids on the bus,” Brian added. “Okay, I follow you, I guess. It’s very loose connections but its worth looking in to.”
“Yet we don’t have much time,” Lori said.
Donald nodded his head in agreement. “Where’s the flower lady? We can wait until she gets off of work and follow her.”
“Yeah, maybe we can learn something from her.”
“And what if we don’t?” Lori asked. “What if we learn nothing from her? What if she is just upset over her own children or something? What if the truck on the bridge was just a witness and nothing more? Then all our running around after them will be a waste of time.”
“Don’t you care that we died, you stupid witch?” Kelly asked, anger in her voice.
“Yes I do, “ she answered “But I care more that we are here right now. This may not be living. This may not be life. But it’s the closest we’ll be to it ever again, and I want to hold on to it.” A tear dropped from her eye and ran down her cheek. “You had everything in life, Kelly. I had nothing. But now, I have something. I have a reason to want to live and I don’t want to see it fade away before my eyes like Reginald did. If we find out what happened to us, it’s the end. The wrong that was done will be resolved, and we will be nothing but fucking vapor.”
“Lori..” I said, reaching for me, but she turned away and walked away from us all, her head in her hands. I looked at everyone else. “She’s right. I spent a lot of time dwelling on this, wanting to figure out who did this to us, but in the end it doesn’t matter. Its not going to change the facts. It might bring the killer to justice, but that will do absolutely nothing for us.”
“You should have told us sooner, “ Brian said. “We could have done something before now.”
“Yeah, I know. I’m sorry. I didn’t think it out. I just wanted everyone to enjoy what was left.”
Donald put his hand on my shoulder. “Thank you, Chris.”
“For letting us forget and just live.”
I shook my head. “My reasons were selfish,” I admitted, and then went to join Lori.
Lori had returned to the flower shop. She sat on a bench right outside, where she could see the flower lady at work. “Look at her,” she said, as I sat down beside her. “I’m just like her.”
“Look at her face. Its written all over it. Her sorrow. Her grief. She has nothing left but these flowers. And when she picks one she likes…” She hesitated and looked at me. “…it eventually withers and dies, no matter what she does to keep it.”
“Are you saying I’m a flower now?”
“Maybe a scraggly looking one, but a flower just the same.” She leaned her head over on my shoulder.
“I found a flower too, you know. And to keep it alive, I’ve been trying to keep it in water.”
She sniffled. “I know. Thank you.”
“I just thought if we could find the killer it would delay them. That they would focus on him, instead of us. But I know I’m just fooling myself. The inevitable truth is we don’t have long. So, how about we go look for costumes for the dance, hmm? We can at least try to get that in before someone stomps on our flowers.”
I couldn’t see her face because of how it lay against my shoulder, but I could feel her smile spread gently across my skin.
“You know, I went by your house last night,” Donald said, minutes later when he found us. “No one was home.”
“Yeah, “ I replied quietly. “I haven’t been spending much time there.”
He sat down next to us. Lori’s head was still over on my shoulder, and he looked at her. “Don’t worry, Lori. I have a feeling you guys will get through this okay. Just stick together and wherever you end up, there you’ll both be.”
“Donald, the poet, “ I said.
“Hey, somebody has to do it. You might be able to play guitar , but you can’t write a love song worth shit.”
I opened my mouth to protest. I wanted to say he had the wrong idea about us, that it wasn’t like that, we were just friends. But he would have just laughed and said, sure you are. So I kept my mouth shut and smiled a little bit inside.
“My mom is starting to do better, “ Don said, changing the subject. “I worry what will happen when they find us, though. I won’t be here to help her, I don’t guess.” He was silent for a moment. “But maybe that’s the way its supposed to be.”
Lori raised her head from my shoulder. “How did this conversation go from love songs to grieving mothers in two seconds?”
“Sorry.” Don shrugged. “What I was trying to say in a roundabout way was we know how the rest of our parents are doing, but Christopher’s folks are missing in action.” He looked at me. “When I went there last night, it didn’t look like they’d been there for days. No food in the garbage cans. Mail uncollected. Newspapers piling on the porch. It’s weird.”
“Yes it is,” I agreed. While all the other parents were fighting their way through the loss of their children, mine were just gone. While we’d always had what I thought of as a normal family life, this was not normal. Something was wrong or off. How could they just disappear like that? That mystery to me was more baffling than the mystery of who killed us. “Maybe they just don’t care, “ I reasoned aloud, and no one knew what to say. Not even Brian and Kelly who finally rejoined our ragtag bunch of dead kids. I looked around at everybody. At least I had this. We may not all have been the best of friends in life, but in death we were changing, becoming closer, and leaving all that social order bullshit behind.