Time Of Our Death
By Paul D Aronson
I bolted towards the ambulance. It was still moving, though slowly through the crowded neighborhood streets. I wasn’t thinking about what would happen if I boarded the ambulance, only that something horrible had taken place. Kelly’s hysterical screams nearly buried Lori’s efforts to stop me.
“No, Chris!” She yelled, trying to grasp hold of me.
Just then, Kelly came out through the rear door, leaping to the pavement, and was running straight for us, as if we could protect her from whatever terror she had witnessed. Her eyes were brimmed with hysterical tears as she reached us.
“Oh my god!” She screamed.
“What is it?!” I asked in alarm.
“Oh my god,” she repeated. “It’s us!” She grabbed Lori. “Don’t let them take me. Please don’t. It’s us! I can’t believe it’s us!”
I turned my attention back to the ambulance just in time to see Brian exit, a look of fear on his face. Though he wasn’t as hysterical at Kelly, I knew that she was telling the truth about who was in the ambulance. He breezed past me and gently liberated Kelly from Lori.
“It’s okay, baby,” he told her, pulling her into his muscular, protective arms. “It’s going to be okay.”
“No, it’s not,” she cried. “I saw us. You saw us!” She began to look around, fearful eyes darting everywhere as if expecting hounds of hell to come drag her off screaming.
“Shh, baby. Shh.” He rocked her on the balls of her feet, and they seemed to sway slightly in the road, like they were the prom queen and king at the last dance.
I felt a light electrical charge growing in the air around us. I heard a sizzle, a crackling sound that told me the end was building up. Both Brian and Kelly’s hair seemed to stand on end like a science class experiment in static electricity. I could see Kelly draw further into Brian’s arms.
“Well, bro,” he said, looking over her shoulder at me. “I guess this is it.” He shook his head. “Who would have thought, huh? Of all the ambulances we could jump in it had to be that one. I guess fate has a funny sense of humor.”
“Yes it does, “ I agreed. “Listen, brian…”
“No, you listen to me now. Take Lori home. Don’t let her go in the middle of the street like this.”
There was a flash of static, and for a moment they looked like a negative image shot through with television interference. The moment passed and they were just Brian and Kelly again. The end seemed to be fighting them somehow. It wasn’t smooth and seamless the way Donald had been. Perhaps that was because he was ready, and they were not.
“It’s been real,” Brian said nervously.
“It’s been fun,” I added.
He smiled. “But it ain’t been real fun.”
I look at Lori and she rolled her eyes at his last opportunity for a joke.
He thrust his hand out and I looked at it for a second before grasping it with mine. “Wish we could have been friends earlier,” he said.
There was a loud pop in the air as if fate herself were trying to break through a wall to take our friends. The static started to build up around them visibly, and as Kelly finally turned to look at Lori and I , they reminded me of the couple from that A-ha video, going from real life into comic strip and back again. “Look us up sometime,” she said, in an attempt to be brave.
“We will,” Lori said. She leaned in and kissed her once enemy on the cheek. “Love you, sister.”
A new tear fell from Kelly’s face. Out of all the friends she once believed she had, the truest one had been someone she didn’t even like days ago. “Thank you,” she whispered. “Love you, too.”
Any other time and Brian would have made a crack about this exchange, but instead he beckoned me closer. He leaned his face close to my ear. If I thought he was going to say something equally mushy, I was wrong. It wouldn’t have been him anyway. Instead , he whispered his last words into my ear: “let us die young or let us live forever.”
I smiled and he looked at me with a question on his face. When I didn’t reply, he said, “Come on rock boy, you got to know that one.”
“Forever Young. Alphaville.”
“Well shit,” he mumbled. “I’ll trip you up one day, I guess.” Then he clutched Kelly to him, kissed her trembling lips, and began to softly sing another line from the song, “Let’s dance in style, let’s dance for awhile, heaven can wait, we’re only watching the skies…”
As the end came to claim them we could still hear them both singing, going into the great unknown together, as the energy of all they were was released from their ghostly frames and seemed to dissipate into the air like cigarette smoke under colored concert lights. We watched the beautiful colors – neon reds, blues , greens, and yellows – swirling in the air, as if someone had just swirled a paintbrush against invisible glass, and it was now running down the sky in ever changing rivulets as the colors blended and created new shades. As it was with Donald, we were seeing Brian and Kelly as they truly were. This was their energy, this was the color of their souls. Despite how they had been in life, how they had once treated others, this was the true beauty finally showing through. And as sad I was to see them leave this existence, I thought it was an amazing thing to witness. I looked at Lori, and she was in awe as well as the colors seemed to swirl and fade, until we stood there alone hand in hand, the last of the Dead Kids Rule gang.
Around us, the dead still wandered, seeking their homes, while unsuspecting trick or treaters went door to door themselves seeking the sugar fix the holiday brings. I looked at Lori again and saw a heavy sadness in her eyes. The loss of Brian and Kelly had affected us both in ways that were hard to describe.
“I think maybe I should take you home,” I finally said.
“Why?” She asked somberly.
“I just think you should be home among your loved ones when…you know.”
“I want to be with you.”
“I’ll stay with you, Lori. You don’t have to face this alone.”
“What about your folks?”
I thought about it for a minute. “I haven’t seen them since this happened. There’s no more time to look. If they cared, they would have been home.” I looked at her and gave her a reassuring smile. “You’re my home now.”
She reached for my hand. “Thank you, Chris.”
“For everything. You got us through all this as far as you could. I would have just given up and sat down waiting for the end to catch up with me. You kept me going. And you loved me.”
“Correction. I love you. Present tense. Future promise.” I leaned close to her and kissed her soft on the lips. “And whatever happens to us, wherever we end up, either together or apart, I will find you.”
She allowed my kiss to linger upon her mouth, and as all other thoughts seemed to fall away from me, there was still that lingering echo of Brian and Kelly singing Forever Young in my head.
We hitched a ride to her house with a group of giggling girls who were heading out to a party. Inside the blue VW bug they had the stereo cranked on the local top 40 station which was playing “Forever Live And Die” by OMD. I had to wonder if Death was just messing with us now, sending us messages within the music to say, ‘you don’t have forever, so get over it.’
Lori lay her head over on my shoulder as the song played, the other passengers oblivious to our presence. I had to marvel at the fact they were laughing and chatting and having a good time, completely unaware it seemed that life could be over just like that. If there was one I had learned in all this it was that life is short. We spent so much time just wasting it, waiting to grow up and be adults, that we didn’t take the time to truly live. We just breezed through the days, hoping to get to the next one without earning detention. Maybe Lori and I would have found each other sooner if we had just had our eyes open, instead of just looking at the ground and kicking along the sidewalk. Any of these girls in the VW could be gone tomorrow, and all they were concerned with, if one listened to their conversation, was how to get their makeup looking like Christie Brinkley.
We jumped ship when our ride was a couple blocks from Lori’s. We had no idea where the party was they were going to, and we didn’t want to end up even further away than we had been. We walked the rest of the way in near silence, each of us lost in our own separate thoughts. Though I was trying not to think about it, my mind kept returning to the bus and the fact they were even now pulling the bodies up. I wished I could have made a radio materialize out of thin air and find out what was going on.
Lori’s house wasn’t accepting trick or treaters. All the lights were off, signaling Halloween revelers to stay away. I guess her mom wasn’t in the festive mood with the loss of her eldest daughter and the departure of her husband, all within the space of a few days. We entered in through the closed front door and came into the foyer as we would have in life. The sound of both the television and a radio was coming from the living room, while another stereo upstairs blared out, “I Just Died In Your Arms” by Cutting Crew. Again, I was hoping Death wasn’t trying to send me a message.
We went into the living room first to discover a girl about Lori’s age watching TV. On the couch beside her she had a Sony Discman she was listening to with headphones over her ears. Her head was bobbing with the music only she could hear , but it sounded suspiciously like a muffled Debbie Gibson. As far as I was concerned, she could be kept muffled.
“Who’s this?” I asked.
“It’s my cousin Angie. I don’t know what she’s doing here though.” She sighed. “Mom must be gone again. Go figure.”
I was half listening. Instead I was focused on the television. School pictures of both Brian and Kelly were on the screen. A voice over was declaring them the latest identified victims of what was being referred to as the “Bay Bridge Tragedy.” Angie didn’t have the TV turned up very loud, so I moved closer to it to catch what was being reported.
“…were discovered under the bridge in what one of the divers has said was an emotional and moving scene.”
It switched from their school photos to the video image of a diver on the river bank, his wet suit still dripping wet and his face mask resting on top of his head so he could speak. “They were just sitting there under the water, “ he said. “Resting against one of the supports. She was sitting in his lap and he was holding her like they were two kids sneaking behind the bleachers, you know. I don’t know how the bodies stayed under so long without rising to the surface, but there they were. If it weren’t so tragic, it would be almost beautiful.” His voice choked up. “Young love. Makes me want to go home and hug the wife and kids.”
I looked at Lori. Despite being a little teary eyed, she was smiling. “They stayed together,” she said.
“Yeah. Forever young.”
“Forever young,” she agreed.
We returned our attention to the television which had switched back to a reporter saying more bodies had been found within the last few hours but had yet to be identified. We both looked at each other, that old fear creeping back.
A loud thud banged the ceiling above us. We both looked up, startled.
“What the hell was that?” Lori asked.
I didn’t know, but it sounded a lot like a body hitting the floor.