Tag Archives: novels

NaNoWriMo update 10 days in…

Okay, as I said I would do, here’s an update on my National Novel Writing Month progress. Unfortunately, my progress seems very slow for this year’s event. Here we are at Day 10 and I’m sitting at just under 5,000 words. My personal goal is 1,000 words a day, so we can see I’ve only accomplished half of that. The NaNoWriMo website has a goal of around 1700 words a day in order to complete a 50k novel. It looks like I might not even hit half of that this time. But hey, the good news is I’m writing.

Several factors have impacted my output. One is I have two little babies to help take care of which limits the time and length at which I can write. I am writing literally a few sentences at a time. Another factor is I’m writing outside my comfort zone. While I’m writing under a similar theme to my Vampire Boys Of Summer , I am attempting several things I have not done in the form of a long story. One is that every long form story I’ve written to date has been told in the first person. The gender may change but the pov is always first person. For NaNoWriMo I have decided to throw that out and try a different format. I find I’m spending more time on writing just a few sentences because of that.

Still another factor has played into my slow progress. A current event happened a few days ago in the news that took me by surprise because it had similarities to something I had planned for what I’m writing. It kind of upset and discouraged me and I briefly considered abandoning this whole project. It took those couple of days to decide to keep soldiering on. I may change some aspects of my plot because of it, but I still feel I have a worthwhile story in there somewhere.

Anyway, that’s all my excuses for my poor output so far this month. I guess there’s still time to turn it around, so wish me luck. Hopefully, next update will sound more promising. Until then, I leave you with this piece of encouragement if you are currently struggling with a project: There is no wrong way of writing. As long as you have pen to paper you are a writer. And there is no correct way to tell a story. Be a rebel, break rules, step outside your comfort, have your characters make you cringe. Whatever it takes to impact the page, just do it. If you have to, attach a note to your mirror that says, “today is my best writing day ever” and then challenge yourself to make that so.

See you next time 🙂

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Vampire Boys Of Summer: Chapter 27

Vampire Boys Of Summer  Main Page

Chapter 27: Angela & Rabid Arithmetic

As I dressed for school, Haru gave me the rest of the details of my father’s murder. After all, that’s what it was. Cold, calculated murder designed to send the message: Those who hunt vampires will die. They had strung up my father in his room, looped the rope up through the ceiling and wrapped it around the heating duct. According to Haru, they had also bit him in the neck and wrists in order to bleed him out, but they didn’t drink his blood. This made me think of my jigsaw man dream days ago with dad hanging on a cross in the school auditorium. In the vision, vampires had drunk from the students but wouldn’t touch his blood, as if it would leave a bad taste in their mouths. It was then I thought of Mom in a dead sleep having some of her blood sucked out by Jake.

“Where’s my mother?”

“She’s okay,” Haru replied. “Tomoko stitched her up. Told her she took a fall.”

“How do you pass off vampire bites as a fall?”

Haru grinned. “My uncle’s powers of persuasion are unmatched.”

He didn’t need to explain further. If Ryo could almost get into my head and make me do and feel things, then the older vampires probably had it honed to an art.

“She won’t become a vampire, will she?”

Haru raised an eyebrow, as if to say, what’s wrong with being a vampire, and then smiled. “No, she’ll still be human. They didn’t take enough blood from her. She might be physically weak for awhile, but it will pass. I can’t say the same for her attacker.”

I shuddered at the memory of Jake exploding when the vampire poison had passed to him through my mother’s blood.

“You should shudder for Ryo,” Haru said. “He’s the one who had to clean up the mess.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Not your fault, Nora. You’re not the one who sent them after you.”

“Who did?”

“We don’t know yet. Finding the master of a vampire clan is not always easy.”

I looked at him. “Well, they found your uncle Tomoko easy enough.”

He smirked. “He’s not the master of our clan.”

I was surprised. “Can I ask who is?”

He hesitated a moment, as if weighing his options. “It’s best you don’t know. The name could be coaxed out of you by your father’s killers, and then we’d all be in jeopardy.”

I was disappointed he couldn’t trust me with this, but I understood. I sat on the edge of my bed and laced up my Chucks. I wondered what in the hell I was doing. I mean, dad had just been killed by vampires and I was getting ready to trudge off to school as if it were nothing. I wasn’t even sure if mother would let me out the door considering the circumstances. She wasn’t aware I had bad bloodsuckers after me, but despite that I needed time to mourn. Everyone who has ever lost someone knows it takes time before you can move beyond the death and carry on. Perhaps Haru had seen so much of it that it was just another day to him. Maybe death didn’t faze him or his kind for they had cheated it.

I tried to tell him how I was feeling. He seemed sympathetic to my feelings of loss, but he did take mild exception to how I perceived his family. “We didn’t cheat death. No one does. It catches up to us all one day.”

“Your vampirism doesn’t give you immortality?”

“It gives us the illusion of it. I will die someday, of this I’m sure. Perhaps it may be at the hands of enemies, or maybe even my own, but the truth is no one lives forever. Through our curse, death is held at bay, and we live longer than humanity should allow, but God will not be mocked. Our judgement will come eventually.”

I didn’t know what to say. I guess I assumed Haru, Ryo, and the others were eternal creatures. To know they would all die one day made me sadder than I had been before.

“Oh don’t fret for us, Nora. In this sense we are just like you and want to live life to the fullest.” He approached me on the bed and knelt in front of me. He took my hand in his. “I’d like to live mine with you , if you don’t mind.”

My breath caught in my throat. There’s a certain tone that overcomes his voice when he is talking of romantic things. I can’t explain it, but it sends a rush through me, a warmth that courses through my body, making me want his kisses more than anything.

“I want that, too,” I whispered. I closed my eyes and welcomed his gentle kiss. Going to school was forgotten. You see, time stands still for lovers, even if they are on the brink of their own destruction.

I did make it for the last day of school, but I was a little late. Time may stand still sometimes, but it speeds to catch up eventually. Because of that, I missed the bus. I probably could have gotten mom to take me, but Haru offered to give me a ride. I don’t think he was worried I would run into trouble on the way. I think he just thought it was the gentlemanly thing to do. He may have embraced a modern attitude about some things, but he still had this old world way of thought. I really liked that about him. It was a quality that no one else had, not even Ryo.

Haru kissed me when we pulled up in front of school and told me I didn’t really have to be here if I didn’t want to. We could just as easily go back home. He seemed to understand the dilemma of going to classes the morning after a parent had died.

“No,” I told him. “I need to do this. Dad wouldn’t want me to be sitting around and moping. He’d want to me to be preparing for the invasion he was talking about. We need to know if anything else happened last night and if any of the others involved in the attack show up for school.”

He smiled and nodded. “You always impress me, Nora. Your resilience and strength is to be commended.”

“I wouldn’t be strong without you,” I replied, getting out of the car. I walked around to the driver’s side and leaned inside his window. “A kiss for luck, please.”

He obliged me, his lips full upon my own. With Haru’s kisses I felt like I could face anything. But it made me wonder what he was going to face.

“What are you going to do today?” I asked.

“Ryo and I are going grocery shopping.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Grocery shopping?”

“Yes. It’s time to find that Bram guy your dad was talking about. It all started with that confrontation. If we can find him, maybe we can find the one behind your father’s killing and the attack on you.”

“Please be careful.”

“I will. Say hello to Angela for me.”

Angela. In all the madness of last night, I had forgotten about her. Last time we had spoke it hadn’t ended on good terms. I hadn’t wanted her to go see Ryo, but she had misunderstood my reasons. Even now though, I thought my reasons had been stupid. I wanted to protect her, but I should have stayed out of her attempts at a love life. Maybe I was jealous in a way. Maybe for once I had wanted to be the one to have a boyfriend, and for her to be the loner. I needed to stop being selfish and let her do exactly as she wanted. She’d find out Ryo was a vampire soon enough. How she handled that when the time comes would be up to her.

I smiled at Haru. “I’ll tell her hi, but I don’t know if she’ll show up today. She’s notorious for skipping.”

“I don’t think you’ll have to worry about that.” He turned his head towards the school and nodded.

I followed his gaze and saw Angela come out the front doors to stand at the top of the stairs, as if she had been waiting for me to arrive. I gave Haru a quick kiss and walked around the car to start up the walk towards her. She came down the steps, a sympathetic look on her face. At first there were no words, just a hug followed by tears. I cried in her long blond hair, and she in turn wet the side of my cheek.

“I’m so sorry,” she said. “Mom saw it on the news this morning.”

I didn’t know what to say. “Thank you,” was all I could come up with.

“I should have been there for you,” she continued.

I pulled away from her. “I should have been there for you, too,” I replied, wiping my tears with the back of my hand. “I was a jerk to you the other day. I’m sorry.”

“I was a bigger jerk,” she replied. “Forgive me?”

“No, you forgive me first,” she insisted.

“Uh-uh, you first.”

She grinned. “No way, bitch. Forgive me first.”

We both laughed at our playful argument and knew there was no forgiveness necessary. We’d always be besties. Nothing was going to change that, not even boys.
Entering school together, we both noticed something was off. I mean we knew it was the last day of school, and some of our peers and classmates would be trying to start summer break early, but there was now a large number of students that were absent. I knew the most likely reason for this, but I couldn’t confide in Angela about it, bestie or not. I had promised Haru I’d keep their secrets.

The first ones we noticed missing were the football team. Of course, I knew that at least some of them had been part of last night’s attack on Haru’s house, but today the whole team was absent, including the coach and his assistant.

“That’s weird,” Angela said, and at first I thought she was talking about the jocks, but she pointed down the hall to Mr. Sharp’s math class. A bunch of students were standing out in the hall talking in curious, worried tones, strange bewildered looks on their faces. A few of them, girls mostly, looked like they would hurl up their breakfast any moment. We hurried down the hall to see what was happening.

Maneuvering through the crowd in the doorway, I managed to get a look inside the room. Mr. Sharp sat behind his desk. On your average day he was a well dressed, perfectly groomed kind of man. Suit, tie, clean shaven, not a hair out of place. Young and good looking, he was popular with the female students. Today however, he was different. He looked rough. Clothes disheveled, hair a mess as if he had pulled clumps of it out, unshaven beard with what looked to be bits of food clumped in it. But perhaps it wasn’t food in the normal sense, for he sat there with a half eaten rat hanging out of his mouth, gnawing on it like a ravenous, rabies infested dog.

“Oh My God,” Angela whispered under her breath, coming up alongside me. “What the hell is wrong with him?”

“I don’t know,” I muttered in reply, but all I could think of was Renfield in Dracula. Had Mr. Sharp been turned into a vampire’s servant? Or was this the ugly process of turning into a bloodsucker? First rats, then humans?

As if he knew my thoughts, the math teacher looked up and made eye contact. His pupils clouded over and a slow grin began to spread across his face. “Nora,” he garbled, his voice sounding like he was drowning in water.

“Uh oh,” I said and backed out of the doorway, just as he leaped on top of his desk. With a big gulp, he swallowed the rest of the rat and jumped off the desktop, heading for me. Students screamed and bolted in every direction. He came out into the hallway, snarling and foaming at the mouth. Angela shoved me out of the way and snarled back at him, like you would a dog that had run out of its yard to chase you on your bike. He was distracted long enough for me to get my back pack off and swing it at him. Laden with books, it connected with his head. The force was enough to knock him off his feet. He nearly did a somersault on his way to the floor. Angela took several steps towards him, her short black skirt swirling about her legs. She put a well placed kick right in his groin, and while it may have slowed him down, he soon recovered and was getting to his feet again.

“Icarus,” he growled in a tone of contempt, pushing her to the side and launching himself towards me again. This time however, he was taken down by two teachers who had come running up the hallway. They tackled him and pinned him to the floor. He writhed and squirmed in their grasp, snapping his teeth at them. I figured it wouldn’t be long before he was up again and coming for me. The teachers were strong, but there was no holding a madman. He needed a sedative and I didn’t think the school nurse had anything like that. Still, she came running, along with our guidance counselor, Miss Thomas.

“What is going on here?!”

I turned to answer Miss Thomas, and the rabid math teacher broke free. Flinging the other teachers from him as if they were fifty pound weaklings, he was at me before I even knew it. He grabbed me by my shoulders and shook me. “Soon it will be your turn,” he snarled in a low voice only I could hear. “You will be the slave, groveling at the feet of my master.”

“Your master is a coward,” a voice said from behind him. Before anybody knew what was happening, the speaker wrapped their arms around Sharp’s head and squeezed. His eyes started to roll up in his head and he let me go. Chi tightened her grip, enfolding him within her arms so much you could barely see his face. You could almost hear the air escaping his body in a gasp for breath. Within seconds his body went limp and he collapsed in her arms. She eased him to the ground where he lay still and unconscious. Chi wiped her hands on her skin tight leather pants and with a toss of her long shimmering tresses said, “You’re getting to be high maintenance, Nora.”

Everyone in the hallway was stunned. Rendered mute, they all just stared at Chinatsu, until finally she shrugged and explained with a playful smirk, “I watch wrestling on the weekends.”

Miss Thomas regained her composure and began to take charge, telling the students to go on to their classes, now that the excitement was over. Then she approached us, her eyes taking in Chi in a suspicious manner.

“Thank you, young lady,” she said. “That was some quick thinking and a very brave thing to do. I don’t believe I have seen you here before. What’s your name?”

The Japanese vampire put on her most gracious smile without showing her fangs. “I just started last week. I’m Chinatsu, but my friends call me Chi. You can call me Chi, too.”

I didn’t know if she used some kind of vampiric hypnosis, but her response and tone seemed to take the suspicion right out of the guidance counselor.

“Oh well, thank you for your assistance in handling….” She looked at the unconscious Mr. Sharp, who was now being lifted from the ground by the two teachers, and didn’t know how to finish her sentence.

“No problem,” Chi replied. “It’s surprising what you pick up after eight hundred years of high school.”

I didn’t know if she was making a crack at the middle aged Miss Thomas or poking fun at her own experience as one of the undead, but either way, everyone couldn’t help but laugh. It was especially good for me having feared for my life just minutes ago.
“Vampire Boys Of Summer”  2016, 2017 Paul D Aronson. All Rights Reserved.

Advocate For The Dead Chapter 2: Summer’s Grave

Advocate For The Dead: Main Page & Table Of Contents

Chapter 2: Summer’s Grave

It was mid-afternoon when we reached the cemetery. I opted to walk instead of drive, because drivers who seemingly talk to themselves make others on the road a little nervous. But no one pays attention to a man walking down the street holding conversations with no one. They just figure you for another crazy street person.     I have often wished that others could see what I see. The dead walking among us, wondering where to go and how they ended up in this state of non-being. But it’s not like I see them everywhere. I can’t see every dead person, only those connected to me, either in present life or the past. In fact, I wouldn’t be able to see Miss Summer if she hadn’t come to see me. By walking through my office door she made the connection that now binds us. Any other way and I would be oblivious to her standing there.

Still I can feel the dead around me. Obviously, I can’t see them all, but I know they are there. If they don’t consciously connect with me, they will remain just a feeling, the notion that someone is out there fumbling around in the dark. It’s confusing I know, but you aren’t the one who feels what they do when they brush by me. In the early days it was hard not to jump out of my skin when death passed by. Now it doesn’t faze me. Often I feel them long before they’re even here.

Summer couldn’t see them either. She was new at this, lost in her own experience. Unless the spirits made a connection with her, she’d be just like me, walking blind to all the death around us. It’s scary to think of all these ghosts swirling around you day in and day out, and yet you can’t see them. If you think it’s rough for me, imagine how it must be for them. No wonder most spirits go mad after several months of banging around…

New Sutcliffe only had four cemeteries. Summer’s grave wasn’t at the first one we came to. This kind of surprised me, as spirits who are confused usually don’t stray too far from their final resting place. We wandered through the cemetery, me waiting to see if anything sparked a memory inside of her, and her looking to me as if her tombstone was going to reach out and touch me. One thing could be deduced from our walk through though. Summer obviously wasn’t catholic, as this was the graveyard of the local diocese. The next cemetery was only five blocks away so it didn’t take long to get there. Unfortunately, the search there was fruitless and time consuming as well. Though I was more familiar with City Cemetery, and knew my way around it, I felt we were going in circles. All the graves here were old, and we were looking for something fresh. Her grave would be fresh dirt packed down with no grass. Maybe just a temporary marker, as tombstones often had to be ordered and took some time to erect. I was of the opinion that Summer hadn’t been wandering around for long. I told myself that if we didn’t find her grave before evening, then tomorrow we would hit the library and check newspaper obituaries.

By late afternoon, we were at cemetery number three and hit pay dirt. I should have known. The wife once told me third time’s the charm. Bitch. No, that’s not true. Lacey’s a good girl. It’s just when we split she took pretty much everything with her. I guess she figured she didn’t want to come back in case she forgot something, and so she packed everything in bags and took off one night while I was at work. But hey, I don’t hold any grudges; I call her bitch because that’s what her keychain says. I still have that thing in a drawer somewhere. It’s funny how we don’t like to let go of the little things when a relationship’s over.

Wheaton Cemetery is a relatively new place. It’s not one of the old graveyards like City Cemetery, the catholic graveyard or Everest Gardens. We used to make fun of the latter as a kid. Everest. Get it? Ever Rest. Yeah, I guess you’re still with me.

A wrought iron fence surrounded Wheaton. Not one for entrances, I just climbed the thing. Summer walked through it. Being a spirit does have its small advantages.

“Does anything look familiar?” I asked, as we stood in the grass, looking out over the flat expanse of the memorial garden. My eyes searched the tombstones and statuary around us, most of them so new you could still read the writing on them from a distance. I imagine most of the folks here were still wondering where to go to. I wondered briefly if they were watching us. I’m sure they were. Someone always is.

“No,” Summer said. “I can’t remember. I don’t even remember them burying me.”

“Well, not many spirits do,” I told her. “We’ll just take a walk around and see if anything comes to you, okay?”

“Okay.”

We stepped onto the gravel drive that went around the graveyard and began to walk.

“So Miss Summer, do you remember anything about your life? What you were like? Your friends? Were you in love? Any enemies?”

She shook her head. “Everything is so cloudy and vague. I remember my parents clearly. My home, my bedroom…All that is clear, as if it’s something I am always meant to remember.”

“Family ties are often the strongest.”

“But other things aren’t clear at all. I think I was in love. At least once anyway. But I can’t remember their face. I can’t even recall the name of a single friend. And if I had enemies… well, they are missing from my memory too. Will it ever come back to me, all these lost memories?”

“Summer, this isn’t a very easy thing to grasp, but from the moment of our death, things slip away from us. Some things leave rapidly. Other things take their time. This is why family memories are the last to go. They are often the strongest. Whether your family life was good or bad doesn’t matter, it just kind of sticks to your soul.”

“So once the memories are gone, they are gone forever?”

“On this plane of existence, yes. I suppose you could make new memories if you stuck around long enough, or you could possibly trigger the old ones if put into the same situation, but for the most part they are gone.”

She looked about ready to cry. Most spirits are broken by such notions that their old life is fading away. I can’t say I blame them, but there is good news. “Summer, the memories are still there, you just can’t get to them. Look at it this way, when you die you are separated from a flesh and blood existence. You have no discernible form. The same way is with memories. You are separated from them, but just as you’ll have a new form when you move from this state of limbo you’re in, so will your memories return.”

“So how do I get out of this limbo, as you call it, and go on to wherever I’m supposed to go?”

“Well, it’s hard to say. It’s different for everyone. We must find out why you are still here before we can find out what you need to do to find your way. If we could find your grave, maybe we could trigger one of those memories and start to find out what happened to you.”

She smiled at me, and for a spirit it was almost inviting. “So, how did you get into this line of work, Mr. Winter?”

I hesitated for a second, but there was no sense hiding it. “Someone close to me died. Painfully.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Yes, me too,” I said. “But after they died, their spirit lingered and eventually found its way back to me. I’ve been trying to help the dead ever since.”

“But why can you see spirits and others can’t?”

“I’ve always had an affinity with the spirit world for some reason. When I was a kid my grandmother called me on the phone.”

She looked at me questioningly.

“She called me AFTER she died.” I let that sink in for a minute. “As a teenager my best friend was killed in a car accident. I was at the scene and could see him leave the body.”

“You saw him go to heaven?”

“No, not exactly.” I didn’t want to tell her how the scavenger dogs had come down the street, slavering for his soul, or how he had looked right at me as they dragged him kicking and screaming to…well you know the place, no need for me to say it.

“But I have always known of the spirit world,” I continued. “Every now and then someone from there would connect with me. I figured the least I could do is try to help them.”

“Try?’

“Sadly, I can’t always help them. I may not even be much help to you. I have had my share of failures.”

“I know you won’t fail me,” she said, and gave me a reassuring smile. She went to touch my hand and it passed right through me. I jerked back, because I could almost feel it, a longing that passed through the air, a desire for human contact, for affection within a touch.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.” I looked at her hand. “You just freaked me out that’s all.”

“Not many dead girls try to hold your hand, do they?” she giggled.

“No, not many,” I agreed. It was a very awkward moment, and made me think of Lacey. When was the last time I held her hand? Was one of the reasons she left because I stopped sharing quietly romantic moments like that with her? Maybe I should ask her next time I see her if she’s not too pissed off.

We had nearly walked the entire cemetery road without anything coming to her, when suddenly she said, “Stop.” She looked around us, as if searching for something in particular.

“You remember something, Summer? Anything looking familiar?”

“Someone is here,” she whispered quietly. “Watching us.”

“I imagine so. This is a new cemetery. A lot of recent souls here, I would imagine.”

“No, this isn’t a soul. This person isn’t dead.”

I took a closer look around, suddenly alert. All I saw were trees, gravestones, flowers, and concrete angels. “I don’t see anyone,” I said.

“He’s coming,” she hissed and hid behind a tombstone. I thought that was kind of funny.

“I’m the only live person who can see you,” I reminded her and then she screamed. I spun on my heel and was confronted by a man with a scraggly day old beard in a long gray coat. He held a shovel in his hand.

“Who you talking to?” he asked gruffly. I had to fight the urge to point to Summer, whom I knew he couldn’t see.

“Nobody. Just talking to myself.”

“What you doing in here?” he asked, with a bit of menace in his voice. “We’re closed.”

“Closed?” I looked at my watch. It read four o’ clock.. “Since when does a public cemetery close during daylight hours?”

“Repairs,” he answered gruffly. “Somebody dug some folks up.”

“You mean someone vandalized some graves?”

“Mmm-hmm. Stole a body, too.”

“Where was this?”

The man looked at me suspiciously. “Why you want to know?”

I pulled my card and flashed it at him, hoping the only thing he’d see was “Investigations”. I’ve gotten quite good at doing that, so that most people see it and automatically think I’m still law enforcement.

“Over here,” he finally said, and led me across the cemetery grounds. I looked back and saw that Summer was following us, still ducking in and out from behind gravestones. It looked quite comical and I laughed. The man glanced back at me, a look of pathetic disgust on his face. He shook his head; I guess he figured I had to be crazy to be in a cemetery talking to myself in the first place.

Something told me the grave was hers before I even saw the temporary marker. Someone had dug it up all right. The empty coffin was exposed, its top lying on its side. I looked at the name etched onto the marker. Summer Lynn Dennings. I turned to look at her. She had come out from hiding and walked up behind me. “Well, looks like you were of drinking age,” I said, pointing to the date on the headstone. “Twenty-two years old.”

Her voice nearly choked in her throat. “Lot of good that does me now.”

The graveyard man didn’t hear her, but he certainly heard me and was giving me this look that said, ‘Good thing I have this shovel to protect me from this nut bag.’

I peered over into the empty coffin before looking at the man, who was leaning on the shovel. “Was this the only one?”

“Yup. It’s the only body they took. Knocked over some headstones, spray painted some others.”

“Spray painted?”

“Yeah, typical kids stuff.”

I looked down in the grave at the coffin again. It was certainly empty of its occupant , but for a moment I thought I noticed something shiny inside, reflecting off the velvet lining . So I jumped in.

“Holy… what the hell you doing?” the man exclaimed.

I was in the coffin, down on one knee. I looked up to see both he and Summer looking at me with curious faces. The cemetery man clearly thought I was a kook, but the dead girl beside him had her hand up to her mouth as if to stifle a sob. I felt around the coffin liner. I didn’t know what I was looking for, but I knew I had seen something there. Finally, my hand brushed against something in the lining. Something that had fallen from the dead person’s body as it was being removed. Or perhaps it was something from the person who had stolen her. Either way, it was a ring on a broken chain. A simple band of fake gold. Inscribed inside were the words “Summer, love Jeff.”

I held it up. “This yours?” I asked her.

“Nope, not mine,” the gravedigger said.

Summer smiled. “Yes, I think it was. I think I remember it.”

I nodded. We had finally made good progress in our tour of cemeteries. We had her name. We had a ring from her beau. And now we were getting somewhere…

“Advocate For The Dead” 2017 Paul D Aronson. All Rights Reserved.

NaNoWriMo 2016: Time Of Our Death Chapter 37

Time Of Our Death

By Paul D Aronson

Thirty-Seven

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.

“Me too.”

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.”

“What for?”

“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.

 

+ +++

 

 

 

NaNoWriMo 2016: Time Of Our Death Chapter 35

Time Of Our Death

By Paul D Aronson.

Thirty-Five
Before we left my parent’s house, I briefly considered leaving a note. Donald had done it for his mother. Lori had done it for her sister. I guess the only thing holding me back from doing the same was the fact I didn’t know what had happened to my folks, or even where they were. Did they even care that I was dead? We had gotten along during what little interaction we actually had, but to just disappear when their only son is reported being missing, and almost certainly dead, was beyond me. To say it hurt would be an understatement, and so I didn’t leave any messages.

The first thing I noticed when we got outside was the sound of the dog barking. I don’t know how long he’d been going off like that, but the tone was unmistakable. It was Jake. Glancing around I noticed the house next door had a high wooden privacy fence. The bark was coming from behind it. 

Lori and I passed through the fence, proving there is no privacy when ghosts are on the prowl. Once again, Jake saw us and ran to our sides. We took turns petting him, as his nub of a tail wagged furiously. I looked up at the house. Why in the world was Jake being kept in the neighbor’s backyard? 

When I voiced this out loud, Lori suggested they were watching and feeding him while my parents were gone. If that were the case I reasoned, they must be out of town, and perhaps the neighbors were the ones collecting the mail and papers. But how could they both just leave during this kind of crisis? It still didn’t make much sense. 

The back door of the house opened and a man stepped out. “Jake?! What’s going on out here, boy? Come here.” 

Jake looked at him and then back at me as if he were unsure to go to him or remain at my side. He wagged his tail, and I offered him a reassuring smile. 

“What are you looking at, Jake?” The man came down the back steps and began crossing the yard towards us.  

“Go on, Jake. It’s okay,” I said. “Let him take care of you now.” 

My long time pet and companion obeyed, bounding off towards the man. It was a strange moment. Most boys grieve the loss of their dogs. Their favorite pet dies and they have to bury him in the backyard. With tears, they say their childlike goodbyes, hoping there is perhaps a dog heaven somewhere. But with Jake, I was the one who died. It was I who had to console him and let him know everything was going to be alright. Watching him interact with someone else, in this case our neighbor, let me know he was going to be okay. He would be fine without me.  

Lori and I went back through the fence. Out in the yard I looked over at my house one more time. In life, I had never looked at things with the sense I would never see them again. But time was catching up to us, and everywhere I looked I saw all the things I would miss soon. Turning to look at Lori, I realized that out of all the things I had known, I would miss her the very most, unless we were allowed to step into the ultimate end together. All I knew is I didn’t want to go anywhere without her. Perhaps that’s what falling in love is all about: realizing you cannot exist without the other.  

“Look,” Lori said, bringing me out of my reverie.  

Brian and Kelly were walking across the road toward us. It was apparent Kelly had been crying, and Brian too looked visibly upset. In fact, he looked sort of mad. 

“We got problems,” he said. 

“What’s going on?” 

“It’s Donald.” 

“What about him?” 

“I think he’s gone to bring us up.” 

“Why?” I asked, suddenly alarmed. 

“I don’t know. He came out of his house saying everyone would be fine without us, and that this wasn’t right. We weren’t supposed to be here kind of shit.” 

“He said he was going to fix it so everyone would be where they are supposed to be,” Kelly interjected. 

“Did he go to the river?” I asked. 

“Looks that way,” Brian replied. “I tried to stop him. Talk him out of it. He wouldn’t listen. Said we were disobeying the laws of nature just by being here. I think he’s lost it.” 

“Damn,” I muttered. “I guess he’s tired of waiting. He’s miserable about all this.” I took each one of them in one by one. Lori. Brian. Kelly. “We’ve all done well through this. We have something to hold on to. Despite the situation, we have discovered a certain happiness. Donald’s not happy.” 

“But we forgave him,” Kelly said. “There’s nothing for him to be feeling bad about anymore.” 

“I guess forgiveness doesn’t remove guilt. He just wants it to be over. He hasn’t found the same bliss we have.” 

“So, what do we do? If he brings our bodies up, it’s all over, right?” 

I looked at Lori , then back at him. “You don’t have anything to worry about, Brian.” 

“Why do you say that? If he goes on that bus…” 

“You aren’t on the bus,” I replied. I looked over at Kelly. “Neither are you.” 

“Then where the hell are we?” Brian asked. 

I shrugged. “I don’t know. But you weren’t on there when Lori and I went down. You both must have made it off the bus, and now your bodies are somewhere else. Maybe hung up in the river downstream somewhere, I don’t know.” 

“Well shit,” he muttered. “I guess this means we can be found at anytime.” 

“Or not at all,” Kelly said. She was still holding onto that one hope, and I couldn’t blame her. 

“What about Donald?” Lori asked. “If he finds his body…” 

“We have to go after him,” I replied.  

“What for?” Brian demanded. “If he wants to end this for himself, let him.” 

“I’m not going to abandon him again.” 

“They are going to pull up the bus anyway. They’ll find us all eventually. You aren’t stopping him, just delaying it. “ 

“Maybe so. But I can’t let him go in misery. That’s not me.” 

Lori grabbed my hand. “It’s not me either.” 

“Well hell,” Brian said. “Might as well count us in too. There goes my big Halloween plans.” 

“You’ll just have to wait a little bit to put the bag of flaming shit on Principal Whittaker’s porch.” 

He looked at me, surprised. “How did you know?” 
We found Donald at the river. He was sitting on the bank, staring out at the murky water. Further down the bank, search and recovery operations were set up, still making every effort to find the bus and any missing bodies, most likely ours. Inflatable boats and rafts were out on the now calm river, dredging its dark water with nets and poles. Closer to Bay Bridge, I could see divers, some with snorkels, others with breathing tanks. The problem with the diving aspect was Murray River wasn’t exactly known for being clear and clean. It was dirty, with plenty of silt and other debris, which made visibility with human eyes difficult. Waterproof flashlights could help, but I imagine not by much. 

“They are on the wrong side of the bridge,” Donald said, looking up at me. I had approached him alone, the others hanging back a little but still in sight. “They need to check on the other side,” he continued. “The current has pushed it from where we fell.” Then he smiled. “They could probably use a little help.” 

I sat down next to him. “Donald, what are you doing?” 

“Just watching right now.” 

“Okay. So what are you planning to do?” 

He sighed. “All this time we have been hindering recovery efforts. That was selfish. We should have left it alone. We’re not supposed to be here like this. None of us.” 

“There’s nothing wrong with hanging on to life, Donald. We just wanted to live.” 

“This isn’t living. This isn’t even being dead. This is something else. Neither alive, nor dead. We are…Hell, I don’t know. We are just wrong. We are not mean to be here.” 

“I know how you feel, Don.” 

He cast me a serious look. “No, you don’t. No one feels like I do. I can’t do this anymore.” A heavy sigh escaped his lips. “I’m so tired. I just want what’s next.” He smiled. “And I know you do, too.” 

“I’ve tried preparing myself for that,” I admitted. “But, I don’t know. I don’t think I’ll ever be ready.” 

He stood up. “Sometimes Chris, you just have to take that leap.” He looked at the others behind us. “You just have to jump.” 

With that, he bounded down the bank and jumped in the river. 

“Donald! No!” 

I jumped in after him. I heard Lori yell my name, but I felt that none of the others were following. They didn’t want to find the bodies the way Donald did. I followed him down the river as he made his way for the stone pillars of Bay Bridge. Normally, he never would have made it, but as a ghost he was much more graceful and fluid, cutting through the water like Rowdy Gaines at the ’84 Olympics. I called out for him to stop, to wait up, but he acted as if he didn’t hear. Maybe he was just that determined; nothing would hold him back now. Before, he may have been riding the fence, unsure on whether to take action against our unnatural existence, but now he had climbed over it and was heading straight into knowing the truth. I’m sure he had his questions. Was there another life after this? Reincarnation? Heaven? Stages of Nirvana? He didn’t know, as neither did the rest of us, but for him, no matter what was next, it was better than the misery and guilt he felt in the here and now. 

We passed under the bridge. I couldn’t quite cover the ground needed to catch up to him, so I lagged behind, still calling his name to no avail. I passed by a couple of floating divers, and watched Donald go under the water ahead of me. Instinct had me a take a breath but it wasn’t needed. I went under after him. 

Plunging down into the depths, he headed for the bus. The natural current, along with the torrential rains and release of water from the dam, had indeed moved it, pushing it to roll along the river bed. The bus was now upside down, and even from a distance, I could see his body tangled up among the sabotaged wires and cables. Perhaps he saw it too, but hadn’t yet realized it was his own body. 

“Donald, stop!” I screamed. 

He turned back to me and smiled. “You’re going to be alright, Chris. Take care of Lori.” 

“No,” I begged. “Please, don’t do this.” 

He turned and looked at the bus with a certain kind of longing. It was the look of a boy who had been away a long time, but was now looking at his home on the horizon. He surged forward to the underside of the bus. I would have pleaded further, but there was no use. Perhaps, this was the way it was supposed to happen, with him staring in the face of himself. 

He grabbed the body and began to untangle it from the cables that kept it down in this watery grave. He didn’t look into the face right away. But once it was freed, he took in the sight of himself for the last time. 

I stopped, hovering close to him. He looked at me and smiled warmly. His ghostly face seemed to glow from the excitement. A tear formed in the corner of his eye.  

“It’s me,” he said. “Look Chris. It’s me.” 

“Yes, it’s you, buddy.” 

“I just want to go home,” he cried. He clutched the lifeless husk to him.

I felt the crackle, the sizzling within the water, before I actually saw it. And then the static came. Like before wth Reg, his ghostly form seemed to shimmer and shift, crackling like he was a television channel halfway stuck between the dial. 

One night, not long before all this happened, I had fallen asleep in front of the TV. When I woke up hours later, the usual multi color test pattern that signaled the days end of programming wasn’t even on screen. Instead, it had gone to white noise, a static pattern that almost reminded me of the cover of the composition books we used in school – black and white marbleized without a discernible picture of what it was supposed to be.  

This was what was happening to Donald. A crackling static grew around him, as if he were fading out and coming back in, like a low radio signal you kept trying to find on the band. You moved the dial back and forth, and just went you thought you had it, it was reduced to white noise again.  

“Donald, no,” I whispered. “Don’t go. Stay here with us.” 

He shook his head, but the look on his face wasn’t sad. It was one of peace, as if all the misery was washing off of him in the water.  

“Chris, it’s so beautiful,” he said, eyes focusing in on something in the distance I could not see. He let go of the lifeless, physical body he held, and pushed it gently away from him. It didn’t return to the bus, but instead started to rise in the water, heading for the river’s surface, like a buoy to mark where the bus was. I watched it for a moment, silently lamenting how it was all coming to an end. Now the divers would know exactly where to search. I looked back to Donald, now fading more out than in. “I’m glad we got to be friends again,” he said. 

“I am too, “ I sobbed.  

He held out his hand to me, one friend reaching for another, and I took it. It no longer felt physical. As ghosts, we had always been able to touch as if we had physical bodies simply because of our emotional ties, but now that was gone. He was no longer a ghost, but energy. I had the sensation of electricity coursing through my hand, a steady vibration and hum that seemed to be the voice underlying all human things. I was experiencing Donald in his truest form. The energy essence that made up all of us. I knew it was unending, indestructible. Yes, it changed form from this life to another realm of being, but the energy always existed, and never died. In this, I felt Donald, and indeed all of us lived forever. 

He smiled, but I could no longer see it. I could feel it course through me the way static runs through your hair when you touch a doorknob after shuffling your feet across carpet. Then he was gone, nothing remaining but a shimmer of who he once was, until that too faded in the murky depths.  

NaNoWriMo 2016: Time Of Our Death Chapter 34

Time Of Our Death

By Paul D Aronson

Thirty Four

Halloween or not, it was still early in the day. It was a Saturday, so school wasn’t in session. Lori had an idea to sneak into the high school and change our grades so we’d look like better students. I thought that was a cool idea and was all for it, however Brian and Kelly didn’t seem to care what others thought of them. And anyway, they kept their grades up pretty good. Donald was also uninterested and just wanted to go see his mother again. I understood that. After all we were living in the mystery hour, meaning we didn’t know how many hours we had left until they pulled up the bus and it’s bloating occupants. So Lori’s idea was scrapped in favor of checking in on the folks one last time.

Donald said we didn’t need to go with him to see his mom, but I felt like it was the right thing to do. After all, we had started out as ghosts doing this very thing. Might as well be what we end on as well. I hated having the attitude of “it’s only a matter of time”, but it was inevitable that this would come to an end soon. We couldn’t wander around as ghosts forever, especially when recovery operations were underway to bring us up out of the river.

At Donald’s we were surprised. Over two dozen neighbors were at his house. They had brought over food for his grieving mother. Some had brought flowers and cards with money to help her out. As we moved among them all, I caught snippets of conversation that led me to believe no one carried any hope that Donald was alive, and that soon there would be a funeral, with or without his body.

The outpouring of goodwill towards his mom touched Donald. In life, apparently not many of these neighbors ever came to visit, but with the tragedy they all pulled together to comfort and console a family that was wrecked with grief. Perhaps in all this, the good to come was that Don’s mother didn’t have to be alone. His passing had drawn others to her, and she was finding herself with offers to join the bridge club, the ladies civic club, as well as several churches extending their condolences and open arms to her.

“This is nice,” he said. “I was worried she would be all alone now.”

I had to agree. It was very touching, this outpouring of neighborly love. I had to wonder if Lori’s family could expect the same thing. It made me think of my family too. I was trying not to think about it much, but seeing all the neighbors here reminded me that my parents had seemingly vanished from public life.

Lori, ever the one for reading my mind, tried to be a comfort. “I’ll help you look for them if you want.”

“I don’t know where to begin.”

“Maybe there’s a clue somewhere at your house.”

Brian and Kelly had tagged along with us to Donald’s, but they opted to remain outside, sitting under a tree and sucking as much face as they could until the end. I couldn’t blame them there; part of me just wanted to take Lori’s hand and run away from all this. Spend whatever time was left making out and sharing promises that would certainly be tested soon. With that thought, my mind was filled with the image of Lori and I laying in my bed, curled up together, kissing, touching, and becoming all we could be if only we were alive.

“Hello, anyone home?” She asked, bringing me out of my silent rapture.

“Oh, sorry. I was lost in thought.”

“Yeah, I could tell. Everything alright?”

“I was just thinking how I never had a girl alone in my bedroom before.”

She smirked. “Are you sure you want to be telling me this?”

I chuckled. “No, it’s not like that. I just never had a girl in my room at all. I used to lay awake sometimes, wondering what it would be like to fall asleep curled up to someone. Or when I first started teaching myself guitar, I used to say to myself, one day you’re going to play a song for a pretty girl right here. You’ll be sitting on the floor playing, and she’ll be laying across the bed, listening to your song.”

“That’s a nice image. I used to think something similar. Except I would be playing this boy my cassettes and CDs. I’d play him my favorite song, and he would lean over and kiss me and absolutely beg me to run away with him.”

I smiled. “I like that. What’s your favorite song?”

“Just Like Heaven.”

“The Cure?”

“Yeah.”

I smiled. “I can play that.”

“It’s not heavy metal.”

I laughed. “Yeah, I know. There’s more to me than long hair and screaming guitars.”

“Show me.”

“Alright, I will.” I grinned. “But that means you’ll have to come to my bedroom.”

She smiled. “I’m not scared.”

“Scared of what?” Donald said, walking up to us.

I looked at him. “Of whatever comes next, I guess.”

“Same here,” he replied. “Hey, I’m just going hang out here for awhile, if you guys don’t mind.”

“That’s cool. We’ll come back and get you. We’re going to go see if my mom and dad ever showed up.”

“That’s fine.” He grinned at us as if he knew it wasn’t just about checking on my parents. As we headed off, he called out to us with a laugh as if he were our doting mother, “Don’t stay out too late. Use protection!”
The first time we had went to my house, after discovering Lori’s mom at the library, the television had been on, so had my dad’s computer back in his office. Now, both of them were off. In fact, the only thing on was a small lamp in the living room. Sitting on an end table next to it was a pile of unopened mail and several days worth of newspapers, still folded up the way our paperboy Jeffrey Tompkins delivered them.

“Well, it looks like they were here at some point,” Lori suggested.

“Yeah, it does. Them or someone else.”

“Who else would be here?”

“I don’t know. We are on good terms with our next door neighbors. Mom and Dad play Uno with them some nights. Maybe they are getting the mail and paper.” I stopped for a moment and listened. “And I don’t hear Jake.”

“Maybe he’s sleeping.”

“I don’t think so. He knew we were here the first time. We heard him in my room.”

“Well, you’re supposed to take me to your room anyway,” she replied with a wink.

I smiled. I really adored the flirty Lori.

We went down the staircase to the basement. The door to my room was open. The lights were off, but we didn’t need them anyway. The room looked untouched from the last time we were there, with all of us and Jake. But now Jake was gone. The exuberant Doberman wasn’t in the house. As I noted this, Lori moved around my room, looking at all the rock and roll clippings from Heavy metal mags I had pasted to the wall. Standing in front of the Nikki Sixx poster, she said, “I still think he needs a sandwich.”

I smirked. “What about Bon Jovi?” I asked, pointing to a fold out poster of the group standing in front of a trans am laden with bikini clad girls.

“He gives love a bad name.”

I laughed. “Oh, good one.”

“Oh wow,” she exclaimed, spotting my record collection. The albums were kept in two blue milk crates by a closet, and she squatted down to look through them. I stood there with my arms crossed. This was an alien moment, by myself with a beautiful girl in my room, as she took interest in things that were me. She looked up, holding up the Ratt album, Out Of The Cellar. “Do you have anything other than Metal?”

“Well, I’ve got The Motels in there somewhere. I like Mission Of Mercy.”

“Yeah, they aren’t bad. Only The Lonely is pretty good.”

“I’ve got the Charlotte Sometimes twelve inch in there too,” I told her.

“No kidding? Wow, you are pretty darn cool after all.” She found The Cure single and lifted it out of the box. “Charlotte Sometimes was the first song I fell in love with. That, and All Cats Are Grey.”

I told her I hadn’t heard that one. “Oh wow, you’re missing out. Next time we’re at my house, I’ll play it for..” she stopped, perhaps realizing there was a good chance there wouldn’t be a next time at her house. A sad look crossed her face for a moment, then she mustered a smile. “Weren’t you going to play me a song?”

I smiled, but I was a little nervous. “Yes, I was.” I opened up the closet and got out my electric guitar. “I wont plug it in,” I said. “I blew the amp the other day anyway.”

She rolled her eyes and laughed, getting up from the crates of record albums to go sit on my bed, cross legged style. I did a little tuning of the strings, and thought to myself, please let my energy hold out long enough to play her a song. It would be weird to be half way through the song and the guitar passes through my fingers.

Despite my nervousness, I found the key of A major and began the opening chord progression. From the first lyric of “show me, show me, show me how you do that trick”, Lori sat enrapt, watching me play and sing the song about a boy’s first feelings of romance for the girl he wants to be with. I performed it slower than the original so I could make the chord changes easier, but she didn’t seem to mind. Even as I stumbled on a few words here and there, she smiled with her own set of longings etched plainly in her eyes. I wanted to just stop singing, throw the guitar down, and take her up in my arms to dance in the deepest oceans like the song said.

Three minutes later when I ended the tune and the last chord faded into silence, I did just that. I set the guitar back in the closet so it wouldn’t be out of place the next time someone came down in my room, and then joined her on the bed.

“That was beautiful,” she said.

“You’re beautiful,” I said. “Just like a dream. Like the song says.”

She blushed. “Chris, I….”

I touched her lips with my fingertips, shushing her. I didn’t know what she was getting ready to say, but it didn’t matter. All that mattered to me was that my mouth was on hers, and as my kiss found her wanting me just as much, we laid back on the bed, the room spinning around us. While our lips revealed the secrets of two hearts discovering each other, our hands fumbled across each other, neither of us knowing quite what to do. We laughed at this inside each other’s mouths, and renewed the kiss with a different fervor. One that was not of confused, nor reckless desire, but of a deep affection that said we would live and die together like this, for as long as we had left. Stolen breaths and mutual longings were all we needed, and maybe in the next life, if there was one, we would find the right time to physically consummate all the things our bodies felt.

“I have something to confess,” she finally said.

“Okay.”

“Remember when we were in my room, and there was that photo I took of you and Donald? One of you asked me why I took it.”

“Yeah, I remember. It was a sneaky voyeur pic. From last year.”

She smiled and the look in her eyes were soft. “I took that picture because I had a crush on you. I didn’t really know you then, just knew who you were. You looked so sad and lonely, this nerd boy that no one was paying attention to. You reminded me of myself.”

I started to say something. This time she put a finger to my lips to quiet me.

“I really crushed on that nerd boy. I like your long hair and the rocker I know you want to be, but you’ll always be that cute nerd boy standing on the smoking block, looking out of place to me.”

My eyes started to well up with tears. No one, and I mean absolutely anyone, had ever said such a thing to me. I wanted to respond somehow, but she wasn’t finished.

“When I see you,” she said, “ I see you without disguise. I think I see you as you truly are: the most beautiful boy with the purest soul I have ever met.”

The tears fell. There was no use in trying to stop them.

“If there’s ever a way someone progresses from this life into something better, you’re already there.” She put her hands on both sides of my face, so my tears would stop on her fingers. “You’re my angel, Chris.”

“I love you, Lori. I wish…Oh God, I wish I had gotten to know you sooner. It’s not fair.”

A new round of tears came, but they just weren’t mine. They were hers, too. And as she wrapped her arms around me, taking me into her soft embrace, I clutched her tight as I could, swearing that when the real end came I would never let her go.

 

 

My NaNoWriMo 2016 Continues: Chapter 33

Time Of Our Death

By Paul D Aronson

Thirty-Three
In all the ghost stories I’d read in books or seen at the movies, the spirit was always vengeful. He was here to enact revenge or retribution on those that had caused him to die. But I couldn’t be like that. Donald may have thought I abandoned him, and in a sense I did, but in my mind he had remained my friend. He may have wanted to scare or kill Brian to stop the torment, but he didn’t mean any harm to the rest of us. It reminded me of a bumper sticker I’d seen just days before the bus went off the bridge. In bold white and black it stated plainly: Shit Happens.

I told myself Donald had been feeling the guilt and remorse for awhile. That accounted for his recent odd behavior, and then the confrontation with what could very well be a bona fide serial killer brought it all crashing home to him. He could not hold the secret any longer. And it made me wonder how much longer we would hold on to this semblance of life now. If his act was the unfinished business that kept us here, certainly the confession would go a long way to righting that wrong. And yet, just as it was when we killed Kev, we were still here.

The investigation against the flower lady’s killer was still going on in the house behind us, but it was no longer a distraction. They had their things to figure out, and we had ours. We may have been occupying similar spaces, but life went on in both directions. For me, I couldn’t just sit here waiting for the life on our end to just give up. In the place between the world we knew, and the one we would eventually pass into, we stood alone in a void only we could fill. We had been doing just that for days, checking on our families, making sure everyone was going to be alright. I had found Lori and she had found me. It’s a shame that it happened like this, after we were dead, but at least it happened. Brian and Kelly seemed to have a solid relationship through it all as well. The only one who truly suffered in death was Donald.

I wished I could have done something more for him. I wished I’d been there for him when he needed me, instead of leaving him with a feeling he’d been left all alone. Once upon a time, I had been like his brother, and in the last few days I had been feeling that way again. A big brother to depend upon, to lean on. Despite what he had told us, I had to let him know I was not going to abandon him ever again.

He remained on the porch steps, having never moved from where Brian attacked him. Brian had since allowed Kelly to lead him away from the others, and they were laying across the hood of one of the police cars, she cradling him in her arms as he cried out his frustration, anger, and remorse. She ran her fingers through his hair, holding him to her breast, and I no longer saw the bully taking out his angry, pent up emotions on others. Now he was just a lost, lonely child seeking comfort like the rest of us.

I sat down next to Donald. For a moment I didn’t say a thing, just let the moment wash over me, struggling with what to say. Lori wandered a little ways away too, giving us some space.

“I’m really sorry, Chris.”

I looked at my friend, whose eyes could not meet mine. “It’s….”

“No, it’s not. It’s not okay, and never will be again. Because of me.”

“Donald…”

“Just be quiet for once and let me talk.” He looked me in the eye. “I never meant any of this to happen. I didn’t even mean for Brian to die. I just wanted to scare him. I wanted him to know what it was like to be afraid. To not know whether he was going to live or die from one day to the next. I wanted to make him afraid to even walk on a school bus again. Because that’s how it was for me every day.”

“I’m sorry I left you to that. I didn’t know.”

“No one did. No one could know how I felt. No one asked.”

I hung my head. “I wish I had.”

He nodded. “Yeah, me too.”

“So, what are we to do now?” I asked. “What do you want us to do?”

“What do you mean?”

“How can we make this easier for you? I know it must have been eating away at you. If it’s forgiveness you need, you got it buddy.”

“How can you forgive me, Chris? I killed you.” He looked at Lori just a few feet away. She was sitting cross legged in the grass. “I killed her.” He cast his eyes towards Brian and Kelly on top of the police car. She was kissing his face, holding his head lovingly in her hands. “I killed them. How could I have done that to them?”

“You just wanted it to stop, Donald. Hey, I wanted it to stop, too.”

“But you changed. I couldn’t.” He tried to stop the tear but it came anyway. “I couldn’t change who I was. I couldn’t escape like you. Why did you leave, Chris? Was it really because you didn’t want to be picked on anymore?”

“Yes it was. Why else would I?”

Again he couldn’t my eyes. “No reason. I just…wanted to know.”

I felt like there was something he still wasn’t saying. Something he was too afraid to confess, but yet I didn’t want to push him. He had been through so much already. So I put my arm around his shoulder to let him know it was alright.

“We have been friends forever, Don. We grew up together. And I’ve never been afraid of things I see within you. I’m not going to start now.” He looked at me, and I met his eyes that were wet with tears. “It’s okay to be you. To have the feelings you do. I’m sorry I don’t feel the same, but you have always been my best friend. And you always will be. Okay?”

He sniffled a little. “Okay.” He laid his head over on my shoulder and looked at Lori. “She’s so pretty.”

“Yeah, she is.”

“For a girl, I mean,” he added.

I chuckled a little. “Yeah. For a girl.” Out of the corner of my eye, I saw movement, and turned my head in that direction. Brian was coming towards us, with Kelly at his side, holding his hand. He sat down on the other side of Donald, and Kelly wandered off to join Lori, leaving us guys alone. I took my arm off Don’s shoulder, and placed my hands in my lap. I started to get up.

“Stay,” Brian said, so I sat back down. “Look, I want to say to you both that…I am sorry. To say I never meant to hurt anyone would be a lie. I was hurting. I wanted others to hurt like me. And I took it out on you guys. Especially you, Donald. I saw something of myself in you. A scared little kid, too afraid to defend himself. I guess I didn’t want to be the only one.” He looked across Donald to me. “You’re right, Chris. You do know me. I saw it in your eyes. You knew. And it made me more ashamed. I can’t take back any of the things I did, any more than my other father can. If I could turn time back I would.”

“Maybe when we end up wherever we are supposed to go, you’ll be able to do that,” I said. “Maybe we’ll get another chance to do things differently.”

He smiled sadly. “That would be nice. But in case it’s not like that, I just want you guys to know that I am truly sorry. In the next life, if there is one, I’ll try harder.” He didn’t bother to wipe away his tears of remorse. “Please forgive me.”

“I forgive you, Brian,” I replied. I didn’t need to say anything else. He knew we were connected in some way, that we had been through similar things, and yet had chosen different courses of action. It didn’t make one person better than the other. If anything, it made us equals, and my forgiveness came quite easily.

For Donald, it may not have been as easy, but it was necessary for everyone at this point. “I forgive you,” he said to Brian. “And I’m sorry I caused all this. You don’t have to forgive me back, but I am sorry that because of me you are no longer …alive.”

Brian smiled. “I’ve been more alive the past few days than I ever have been before. I forgive you too, Donald.” He held out his hand. “Friends?”

Donald looked at it, and he couldn’t help it. A new round of tears cascaded down his face. I think it’s all he ever wanted to hear. He took Brian’s hand loosely in his own. “Friends,” he sobbed.

“Look, I hate to be the one to say this male bonding thing is weird, but you are making us cry over here, too.”

“Sorry, Lori, “ I replied with a sheepish smile. “Girls go to the powder room, guys just…break down.”

“Well, I think maybe it’s time to consider what day it is.”

I looked at Brian and Donald, and was at a loss.

“Halloween, doofus. You know, the one day a year the dead can roam the earth?”

Brian jumped up. “Well, hell yeah. Let’s roam!” He ran over to Kelly and scooped her up in his arms. “Ready to go steal some little kids candy?”

“You can steal my candy, “ she cooed, tossing her blonde hair out of her eyes.

“That’s what I’m talking about! Whoo! Par-tay time!” He spun her around and around, while she screamed in delight.

I looked at Donald and stood up. “You coming, buddy?”

He smiled, but there was still a trace of that lost look in his eye. “Chris, when you and Lori went down to the bus, what did you see?”

“What do you mean?”

“Was I down there?”

I hesitated a little, but felt the truth was best. “Yes, you were.”

He nodded and forced another smile to the surface. “Cool.”

 

+++

note: In writing this novel, I made a writing soundtrack to keep me in the mood and themes of the story. This is something I do with every piece of fiction I write,  but this has been my favorite soundtrack yet because most of the songs I picked are from 1987, the year my story takes place, and many of them were either just released or had only been out a few months. There were a few that were from a year or two previous, but I tried to keep it all in perspective. One thing I chose to do was pick songs that would represent different characters, either through their lyrics or because I felt the music just fit them. The song below, True Faith, by New Order, is my theme song for the character of Donald. Hope you enjoy…