Prologue Today the sky was colored gold from the sun, the clouds pink from basking in the sunlight, and the sunrise giving a purple hue to the horizon. I woke up and dragged myself away from the bed, the scent of pancakes on a griddle drifting through the air. There’s a clatter going on downstairs in our kitchen, likely Mom attempting to clean up the pigsty we call home. I rub my eyes to wake myself up and spend a few more moments in bed before telling myself to get out of bed. As I make my way down the narrow stairway, Mom rushes past me with a breakfast laid messily on a tray, and disappears into the pink colored bedroom. I hear her whispering, “C’mon, May, it’s time to wake up… see, I made you chocolate-chip pancakes! They’re your favorite! Please? Just one bite..?”
The girl’s body lay resting, ignoring the desperate mother’s attempts to awaken her daughter. She’s stayed that way for months now, and only occasionally ate. It was as if May laid there and decided to let her body decay on herself. It wasn’t all her fault, I had to realize, knowing that she had fallen into the prolonged slumber by brain damage.
After listening to the middle aged woman continue to coax her daughter into waking up for several minutes, to no avail, I mosied into our living room and out the front door, onto the wooden porch. The dirty white paint was peeling and nonexistent in multiple spots, and the screen to keep out bugs had many, many large holes in it. Despite the sun soaking near everything in sight, there’s still a chilled bite to the air. I shiver from the dropped temperature, but welcome the freeze.
Reaching my hand out towards the sun, to give the illusion of holding it, my translucent skin replaces the white light behind me with green, like stained glass. My veins look like ribbons, running through my arm and down my chest, all leading to my sickly heart that somehow remains pumping. The skin holding the plasma inside of me is a turquoise color, with opaque, dark blue spots- like freckles- showered on my shoulders and hands. Vapor-like hair frames my gaunt face, drifting endlessly onwards. A sleeveless pearl-colored dress goes down to my knees and dissolves into individual stars, with every lace, every stitch, acting like an ethereal stream of galaxy. The light from the sun peeking over the skyline makes the color of my eyes pop like a bright yellow dandelion in a green meadow.
After realizing my eyes had near glazed over from staring at the landscape around me, I shook myself awake and looked down the street at the people walking by. A girl with her father and their dog were strolling along, the child in her church dress. She was staring dead at me, into my marigold eyes, the eyes with the slits for pupils, the eyes of a cat’s. Is she a ghastly spirit? Her hand reached for her dad’s shirt and she tugged, and pointed. The guardian looked at where she was pointing and didn’t see the same figure she saw, that I saw. I gave a slight wave and she smiled gently, the way a four year old might. She is. The girl would die one day, as would the father. Die and possess an other-worldly spirit, a demonic body. The dad would be left with the blissful yet boring Heaven, separate from the daughter.
What curse was laid upon you? Time pauses and anything that was moving freezes as I gaze into her eyes and float towards her; a bright green iris locked her pupils into place, but looking further than that, abuse had been committed. Looking closer, I saw the remains of a bruise on her cheek. I was wrong; the father would not go to Heaven, and instead, rot in Purgatory. No, he would not be granted Purgatory; instead, Hell.
With utmost caution, I place my hand on her shoulder, and her spirit leaves her body for a spell, and she looks at me with her cartoonishly big eyes.
“I’m sorry if I scared you, but I saw you staring at me a minute or so ago. You can see me?”
The girl says, with a surprising amount of confidence and courage, “Yes, I was able to see you. You look so different from any other person I’ve seen. Are you sick? What’s your name?”
“My name is May. Yes, I suppose I’m sick, but not in this form.” I point to my house, and the general area of my bedroom. “My body is up there, but my spirit left, which is who you see right now. I’m a spirit; I’m that girl’s mind and feelings. What is your name?”
Her smooth skin is like a child’s should be, fresh and lacking signs of age, but slightly too skinny, near starved. “Emily. Can my dad hear us right now?”
“No, Emily, he can’t. That’s what’s so special about you. You’re able to see me, which means you’re also a spirit; you’ve been abused, haven’t you? The spirit of one who was tortured in their life is able to escape their body after death or coma, or when released by another spirit. Don’t worry, you’ll be able to go back to your body whenever you want, just tell me when.”
Emily’s light purple skin gave her emerald eyes a nice glow, and she had dark brown translucent hair. Her eyes were glued on mine. “My dad… hits me, sometimes. And when I misbehave, I don’t eat dinner. But I thought that was normal. I thought a lot of families were like that, at least until I went to kindergarten, and everyone was talking about their families.” She paused, and took a deep breath. It’s hard to confess something like that, no matter what age. Fear takes its toll.
“Does my dad even have a spirit?”
I glance over at his face. “Well… Yes, I suppose he would. The thing is about malicious people like your dad is that they do have a spirit, but instead of being reincarnated, they go to a separate Hell, as a soul. People who have sinned are sent to Purgatory, where they’re granted the ability to redeem themselves. But those who have intentionally and knowingly abused their own children, taken advantage, manipulate… They do not deserve that chance. Children are innocent. When not, they are punished. But kids will be kids. A child should not go hungry for a night because they left the cap off their toothpaste. But say a child commits a mass crime, knowingly, that’s different. That deserves more than a scolding. As adults, they need to realize the right justification for their child’s action, and they are punished as they punished their child.”
Emily had seemed to lose interest after I had begun to ramble, and noticed when I had finished droning on. I don’t think she understood, but it was worth a shot to explain.
She looks at her dad, and asks, “Can you see the evil souls?”
Chills were sent down my spine. “Yes… yes, I can. In the afterlife, you’ll be able to, too. But it’s an awful experience… their spirit’s color is… undefined, undiscovered. Not in a beautiful way, but in a fearful way. New things can be scary, and yes, sometimes we have to face our fears. But, on the other hand, some things are meant to be left alone. Talking to an evil soul is like… Imagine being underwater, with the ability to breathe there. Everything is so pretty, and perfect, fish dart in and out of coral, all sorts of colors dot the floor… the colors are so beautiful, and need to stay that way. But imagine feeling a new underwater sensation… a deep, dull, freezing cold, that’s sent straight to the bones, that gives your skin a blue hue. The feel of being underwater, times two. It’s a vague description that probably doesn’t make sense, and I’m sorry. That’s the best way I can describe what talking to an evil soul is like. It’s scary, it needs to be left alone.
“I had mentioned earlier that they are sent to a Hell. Except, we can still see them. They cannot communicate with us, though. Say there were one next to me, right now; I could wave at them and make funny faces at them, but they wouldn’t be able to see any of it. That’s where their punishment comes in. They are left alone. They cannot talk to other people who are reincarnated as a soul. They are alone with their thoughts on their previous life. Forever. A second death isn’t available. Each soul has their own personal Hell, with which they are left alone to be driven insane.”
I felt somewhat bad for giving such lengthy explanations, and mentioning stuff she wouldn’t understand, but it’s been so long since I’ve met someone who could see me.
It took her a few moments to take any of this in. It’s been a while since I had talked to a child ten years younger than me and I wasn’t used to using word choice that she would understand. Emily was still processing what I had explained, and it took a few moments. I glanced at the dog they were walking; its ribs were visible, and its fur was matted. The dad had dirty skin and oily hair. His daughter, on the other hand, was much more clean and kept, but was still rawboned. He had probably made his children and wife go to church to keep a reputation. I had seen it before with my friends, when I was younger.
Her voice breaks the silence, and she asks me, “When can I go home?” I apologize for keeping her away from herself for so long, and I begin another, less detailed explanation.
“You can go now, if you’d like, but you won’t remember any of what I’ve said, until you become a spirit. I’m sorry for telling you this, and then ripping it away from you, but it’s for the sake of sanity. Otherwise, people would try to tell someone else and wouldn’t be believed.” She doesn’t seem to care much, but I know that I wouldn’t have either, at the same age. “I want to go home now.”
I guide her spirit back to her body, and drift back to the porch, and unfreeze everything around us. The dog picks up its legs, the dad continues walking, and Emily continues to stare at the place on the porch I was standing. I smile and wave goodbye.
Chapter 1 Today the sky was a horrid grey, with even darker clouds dotting the blank canvas. Fog clung to the ground and locked itself in place.
Mom begins screeching for me. “May! You’re going to be late for work, if you don’t hurry the hell up!” Her southern accent sticks out like a sore thumb. “Don’t make me go up there!” I knew she would, so I throw myself out of bed and slip into the roach infested bathroom to take a shower. Neither Mom or Dad care that there’s bugs, because they don’t use that room. They have their own bathroom, with a shower that’s rather pristine in comparison to the owner. I suppose that would make sense, knowing they both often go days without using it.
Quickly, I rinse my hair out and add a few dots of conditioner, and cleanse myself with lye soap to remove any dirt and sweat. A towel hangs on the rack and gives off an unidentifiable odor, but there doesn’t seem to be any other options.
As I dry myself off and slide into my work uniform, Lucas begins to bawl from the other room. I don’t have time for this… ¨Carlie! Put Lucas back to bed!” As soon after I said that, his twin, Kate, begins screaming. Carlie yells back at me, “It ain’t my job to do that, do it yourself!” She was most likely reading, and was too absorbed in her book. Jaden was already at his job, and my two other siblings were off in some other place, probably out of the country, to study psychology and Spanish culture. I knew Carlie was far too stubborn to change her mind, and Mom would yell at me if Lucas and Kate kept making such a racket.
Just as I begin to put them to sleep, Mom screams back at me, “May, I swear to God, what is taking you so long? Shut those two babies up right now and get a move on!” The two instantly begin to start crying again.
Nearly tripping down the steps, Mom stops me midtracks. “Dammit, May, why the hell d’you wake up so late?”
“I’m sorry, last night I had gotten back from my shift later than expected. I had to stay up doing homework.” This didn’t seem to please her or satisfy her in any form. “And in what world will that math textbook o’yers feed our family? It won’t. Money’s what keeps this family wit’ their bellies full. Get the hell outta here before I hit you.”
As I was driving the dented, nearly destroyed chunk of metal, a fat plop fell against my window. Another fell. Then another. It kept on like this until there was a full blown storm. The windshield wipers were trying their best to keep up; with ever squeak of their swipe, it seemed to do nothing against the constant flow of water pouring from the heavens. I turned on the headlights to the brightest setting- despite not being near bright enough to see two feet ahead of me, because of the lack of replacing the bulbs- and slowed down to the slowest I could without keeping up the people behind me. When I reached out of the neighborhood onto the larger road with more traffic, lightening began to strike. Rain only seemed to fall even harsher than before, somehow possible.
There weren’t as many cars as there typically are, obviously because of the storm. I began to pick up speed. One genius decided to cut me off, except I didn’t know that, because the rain was falling so heavily and the wipers couldn’t run that fast.
It was in slow motion.
The front of my car was going as fast as it was. They had just moved in front of me, while I wasn’t aware of it happening. Rain was wiped away for a split second. Just then, I saw how close I was exactly to the bumper of their car.
Metal was torn.
There was a turn right in front of us, but there was so much momentum, and we rolled straight into the field.
I found ourselves rolling down faster than I could imagine, yet everything still seemed in slow motion, a black and white photograph, the only color visible, red.
8-year-old girl and father killed in accident on Breezeway Road: One alive, Severely Injured A picture rests under the bold headline featuring two vehicles torn to shreds. Blood was digitally removed as not to provoke the public. The girl’s name was Emily Caillar, her father was Richard Caillar. She was an only child to an abusive father, yet that much was also removed from the newspaper to tell the audience reading that sympathy was meant for the family, and to antagonize May Knight, the one left in a coma.
Dad turns onto Breezeway road to begin our trip to my aunt’s house. She lived in North Carolina so I knew the trip would be long, and to prepare I packed a coloring book along with colored pencils and markers. I also packed a Magic Tree House book. Dad didn’t tell me to do that, so I had to think of that all by myself.
The rain begins to pick up so he puts on his headlights, and turns on the windshield wipers. I begin to color a page with an elf and some flowers on it, but the road is too bumpy, and I stop so I don’t ruin the picture. I begin to read my book. It’s about Jack and Annie going into a treehouse, and they travel back in time to explore different places around the world. This time, they went to ancient Greece and found a woman that gave them poems to help them find out what to do next. I got to a page where the lady gave them a poem, and it was signed with a weird word.
“Daddy, what does… uh-non-why-mouse mean?” I tried sounding it best as I could. It was spelled, anonymous. He didn’t say anything. So I asked again.
“Dad, what does this word mean? A-n-o-” “Shut the hell up, you bastard child! You never stop talking! Dad’s busy right now!” I didn’t know what to say. I began to cry; he began to scream. The rain seemed to fall harder. A flash of light struck the sky, with a rumbling roll of thunder following quickly.
“Stop crying!” “Shut up!” “Remember we could have aborted you!” I didn’t know what the words meant but the way he said them, it made me really scared. I tried to stop crying so we could be happy again, but more tears kept rolling. It seemed to be that every tear was another hurtful word against me. I hadn’t meant to annoy him like that. I knew it was my fault now; I should have known not to bother him like that.
I begin to sniffle and dry my tears, my eyes still slightly swollen. Daddy’s still whispering under his breath.
“I’m sorry, Daddy.”
He doesn’t say anything, and only drives in silence.
Dad begins to squint to see the road ahead of him better. Normally we don’t go this far down the road, so we don’t often remember the turns and medians and such in the road. A median pops out of nowhere and tells us to move one lane over to the right. He flicks up a lever that makes a click, click, click, click and makes the little arrow pointing right glow rhythmically.
As he’s switching lanes, I look into the window on my right and see a dented car. “Dad, there’s a car going right there. I’m not sure they notice-”
“What did I tell you earlier? Be quiet.”
The car jolts forward and I hear a crunching. Within seconds, somehow, the car is rolling through a field, another following. I don’t know what happened, or how.
Chapter 2 An orb of light is glowing gently in the woods. I press the button on my seatbelt and make my way out of the terrible metal cylinder. Dad doesn’t move. The white light from the woods continues to shine. I begin to step towards it, and with each step, I remember another word about what May said four years ago. I am a spirit. This will be my life now. Dad will go to Hell as a soul. It was as if she was just in the same area, after just having told me. Every word she had said remains vividly in my memory.
My skin is violet with indigo dots gently placed on my shoulders and cheeks, like May. My dark hair is like May’s, closer to vapor than it is to hair. My dress isn’t as grand as May’s was, but it has that same effect with the stars. There are stars on mine but rather than expanding like a ball dress, it’s a summer dress, which is more fitting for my age.
Leaves and twigs and pine needles brush against my bare feet but inflict no pain; I only feel the pleasure of the foliage tickling the bottom of my toes. The light grows stronger, shining rather than glowing, and as I begin seeing the brilliant shape form. An eerily tall human like blob.
“Emily.” My brother’s voice.
“Emily. I’m here for you.” He gained weight since I last saw him. Defining features came into view. He was a much healthier weight than he had been three years ago.
“Emily, come here…” I step towards him, and he bends his long legs so we create eye contact. Robyn looks at me and smiles. His skin is paper white, and it reminds me of a drawing someone traced with pen, and never colored. “It’s been so long. I’m sorry about your death.” His voice is slightly haunting, like a ghost’s should be. “Robyn, you don’t have to be sorry. You see, know I can visit you again!”
Robyn laughs and hugs me, and while still holding me, begins to stand back up. It takes forever for his legs to straighten because of his height. He seems like he’s two stories tall. “How did you get so tall? You were so short when we were little!” Laughing softly again, he corrects me, “you mean, Emily, when you were little!”
I laugh too; not as much because I found that to be humorous, but because I’m so glad to see Robyn again. When he had died from malnutrition, at that time I didn’t have a full concept of death. All I knew was that you were gone for a really, really long time. I guess three years is a really, really long time, because now I can see him and hug him and laugh with him and play outside with him.
Robyn seemed to have aged a lot. Right now he should only look in his late teens, nowhere past 18, though. That was how I remembered him. But he looked a lot older than that. Perhaps the height, but I don’t think that was it. There were no wrinkles on his face, at all, and he still even held a bit of a baby face, but something was off.
“How old are you right now?” I ask him, because I had forgotten after my dad burned his birth certificate. “When I died, I was seventeen, now I’m twenty.”
“Twenty years old?” I exclaimed, surprised that he was that old. I don’t know why I found it so surprising, to be honest. It made sense; perhaps it was just that the only face I remembered him with was the one where we had the most fun with each other. I think he was sixteen, and I would have been four at the time. There were so many times that year he’d take me out to the park to play around. I wonder if it was because that was when he got his driver’s license.
“Emily, do you want to see where I live right now? After I died, I prepared a place to stay and cozied it all up. I thought you might want to see it, because there’s some bunnies that live around there.” I nod my head vigorously, knowing that rabbits are the cutest animals ever.
“Okay, do you want to carry the key while we walk there?” Robyn dangles the key that was hanging by a string around his neck. It’s gilded in gold and has intricate details carved into the bow, and even flowers depicted on the bit. Despite having an antique look, a luminous light surrounds it.
Gently, I grab it in awe.
“You can put me down, Robyn.”
Robyn’s smile stays blank on his face, something off about his eyes. His limbs stay completely frozen, and slowly, his skin dissolved into a more and more cadaverous state. “Robyn..?”
He’s muscles lock and stiffen around me, and tighten. They’re beginning to squeeze me. His eyes are blank. His smile stays blank on his face. His limbs stay completely frozen, and slowly, his skin dissolved into a more and more 2D state. “...Robyn?” I squeak out.
I didn’t notice that the ground and trees and skies had disappeared into a void. Despite having what seemed like no pupils, he was still staring at me. “Robyn, let me go.” The key was the only light I could see.
“Robyn, let me go!” He didn’t move.
“ROBYN, LET ME GO!” Within a split second, Robyn disappears completely, but I’m still held by the power of his arms. I squirm to get out and after what seems like several minutes, his deathly grip releases me, except now I’m completely alone in a void of nothing.
“ROBYN!” My voice echoes for billions of miles, and begins to return, screaming back at me ten times as loud as it was. I cover my ears but my own screams are trapped forever ringing in my head. I begin to cry, not knowing what else to do. The tears immediately fly up, and my hair is being blown upwards too: I must have been falling. The cries of my own voice echo and return like the screams did, and I hear not only my own cries and screams, but the horrid cries and screams of others invade my mind.
The body sits peacefully on the bed. Bruises cover her face, stitches on her arms and cheeks, and a light, duck decorated hospital gown clothes her. I sit in the chair closest to her bed. Mom isn’t here, nor is Dad, or any of my siblings. The doctor sits in the chair opposite from my swollen and takes notes on the conditions. My ID wasn’t on me when I hit the person, and my face was far too swollen, bruised, and bloody for identification. Despite all of that, I was still alive; perhaps not ‘alive and well’, but certainly alive.
My skin had returned to how it looked four years ago. Turquoise. Blue-violet hair with stars clinging on to every strand. An elegant white dress. Except I was far more focused on my siblings, how they would get by with the lack of income from me, how Mom and Dad would pay for my bills, how I would manage to live through this.
Ever since my spirit woke up again, I was thinking about Emily. I talked to her about four years ago, when I was in a much shorter coma. She would know what was happening right now because I told her. She would remember. Too many memories clog my brain to think back to who told me, when I first fell five years ago.
Time flies by and soon enough, I begin hovering towards the general direction of our crash. The hospital hadn’t been too far away, fortunately, so my body could get here before death. As I hover out of the hospital doors, there’s already flashing lights at the turn we rolled off of. I want to see the people I killed. The faces I destroyed.
Their car is absolutely crushed. It was likely a cheaper car with cheaper metal, because they never expected an accident. The vehicle I had been driving was cheap, but it was an older model, and the metal was stronger. That’s not to say it wasn’t damaged, though. All of the glass was broken, top nearly caved in, one door was completely missing.
I overhear the officers talking into their radios that they’ll need help to get the bodies out. The two are still there. I remember that I no longer have a physical form, and that I can phase through solid objects. Peering my head through the metal, I see a biracial eight year old girl. A white man sits in the front.
The memory of her and her dad walking down the street appears in my head. This girl is Emily. The dad is somewhere in Hell. But Emily needs help right now.
A faint sound of weeping from deeper in the woods calls out to me. Instinctively, I levitate towards her. There’s a small blob of violet light on the ground.
Her head jerks up, the summer dress covered in mud, her braided hair capturing leaves. “May?”
Out of nowhere, Emily springs up from off the ground and embraces my leg, because she’s too small to hug me normally. Sobbing into my dress, I hear her mutter a few words about a person named Robyn.
Kneeling down, I tuck her braids behind her ear and wipe away the tears. She wraps her arms around my neck and hugs me as hard as she can, unintentionally choking me. When I push her away an inch, she gets the message and loosens her grip.
Silence falls upon our world for a few seconds. The sirens seem to fade away and the birds know it’s time to sleep, as a few dim stars begin to splotch the night sky.
“Emily,” I soothingly say to her. “We’ll go to my house.”
Her eyes seem to grow slightly with fear, but she cautiously grabs my hand and nods yes.
Chapter 3 Her spirit was still shaking by the time we went back down Breezeway Road and to my house. She had told me what she saw on the way there. It didn’t sound like anything I had heard of before. A while ago, when I must have been really little, a spirit saw me staring at them. They, like I did, paused time and explained everything to me so when I left my body I would know what was happening. They never told me anything like what Emily had experienced.
“So when you woke up, you saw your brother? What did he look like?”
Emily took a breath. “He was extremely tall, and his spirit was completely white, like, as white as snow. His hair and facial features were defined by thin, black lines. It looked like someone had drawn him. Looking back on that now, I guess it was pretty stupid for me to fall for that.”
“I don’t believe it was. If I were to see someone who I know that had died, I would immediately run towards them and embrace them. You don’t really think in situations like that. And from what you told me, it seemed like you were really close to Robyn. That wasn’t stupid on your part.”
We walk in silence. A few snowflakes fall, and they begin to come in thicker and thicker waves. It’s nearly pitch black keep for the pools of light that splash on the sidewalk from the street lights. The turn into go into my neighborhood approaches, and as we continue walking, the street lights disappear. I guess they’re deemed as unimportant on roads that aren’t incredibly busy. It never occurred to me that there weren’t any on this road. I had always recalled seeing them, though. Perhaps a few years ago they were just removed and I never made a note of it.
As the last shimmers of unnatural light lose their shine from Breezeway, Emily and I are left with the soft blue and purple light left by our skin. Snow falls harder, and the ground becomes coated with the freezing sugar.
“May, do you see that?”
A lean figure stands in the sidewalk, only illuminated by the moon’s reflection on the snow. He’s barely visible. “It’s alright, Emily. They’re only a soul. He won’t bother you.” She doesn’t lose the uneasiness painted on her face. “If it makes you feel better, we can switch to the other side of the road.” She shakes her head and I lead her to the opposite facing sidewalk. We begin walking again.
“May, do you see that?”
A lean figure stands in the sidewalk. Again? I think to myself. He couldn’t have moved to this side of the road that fast, I was just looking at him. The most unsettling part was that he was staring dead into my eyes. “It’s him…” Emily ferociously grips my hand and whispers that over and over again. He was different from how she described. While the silhouette was white, and he looked as though he came from a cartoon, he didn’t have the same features that he and Robyn shared.
This time, I begin to feel troubled. I throw a glance as we cross the road again.
And again, he stands 20 yards away.
Slowly, steadily, dead-silent, the lost soul begins to lift up its foot to walk towards us.. A minute passes before he finally places it in front of him. They repeat it with their left foot, the same amount of time passing by. Robyn’s so-said doppelganger walked towards us, becoming a tenth of a second faster with each footprint he laid on the fresh layer of snow and ice. Taking Emily with me, I begin to back up… slowly… steadily… dead-silent…
There’s an unworldly lack of movement in the air.
His sprinting catches both of us off guard. I physically pick up Emily and place her on my back, piggy-back style, and begin hurtling back towards Breezeway Road, back towards the safety of the light from the streetlamps, back towards the other people, but the road ends. Only a few moments ago there was an entire sidewalk, but it’s no longer existent.
An empty abyss greets us with a cold stare. I turn around. The light on the cement from the street light is the only ground under our feet. Space surrounds us. Cold. Airless. Neither Emily nor I can breathe. I try to keep Emily on my back, yet I can’t help but to lose my grip, collapse under the given circumstances. The figure steps into my field of vision, and stands there, as motionless as before.
He stands and stares, and doesn’t let us breathe. Both Emily and I are choking.
Just as I’m about to lose consciousness, about to lose sanity, about to lose life, the soul disappears without a trace. The previous landscape surrounding us returns just as it was, the snow peacefully falling, gently piling and creating great mounds on the trees and grass, as the girl and I are left, reaching for the air that will let life return to our dead bodies.