I wrote this about a year ago and never did anything with it. It’s surprising what you find when you go about cleaning up things.
I awoke dead.
As impossible as it sounds, as silly and as untrue, I awoke to find myself dead. I had no heartbeat, no pulse; my skin was deathly pale and tinted blue as though frozen. What was worse, perhaps, was that I had no recollection of ever being alive in the first place.
It was dark. Impossibly so. There were no stars above me, no sun or moon to offer guidance. My fingers fished out around me, attempting to find purchase on something to let me know where I was. My right hand grasped at nothing while my left found a wall beside me. A bed beneath me. I blinked stupidly into the darkness of the house. At least, I assumed it was a house. For all my dead brain knew, I could have been in a basement, a dungeon, or perhaps even in the underground lair of a scientist gone mad. The thought of Frankenstein popped into my head.
No, no. That was impossible. It had to be. I could not remember who I was, but I could remember the planet I was on. Amnesia. My mind was quick to work that one out as my hands still attempted to feel around. There was a blanket under me, wrinkled but soft, and a pillow under my head. My hands touched my hair, my face, feeling, feeling all that I could not see.
Slowly, I sat up, allowing my hair to fall across my shoulders and back. I was nude, and cold, both inside and out. I licked my cracked lips, tasting blood. My own or someone else’s? I could not tell. My brow furrowed as I locked myself away in thought. Worrying more about the Frankenstein thought that had originally burst into my skull like a bullet, I felt around my body for stitches. Nothing. Just smooth skin, perky (if somewhat small) breasts, hair, lips, nose, eyes, ears. Legs, arms, belly button, and so forth. I was all in one piece, not some cobbled together corpse. I let out a breath I did not realize I had been holding; to breath ached.
I swung my legs over the side of the bed, my toes touching down on the floor beneath it. Wooden. Old. The floorboards creaked and groaned as I distributed my weight across them. I took an unsteady step forward. One. Two. Three. I ran into a wall. Blinking stupidly at the darkness, I felt along the wall until I found a light switch. I turned it on, listening as the old bulb flickered and pinged, taking the electricity and turning it into yellowed light.
Finally, I was able to see. At first, the illumination blinded me; I put my hand over my eyes to block it out for a minute or two. Then, slowly, I lowered the hand to look about myself.
I was in a tiny room. There was the bed I had awoken on; nothing more than a cot sitting against one wall. The other wall was behind me now. There was a door to my right, and to my left, a window. Aside from the cot, there was no furniture of which to speak, though there were curtains up in the window. Licking my lips again, I inched toward it and threw back those dusty, pink curtains to look outside.
There was an old tree tapping on the glass. I looked at the branches for a moment, deciding that they looked like claws grasping for me. With a shiver, I looked beyond the old tree, seeing nothing but fields and forest. No, that wasn’t right. There was a road, just off in the distance, that grew closer and closer to the house I was in until it disappeared just outside. A lone truck drove away from the house, one headlight dead and the other barely visible. The road must have been bumpy, for the truck bounced and rocked as it went along, the engine growling loudly like a bear.
I closed the curtain and turned toward the door.
Cautiously, I put my hand on the knob. Only then did I notice the rope burns upon my wrists. Staring at the broken skin, my lips parted. My hand withdrew from the knob, and I thought better of it. Perhaps I had been held hostage. Perhaps I had been murdered. For all I knew, I had awoken in Hell for sins I could no longer remember.
Footfalls snapped me out of my musings. Someone was racing up stairs that lay beyond the door. Startled, I quickly jumped back into the bed and closed my eyes. I stopped forcing myself to breath. My body stilled though my mind raced. The light! In my haste, I had not turned it out.
Too late–the door swung open. Someone stood in the doorway, looking in my direction. I could not see him or her, but I could feel the gaze. “Who left this light on?” Female. Light and airy, the voice sounded smooth like jazz and light like bells. The woman moved closer to me. I heard the floorboards creak again, this time from her weight. They seemed to be straining a little more now than they had been before, suggesting that this woman was larger than I.
“What a waste,” she said. I felt the edge of the bed sink down. She sat beside me, stroking the side of my face and twirling my hair in her pudgy fingers. I could feel her breath draw closer to my face. Then she kissed me, full on the lips. I tasted cherry pie and whipped cream; I could smell her perfume of rose water and lilies. Yet there was something tainted about her. Something rotting. From inside I could feel it, smell it, hear it, taste it–yes. She was dying.
The woman stopped touching me. She pulled back from the kiss. Then she sighed. “I know I’m only talking to a dead person, but maybe your ghost is here. I hope it is. I want you to haunt me. I would like that.” Notes of sadness were sprinkled in her voice. “Everyone I love leaves me. Even you, Leah. Even you.”
Leah? I thought. That must have been my name. I tucked that knowledge under my belt and waited for the woman to say more. I was hungry for information. I needed to know what was happening, and I needed to know how I was a member of the living dead. Or the dead that could walk. It was a fine line between understanding what I was and thinking that this all had to be some sort of twisted dream. Both seemed reasonable.
“Devin’s left, so it’s just you and me,” the woman continued. She came to sit beside me again, her fingers trailing down my nude body. She paused for a moment between my breasts. “You know, I was always so jealous of you. You were so thin, so beautiful. And it never went to your head. Guys drooled over you. But you didn’t really care for them, did you? No. You were always a good girl. You ignored them. Never went to the bars. Never drank an ounce of wine.” Her voice hitched here, just a little, as though she was going to start crying.
While she spoke, I continued to lie on the bed and pretend to be the unmoving dead. I listened. That was all I could do. Eventually, her hand, still between my breasts, moved to stroke my face again. She rolled the pad of her thumb over my blood-stained lips. “I didn’t think you would die,” she whispered. “I thought it would be a little joke. Something to scare you. You know? But then you started to cough up the blood. I think Devin realized it, but he wanted it. You don’t understand how badly he wanted it.”
She sighed a little, and dropped her hand to the bed. I could no longer feel her, but there was this heavy heat coming off of her. Delicious and delicate. I realized that I could hear her heart beating, loudly, in my ears. Thump thump thump. It mesmerized me for a moment while the woman remained silent. At the same time, I could hear the wind outside and the tap tap of the old tree. The two sounds clashed together, filling the room with noise noise noise, so much noise that I wanted to scream.
Finally, blissfully, the woman started to speak again. “I don’t know what we’re going to do with you,” she breathed. “I guess we could dump you in the river, but then your body will bloat up. No. That’s no good. If you’re going to–to be dead…” She paused. “I don’t want you to be ugly in death. I want you to be beautiful, like you were in life.” I could almost hear a smile upon her willowy voice. “Leah…I’m really sorry about all of this.”
The floorboards creaked again. I heard the light flicker off, and the woman shut the door. Only after I heard her take her leave down the stairs did I open my eyes again.
So, I had been murdered.
Carefully, I sat up in the bed again. I touched my neck, feeling the same sort of rope burn there that graced my wrists. I swallowed a little; the back of my throat ached and felt raw. The blood upon my lips was my own. Yes, that was right–the taste of bleach and the acidic smell of it as a rope tightened around my throat, tighter, tighter, tighter!
I squeezed my eyes shut for a moment, pressing the palms of my hands into them. My mind swarmed with thousands of thoughts, of questions, of ideas.
Of one thing I was certain–I was dead.
After a time, I stood again. I went to the window, looking out at the lonely road leaving the house I was in. The tree looked at me with its twigs and branches, offering nothing to me at first. Then I realized I could climb down it. I had that choice–to leave, to run away. To where? Where would I go? No. I had to remain, I decided.
I switched on the light again and started to look around the room in earnest this time. I dropped to my knees to look under the bed. There was an old looking, wooden box there, partially covered in dust. I took it out and lifted the lid.
Inside was a dress. It was a short, white thing dripping with stained lace. Believing it to be better than nothing, I slipped it on. It was a little large for my svelte body, but it would have to do. I replaced the lid on the box and shoved it under the bed once more.
Suddenly, there were footsteps on the stairs again. Startled, I fell backward onto my rump as the door swiftly opened. The woman stood in the doorway, mouth agape as she stared down at me. She was plump in a pleasing way, and taller than I had expected. Her lips were full and lovely; I remembered her kiss and traced my fingers over my own, thinner lips. She had called me beautiful, but all I saw in her was beauty. Her spring green eyes were wide in shock.
“We…” she stammered, stepping backward. “We killed you,” she breathed. “Leah, you’re dead!”
I slowly rose to my feet, watching her. She continued to back up. I shouted at her, trying to remind her of the steps behind her, but she faltered. I watched as she toppled backward, end over her, and listened as her neck crunched under her weight when she landed sideways upon it at the very foot of the staircase.
Blood dripped out of her ears and nose. I licked my lips, tasting my own blood, and watched her lifeless body for a few moments. There was no sorrow in my mind–only anger. Anger that I had let her die before receiving my answers. Now there was no one to tell me who I was, why I had died.
Slowly, I descended the stairs. I stepped over the woman’s body. Upon looking around, I found that we were in a kitchen. The smell of bleach filled the room–this was where I had been killed. I was certain of it. I looked back at the woman for one last time before I tried the door and fled into the night.