stuck by phoenix.writing

21 Mar

I’d like to dispel a few myths about death.  The first being that it is not the end.  Not that I am any great expert.  I’ve only been dead a week.  But here I am: indisputably, something continues on, though whether or not you want to call it the soul is up to you.

Oh, and all that nonsense about being able to look down on people and see what they’re doing?  Actually true.  I just got to see my own funeral, for God’s sake—though this is probably not the time to be taking the Lord’s name in vain, just in case.  Haven’t seen any particular evidence, though, to be honest.  It’s just me, and when I think about something, I see it.  Like a psychic tv channel that’s tuned in to my brain.

It’s kind of interesting and kind of pisses me off; that whole “Don’t say evil of someone who’s dead”?  Apparently, lots of people don’t put a lot of stock in that anymore, and it’s depressing when you get called a bitch after you’re dead.  The sentiment isn’t the problem, it’s the fact that I don’t have any way to respond.  I’m thinking pithy one-liners that I’m never going to get to use.

But it’s fascinating to see what they do when they think no one’s watching, to know for certain that it took George twenty minutes to wind up at the apartment of that bit of blonde he kept insisting he didn’t have on the side, Frank actually took a drink in my honour before he started looking for someone to replace me, and Robin got totally plastered before she admitted that sometimes she hated me but she was actually going to miss me a little bit.

Not things any of them would say if they knew I was around to hear it.  There’s no limit to what I can see.  This is a private detective’s wet dream.

And then, naturally, I’m not alone any more.

“Hello, Marcia.”

He’s pretty easy on the eyes, sandy blond hair, green eyes—I’ve always had a soft spot for green eyes—what is sure to be a very nice body under jeans and a t-shirt.

The fact that he’s at least ten years younger than me—let’s call it ten—wouldn’t normally stop me from flirting with him, but the realisation that I’m dead and don’t exactly have an age anymore confuses me enough that I’m off my game.

“Who are you?”

“You can call me an escort, I suppose,” he says, smiling with a flash of white teeth.  “I come to get people who are stuck.”


“Between Earth and your final destination.”

“Final destination?”

Damn, I’ve turned into a parrot.

He smiles again.  “You’ll just have to get there to find out.”

I frown.  “You mean I’m in some sort of limbo?  And you’re here to make sure I get to heaven?”  I eye him more closely.  “Or hell?”

He shrugs.  “Something like that.  Mortals don’t have a very good understanding of what happens after death; this construction is the result.  It’s often the materialistic ones who have the most trouble.”

I consider taking offence, but I’m dead now, and I know what I’m like.

Time to get this show on the road.

“You’ve come, you’ve talked, and I’m all ready.  Is there a reason we aren’t leaving yet?”

He smiles again, this one a little wry.  “It’s not as simple as that.  I said you’re stuck, and I meant it.  You have to let go of all this before we can go anywhere.”

I look round myself again at the nothingness.  “Let go of what?”

“Have you looked at yourself?”

I see nothing out of the ordinary when I look down, so I look up again.  “So?”

“When’s the last time you looked like that?  Be honest.”

I look down at my hands once more, concentrate on the slim, curvy body encased in a form-fitting blouse and a skirt that’s almost knee-length.

I meet his eyes once more, and I know there’s too much defiance in my tone, but I don’t care.  “I think I wore this to my last premiere.  I looked good.”

His eyes pierce me.  “You’re dead; there’s no one to lie to but yourself.  Think about what you looked like right before you died.”

“This is it,” I repeat, glaring.

If there’s one thing that I hate, it’s being insulted by a man.  Catty jealousy rolls right off me, but a man telling me I don’t look good is liable to get a slap in the face.

“Always so damn stubborn,” he says on a huff of breath.  “You know you weren’t a size two when you died.  Think about that.”

So maybe I exaggerated a little, but it’s not like I planned this.  When I look down, this is what I see, and I don’t understand why he keeps nagging me.

Who cares what I looked like right before I died?  I was on my way to a spa treatment, so I wasn’t exactly at my most presentable … but he keeps staring at me with those pretty green eyes, and I’m finding it difficult to concentrate on anything else.

Okay, okay, I was driving for a couple hours, thinking that maybe I should get my hair cut and another dye job.  There was that slight stiffness showing up in my left knee, my neck aching a bit, right before—

Pain everywhere.  It feels like my left side has been crushed completely, like I can’t breathe, can’t think.  Fragmented images.  Shards of glass from the window and windshield.  Flashes of red blood, too much blood.  I can’t move.  I can’t—

“Nell!  Look at me.”

Green eyes.  My favourite green eyes.  I lock onto them.

“You’re all right.  All that’s past now, remember?  You don’t have anything to fear here.”

I blink, and it’s all gone.  I’m lying on the ground cradled in his arms, and he’s still looking at me with concern.  I push myself into a sitting position and glare as I work out what happened.

“Remember what I look like right before I died?  What kind of an instruction is that?”

He looks sheepish.  “I didn’t think it would turn out quite like that.  It’s just supposed to make you realize how fluid your perceptions are, make you realize that none of that matters anymore.”

I eye him and ask suspiciously, “How often have you come to get people who are stuck?”

His eyes shift away before he admits, “This is my first time.”

“Great, I get stuck with the newbie.”

He looks embarrassed and will not meet my eyes.

I climb to my feet awkwardly, realising only then that I’m no longer in the body I started with nor the damaged one from the accident.  My hands and the rest of me look like they belong to a kid, no more than twelve, and in a leap of intuition, I put all the pieces together.

Since he’s not looking at me, he’s kind of surprised when I tackle him.  We land on the ground with me on top.

I have wrapped my arms around him and don’t have any intention of letting go.

“What are you doing?” he asks.

“You called me Nell.”

He stiffens.

It has been a very long time since little Helen May met Tommy Reynolds, but I know this is the body that I did it in, and I know now that there is a very specific reason that I was so enamoured of those green eyes; they’re the original on which my fondness was formed.  It all makes sense.

For a moment, I think that he’s going to deny it, going to repudiate me after all, and then his arms are wrapping around me, and he is holding me as tightly as I am holding him.

“Ah, Nell,” he says, “I didn’t mean to make such a mess of this, I’m sorry.”

There isn’t anything to apologize for. I ran away from him, from the life we could have had together.  I was young and scared, and I dreamed of bigger and brighter things.  You didn’t head to Hollywood to be a pregnant star.  At the time, that had seemed very important.

He looks younger now, I realize, exactly like he did when I left him.  Peering down at myself, I see that I’ve gotten a bit older, no doubt the same age.

It’s been a long time since I’ve let myself wonder what my life would be like if I’d stayed with Tommy, and it’s really too late for regrets.

This is something else entirely, and all I can think is that he came to get me.

For the first time in a long time, I realize, I am happy.

Tommy smiles at me, and we are suddenly on our feet.  I don’t remember getting up—but it’s not like we have actual physical bodies anymore.  Maybe I have learned the lesson that he wanted me to learn.  I still feel like I’m holding his hand, but his smile is brilliant, and I have this sudden sensation of floating.

I’ve only been dead a week, but what I have discovered is fundamental.  Death is not the end; sometimes, it is the beginning.


3 Responses to “stuck by phoenix.writing”

  1. jadamthwaite March 21, 2010 at 11:01 pm #

    This is an interesting idea… and also kind of scary, the idea of ‘the end’ being the beginning of a sort of alternative life. I like how she connects with the eyes from the beginning without really realising it.

  2. jmforceton March 21, 2010 at 11:44 pm #

    My favorite line;

    Between Earth and your final destination.”

    “Final destination?”

    Damn, I’ve turned into a parrot.

    Great use of dialog, very well crafted. Took me easily to the end of the story.

    Well done.

  3. juleshg March 22, 2010 at 4:36 am #

    Great! Even when I am dead I will worry about fitting into a size 2!!

    Great story — I love the idea of an ‘escort’ bringing you to your ‘final destination’

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