Chapter one: Jane
I am standing in my living room of my old house as a child. I am 5 years old with my bright blonde hair tied back in a mess. My dad has no idea how to do my hair, and my mom was too drunk all the time to even care. I tugged and tightened pieces of my blonde hair (which I got from my mom) as I listened to the sounds of crashing and yelling from in the kitchen. The louder they got the more I fidgeted with my hair. I stared at the ugly vomit colored walls and plugged my little ears hoping for the fighting to end soon.
Just then my mom stormed out of the kitchen, her face raging with anger. I gulped and choked out a small,
“Mommy?” She stopped in her steps and turned to look at me, her daughter. Her eyebrows furrowed and her eyes narrowed. My heart started pounding. She stared at me for a long while and then just walked to her room. My heart sank to the bottom of my stomach. Her eyes…she looked at me as if I was no one important at all. I heard muffles coming from the kitchen. My dad had not come out yet. I shakily walked into the kitchen to see my dad sitting at the kitchen table with his hands in his face muffling words I could not make out. Once again, I pulled some 5-year-old courage and squeaked,
“Daddy?” He looked up, shocked to see me. He wiped his eyes and said,
“Hello buttercup.” A small smile almost sneaked out of me from hearing my nickname my dad gave me. He once told me if I didn’t stop eating buttercup candy I would turn into one, creating my nickname two years ago. But right now nicknames weren’t going to solve what was happening.
My eyes shifted to the living room where my mom was walking in and out of grabbing various clothing items.
“Why is mommy so mad?” My dad lowered his eyes.
“Come here.” He motioned me with his hand to sit on his lap. I hesitantly walked over and plopped down on his lap. I looked up into his sad eyes with my bright green eyes. A tear slid down his cheek.
“Daddy, why are you sad?” He gave a half smile and wiped his tear.
“Daddy is sad because mommy and daddy are not getting along.”
“Why?” I choked out.
“I…I don’t know sweetie, but mommy is leaving.”
“Where is she going? When will she be back?”
“She’s…Jane. She’s not coming back.”
“Never? Like…she’s going to be gone forever?” My dad nodded his head. “NO! Daddy! Make her stay! Stop her!” I jumped off his lap in panic and ran into my mom’s room where she had 3 suitcases on her bed. “Mommy. Where are you going? Please don’t go!” I could feel myself choking up and tears swelled up in my eyes.
“Jane. I don’t have time for this.” She grabbed her luggage and pushed pass me. My dad stood in the doorway of the kitchen and watched her walk out the door.
“Dad! Stop her! Why aren’t you doing anything!?” I screamed and ran after her. My mom put her luggage in the back of her car. I grabbed her waist and hugged her. “Mommy please don’t go,” I pleaded as tears started coming on. She shoved me off and I fall into the street scrapping my knees. I looked up with tears and saw my dad standing on the porch, watching with pain in his eyes. I looked back at my mom who was opening the door and getting in the car. I lay in the street and yelled at her, “Mommy! Please! Don’t go. PLEASE MOMMY!” I screamed at the top of my lungs with hysterical crying. She started the engine. “NO!” I got up and started chasing the car as it drove off. I wasn’t fast enough. I couldn’t catch it. But I had to catch her. I ran faster, and faster and soon enough the car was not in sight.
I fell to the ground screaming and crying. Why did she leave? Why didn’t she love me? I buried my face in the concrete of the road and bawled. I felt a hand on my shoulder. I looked up with red puffy eyes.
“You! You did this! Why didn’t you stop her!?” I yelled at my dad. He looked down at me with pain. He didn’t say anything. He didn’t know what to say. I shoved his touch off and ran back into my house crying so hard that I thought I would never stop.
I came back to reality. I was too afraid to open my eyes. It was silent and still. My eyelids felt like they had weights on them as I forced them open. I was lying on my back on the ground staring up at a plain dark ceiling. I sat up. I was in an empty room with concrete floor, four concrete walls and a door that was ajar. There was nothing else at all. I sat up more and looked around me. Where was I? Was I dead? I slowly, shakily stood up. I remember everything. And a shock went through me. I still remember everything. And it still hurts. All the pain and sadness, it’s still here. My dream I just had, the horrible memory, still played over and over again in my head like a movie that never ends. I felt tears coming on, but stopped them. I had to figure out where I was.
Scared to death, I walked towards the door and pushed it open a little farther with my finger tip. I glanced out the door. There was a long hallway just like this room; concrete floors and walls with nothing else. I walked out the door and slowly walked down the long hallway. There were large windows that looked into other small square rooms like the one I was in. I felt terrified. Where was everyone else?
Down a little farther was the end of the hallway. It broke into a very large room, also empty, but there were two large glass doors leading outside. Should I go out there? I fought with myself for a few minutes on whether or not I should go out there. I took a deep breath and gathered some 17-year-old courage and pushed open the glass door and stepped outside.
It was empty out here. I looked up at the building reading the large letters on the front: NEW YORK CITY HOSPITAL. It was the hospital that was five blocks away from my apartment complex.
This was where I lived.
There were streets and buildings just like the city I live in. But, it was scary, sad, and deserted. Large dark gray clouds covered the sky completely making it very dim and dark. Not a speck of sunlight was showing. It looked cold but I didn’t feel it. The wind blew the trees and my long black dyed hair, making it stick to my pale white skin. There were no cars in the streets. No cars honking anxiously at the New York traffic. No people walking their dogs. No people yelling at taxis. The buildings looked abandoned. There was nothing. It was our world, except there was no sun at all and there was no sign of life anywhere. It was if everything and everyone had just disappeared. I hugged my shoulders from the wind that I didn’t feel. Normally, the cold wind would pierce my skin making me shiver, but I felt nothing. I felt no wind, no cold, not even my own touch against my skin. Yet, I still felt all the pain that I tried to get away from.
Is this a punishment for suicide? Being stuck in a parallel world still feeling all things I so desperately wanted to escape? I sat on a curb so confused. I pulled at my hair thinking. I would figure this out. My boyfriend had once told me I was one of the smartest girls he knows-knew. Yet I denied it over and over again and never tried in school because I was never going to go anywhere. I did score the highest on our high school exit exam, but I kept that to myself. So, if I am so smart I will figure this all out.
Thoughts bounced around my head. Memories, painful memories, replayed in my head and I couldn’t think. I stood up shaking with fear and confusion.
I can’t deny this. I can’t pretend it’s not there like everything else in my life.
I am dead.
I’ve studied death before. But nothing like this.
I. Am. Dead.
And when people die, they become ghosts and go on to the afterlife. Is this the afterlife? Is this Hell? Heaven? Then, another shock jolted through me. Not only was I dead…
I am in fact…a ghost.
I can’t feel anything physically. I can obviously still feel emotionally but I don’t feel cold or a touch. I don’t feel hungry or sleepy. A thought occurred in my head. I bent down and grabbed a small pointed rock. I brought the rock to my leg and pierced my skin with the quick sound of slicing flesh. I flinched anticipating the stinging pain. Blood trickled down my skin.
I didn’t feel the physical pain of a cut or the warm blood run down my leg. My stomach still churned inside me thinking of how that would normally hurt.
I started to breathe heavily. I couldn’t feel physically at all. What have I gotten myself into?
I suddenly felt the need to go to my apartment. My dad…I started to walk fast down the street. I walked faster and started to run but stopped when I passed an empty building. It was the store where I got most of my things, SANDYS THRIFT STORE. It was empty but the thing that caught me the most was the windows. I stared into them, into my reflection.
I looked exactly the same. I still had my long black, dyed hair, my big green eyes, and my pale white skin. I’m still in the clothes that I was wearing before I... died. My blue jeans, too long, ran down to the bottom of my black Vans, ends fraying, and my black, baggy sweatshirt hung loosely at my mid thigh. But clothes and hair didn’t matter right now. What really caught me off guard was that I wasn’t translucent. I didn’t look like a ghost at all. I just looked like me. I wondered if I could go through things…
Not even thinking at all, I backed up a little ways and ran. I ran into the wall of the store at full force, bounced right off the wall and fell to the ground with a hard thud. Normally that would hurt like hell, but I felt nothing. And I didn’t go through the wall. What kind of ghost am I?
I looked in the window again seeing blood trickling down my forehead, still feeling no pain.
“S***,” I whispered to myself. The blood on my leg had dried and crusted into a long line down my skin. I used the sleeve of my jacket to wipe the blood off my forehead and then continued to my apartment with confused, terrified thoughts that kept spiraling all around me.
I walked in deep thought and reached my destination quickly. I looked up at my home. Well, my old home. Pain burned inside of me. That place has so many bad memories, but what really hurt was the fact that I was gone. I wasn’t going back. I had left people…But I shouldn’t feel bad. All those people should feel bad and guilty their whole lives for hurting me in the ways they did. Tears rolled down my cheeks. I couldn’t go in there. There would be nothing and nobody. It would be a pointless idea causing more pain and longing.
I then let myself fall in the middle of the deserted street. I hugged my knees closely into my chest, buried my face in my knees and cried hysterically. This hurt. I was in the street crying just like when my mom left me. I was alone again. This pain was never going to end. I am stuck here; an eternity of pain. I guess I deserve it. I cried more and more remembering everything. I then heard a gentle voice that made my heart stop.
“Why are you crying?” I didn’t even think, my head jolted up at a man. He was a tall, older black man. He had blue comforting eyes and a white beard.
“Are you stuck here too?” I asked excitedly. Hope surged in me. There was another person in this strange place.
“I don’t know,” he whispered. “Am I dead?”
“I think so. We’re trapped here,” I responded. He looked down confused.
“Here,” He pointed to the ground where he was standing. “Here,” he repeated. I looked to where he was pointing in confusion. “Here. This is where it happened.”
“Where what happened?” I asked and stood up.
“My brother. He was driving. We were laughing. I hadn’t seen him in years. We stopped talking when we were 20. I didn’t talk to my brother for 20 years. I love my brother, but after I ran away with Sally…” He paused. “I made a big mistake.” He was looking down rambling off his story with short unclear sentences. I didn’t know what was going on but I listened.
“Sally was beautiful. I thought I loved her. No one understood our love. She was a prostitute and my family did not approve of her. No one supported us. I was so mad. I…we ran away together and I never talked to my family. My brother was the most important person to me. I should have listened to him. I wasted 20 years I could have had with him. I wasted it on Sally. She sometimes never came home. She was always out screwing other men for money. She was always drinking. I let her do what she wanted; I let her treat me horribly. I wasted my life…And one day she just never showed up. Never came home. I should have listened to them…I should have listened.” He was still looking down at the ground.
“What happened after she left?” I asked feeling sorry for the poor man. I understood his pain, when you screw up everything and there’s no way to fix it.
“She left me 4 months ago. I finally picked up the phone last week to call my brother in tears. I needed him. And in a heartbeat he came over and…oh. I missed him so much. I was so glad to have him back. He forgave me. I forgave him. I was so happy. We were going to make up for lost times. We were driving to get some dinner, talking and laughing about old times. And he turned the corner and hit a speeding car. We rammed right into the car, and a giant truck plummeted into us not able to stop fast enough, causing us to flip. We flipped right here.” He was still looking down at the spot.
This was where the man died. He just died right here, just now. He looked up at me tears pouring out.
“I loved my brother. I hope he’s okay. I’m glad we fixed things before I left.” And as he said that he started to fade. He slowly became translucent. He looked up. “It’s my time. I am finished in that world. Good luck.” He faded more and white lights started to surround him.
“NO! Don’t go!” He gave a half smile but it faded as his eyes grew big and he pointed behind me. Then he faded away, moving on into the afterlife. He was gone…
“Hello Jane.” I turned around quickly again. There stood a man. Now, this guy didn’t look as comforting as the last guy. He had black eyes and he wore a black robe with a hood that hung over his face, casting a shadow on his face. I gave the guy a puzzled look. His fingertips were not ordinary. They were black balls. Like a frogs or like he stuck olives on his fingertips. But I had a feeling that those were no olives.
“How do you know my name? Are you dead too?”
“Oh darling. I have been dead for a very long time and I am here to help you.” My body stiffened and my gut told me to run. He was bad. Very bad. My gut screamed at me to go. I needed to get out of here. I started to back away. “Where do you thinking you’re going little missy?” He raised his right hand and put his left hand palm up. With his right hand he started touching his left palm doing something strange as if he was going to pull something out of his hand. At that moment, he started pulling vines out of palm. He pulled more black-green vines with thorns and shaped it into a ball as electric sparks hovered over it. “I am here to help.” He gave a cocky half smile and launched the ball at me.