An old short story I wrote circa 2013.
Welcome to Dead
I didn’t realize right away what had happened. That I had died, I mean. I was vaguely aware of the accident. It came back in fragments. Pieces of a puzzle I had to guess at. I had been running late for class as usual, and being the klutz that I am… I tripped on the stairs. Now I didn’t trip down the stairs, you see I have this uncanny knack for tripping up the stairs. Always. But this time was different. In some freak of nature twist, I landed just perfectly enough to sever something that is kind of essential to keeping the body well… alive. So now, I’m not.
At first I noticed strange things like the way my neck had taken on this sort of rubbery quality. Gave a whole new meaning to the term “rubbernecking”. I remember looking into the mirror and being reminded by my reflection of a Stretch Armstrong doll I’d had as a kid. It was like my neck was a sock holding things in, but not holding them in their proper places. I know what you’re thinking, “how the hell do you not realize you’re dead”. But it’s a gradual process, it really is. Nobody sends you a “welcome to Dead” greeting card. There is no blinding white light. If that stuff really happens, it hasn’t happened to me yet. And I’m plenty dead. It’s hard to explain unless you’ve been there. I get your skepticism, believe me, I do. But it’s a process. It’s gradual. And it’s vague at first. Incredibly so. For me at least. The neck thing was weird, but the rotting and the bits of rigor mortis were the weirdest by far. Imagine going to sleep and waking up dead. Doesn’t make sense, but that’s what it’s like. I closed my eyes and when I opened them everything seemed just as I had left it before my eyelids drew the curtain. But everything had changed. I just didn’t know it yet.
Time doesn’t work the same on this side. Weeks pass like minutes. I guess that’s a good thing because if I’m stuck in limbo for centuries at least it’ll go by a bit quicker. I have this mentor helping me through the process. Alice. She’s not much older than me, she was a senior in highschool when she bit the big one. One of those popular types. I didn’t know her in life, but from what I know of her on this side, she’s a pretty unconventional popular girl. She can be a little harsh at times, but I know it’s out of love. Limbo can be rough, we’re just all trying to figure our way out of this little holding pen. But Alice is pretty cool and I’m super grateful for her. Mentoring me is part of her penance. I’m not sure what she did to get here, I feel it’s impolite to ask, but maybe someday when she’s getting out, she’ll tell me. As for me, I’m still trying to figure out what landed me in Limbo. I was a sophomore in highschool, I died a virgin, I tried pot once and freaked out, made my friends call an ambulance. Yeah… by most modern accounts I was pretty much a goody goody. I have intake appointments once a week with my counselor, Sam. He’s pretty cool, too. He’s sort of this new age hippie dude. I mean he wears suits and stuff, but he’s got this long stringy hair, he plays the guitar, and he’s all about love, light, and self discovery. It’d be great if he could say “THIS is why you’re here in Limbovania!”, but as he constantly reminds me, “it doesn’t work that way”. He has me journal during the week in an attempt to delve a little deeper and discover why I’ve been brought here. No luck so far.
Wanna know something funny? Well, funny to me anyway… When I first met Sam I was really freaked out by all of this and desperate to get out of limbo because it has such a bad wrap amongst the living. My first thought was that I had been sent here for being a lesbian. Good ‘ol Catholic schoolgirl guilt. I was so dead certain that’s what it was, but Sam just kind of smirked, shook his head and told me it doesn’t work that way. That was such a relief, but to think back on that moment is pretty embarrassing now. So naïve! Then I totally broke down in this tirade of a confessional a la Chunk in the Goonies, running the gamut of every little deed in the past 16 years that could have been considered not entirely up to snuff. But sam said I was thinking about this all wrong. I wish he would have told me that, you know, before I spilled my guts about every minute detail of my short life. But I’m sure that’s what keeps his job interesting. I’ve never asked Sam how he got here, or why he was stuck counseling us new arrivals, but once I caught a glimpse beneath the cuff of his sleeve and I saw the gaping razor wounds. He’s a good guy, and I’m glad I have him. I wish Sam could tell me why I’m here and what my penance will be, but it’s all very existential and philosophical and “doesn’t work that way”. He says I have to find the answer “within”, which sounds so silly and frustrating, but I get it I guess. I’m working on it. And really, limbo’s not so bad for the time being.