Authors: S.C. Reynolds
By S.C. Reynolds
Text copyright © 2013 S.C.
All Rights Reserved
I struggled to pull my body another inch towards the surface. I had been digging – upwards – for what felt like hours. With each scoop, I was able to dislodge another clump of cool, damp dirt.
I had no idea where I was or how I had gotten here. I just knew I had to get out.
When my right hand finally connected with air, at first I thought it was just a pocket in the dirt. But then I felt the breeze of wind against my skin. With renewed energy, I feverishly clawed in all directions, shoveling dirt as fast as humanly possible. Finally, I could tell I was starting to get close.
Once my arms were out, I was able to push with full force and wriggle my head and torso free from the soil. As I looked around in horror, my growing fear was confirmed: I had been buried underground. Shuddering, I pulled myself the rest of the way out. Still in a daze, I couldn’t comprehend where I was yet. It was dark, early morning or late at night, I didn’t know for sure.
As my eyes adjusted to the dim light, I realized I was surrounded by trees.
Was I buried in the woods?
I blinked several times, but the trees remained. And then I realized where I was.
Row after row – as far as I could see – were large concrete blocks. I couldn’t make out the engravings but I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt what these were.
Trying to fight the rising sense of panic, I slowly turned around to face the foot of the grave from which I had just emerged. There it was.
Aurora Phoenix Stone
, 1996 – May 21st, 2012
Beloved daughter & sister
I was staring at my own tombstone. I was dead.
My life hadn’t always been so complicated. Once upon a time, I was a carefree 16 year old; my biggest worries were passing my pre
-calculus test and getting Michael to ask me to the school dance. Now, that seemed like a completely different lifetime.
, I muse
The last day that I could remember was May 16
. That had been the deadline to apply for class president for my upcoming junior year, and I had been on the fence for months about whether or not I should do it.
Actually, come to think of it, I didn’t recall
specifically. In fact, all I could recollect was worrying all weekend about it – the weekend before? If that was the case, then my last memory was either the 14
or the 15
of May. That meant I was missing time for at least 6 days before I had…stumbled into this insane situation.
After my initial shock at seeing my own tombstone, I had gone into a calm, almost trance-like state. I had immediately convinced myself that either a) this was some ridiculous mistake/prank – could it be Halloween? Or maybe April Fools day? – or b) I was in a frighteningly vivid dream and any minute Kayla would come bounding into my room and unceremoniously wake me up.
Kayla. The thought of her smiling face made me stop in my tracks. I had been heading towards the cemetery gates. Now I stopped and looked around, breathing in the cool air. I could tell it was chilly outside, yet I wasn’t cold. For the first time, I looked down at my clothing.
I was wearing my pale pink dress. I used to love it, last year. It fell just above my knees, and the empire waist made my boyish figure look like there might actually be some curves underneath. The gauzy pink material completed the whimsical look.
Mom and dad decided to bury me in this.
I had been okay up until this point (as okay as anyone who just climbed out of a grave could be), but somehow, seeing myself in the dress, running my hands along the fabric, this didn’t seem like a dream. And that meant one thing I hadn’t seriously considered before: I really had died.
I had started walking again and was almost to the main cemetery entrance. There’s a huge gated fence that surrounds the perimeter; it stays locked from dusk to dawn, to discourage any ghost hunters or up-to-no-good kids, I imagine.
I walked up to the gate slowly, trying to see if it was possible to climb over. It was pretty tall and had barbed wire around the top. That wasn’t going to be an option. I slipped my arm between the bars.
Maybe if I suck in as tight as possible I can squeeze through.
But that didn’t seem very likely, either. I kicked the gate in frustration. To my surprise, it made a slow
as it swung open.
Ha! They forgot to lock it tonight! What are the odds of that?
I quickly went through the gate and latched it behind me, then sat down hard on the curb outside. I needed to clear my head. The initial adrenaline I had felt was gone now, replaced by a numb feeling I couldn’t describe.
What if I’m a ghost? Will anyone even be able to see me?
Suddenly it became clear. I needed answers but I couldn’t go home. If I was really dead, the shock of seeing me might kill Mom, Dad, and Kayla. I had to go to someone who could help me think this situation through. And that someone was Henry.
I trusted Henry with my life. I had known him since I was 10, when Shaun Jenkins stole Henry’s lunch and I kicked Shaun in the knee to get it back. From that day on, Henry and I were inseparable, and all of the other kids knew that if you messed with one of us you were taking on both of us.
When we were younger, most of our time was spent playing basketball together in his carport. Nowadays, he was my number one confidante for, well, everything.
It only took about 10 minutes to walk to Henry’s house. I used to find it creepy that he lived so close to the graveyard, but now I appreciated the short distance. It was completely dead outside – no pun intended. No cars, no people. I figured it must be the middle of the night.
Henry lived on the top floor of a large three-story house. The third story used to be an attic but his parents had it renovated when they bought the house after Henry was born. It was a really spacious area and completely private from the rest of the place.
Of course now when I came over to visit Henry I would just knock and go through the house, but when
we were kids I liked to use the ‘secret’ entrance. Henry’s parents had a rope ladder attached to the inside of the window. The intent was for him to have an escape root if the house caught on fire, they had a home invasion, etc.
His parents are a little OCD, and not without good reason. Both of them are high profile criminal lawyers. They deal with unsavory people on a daily basis, and it’s not a
stretch of the imagination to guess that a disgruntled client could very well try to take revenge.
e used to love to come and go from that ladder. We weren’t sneaking out to do anything bad, but it just gave us this great sense of adventure and freedom.
Needless to say, the first time Henry’s parents caught us leaving his room (to get ice cream, if I remember correctly) we were banned from ever using th
e ladder for that purpose again. They had sworn that if they ever caught Henry or any of his friends climbing it, he would have to move out of the attic room and into one of the first floor bedrooms.
It was around that time they also had a wrought iron fence put up around the perimeter. They had claimed it was just an added safety precaution, but I suspected it was really motivated by our ladder escapades.
The fence was about 10 feet high. I had never tried to jump it before, but I felt fairly confident I could wrangle my way over. A true tomboy for the good part of my younger life, I was adept at shimmying up trees and jumping fences.
I just had to figure out the best way to go about this. There was a tall oak tree with huge overgrown branches on the west side of the house. If I could climb that, I might be able to maneuver onto one of the far-reaching branches and somehow get to the fence from there.
I made my way over to the base of the tree, trying to step as softly as possible. The lowest branch was about half a foot above my head, but the bark was uneven and
might provide leverage for me to hoist myself upwards. I dug my left foot into a groove in the bark.
Here goes nothing.
With a slight grunt, I jumped as high as possible. I was able to just barely grab the tree branch but my grip slipped and I stumbled back to the ground, raking my knee down the rough bark in the process. “Urrggh,” I moaned in frustration. The skin had been peeled up on the top of my kneecap
; it looked pretty nasty but it didn’t hurt so I decided I couldn’t have done too much damage.
And at least it’s not bleeding.
Let’s try this again
. I stared defiantly at the tree, determined this was a battle I was going to win.
when I jumped, I gripped the tree branch with a force I didn’t know I had. I didn’t fall back down. Luckily, getting to the branch had proven to be the hardest part. I was easily able to walk my feet up the tree now that I was holding onto something. Within no time, I had made it onto the branch and righted myself into a sitting position.
From there, it was smooth sailing
. The branch was closer to the fence than I had estimated from the ground, and it felt sturdy enough to hold my weight if I crawled all the way to the very end of it. The fence itself was one of those classic wrought iron fences with the slightly pointed top. It didn’t have rungs the length of the entire fence, but there was a horizontal bar that crossed the vertical bars near the top and the bottom of the fence. I knew that if I could step onto the top bar I could jump down from there.
I hope they haven’t made this thing electric since I’ve been gone.
I tried to push the thought out of my head as I scooted to the edge of the branch. I had repositioned myself so that I was lying chest down on the tree branch, with the lower half of my body angled towards the fence. This allowed me to (carefully) kick my legs out and still remain securely gripping the tree.
I gingerly tapped my toe against the fence post. Nothing happened.
I managed to plant my feet onto the bar on the other side of the fence. I let go of the tree completely and jumped backwards off of the fence, landing on my butt with a loud
Not even out of the grave for a day and you’re already injuring yourself
. But, hey, I’ve always been a little klutzy. I guess even being dead then resurrected can’t change that.
I knew that there were motion sensor lights around the house, but if it really were the middle of the night, hopefully everyone would be asleep and not notice. I decided my best tactic was just to move as quickly as possible and not look back.
I broke out into a sprint. As I jogged the length of the house to reach the side with the main attic window, lights flashed on, illuminating my trail.
Don’t think about it
, I commanded myself.
There wasn’t a motion sensor light by the window, thank God. I had to stand for several minutes, waiting for the other lights I’d activated to cut off. And it was then I realized I had no clue what I was going to do next, no game plan. I couldn’t just show up at Henry’s window. They obviously all thought I was dead! He’d flip out. He’d probably yell and wake up his parents.
But then again, what other option did I have? Of course, if
who thought I was dead saw me, they were going to be in shock. That was inevitable.
I couldn’t stand here all night. I looked around for something to hurl at the window. There was a garden on this side of the house, lined with alternating large and small stones. I didn’t
the small ones would crack the window, but they should make a loud enough noise to get Henry’s attention.
The first shot missed completely. As did the
second. And the third. I groaned in frustration and hurled the next rock without even stopping to take the time to aim. It tapped the window squarely in the middle, making a distinct
against the glass. “Yes!” I exclaimed in (what I hoped) was a low voice.
I knew Henry probably better than he knew himself, and it was going to take 2 or 3 shots for him to realize it wasn’t the wind or a figment of his imagination.
I miraculously nailed the next two and was about to throw another one when I heard the window being opened. I ducked down so that I was partially obscured by a large flower bush. The plan – that I had hastily devised while slinging rocks towards the window – was to coax him out of his room without revealing my identity. At least then I could be in control of the situation. You know, cover his mouth if he tried to scream or something.
“Who’s there?” Henry called down in a loud whisper.
“You don’t know me,” I hissed back, deepening my voice, “but I have to talk to you about Aurora.”
Pause. “Is this some kind of twisted joke? Who the hell is this?”
“Please! Keep your voice down. This is not a joke and I must see you immediately. I have a message for you…from Aurora. It was her last dying wish that I speak to you.” As the words tumbled out of my mouth, I was digging the way this story was sounding. There was no way Henry would be able to resist that.
“Please,” I tried again in my best man’s voice. “It won’t take much of your time. Use the
Henry waited so long to answer that I thought maybe he had left. I peeped out from behind the rose bush and craned my neck to see his window. Henry was slumped over, leaning on the windowpane, with his head in his hands.
Oh my God, I’ve killed him!
“Henry?” I called tentatively.
Henry retreated from the window and was back a few moments later. In the dim light, I could see the outline of the thick cloth rope.
“I don’t know who you are or what you want, but you had better not try anything funny or I’ll scream and wake up the entire world,” Henry warned. “Now stand back!”
I ducked completely behind the rose bush and waited for him to descend the ladder. When he got to the bottom, he jumped down and spun around quickly. “Where did you go?” he demanded.
“I’m behind this rose bush. Just talk to me for a minute.” I had dropped the phony male voice and was speaking normally now.
My voice was shaking. “I know you’re going to have a very hard time believing what I’m about to tell you. I’m not even sure if I believe it myself.”
I peered around the side of the bush so I could look Henry in the eye. He had a funny expression on his face, as though he recognized my voice and was trying to place it.
“I woke up earlier tonight…in the cemetery.” I gulped. “Please don’t freak out, but it’s me, Aurora.”
I stood up and moved towards Henry. He began backing up slowly. His face registered complete shock. “Henry? Are you okay?” I reached out to touch his arm but he jerked backwards.
“What? How? I just don’t…” Henry’s voice trailed off. And then he fainted.