Writing by Keira
[content warning: abuse, domestic violence, child abuse, torture, r*pe, this is a horror story]
I was hiding in my room, waiting for Dad to come in and beat me. It was Friday night, which meant he'd been out drinking and would come home, yell at Mum, yell at my brother and then it would be my turn for a visit. I was just waiting for it to be over. I hated waiting, knowing that it was coming, knowing that I was going to get hit. The worst part was that I didn't know what time he would come home. I used to go to bed, thinking that he wouldn't wake me in order to hit me and tell me what a waste of space I am, but I quickly found out that he had no qualms about pulling me from the bed by my hair and screaming at me. Like I was terrible for making him go to this extra effort to hurt me.
Where was he? I needed this to be over. I hadn't heard him come home yet. Maybe he had gotten into a fight at the bar. He was always fighting. The only place he didn't seem to fight was at work, which was good because Mum said we needed the small amount of money he was bringing in to put food on the table. Mum also worked but it wasn't enough to feed all four of us. I think that if she had one less child, maybe she could have left Dad and taken my brother with her. Maybe then we wouldn't have had to stay here. My fault again, being born and being another mouth to feed.
My alarm woke me up. I moved from my position in the corner on the floor, sore and tired. Looks like Dad hadn't made it home last night. Maybe he was passed out somewhere in a gutter. I could only hope. Those were the brief reprieves we would sometimes get; when he had too much to drink and couldn't make it home. It meant I had to wait until next Friday night to see how much my father hated me. In the meantime, breakfast.
Mum was in the kitchen, humming a tune about ducklings over the stove, making us bacon and eggs for breakfast. It was surreal. I hadn't seen Mum humming or singing, or even happy for that matter, in a long long time. It almost brought a smile to my face. Almost. It's hard to be happy when you know bad things are coming, just around the corner. My brother came out of his room when we were sitting down to eat. Mum was just having toast and eggs. She's a vegetarian, something that Dad always picked on her for. Said it made her weak, said it was why she never fought back. I shook my heads to dislodge the thoughts and focussed on my bacon and eggs. None of us asked where Dad was. It was nice to pretend for a while that he didn't exist. That it was just the three of us. Maybe one day my wish would come true. Maybe he was in a gutter somewhere, dead.
A whole week passed and I still hadn't seen him. It was beginning to worry me. Was this some sort of trap to make us all complacent and happy so that when he came back it would hurt even more? What about our money problems? I guess, if Mum didn't have to pay for his food and she got some more hours maybe we could get by.... Maybe I could get a part time job somewhere and help out. I knew my brother had been looking around. As it was Friday night, I went back into my corner and settled down for a long sleepless night of waiting for my father to come home.
At about 11pm he still hadn't come home. I checked the clock. I heard a door open and close, but this was at the back of the house. Confused, I decided to snoop. If I was quiet, he might not know that I was sneaking around and maybe I wouldn't get into trouble. To my surprise, it was Mum that I saw sneaking across the backyard, key in hand, heading for the shed that we used to store our whipper snipper, yard tools, and mower. Was she doing some late night gardening? I watched her slip in and I snuck out into the dark after her. As I got up close to the shed door, I heard muffled grunting. When I opened the door, a mix of happiness and revulsion welled up inside me. There was Mum, standing over Dad. He was chained to an old chair and was missing a leg and some fingers. Mum was humming a tune about ducklings as she carved some meat from his right forearm. In shock, I retreated back to my room.
The next morning, we had fresh bacon with our eggs again.
I love the environment and I love nature
But I have a feeling they won't be there in the future
We're mining and drilling and all around killing
Destroying everything around us without any feeling
Scared of police, the government, authority
That put corporations before you and me
I do the things that are socially acceptable
Like putting my rubbish in the right receptacle
But there are people out there taking real risks
To honour them I'ma write you some lists
There's the Wangan and Jagalingou people
Who are stopping Adani mining for coal
Adani doesn't care what these people have to say
They go behind their backs to try and get their way
They talk to the government, which has Adani's back
But the Wangan and Jagalingou people stand firm against their attack
They are not the only ones fighting for their community
Or the environment; many groups stand in unity
Around the world a lot of movement is happening
The fact that we have to fight for our future is maddening
In Peru people move to stop a Southern Copper Corp mine
One person is dead, many wounded, fighting a dollar sign
Tibetans are arrested while protecting sacred lands
From resource extraction that government demands
Secwepemc Women Warrior Society says #waterislife
Saying Imperial Metals' Mount Polley mine has already caused strife
Knitting Nannas and everyday farmers are banding together
To prevent Coal Seam Gas mining in NSW forever
All of these people and many more globally
Are defending the futures of people like you and me
They deserve more than a poem, more than a song
We're running out of time to stop it all going wrong
It's time to stand up, against corrupt corporations
Against profiteering government organisations
Time to stand together and say enough is enough
We can do this together even though it will be tough
It sure was dark this morning. I couldn't see anything. And there was a weird smell. I went to sit up and swiftly hit my head and blacked out.
I woke up again and it was still dark. This time I was a bit more cautious. I used my hands to feel around and above me. I was in some sort of box. Oh great, I had been buried alive. Fantastic. It's not like I had things to do with my life. Now I get to end it in a box. Well, at least there were things I didn't have to worry about now, like exams, assignments, bills, work. Although I wonder who would look after my cats... Good thing I hadn't been in a relationship so no one would have their heart broken. That's right, think of the positive things while you're buried alive instead of trying to get out.
Fine. Time to get out of here if I could. I used my fingers again to feel around, this time searching for cracks or crevices. What was this? A rope? Who buries someone with a rope in the box? I pulled it. Nothing happened. Useless. Maybe if I had something in my pockets I could try and break a hole in this box. I searched all of my pockets but they were empty. To be honest, this clothing didn't even seem familiar. So someone had not only abducted me and buried me alive in a box with a rope that didn't do anything, they had changed my clothes as well? That made me feel super icky. Best not to think about it.
Well, I was stuck here. Hopefully someone would notice that I was missing and come for me. Maybe one of my lecturers would notice my absence. Probably not though. My landlord would notice I hadn't paid rent after a couple of weeks, but maybe would just assume I was a deadbeat and replace me. I really hoped my cats would be okay.
There was some strange noise coming from directly above me and it was getting louder. Holy crap, maybe someone had noticed that I was missing. Whoever they were, I was going to treat them to...something... What do you buy someone who saves your life? Flowers? A coffee? A holiday? A holiday seemed right... Suddenly there was sunlight streaming down on my face and I was being hauled up out of the ground by some strangers who were all smiling. Yeah, that's right, I'm happy to be out of there too. I smiled back.
“Welcome topside Claire!” said one strange looking fellow in a tie dye shirt.
“Thanks so much for saving me. I really did not want to die down there.”
They all looked at each other and Tie Dye started chuckling. All of a sudden all of them were laughing, except for two who looked a little unimpressed.
“Uhh... What's so funny?”
One of the sombre looking ones, a beautiful person with long black hair, came up to me. “Sorry to tell you Claire, but you're already dead. We just pulled you out of your grave.” They gestured behind me, to where I had been pulled out. I turned around, and stared at a headstone with my name and date of birth. There was also a date of death.
“Well...” I said weakly, “That's some grave news”.
Tie Dye just about had a fit at this and broke into howls of gasping laughter. The blonde person smiled at me. “My name's Mika, pronouns she/her. How about you?”
Someone who gives a shit about pronouns when you're literally dead on your feet? “Claire, they/them.” We shook hands. Her hand was strong, scary strong. She helped me stay steady as everything was spinning with the revelation that I was dead.
“How?” I whispered.
“You were hit by a car crossing the road to get to a cafe.” Mika said it so matter of factly that it had to be true.
“I don't remember that.”
“You wouldn't. Not right away. Maybe never. Remembering death is actually really horrible. But then again, it might help with closure. I dunno, I didn't get far in my psychology degree.” She smirked again. I think I was developing a crush. Trust me to leave it til after I was dead. I wondered if I'd ever get a chance to do much now that I'd died. Maybe I should leave worrying about that until I knew what was going on.
Our group was still standing around the grave I'd just gotten out of. The others were just standing there smiling. “What now?”, I asked.
“Now”, Mika said, “We go get a coffee.”
Tie Dye snorted. “That's ironic. Hey Claire, my name's Branden, I managed to drink too much and die of alcohol poisoning. That's Warren in the punk outfit – he killed himself poor bastard. And Renee--”
“I can introduce myself Branden.” A young person in a bright floral dress stuck their hand out to me, flicking their blue and green hair over their shower. I put my hand in theirs without thinking. No warmth, no cold. “I'm Renee. She/her pronouns. I was murdered by my ex-boyfriend. He's in jail now. That was a shit night. Let's go get that coffee. I bet you want to know what the hell is going on.”
“Branden is he/him and Warren is also they/them”, Mika whispered to me.
Our rag tag group shuffled across the graveyard to the bus stop. None of us had cars or licences. Apparently governments weren't sure about what to do with the recently living dead. What rights we were meant to have, what place we held in society. Governments were pretty sure we had to pay taxes though, of course. Branden hailed the bus driver and Renee paid for my ticket. Apparently no one had thought to put my go card in my pocket before they buried me.
The bus driver didn't seem to be worried by a person covered in dirt as we got on the bus together. Branden sat at the back, typical high school kid style, so the rest of us crowded back there too; Renee and Warren sat together on one side of Branden, and I sat crammed between Mika and Branden. Mika almost sat in my lap as the bus pulled off while we were sitting. Hopefully no one saw me blush. This was ridiculous, I hardly knew her.
Sitting on the seats, I was reminded of the trip I took to the coffee shop. “Huh. I remember going to the coffee shop now. I was on the bus.”
“Glad to see you're remembering buddy,” said Branden.
“Yeah,” Renee said from her corner, “it took me months to remember. Mika reckons it's cause of the trauma or something. Hopefully you remember faster, it can help I think.”
Punk Warren hadn't said a word yet but looked at me and nodded. Their denim vest had a patch on it that said “Dead Kennedys”. I knew that was a band, but damn that was hilarious to me right now. I giggled. Warren saw what I was looking at and smiled.
Mika tapped my shoulder to get my attention. “Do you remember anything else about your death?”
“Aw come on man can we not? I just wanna go have some coffee, maybe some icecream, play some xbox...” Branden's whine withered away under the power of Mika's stare. “Fine,” he grumbled.
I tried to summon memories of that day. My last day alive. While I remembered that I was going to get coffee, and had caught a bus, I couldn't remember why. I knew that I hadn't gone to the same coffee place that I usually did. This one was a little nicer and a lot more expensive. No way would I go there on my measly pay without some sort of reason. Everyone was looking at me, waiting for some sort of revelation to fall from my lips. Always a disappointment, even after I'm dead. “Sorry guys, I can't remember much yet. I mean, I did only come back to life like an hour ago, right? Speaking of which, how did you even know where to find me?”
Mika let out a small sigh, like she'd been hoping I'd know why I was going to get coffee. This woman must really like her coffee. Renee came to my rescue. “It's a system that they put in place once they started realising that people were coming back to life. Most people who are going to revive, do it in the first week after death, so they leave the caskets above ground. There have been some slow pokes like you though, who think they need a longer nap for whatever reason and take more time to revive. So they set up these ropes in the caskets. When someone revives, they pull on it and it's monitored.”
“So you guys just sit around near the graveyard all day and wait for someone to pull on a cord? That sounds like a pretty boring way to spend your afterlife.” Made me feel a little less rescued too. And like I maybe owed them something for the time they spent waiting for me to pull that rope. Renee laughed. “Oh no, that would be a boring as shit job. The graveyard attendants or whatever they're called let their local revived folks know so that we can come and collect you. They don't want to deal with the living dead and it means that whoever just woke up will have a sorta support network of other living dead peeps.”
I nodded. This was actually pretty cool. They were like a new group of friends I was having forced on me. I could live with that. Made it easy. And they'd know all the stuff about being dead so that might be a little less scary. For some reason though I hadn't been worried about the fact that I was living dead.
The bus slammed to a halt at the red light and we all lurched forwards in unison on the bus. All of us trapped in the same misstep by the bus driver, like a really boring and expensive dance with a crappy instructor. Mika pointed out the window. “There it is.” I followed her long brown arm and bright green nail to a coffee shop across the road. It was the coffee shop that I had been heading to on the day that I died. The expensive one. The one that I had been going to in order to meet someone.
“Oh!” I yelled. “Oh my god! You!” I half stood up in my seat, unable to hold inside me the revelation that had hit me. I needed this energy to go somewhere, I needed to be able to get up and pace but I was trapped on this bus. I head bumped the bag racks as we went over a speed bump and pulled up across from the coffee place. “You!” I pointed at Mika. “Holy crap. I came here to meet you.”
Branden fist bumped the air, Renee and Warren smiled at each other, but I didn't even notice. I just stared at Mika. She looked exactly like the photo on her dating profile. We'd chatted for months before deciding to meet up in a public coffee shop. Both of us were pretty paranoid and scared of meeting someone from the internet, fear ingrained in us by overprotective mothers. So we'd decided to meet in a coffee shop and see what happened. But I'd been killed by a car crossing the road as I went to meet her. She must have thought I'd stood her up. “I didn't stand you up!”
Mika smiled. “I know. I saw you get hit by the car. I called the ambulance. There was nothing they could do though, something got broken inside you and you bled internally. Bit of a full on first date. I never thought you'd be the one to get out of that grave today, but when I saw the name on the headstone I couldn't believe it.” I stared at her. I had fallen in love with this woman online months ago, gone to meet her, died, come back to life. “I may not be superstitious,” I whispered, “but this sure does feel like a second chance.”
The bus driver yelled “This is the final stop!” And we got off the bus, holding hands. Time for some coffee.
Here you will find a list of written work by me, including poems and short stories. I've been entering these into competitions since April 2015 in an attempt to write more. I used to love writing, before I went to university, so this is about me exploring writing. Please feel free to share these if you want to, just credit me. My pronouns are they/them and my name is Keira Edwards-Huolohan.