Writing by Keira
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.