One of the creepiest days of my existence started with a kiss.
My mouth fell open. I stumbled into the closest locker as I scrambled to stay hidden from view. Zack, my supposed-to-be boyfriend, had his lips locked with Casey’s, my supposed-to-be friend. I pressed my mouth into my cupped hands to quiet the laughter that erupted from me.
I couldn’t have cared less who he kissed. Or her for that matter. My relationship with Zack was built on a lie. The lie: my mother loved me. She didn’t. She only wanted what was best for her. And what was best for her was people believing I was dating Zack. Family dynamics of the rich were confusing, but one thing was clear – the rich dated the rich. Period.
I had an issue with the concept. But that wasn’t public information. Prim and proper, I stayed in my place.
As I ceased my laughing fit, I spun to find Zack and Casey standing before me. Oh! I whirled around in the opposite direction. Zack caught my hand, pushed me into the closest locker, and narrowed his eyes. He lowered his head to mine. “We need to talk. Now.” I glanced at Casey. Her face was slack with no emotion. Umm. Weird much? She stood bone straight with her head bent and her eyes on Zack. Like she was locked in a trance.
What’s her problem? And why is he angry? With me?
Anger ripped through me and silenced any humor I’d found in our awkward situation.
I tried to suppress it, to push it back. But it was palpable and fueled by his reaction. To calm myself, I took a deep breath and tore my eyes away from him. That was when it registered.
It was deafening.
The normal clank of heels hitting the floor or melody of someone’s cell phone was non- existent. There were no classmates hunched in groups telling secrets and whispering lies. Only an abyss of silence.
And of course, Zack, standing over me, scowling. Maybe I should have turned and bolted in the opposite direction. Zack wasn’t patient. He wouldn’t wait for me to contemplate a response to him kissing Casey.
I forced my eyes upward. My mind cascaded over all the things I could say. My thoughts scattered, the right words slipped away. “I…no…you are not–”
My head jerked back suddenly, casting a dozen sparkling stars across my eyes, and a bolt of electricity shot up my spine. The zap was so intense, I stumbled, face-first to the floor. The fall should have thrown me to the smooth, dry surface of the wood floor of the school hallway.
My hands met moisture. My eyes bulged as I took in what lay beneath them: grass.
I lifted my head to scan the area, stunned to silence. A sea of green enveloped me. The urge to scream overpowered everything, but I fought it. I clasped my hands over my mouth to muffle the sound that escaped anyway.
The football field stretched before me.
How can I be here? This isn’t possible. I scrambled to my feet, spun around, and gazed at the school I’d been in moments ago. I shut my eyes tight. “Please, let me be back in the school, about to have the biggest fight with Zack,” I said aloud.
My heart thrummed at my chest, but my eyes remained shut, afraid of what I might find once I dared a peek. But standing with them closed wasn’t an option. A crow cawed overhead to urge me on. My eyes sprang open. Confusion twisted away at my insides. Why was I still on the field? I swallowed back the lump in my throat and ran a shaky hand through my thick hair that continually blew into my face, obstructing my vision.
Straining against the glare of the midday sun, I tripped, my feet two cinderblocks in my boots. For late August, the Manhattan wind that kicked up seemed to scream winter and not fall. I tucked the unruly strands of hair, tossed about by the rebel wind, behind my ear and took another reluctant step forward. That was when I saw it. The crimson red thrust against the emerald green of the field. The colors blended, reminding me of Freddy Krueger’s sweater in A Nightmare on Elm Street. There was a lot of blood in that movie. And I was pretty certain blood was the red part I saw on the field.
I gasped. My breath caught in my throat and the stench of copper invaded my nostrils. I fought against the urge to vomit, yet couldn’t contain the desire to move closer.
I’d never seen a dead body before.
After a few steps, my feet refused their forward motion. Fear raced slick and hot up my spine. The familiar face taunted me. It should; I knew it well. It belonged to Zack.
I fell to the ground near his body. My heart sprinted and my stomach flipped as my emotions swirled. I leaned forward to grasp the rigid turf as a wave of nausea rocked my body. But I refused to look away.
I searched his open eyes, as dark and bleak as night, unable to comprehend what I saw. His gaze was blank. Two holes that lead to nothing but emptiness. I extended my hand to close them. Tears fell over my outstretched arm as I inched my hand toward him. Fear pierced my resolve. I tried to choke back the fear. It lingered.
Without warning, my body convulsed like I’d been zapped with a taser. Tiny needles pricked every inch of my skin. Then with a blink of darkness, the football field disappeared. I stood back in the school. Zack’s hand trembled on my side and the veins in his neck protruded. I’d never seen him this angry before. Casey, dressed in black, stood hunched beside him like a lump of coal with a grimace. All this…as if I’d never left.
Zack held me by the waist and I yanked free of his touch. I swallowed back the bile that rose up in my throat. I didn’t know what to think. Relief he wasn’t dead mingled with anger over his reaction to the kiss and the lunacy of being back in the school again. I searched his eyes. No doubt, he would think my reaction was a response to him kissing Casey a moment ago.
He’d be wrong.
He had been dead. How could he be here next to me now?
Normal. No blood, no injury.