you die and you learn

 

My name is astrid whitaker and i’m dead.

I know you’re wondering how i’m writing this but if you didn’t already know, they have typewriters in hell. I know it sounds strange because hell is supposed to be all flames and darkness and stuff but once again, don’t believe everything you hear kids.

The Sir ( i know everyone calls him devil but he really hates it, says there’s no respect) is actually not as terrible as he’s made out to be. I mean besides the whole betraying god and like ruining my life thing but  i’ve met worse people.

So i probably rushed in to this a little fast but it’s hard for me to keep one thought continuous.

So to answer the question you are all thinking; what did i do to get a first class ticket to hell?

Well i know you are hoping for some cool dramatic answer but i don’t have one. Before i left i had been in a coma for a year.

I died when i was 18. Sucks right, cause that’s supposed to be the year you become an adult and got to college and get a stupid tattoo that you’ll regret when you settle down and try to get a job. But no, i got a special little ceremony where my dad came in and held my hand as they unplugged my machines. Which is a crazy thought when you think of it, that my whole life depended on an outlet. I also like to think about what would’ve happened if there was a power outage. I find a little humor in the fact of my dad having to say i died due to lack of electricity.

 

I know it’s not funny but i have to find the bright side of all this. I’m trying to not really think about my dad. After mom died he kinda just dropped out. Went to work, came home, slept. That was it. I’m surprised he continued to work after she died honestly but i think he felt close to her while he was there. They met at a Law Firm my dads friend owns. My dad got a job and my mom was the front desk lady. But after the accident i thought he’d just work from home. I’m not going to lie, it was great not to have parents breathing down my neck about missing curfew or coming home a little drunk. I thought i was lucky, then after a year i realized how i missed him. I missed her. Growing up we were very family oriented, i’m talking sit down at the dining room table and eat dinner together for every meal type stuff. Now the idea of sitting at the table is weird. I know he beats himself up over missing out on my last few years, but i’m not mad. Everyone deals with things in their own way. He isolated, i turned into a bitch.

 

So let’s move past this mushy gooey stuff and get to the facts.

 

  1. I don’t know why i am here
  2. I’m going to find out
  3. I’m going to get the hell out of here ( get it lol )

I’ve done so much research but everywhere i go is a dead end ( i can’t help it ).

Here in hell you can’t really talk to the others, not that you would really want to. But there are ways around everything.

See the thing is, down here is just like the living world. I still get to walk around and see where i grew up and had my first kiss, and my last. And it’s even more strange because i see people i know. I’ve seen uncle steven walking around but i don’t think he recognized me.

After you’ve been here for awhile, weird things start happening to you.  If you think about it i think this way is worse than the whole darkness and fire thing, because The Sir tricks you into thinking that things aren’t that bad and you’ll be okay but it’s not. I think it’s about after a year it starts happening. The Changing. It’s bad, real bad. No way of explaining it will bring it justice. You have to see it for yourself. As time goes on it just gets worse. There’s no way to stop it.  

I can’t really tell any big changes but i’m starting to feel different. I get angry at the smallest things. And my eyes are more red. But after a couple years you lose your voice and from what i’ve observed any thoughts or just normal functions in general. It’s like being bitten by a vampire and a zombie. I’m one of the only newbies around here. The other ones are all old and mean. Except i heard there’s another young person, but i haven’t seen anyone around under the age of 50 and not a zombie on crack in about 3 months. There was tara but she changed. I haven’t seen her since. I hope the new someone relatively nice, i need a friend. But considering where we are i’m not going to hold my breath.

But back to the point of walking around and stuff. I’ve gone to the library and done everything trying to find some way to get out of here but there nothing. The biggest lead i’ve had is, i know this is going to sound crazy but i heard my mom’s voice telling me something. It was soft and i almost missed it, but i heard it. She said “ you’ll only get if you don’t ask”

Which was a great message overall, but not very helpful. When you’re trying not to ask for something but still looking around expectantly i think it defeats the purpose. All i know is that i don’t belong here and i’m lonely. I know there has to be a mistake with something. I mean for god sake i was in a coma for a year, what could i have done wrong in the 17 years i was moving around to have deserved this? I wasn’t even that bad of a person, i mean yeah i partied and didn’t always close my eyes at church when they prayed. But i mean i’m not an axe-murderer or anything, i didn’t go around and kick homeless puppies. I definitely don’t think i need to be here.

 

Today is april 4, i think. I’ve been walking around for sometime looking for a new camp. It’s hard to try and settle down because the others come creeping around everywhere and honestly the last thing i want is to be reminded of what i’ll become. I stay to myself, after tara left i got a lot more paranoid so i’m always on the lookout for something going wrong. Which has saved me on more than one occasion. Back in january one of the crackhead zombie machines walked up on me while i was sleeping and started trying to gnaw on my fingers. No joke, literally tried to eat me, i got up and took one of the multiple garden tools/weapons out of my bag and started swinging. When i caught a look at his eyes i knew he was far gone. His eyes were so bloodshot you could barely see his pupil, it didn’t take him very long to realize i was not okay with being his dinner so he left. Shits like living in the zombie apocalypse but knowing there will never be a cure or a super cute will smith and a german shepard to come rescue you. Most of the time the others leave you alone but every once in awhile there’s one that wants to get all hot and bothered about being dead and try to make everyone else’s hell a living hell. See unexpectedly in hell you still have to eat, and no don’t ask me what happens if you starve cause i have no idea. All i know is that one time i saw this old man on the side of the street who obviously hadn’t eaten in what looked like months, and he was crying saying he wasn’t ready. I don’t know what he was talking about but i felt bad. Like worse than bad. After that i felt terrible for weeks. But when i went back the next day he wasn’t at his camp, or anywhere. I asked tara what she thought happened to him but all she said was she didnt know and didn’t care. I knew she was lying i could tell it worried her to think there may be a place worse than this somewhere.

 

As i’m walking down the road looking for a new camp and reminiscing on all my good memories of the past few months, i hear a stick break behind me. I turn around fast and look, no ones there. This isn’t good, all the movies i saw when i was growing up where someone turned around and there was no one there, someone was always there. I held my hand in front of my eyes trying to block out the sun, i see a shadow slowly moving closer. I can definitely tell the figure is a person and a much larger person than i am. I put my hands up to block any force or movement against me, when he speaks. “ i see your still a little rigid.”

 

No way. Oakland Lans. President of the sarcastic asshole club, known for being that one kid who looked like he was going to shoot up the school. With his long hair pulled back in a bun, and his tattered jeans, he looks just like he did walking down the halls back in high school. And definitely the last person i would’ve guessed to be here.

 

“ damn, you look like you’ve seen a ghost”  he snorts obviously trying to be witty.

“ you, out of all people you are the newbie?” i’m still in shock and kinda annoyed, god this is just my luck..

“ nice to see you too astrid, new outfit?” he’s making fun of the rag of a shirt i’m wearing but i’m not too offended because he doesn’t look too good himself. He looks like he’s been wandering around in the sun for two weeks without sunscreen.

“ well, as happy as i am to see you oak, i’m not really in the mood to hang out with old friends and reminisce on good times that didn’t happen , so now that we’ve acknowledged each other let’s move on.”  i say as i start walking away.i needed to find a camp and i wasn’t going to let him tag along. Noooo wayyy, not having another tara incident, and definitely not with oak.

“ well now, i wouldn’t really call us old friends considering you didn’t even pretend to act like i existed after 8th grade, but i didn’t come to talk to you just to say hi and that i have moved in the neighborhood, this may be hard to consider but i have something to talk about besides how great we all look.” he looks like he’s trying to shake all this off like it’s no big deal but i can see the haunting look in his eyes.

“ i’m guessing even if i tell you to screw off and leave me alone you won’t listen so i guess i have no choice.” i said with my famous i hate you smile.

“Astrid i always knew you were smart under all that makeup and hair spray.” he said winking at me

“ so comical, i’m looking for a camp and i’m definitely not going to waste my time and jeopardize my safety to have story time with you so you better be able to keep up sweetie.” i started walking away

“Let’s do this.” he said strutting forward like a soldier going into war.

We walked in silence for awhile, i was thinking about how long he’d been here and what he had been doing.

“So i’m not going to hide my surprise on how you are still like moving around and not laying in a ball crying somewhere,” i said with some resentment remembering my first weeks there.

“I’ve been hanging around my house, for some stupid ass reason i’m not allowed to step inside but it’s still comforting i guess.” he looked sad but i didn’t want to think about it.

“I could say i’m surprised just as much though, i think this is the first time i’ve seen you without some press ons and your phone in your hand.” he laughed as he motioned to me, i swear i might have to kill him. If that’s even possible?

“ you know oak, i would say i missed you but i’m really trying to better myself and i don’t lying is a very good quality so” i said walking a little faster to avoid whatever come back he was thinking.

“Woahhhhhhhh, what the hell is that?” oak almost screamed as a dark orb floated right above my head.

I felt cold and my head was screaming with pain. I felt oak grab my arm and drag me across the ground. What was happening? Finally When the pain started oozing out of my head i opened my eyes a little, feeling more pain from the bright sun. i almost forgot what it was like to feel cold.

“Astrid, are you okay? Astridd wake up!!!” oak was slapping the side of my face

When i opened my eyes all the way,  i could see his hair falling around his face. He always had such beautiful hair, usually he kept it all up in a bun but i think in struggle it must’ve fallen down. He was cute, i felt the feeling like a cup of cold water as i remembered what had happened between us.

I sat up fast and hit my head against his. He grabbed my shoulders and held me in place.

“Damn astrid, calm down you’re okay.” he rubbed his forehead

I looked around and realized we were almost out of city limits. It must’ve been a guard that had got me. How was i being so reckless i didnt even see them floating above. I looked up to see them huddled up in front of us.

“They are guards, we aren’t supposed to leave city limits, i should’ve been paying more attention i’m sorry oak.” i said trying to get up

“Shit don’t tell me sorry, you are the one who got all harry potter vs dementor up there. I just had to save your ass huh, i guess that makes me Ron.” he smiled at his reference. God he was such a nerd i started trying to get back up, but almost fell.

“Here let me help you” he said holding his hand out.

I contemplated not taking it but i didn’t want to be that person and i also really don’t think i could’ve gotten up on my own.

“Yeah, thanks” i grabbed his hand and he pulled me up, i got a better look at his face, his eyes were still that same chocolate brown that made you want to cuddle up with a blanket and watch old movies.

“And thanks for helping me out there” i said hoping this would not be a big deal.

“It’s fine, don’t worry about.” he said with an awkward pat on the back.

“Those things are weird, i mean what even are they?” he said

“I don’t know just guards, i guess. I think of them as like orbs.” i said trying to think of something more intelligent to say.

“Jeez, whatever they are they are ugly as hell.” he said with a little shake and a laugh at the pun.

I started walking trying to get back on track and find a camp, i was hungry but i made the rule of no eating on the go. My stomach growled as if knowing what i was thinking.

“Me too” oak said patting his stomach

“Haven’t had anything since i finished off my half full bottle of yeager i found on the side of the library.” he said with a gross sigh

When did he start drinking? He was always pretty straight edge. We smoked together once but i could tell it was not for him. Some people get chilled after a little mary jane but he just gets paranoid and sad. So i figured the same went for alcohol?

“ Since when did you drink anything but red bull?” i asked remembering the many many cases stacked in his basement and sleepless weekends filled with video games and the sound of us opening another can every couple of hours.

“ astrid there’s been a lot of things you missed since you” he stopped like he was scared to say it, or because he didn’t want to offend me or even because he was realizing he was dead too.

“Died.”

“ it’s okay, it’s not a bad word or anything, just facts.” i acted like it didn’t bother me, but deep down it kinda did.

That was awkward but i was still curious. I mean why was he even here? How did he die. Jesus christ i’m selfish, this whole time i was thinking how this was going to affect me but i didn’t even acknowledge that he was dead.

Trying to change the subject off the fact of our great situations “So, if that’s the case, what have i missed?” i said this in hopes he would spill everything. I realized how much time has actually gone by, and i wondered what everyone was up to.

“Um, not much.” he started sarcastically

“Lets see, your friends are still assholes, your dad and my mom are hooking up and i’m dead, your dead, the town still sucks, people moved on and yeah.”

“ your mom and my dad?” i was shocked.

I didnt think my dad would ever move on, if anything i figured that after i died that he would have been even more depressed, as happy as i am for him for getting his life back, i feel like it’s kinda unfair that he got to dip out on me after mom but when i die and he turns out fine.

“ yeah, i know right, super awkward considering but they make eachother happy i guess” he shrugs, remembering our past.

“Yeahh, that is a little weird.” i said not really wanting to bring up the past but also not caring much.

“It’s awkward, i remember after the party freshman year, you know when we stopped kinda talking or whatever.” i cringed at the memory. I remember seeing him in the hallway and him waving. I just looked the other way. God, i was a bitch.

“But afterwards when you stopped coming over, my mom was like super confused, she kept  telling me to grow some balls and ask you to a dance or over for dinner. I think she thought that since you were gone maybe it wouldn’t be as awkward to admit to a crush on your dad. Not that she really admitted to anything, no instead she thought it would be a great idea to just bring him home for dinner and say it was to show kindness after such a hard time. But only a mere 6 weeks later there he is on the couch with my mom curled up in his arms watching ghostbusters.” he looked at me with sad eyes. I felt the weight of everything i did wrong to him there in that moment. Not only did i ignore him after so many years of treehouses and cookouts and even first kisses, but i died, left him alone to deal with it.

I wanted to tell him how sorry i was. That i had my priorities messed up and i wish it would’ve turned out different. Then something popped into my mind.

“Oak..” i said slowly.

“ yeah?” he said with his eyes glued to the ground. When had we sat down? God i think i was going through more changing side effects than i thought

“ how did you, you know?” i asked hoping for something painless, i didn’t think i could handle any more drama or sadness today.

“ oh, uh it’s kinda a long story honestly, doesn’t even really matter.” he looked away trying to avoid my eyes.

“ oak, tell me.” i said firmly, i wanted to know. He looked defeated. I wanted to hug him.

“ okay, if i tell you, you have to promise not to think of me differently, okay?” he said

“Of course i wouldn’t think of you differently.” i said, i mean what could it be that would even trigger that kinda reaction.

“ we’ll see.” he said as he took in a deep breath and began.

“ things were bad after you left, you were kinda the anchor that made everyone leave me alone, they knew we were close or whatever so they all had a pact that i was off limits. After the accident, i mean when you were in that coma, most people were to busy feeling fake sorry for you and god, it was disgusting astrid. None of them even cared you were actually gone, they just wanted attention. One day i popped off on sam anders for saying something about how he’ll miss your ass the most, i started screaming about how they were all selfish and didn’t know the first thing about you. You can guess how that turned out. They all thought i was like a creepy stalker dude who wanted to like steal your underwear and stuff. I took a week off of school after that, and when i got back to school it was worse than i could have ever imagined.”

He looked sick.

“ no one talked to me, or even acknowledge my presence, i feel like it was worse than all the names they called me before, at least then they acted like i existed, now it was as if no one cared. Which i guess they didn’t. It went on like that for a couple weeks. Then we got the news they pulled the plug on you. Then the rumors started, saying i killed you. Snuck into your room for a late night ‘talk’ and tripped over the chords. It was sick.”

Is this really what people were saying.

“ i couldn’t handle it, it was hard enough knowing that the girl you loved was dead, but being blamed for it, i couldn’t take it. I was going crazy astrid. Stuff like that gets to you. Everywhere i went you were there. Posters, or flowers in remembrance of you. All these fake tears in the hallway. It made me so mad. Then your dad started coming around, everytime he walked through the doors i expected you to come in after him. I couldn’t go into my room, without remembering us building forts in 4th grade. Nowhere was untouched by your presence. I couldn’t go to school, i couldn’t go home. It was miserable. So one night i told myself, tomorrow you are going to school. You are going to stand tall and say goodbye properly. So i did, i went to school and it went well about the same as it went every other day, i guess i expected everyone to know what i was planning and try and convince me to stop, but no. no one said anything. I was starting to just feel numb to the whole situation, i came home after school and ate dinner with my mom and your dad. We played scrabble, and ate ice cream on the couch. It was a good night. I went up to take a shower, got all fresh and clean, put on my best church shirt and khakis and took out the old pill bottle i found in my mom’s medicine cabinet. I only took two at a time to try and go slow. I wasn’t sure i wanted to go through with it yet. But about 6 in i started feeling a little cloudy, i started thinking about that time i got a hamster and i was so excited to show you, after school ended we walked to my house and i didnt shut up the whole time about this freaking hamster, but you didn’t mind. I was so happy because you were always the one with the cool things, so this one time i had something to show you. And you let me be pumped about it. By the time we got to my house i could tell you were annoyed but you didn’t say anything. You came inside and played with mr. snape for hours with me. That’s when i knew that i loved you. I loved you because i thought “no other girl would ever be cool enough to play with a hamster for hours, or get all my harry potter references, or like pizza without the cheese as much. You were like my other half. And then at the party, i thought i finally had you back. That was the best night of my life astrid. Some people don’t find love like that their whole lives, and honestly i was kinda jealous of them. Because what’s the point in having a feeling so deep if you can’t do anything about it. I knew you loved me too. I could tell that night just by the way you talked. Like nothing else mattered but us. But you werent the same girl at school. You weren’t my astrid.  ”

He was crying. So was i.

“ then i took a couple more, i hit 14 before i stopped counting. All i could think of was what kids would say at school tomorrow.”

He stopped about as fast as he started.

“ then i was here.”

 

“ oak, i don’t -” i started to talk but i didn’t think any words could give justice to how i felt. Instead i wrapped my arms around him and he put his head on my shoulder as he cried. What had happened between us was way to intense for the kids we were. I think that’s why i decided to stop talking to him. Because i was scared of how serious i felt. We grew up with each other and he was like my first everything. My first friend, my first kiss, my first boyfriend, technically my first husband because we got married in my backyard in third grade after he proposed to me with a spiderman ring. He was so sweet and he only got sweeter as time went on. When we went to middle school and the girls were mean, he was the one who stood up and called them all ugly. Then in 7th grade when the girls decided to befriend me because i got prettier than them i figured what could it hurt. But when i got accepted into the “cool” kids table, oak didnt.

It didn’t bother him that much at first because i still spent almost every night over at his house. But then as time went on, i cancelled coming over a couple times to “make room for my other friends”. Then after that it just got worse and worse. We had a spring dance thing that was like all the hype and the guys would all ask the girls in cute ways they were told by their moms. So, this boy named parker davis apparently had a really big crush on me. So the word was that parker (who was the most popular 7th grader in the city limits) was going to ask me to the spring dance. So when oak jumped up on our table during lunch and got down on one knee with a bouquet of flowers bigger than my head just to ask me to the dance, i said no. i specifically remember saying “why would you ever think i would say yes.” because that’s what all the girls were saying in my ear. The whole time i was thinking about what would happen if i said yes and then everyone would think i’m weird because i chose oak over parker and it was all stupid. Parker did end up asking me but i was just so stupid. Oak eventually stopped really trying to talk to me and i sure as hell didn’t try to talk to him. I was too embarrassed to face him. The next time i really saw him and held a steady conversation was when he came to my party at the end of freshman year. When he showed up i was already at like a mid party high, so i didn’t really notice him till the end. He came up to me with some water and sat down. I was so happy to see him.

“Oak, i missed you.” i said putting my head on his shoulder.

“Me too astrid” he said stroking my hair.

It was the first time we had talked in awhile.  He had gotten bigger and his hair longer. I felt like i barely knew him anymore. The thought hurt my stomach.

We just lay there and he held me, at some point i had started talking about what had been going on with me and he just sat there and listened. I felt like we had been there for hours, when he turned and held my face staring into my eyes. I knew what was going to happen, i could feel it. All the tension between us. At the time i was dating blake kenson, the pitcher on the baseball team. But i didn’t care. Not when oak leaned in and kissed me. Or when we went back to my room and stayed there all night. All the years of distance was made up for that night. We talked and talked and it was like having my best friend back but even better. He was beautiful and i knew i loved him. I figured that had to be what that aching in my chest was while i watched him finally fall asleep, and it scared the shit out of me. Because i knew that monday, when school came around, nothing will have changed. We would still be different people with different friends and there was nothing i could do to fix it now. So when he left and kissed me goodbye and i found his phone number that had been left on a sticky note by the nightstand, i threw it away. At school, i took every route i could to avoid him. When he finally caught up with me in the hallway, i told him “it was an accident”. He looked broken, like he had all the false hopes that we would be something like we had been. We only saw each other in passing after that, he stopped making eye contact with me afterwards but towards the end decided it would be fun to fuck with me. He would stare straight at me in the hallways with a “you are a terrible human and i hope you know” look. He was different than he used to be. Didn’t care as much. I ruined him. I took his life and then some. He was why i was here and i was why he was here. If i ever had a soul mate, it would be oak because no matter what i do we always end up back together.

 

Jeffersonville High School, 2019