This story is by Cassandra Hart and was part of our 2020 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
The air became thick and breathing was hard. My eyes watered up due to the smoke. As I tried desperately to breathe, I watched my best friend collapse in the corner of her room. I grabbed my water bottle and ran over to her. After taking off my jacket, I poured my water onto it and tied it around her mouth and nose, then I pulled my shirt over my face and waited in the corner. I could hear the sirens as I closed my eyes.
“We’re gonna be okay Milly…”
I remembered a quick flash of the ambulance, and my Dad… Dressed in his gear, crying desperately for me to wake up, the other firefighters trying to console him. Then the ambulance drove off.
Suddenly the cold air of the hospital became very warm. The next thing I knew, I was standing next to my hospital bed, staring at myself. The piercing sound of the EKG flatlining filled the room. I couldn’t move; it was like I was paralyzed with fear. My paralysis was broken when a team of doctors rushed into the room, They put the defibrillators to my chest and yelled “clear!” I watched as my body jerked from electricity running through it.
“What’s going on?” I questioned. No one responded.
The room was quiet for a moment, only to be interrupted by the words,
“Time of death, 8:54 pm.”
How can that be? I’m standing right here?
“I’m right here!” I screamed at them.
My Mom came running through the door, then she saw my body.
“Madison?” she asked hysterically.
One of the doctors rushed over to comfort her.
“My baby!” she cried as she hurried over to my body.
My heart shattered when she broke down shaking and crying.
“Mama I’m okay, I’m right here,” I said, kneeling beside her.
She wasn’t even fazed by my words, it’s almost like she didn’t even hear them… My Dad followed her into the room and hugged her. I could tell he is trying to be strong, but I saw the red in his eyes and his quivering lips.
A few minutes went by when my best friend’s mom walked into the room. Wrapped for minor burns, her hands immediately shot to her face when she saw my body.
“I’m so sorry…” she said, tears filling her eyes.
“Sorry for what? I’m fine.” I snapped back at her.
They talked for a little while, while I just stared at my body, not believing anything that was going on. Eventually, my attention was drawn to my parents getting up and leaving the room with Milly’s Mom. I followed them and we arrived at a different room, where I saw Milly, lying in her hospital bed.
“Milly!” I screamed, running over to her.
“Are you okay?!” I added as my eyes gazed upon her burn covered body, similar to mine.
No one reacted to my screams, they just went on talking to each other. I tried to hug her, but my arms just went right through her…
“What… What just happened?”
A few hours later, Milly woke up. Her parents told her about me.
“Amelia, I’m so sorry…” Her mom said to her.
“Sorry for what?” she choked up, she could tell by the look on their faces that something happened.
“Nothing Milly, nothing happened, everyone is fine,” I said to her.
“Amelia… She’s gone,” Her Dad said to her.
“No! She’s not gone! She can’t be gone…” she cried.
“Thank you, Milly! Can you see me?” I joyfully questioned.
“It’s true…” My Dad muttered.
Her face went pale and her eyes widened as I realized,
“You can’t see me?” I cried, disappointed.
She wept, and I wished more than anything that I could hug her. I tried repeatedly, only to be met with the same fate of not being able to touch her each time…
Over the next few days, Milly rarely talked. Both of our parents would take turns staying with her while the others slept or showered. I wandered the hospital at night when Milly was sleeping; and thought back to the fire to make up scenarios where we both could have gotten out.
“Maybe if we would have gone downstairs when we smelt burning plastic, instead of assuming that her parents were just cooking something, we could have caught the fire and gotten out,” I said to no one in particular.
A day later was my funeral. Milly was accompanied by a nurse to make sure she didn’t accidentally hurt herself. It was really sweet. I kept talking to her throughout the ceremony, and it tore me apart a little more every time she didn’t respond…
Nearing the end of the ceremony, Milly stood and walked up in front of everyone. She’s always been shy around people who she didn’t know, so it really surprised me when she stood in front of all my family and friends, even the ones she’d never met and said,
“Maddie was my best friend. I’m here today because of her, and I could never thank her enough.”
When she reached her seat, she turned her head away from everyone, closed her eyes and whispered,
“Maddie, if you can hear me, thank you.”
I couldn’t hold it in anymore and I started crying, so did Milly. There was one difference between my tears and hers though. Her parents could hold her, her friends could tell her it’s going to be okay. But not me. When I cried, I cried alone. When I screamed for someone to hear me, no one answered. I was alone, surrounded by people…
From that day forward, everything just seemed pointless. Nothing I did ever mattered in the slightest. I stopped roaming the hospital at night. I just sat there, in that same chair, staring at the same wall.
Why was I even here? I served no purpose. I was just a dead weight in the world. I couldn’t interact with anything. I couldn’t speak to anyone. I couldn’t even be seen by anyone. I just wanted this to be over, I wanted it all to be over… I sat in that same wooden, cloth-covered chair for another week. I watched my best friend break down because I was gone, and I couldn’t comfort her. I stayed silent mostly, other than the occasional frustrated scream.
When Milly was finally released from the hospital, I went home with her. I know that I probably should have gone with my parents, but I just felt like I had to stay with Milly. Nonetheless, after we got back to the motel her parents rented, I went to my parent’s house to see them. My Mom sat in my room, staring at the pictures of us on my wall. My Dad’s coworkers would visit frequently, bringing food and other things to my parents, he would often mention going back to work, but they would tell him that he needs time to recover. I left a few days later, I felt like Milly needed me.
When I got back, Milly was asleep. I sat down next to her on her bed. She must have had a dream about me because the next day all she could do was talk about me. She was so happy.
A couple of days later Milly and her parents got into the car, I followed, and they drove off somewhere.
“Wait… This looks familiar.” I said to myself, confused.
And then I saw it, the garden where I wanted to have my sweet 16! We found it when we went exploring in the area one day. Milly helped me plan it right before the fire. I gazed in awe of the gorgeous white, vine-covered pergola, the garden surrounded.
“She remembered!” I squealed in joy.
Milly made my party into a memorial, everyone I knew was there. I was so happy, I smiled so much, my cheeks were sore. Everyone was enjoying my memorial as if it was my sweet 16. I wanted that day to last forever, even if they didn’t know I was there…
Milly walked away from the party, to a place we used to go to when we needed time away from our parents. I followed her under the giant mossy tree overlooking the small pond. She looked up at the sky,
“I know you are here, Maddie,” she said, her eyes filled with tears, I was shocked.
“I threw your party, just the way you wanted, everyone is so happy, and I know that’s how you would want to be remembered,” she added.
“I hope you’re happy…” she said with a smile. I smiled back at her, at ease.
A few minutes went by, then she got up and walked back to the party. I started to follow her, but a blinding light stopped me. It hurt to look, so I closed my eyes. When I opened them, the world around me completely changed…
“Where… am I..?”