The shot rang out in the small conference room, and the bullet that exited the gun’s chamber unfortunately found its way to me … well, to my head, to be exact.
The effing moron with the gun was, first off, a poor shot, and second, some asshole who couldn’t handle the fact that his wife was insisting on becoming his ex-wife.
My body lay slumped over the seat in front of me, some of the contents of my skull splayed all over the pretty spring dress of the woman who sat there, the actual target of the gunman’s rage.
Understandably shots being fired in the cramped room set off a panic, and everyone around me screamed and ran for their lives. Someone bumped into the chair I had collapsed onto, and like a sack of potatoes, I fell to the floor, face first — ouch.
Then I was kicked in the head by another person fleeing, and as if I hadn’t lost enough brain matter, as a result of that kick, more oozed out onto the floor. Although I totally understood this response, it didn’t stop me from being angry: angry that they were able to flee, and I wasn’t.
How could I be angry, though? I mean, I was dead. And believe me, there was no doubt about my deadness. Yet I could hear the screams of my fellow coworkers, and the sirens that were off in the distance.
I wondered if this normally happened when you died, if some part of you continued to linger on?
Well, I have no idea. This was my first time being dead.
It was a beautiful Tuesday morning, and I came to work with big plans, oh yes indeedy. I was finally going to ask out Andrew Morton. We worked side by side for a few years, and had I lived, he would’ve become the love of my life — I just know it.
He was gorgeous, sexy, sweet, and every straight woman in the office was in love with him.
I was going to invite him to a friend’s party that weekend. Something casual, a place where we could get to know each other without the pressure of being on an official date. Then of course he would fall head over heels in love with me, ask me to marry him, and I would have his children. You know, no big deal.
Tuesday had begun with my roommate Sara and I engaging in yet another argument.
We started out as “work” friends, and ended up as live-in enemies. Sara moved in almost a year before, after my former roommate split. Fate appeared to have dealt me a winning hand. Instead it had given me a pile of shit in the form of Sara Jackson.
She was a sharer, that girl, not with her own things but with mine. She often took my stuff without asking — like the cute red skirt I had planned on wearing to work that morning, the outfit that would’ve caused Andrew to see me in a completely different light.
But Sara had borrowed it, and then, here’s the kicker, then she had the nerve to “lend” it to someone else.
“It wasn’t yours to loan out,” I told her.
“You have a ton of clothes, Angie. Wear something else.” She said this as if it were no big deal, as if I were unreasonable for being upset.
“You’re missing the point,” I said, barely able to contain my anger. “It was my skirt, you didn’t ask to wear it, and you had no business letting someone else wear it.”
Sara ignored me. That was her technique when we argued. Pretend I’m not there, let things blow over, then later that day act as if nothing ever happened. She did that all the time, but today, I was in no mood for it.
I seriously considered smashing her face into the mirror, smearing the mounds of makeup she wore every day, even to the gym.
Instead I said, “I want you out of here by the end of the month.”
Sara was stunned. “You can’t kick me out!” she screamed. “This is my apartment too.”
“Au contraire, mon frère,” I said. “You aren’t on the lease, so if I want you out, you’re out. End of the month,” I said, tapping the calendar on the wall.
“You bitch!” she yelled.
I had to get going, and didn’t have time for a long drawn out fight, so I left Sara with a couple of fuck yous and one intense Go to hell, followed by not one, but two middle fingers. The smile did not leave my face until I arrived at work and Andrew told me, “Dixon’s on the war path, Angie. He just called a staff meeting in conference room three.”
You ever get a feeling that it was just not going to be your day? Yeah, I’ve felt that too, but I had no such suspicion on this sunny Tuesday. Even after finding out that Dixon had called a morning meeting, I was on a high after telling Sara she had to leave. Then to top it off, Andrew gave me a wink with his usual morning smile. Oh god, I thought. Life is looking up.
When I sat down in the conference room, I felt like I had life by the balls, and I was ready to squeeze until I got what I wanted.
I looked around for Sara, but she was a no show. I worried a little that she was spending her morning setting fire to all my clothes, in an act of revenge.
Oh well, I told myself, totally worth it.
Now, thinking back on the morning, I wonder if Sara and I hadn’t argued, would she have been at the meeting? Would it have been her sitting where I was, and would her brains be splattered all over conference room three, instead of mine?
A girl can dream, can’t she?
But it was I who ended up dead, and Sara, devious little Sara, would continue inflicting her special brand of narcissism on the world.
Life just ain’t fair.
Two officers were assigned to the room to keep the scene secured. They stood with their backs to me, and sounded relieved when someone placed a smelly tarp over my body.
“Thank goodness,” one of them said. He sounded an awful lot like Barney Fife, and I had this urge to laugh — except I couldn’t quite remember how. I suppose hovering between this world and the next could cause normal, everyday things like laughter to fade away, and that made me want to cry. But I couldn’t remember how to do that either.
People continued to traipse in and out the room, probably getting fingerprints, taking pictures, and putting down those little yellow markers near the spent shell casings. They do that all the time in those police dramas I watch … uh, used to watch, so I’m practically an expert in police procedures.
With my face covered, I could only hear the sounds of technicians doing the unglamorous jobs that were relegated to background scenery in most of my favorite crime shows. I know this sounds weird, but the rhythm of their movements, the little booties on their shoes, shuffling across the floor so they wouldn’t contaminate the scene, and the light scratching of their pens on department notepads, soothed me.
But that sense of relaxation came to an abrupt end when the screaming started. What screaming you ask?
Well, the hysterical screams coming from my roommate, Sara.
“Not Angie! Please tell me it’s not her!” Sara yelled.
It was all phony baloney bullshit, but she was giving the performance of a lifetime. Sara loved attention, no matter what kind it was. Now she would make my death all about her.
Through her shrieks I heard him: the deep, melodic voice of Andrew Morton, and my heart stopped. Yes, I know it had already stopped beating. I meant this figuratively.
“Sara,” he sang, “let’s get you something in the cafeteria.” Andrew was always thinking of others.
But Sara wasn’t done with her portrayal of the grieving friend. She burst into tears, and even though I couldn’t see her thanks to that stupid tarp, I knew she had buried that overly made-up face of hers into Andrew’s muscly chest.
A few months ago, I made the mistake of telling Sara that I had a huge crush on Andrew. We were roomies, eating chocolate chip cookie dough and watching awful Lifetime movies. It seemed like the thing to do. We had only been living together a few months, and I didn’t yet know just what a devious bitch she was.
Sara had never shown any interest in Andrew until I told her about my feelings. After she found out, Sara began openly flirting with him, laughing way too loud at his corny jokes and becoming suddenly helpless around him.
“Just a little friendly competition,” she told me when I confronted her one night.
But I had no claim to the man; it was just protocol that’s all. Friends weren’t supposed to move in on the man you were interested in, but Sara was never really my friend — I know that now. Luckily, Andrew didn’t fall for her tricks. He never asked me out either, but at least I didn’t lose him to Sara.
But now Andrew was comforting her. I hoped my dying wasn’t going to lead to them getting together. God, wouldn’t be that cruel. Would he?
Sara’s fake tears had finally subsided, and Dixon had officially announced that everyone had a day off — with pay. You’re welcome, my former coworkers.
Andrew was leading Sara away when she said, “Can you wait here? I want to say goodbye to Angie.”
“Maybe you shouldn’t; I heard it looks pretty bad,” Andrew said.
“She was my friend,” Sara told him, sniffing back fake tears. “I have to see her one last time.”
If I weren’t dead, I would’ve thrown up.
“Please, officer. I just want to say goodbye.”
I could just imagine Sara, flashing that unnaturally white smile at old Barney Fife, innocently touching his arm as she spoke, and that shit worked like a charm.
I heard her approach, felt her kneel down beside me, and to my surprise she removed the tarp from my face. I looked a mess, I knew it. The whole left side of my head was in row seven, and my gorgeous outfit was ruined.
Sara got a bit closer. “Guess I won’t have to move out after all,” she whispered. “Not only that, I bet this little show will convince Andrew that I’m the woman for him. Maybe he’ll take me home, and stay the night just to make sure I’m all right.” Sara chuckled quietly.
I knew Sara was a cold bitch, but this was worse than I ever imagined.
If I could just move, you know, reach out and grab her, oh boy that would be a satisfying end to my all too brief existence.
“How’s it feel to literally be a cold bitch?” Sara continued.
Come on hand, move! Fucking move! Just one last time do what the remainder of my brain is asking you to do!
“Sucks to be you,” Sara said.
Then I felt it. My index finger, it moved!
Sara couldn’t see, because my hands were still covered by the tarp.
It moved again, and then I felt all the fingers of my left hand come to life.
Sara moved in a bit closer, to deliver one last insult for the road. “Fuck you, Angie. I hope you rot in hell.”
Then it happened. My hand reached out and grabbed her. It felt electric, as if a surge of energy tore through my body.
Sara screamed and fell back.
“You all right?” Officer Fife asked.
“No, I’m not alright. Her hand moved!” Sara said, pointing at dead me. “She grabbed me. She’s alive, this bitch is still alive.”
Fife and Andrew exchanged glances. “Ma’am,” Barney said, “she is in fact deceased.”
“I know she’s dead,” Sara spat out. “I’m not crazy. But she moved, I know it, I felt it.”
“Sometimes,” Barney said as if talking to a small child, “a body can have postmortem muscle movement, and that’s probably what happened here.”
“It wasn’t postpartum muscle whatever. She grabbed me.” Then Sara looked at Andrew. “You believe me don’t you?”
Andrew didn’t say anything for a few moments. “You called her a bitch,” he said quietly. “I thought she was your friend.”
Sara was speechless, which was a miracle in and of itself, and she only managed to say, “But …” before clamping her mouth shut.
Andrew left without saying another word to her, and Officer Fife said, “It’s time to go, ma’am.” Even he was no longer enamored by Sara’s charms.
Sara looked at me as she was led away. The terror in her eyes made me laugh, and as I laughed, I felt myself leaving my own body.
In addition to the ability to laugh having returned, so did the feeling in my arms and legs, as the conference room seemed to be moving farther away. Then there was this shift. It’s hard to describe, but it felt like those times when you were a kid and you’d spin in a circle until you were so dizzy that it seemed like instead of falling, the ground came up to meet you.
Once that happened, I was suddenly looking down at my mangled, dead body.
“Dear god, I look like shit.”
The coroner had finally arrived with a gurney, and I noticed that the colors in the room were much dimmer then before. The voices of Officer Fife and the coroner were so distant, I could hardly make out what they were saying.
The room had begun fading, and a a field of unbelievable color appeared before me. I was marveling at the greener-than-green grass and large, beautiful trees when someone tapped me on the shoulder. Startled, I turned to see an older man who looked just like the angel Clarence from the film It’s a Wonderful Life.
“Time to go, little lady,” he said.
Conference room three was barely visible now. Andrew was standing in the doorway, and as the coroner pushed my body past him, I heard Andrew say, “I wish we could’ve gotten to know each other a bit better.”
Then the room was gone, and it was just me and Clarence, standing in a meadow.
“Where are we going?” I asked.
“First we’re going to get a drink,” Clarence said. He looked at me excitedly, then asked, “Have you ever tried a Flaming Rum Punch?”
I shook my head.
“Well, you will absolutely love it, my dear. I have never been more sure of anything.”
We began walking down the road, bordered with beautiful trees and my favorite flowers, tulips.
“Hey Clarence,” I said, looking at him closely. I had had this small hope that the reason I had remained aware was because I was still alive, that by some miracle I would survive. Now the reality of being dead had sunk in and I was terrified.
“Yes,” he said, smiling so sweetly.
“What now?” I asked.
“Well, now my dear,” Clarence said taking my hand, “now is when you really begin to live.”
Diane Turner says
Everything I read from your pen I love. The characterization of Angie was spot on. Though you gave little physical description of her, I had a steadfast picture of her in my head
Each piece you write is better than the previous
! Thanks so much for sharing your work. I, for one, am loving it.
Alice Nelson says
Diane, oh my thank you so much, your words really hit home. You saying that each of my stories gets better, just made my day. As a writer you want to improve, and I so appreciate you telling me.
I really enjoyed reading that! Especially when Sara got freaked out! Bwahahahahaha (evil laughter;) So descriptive and very well written. Good work!!
Alice Nelson says
Ha! Susan, love your evil laugh, it’s very fitting. Thank you for the kind words, I am so glad you enjoyed the story.
Aww. I loved your story, Alice. Since your plot started out with the protagonist being killed, I wondered where it could go from there. The arc was up and I simply loved that. The justice for Sara was perfect and your character strolled off, ready to “begin to live.” Great resolution!
I’ve probably read more than 100 near death experiences and “the beyond” has drawn my attention for some time now. I’ve also been reading your short stories posted at shortfictionbreak.com, and this is the one I’ve enjoyed the most.
It made my day! Best short fiction break I’ve taken in awhile. Thanks!
Alice Nelson says
Wow Lyn, I’m speechless. I’m honored that you’re a regular reader of my stories, and that you enjoyed this one so much. Glad I could be a positive part of your day!
Roy Dorman says
Great stuff, Alice! Loved it! Really excellent storyline and dialog.
Alice Nelson says
Thank you so very much Roy!
james newman says
A wonderful story extremely well told. You absolutely immersed me in the world.
Alice Nelson says
Ah James! Thank you! I “immersed” you in the world. My job is done here, and I am thrilled. Thank you for your kind words.
William Mrcus says
You nailed it again Alice, the perspective you wrote from, totally original. I always read and enjoy, never failing to be surprised by the endings
Alice Nelson says
William!! Thank you, I am so glad you are a regular reader, your comment just made my day.
Victoria Norton says
Excellent characterisation and dialogue. hooked me from the opening paragraph Alice.
Alice Nelson says
Victoria, thank you so much for your kind words.
Ilana Leeds says
Well done Alice. Great story. Loved the dialogue and the pacing.
Alice Nelson says
Ilana my friend, thank you so very much.
Bethany Reid says
That was a delight. They way Nelson describes death–Then there was this shift. It’s hard to describe, but it felt like those times when you were a kid and you’d spin in a circle until you were so dizzy that it seemed like instead of falling, the ground came up to meet you.–caught me off guard and lifted the story right into the stratosphere. Thank you for writing this!
Alice Nelson says
Bethany, thank you so much for reading it, and liking it! That description of death just came to me, my own weird idea of what it might feel like to pass over. I’m so glad you enjoyed the story, as much as I enjoyed writing it.
It’s taken me a while to get round to reading your story as I don’t normally read ‘murder mystery’ types. You’ve changed my perspective and I just loved the twists and turns as justice was seen to be delivered.
Alice Nelson says
Evelyn, I’m so glad you decided to read my story, even though it’s not your style. What’s even more wonderful is that you liked it. Thank you for giving the story a chance.
Thank you, Alice. I truly enjoyed your story and the perspective of a dead protagonist. Unique and engaging.
Alice Nelson says
Diana, thank you so very much. I am so glad you enjoyed the story.