I looked around. I wondered if everyone felt what I was feeling right then. Had I been the only one?
How were all of these people just carrying on as though everything were as it had always been? Maybe it was. Maybe she was crazy.
Dead? Where had that come from? She couldn’t be dead. She felt so very alive. Rejuvenated even.
“Hello?” she tried out her voice.
It came out in a croak that caught in her throat. She cleared her throat and tried again. It was clearer this time. Stronger. Louder.
“Why hello, dear,” she heard a sweet voice respond.
She turned to find a little old lady standing behind her. She couldn’t have been more than four two, but she stood up straight and tall nonetheless. Her blue-silver hair hung like silk to her waist. Her gray eyes sparkled with specks of blue and green.
“Am I…?” she let the question trail off, unable to finish it.
“Dead?” the sweet old lady supplied. “As a doornail, honey.”
Her words dripped with sympathy.
“The earthquake?” confusion was kicking in.
“Nope. No earthquake. Just the shifting of reality. It quakes like that sometimes when your arrival is unexpected.”
She looked around her again. The streets were familiar but strange. She’d grown up here. Walked with her friends to that diner just about every day after school. Limbo flashed the neon sign.
“You’re… You’re the waitress. The one that gave us a slice of pie on Fridays.”
How long had it been since she’d visited Limbo? Pie and coffee after graduation, maybe. They’d promised to return. They’d set a date.
She wasn’t the waitress. That wasn’t right. But she’d seen her somewhere before. She was certain of it.
The old woman smiled. It beamed brightly, like fresh summer sunshine. There was a warmth and comfort to it that felt like relaxation on the beach. She felt it drawing her in.
“Who are you?”
“Just a traveler like you.”
“Where’d you come from?”
“My death, where else?”
She supposed that had been a silly question. How else did one get to… She didn’t know what to call it.
“Do you know where we are now?”
“Best I can figure is either heaven or purgatory. I’m pretty sure we’d know if it were hell.”
“There you are!” he shouted as he ran towards them.
Her heart was racing at the sight of him. Who was he? Why did he terrify her so?
“Oh thank heavens, I thought I’d lost you.”
She was shaking as he wrapped his arms around her.
“Would have been a shame to find out all of this had been for nothing.”
There was a flash. Everything flooded back to her.
He’d ridden the elevator with her once. Just that one time was all it had taken. He’d been smitten.
Then, he’d been everywhere. She’d seen him in the hallways at school. He’d turned up at her work so many times she’d been forced to quit.
She’d come home for the summer. Home to her childhood bedroom and her childhood friends and her childhood haunts.
They’d been waiting all year for their coffee and pie. She’d been walking from her parents house. The warm sun had beamed down on her upturned face. Limbo was just ahead of her when he popped up beside her.
He fell into step with her and grinned at her like he’d just given her the best present in the world and waited expectantly for her to lavish him with appreciation for the thought. Instead, the sight of him had left her heart pounding. Her stomach had flipped and flopped, and she’d involuntarily bent over and retched.
“What are you doing here?” she’d asked weakly.
“What kind of hello is that for your man? Give me a kiss.”
He tapped his cheek expectantly. A kiss? Who was this guy?
His face had changed then. Like the mask falling off. It had twisted up in an angry grimace. Twisted and folded over itself and looked more like a fist than a face.
There was a flash and a bang. Or maybe it was a bang and a flash. It all happened so fast. Something warm, wet, and sticky spread across my shirt.
I got home from work and just felt like writing. This freeform story was only edited for typos and spelling errors. The lovely neon sign was found post writing to match the story. I couldn’t have asked for a better one.