Chapter 2: Whence You Shouldn’t Return
I don’t think I noticed that I was dead at first, but when I finally did, there wasn’t much I could do to deny it. I could remember getting tired, so tired that I could ignore the warm liquid that stained the side of my face, and anything I tried to look at with my heavy eyes came through as a blur. In the back of my mind I whispered to myself that I should go to sleep, and after one final “oh no,” from I person I couldn’t recognize, my eyes were closed and that was it. I could remember, or I guess, I thought I was just lying there, aware that I was asleep in that weird way you are when you’re having a dream, but then I felt the familiar pull of being woken up, and what my eyes saw when I did, would have made me speechless if I could have talked. It was a painful sight, a terrifying sight, and the worse thing about it all was that I couldn’t turn away. As if my head was trapped in some sort of vice, and my eyes were being held open, I had to stare down at my own face, a face that would have looked like it was sleeping had it not been for the blood that had stained half. If I could’ve cried, I would have. I always thought that death was an adventure. The greatest adventure even, when I realized no one had ever come back from it, but as I looked down on my body, unable to look away and yet unable to mourn, that thought didn’t even occur to me. What did was fear for one. Not only fear that I was that really dead, and this wasn’t just an awful dream, but fear for how my parents would react when through some random act, my body was found. Would I be mangled beyond anything they could recognize? Would a hungry animal find my corpse, led by my blood, and do so many horrible things that I sent my mom, dad, and older sister into shock? I feared what they would say. I feared how they would cry, and if that wasn’t bad enough, I had regrets too. I was so young; there were so many things I hadn’t accomplished. There would be no marriage, there would be no kids. There wouldn’t be a middle school or high school graduation, and there wouldn’t be any breakups with the boyfriends or girlfriends that I might one day have had. There wouldn’t be the ups and downs of life, just the infinite fall of death, and with my eyes locked on my corpses, I wondered how far that fall could go.
It seemed that without a body, my mind was no subject to time, and faster than I had realized, night was upon me. Night was upon me, and right now my mom and dad would be wondering why I hadn’t come home. My sister would be walking in now, since she lived in the apartment below us, and when she saw the look on their faces, she’d wonder what was happening. I don’t think she could guess, however, or even that she’d ever say it.
Imment Hunt,My name wouldn’t come to her mind.My little brother is dead.She would never say, even when she loomed over my coffin with tears pouring from her eyes, and I didn’t want her to say that. I didn’t want this to be anything but a dream, and I didn’t want to be seeing what I was seeing now. Not just my body lying upon the nearly frozen ground, but something moving toward it and budging up the leaves. A ghastly postal carrier was shoving up leaves as it moved toward my body, and the package that it promised to deliver was worse than any bill ever handed out. I didn’t know what it was at first, but I didn’t need to see an inch of it to guess. What else could be moving like that through leaves? What else could be reminding me about a news story I heard a few days ago, that preceded my dad telling me not to take the path through the woods? What else could ruin my afterlife more, but the python that escaped from the zoo and was apparently moving toward my body right now?
When its body finally rose up, it didn’t look as I expected, but its size was still intimidating enough to fill the dead with fear. Its body was long and scaly, and although I was already dead, its fangs were drawn and dripping with an oozing poison. A black-purple scaled body coiled up high before my head, as it looked down onto its meal with gold-reptilian eyes. With a dart that laughed at my perception, it wrapped itself around my body and squeezed hard, squeezed taut. I had asked before what else could ruin my afterlife more, and now I knew the answer, as not only did I feel the pain as I watched it wrap around my body, I felt the pain as if it actually wrapped around me. I, in both senses, was caught by this creature, and as if to rub it in, it darted forward again and drove its fangs into my neck. Its poison acted fast as I felt it coursed through my veins, and made my heart thunder as it immediately got there. It was hot, painful, and louder than my heart had ever been before, and had it not been for the fact that I was suffering, I would have thought that I was just alive. Had it not been that it was squeezing my body, and had just shot venom into my veins, I would have thought there was a chance I wasn’t actually dead, but if there was it was gone now…
That was until I heard a sudden beep and my body sprang up all in one motion. I could feel a weight wrapping around me again, this time a lot lighter than the pressure of the snake, and as the beep stopped making me ears ring and I got my bearings, I realized I wasn’t in the woods anymore. I looked around and it was clear with one glance not only what the beep was, but where I was as well. My muddied clothes had been switched out for a blue hospital gown, and the thing that made the loud beep was the defibrillator that was being rolled out the room. The room itself was white, and the turned off TV hung on the wall a few feet away, showed me my reflection, and what wrapped around me.
“Imment!” It was a woman with long brown hair, and the eyes of a mother who worked out of home and had to deal with a rather unruly son. She was at least in her early forties and her disheveled hair, and carelessly thrown on clothes, told me that she had left her home in a hurry, just so that there was a chance she could do this.
“I’m sorry, mom.” I hugged her back, and felt rejected as she pushed me away and stared at me, as if I had said the worse thing I could possibly say, before my father walked her out of the room and my sister let out a sigh of relief.
As I stared at her, I felt kind of bad. Red hair was still drawn up into a ponytail, and the outfit she wore looked like it had jumped through six decades. Her face looked a little red, not just from crying, but from the smudged makeup, she had to wipe off before rushing down to the hospital. Dressed like a waiter, there was no way she didn’t feel out of place, but because of me that didn’t matter, as long as I was able to breath.
“You have to stop being stupid.” Her voice was weak, showing with unhampered truth that she had cried enough to exhaust herself. “Mom was already blaming herself, what you said made her blame herself even more.” She tried to sound cheery, but it did her no good, and as she told me that, I wondered what else I could have said.
“But it is my fault…” I murmured, and my sister shook her head.
“No it’s not Imment, and as long as you’re alive, that doesn’t matter anyway.” She said and I forced myself to nod, even though I knew that it was. “I’m going to go check on mom. Relax for a bit, OK?” She said, and then she was off while I lay down, and I wrapped my arms around myself, happy that I was alive, but wildly unsure how, and ultimately sure that snake had really appeared…