Days After Death

See, the thing is, life is never easy.

Hayley van Doorn has committed suicide. She's glorified it in her mind for too many months now, and she knows no-one will miss her at the institute. And the results of her suicide, Hayley knows, will be dramatic - she'll hear sobbing and crying, she'll hear people wondering, and most of all, she'll be missed.

But see, death doesn't pan out like that. No; instead Hayley's forced to watch the gritty after-events of her suicide and the effects upon thos

They found my body early the next morning.

Last night, I'd watched a bit of television. I'd taken a handful of salty chips to my room, locked the door, and sat there eating them. All the while, the glass jar had winked back at me, taunting me. Once the last chip was gone and I'd licked the last traces of sea salt from my sticky fingers, I'd taken my water bottle and the glass jar of rattling white pills.

Once the bottle and the jar were both empty, and my stomach considerably full, I'd lain down on the bed. Closed my eyes. And felt myself drifting off, as easy as a babe lulled into sleep by it's mother's lullaby.

I had so many great plans. I had meant to see that boy, Geoff, one more time - maybe teach him a few songs on guitar. I'd meant to tell my parents that they meant the world to me, but the world was only so difficult. And I'd meant to tell my friends what I thought of them - how I wanted them to behave - how I didn't ever want to be just a memory. I wanted them to still speak to me, to visit my room and to cry for me to come back.

None of that would happen, of course.

The coppers came the next morning, when I was barely just begun. My father had pounded repetitively on my battered blue door, and my sister, teddy bear clutched to her chest, had waited with wide eyes. I was due to go to hockey that morning, and I was usually the first one up - but not that day. Eventually, my hysterical mother and father had torn down the door to find my dimmed room, the bottle by my cold hand and the jar at my head.

While they wept, I stirred, waking from my drowsy slumber. There was no sweet release for me; there was only the hard roof of my house, and the strange feeling that I was not dead, not alive. I seemed to have shrunken through death, and was surely only the size of the five-year old I had been once. But even then, it did not feel like Hayley Christensen's body; it felt like I had been granted a temporary vessel in which to view my family's torment.

And torment it was indeed. As I watched from my perch in the vast expanse of blue sky, my mother howled. My sister went for the blinds, and tottering on tip-toes, lifted it up. Sunlight filled the room, and it was a strange - strange feeling - as if a sudden warmth had bathed my long-dead body. My parents stood, stunned, as if frozen for a moment - by her mother's hand, my cell phone still buzzed. It was as if that simple buzzing woke them to their senses; my mother dropped to her knees. Her face became distorted and blurred, as if a child with an eraser had rubbed out some of the lines.

She did not cry, though.

My sister stood by the window, and looked upon my face. I looked, too - it wasn't as if I was sleeping. The face of the girl I had been was empty, jaw slack, no hint of humanity whatsoever. My father dropped to his knees beside that girl. He did not cry either, and there was a certain desperation as he took my body's hand. It's coldness must have brought him back to reality, for he then began to sob, his body shaking with a despair I could no longer bring myself to watch.

I turned away then, averting my eyes. This was indeed the scene I had planned, and yet, it cut into the essence of what I had been. Choosing not to watch my family's grief, I instead scanned the empty horizon around me. There was a swing, suspended by nothing, in the corner of my eye. It's ropes were twisted and frayed, and it's seat was gnarled and ugly wood. Nonetheless, I moved towards it, and sat down upon it. The houses looked small from where I sat, and as I pushed myself back and forth, they grew smaller still; a patchwork of strange orange and brown squares.

"Mrs. Christensen, we'll have to ... this is ... we'll have to treat this house as ... well. I'm sorry for your loss."

Those were the words I had wanted to hear, and so I turned my eyes eagerly back towards my once-house. The five-year old body in which I was encased clapped it's hands with innocent glee, an act I frowned upon.

In the lounge my mother lay lifeless, sprawled across the expanse of a couch. She remained in her messy pyjamas, greasy hair across her features, and there was nothing in her eyes. Occasionally, a tear would leak from the corner of an eye, run along the crook of her nose, then plop into the waves of her golden hair, but apart from that, there was no motion. My sister sat on the couch beside her, in all her seven-year-old childishness, feet waggling.

My father was attempting to put on a Brave Face. I had always made fun of it; saying his twisted lips and downwards-pointing eyebrows gave away the fact that any moment now, his emotions would come burbling out. But on that morning, it was all the more worse; my father wasn't even attempting it properly. Tears spilled from the corners of his eyes, and he'd cough to hide his gasps, but his shoulders shook and his frame was crumpled over. He hadn't shaved, and while he'd dressed himself, there was a certain bluster to it.

"James," one of the policemen said - he was a young thing, with golden curls and empathetic eyes,  "I'm ... I'm ... I'm afraid we couldn't find any reason for your daughter's ... her ... her death." he finished finally, unable to bring himself to say the word.

I wondered at that. I had always spat out the word 'suicide' easily enough.

"That's to be understood." James Christensen, my father said. "No ... well ... you have to have something."

He didn't shout, but raw desperation ran through his voice. My mother let out the tiniest of sobs, a mere hiccup, and my sister looked down at her. So did the older policemen, his eyes darkened by my death and his jaw grim.

"We're terribly sorry. We will keep searching - there is certainly no evident to say that .. well ... reports from Haley's pyschiatrist and the hospital say she was managing just fine. She had been discharged for quite a while now - at least three years - and showing no signs of relapse."

I shuddered at their words; relapse. I never had, and had never planned on going back to those white-walled places of insanity.

"Haley .." my father said, and choked back a sob, " Haley ... she never would. She understands. she knows how much she means to us, that's why she tries so hard."

"Your daughter did try hard." the younger policeman said gently.

I turned my attention away again. This was what I had dreamed would happen; that my family would be distraught, that my body would be just there, lying simply there as a reminder of everything. It was unfolding as I'd expected. And yet seeing my mother lie there, incoherent, unable of standing by herself, opened a fresh spring of hurt in my heart. Seeing my father struggle to raise his head and meet the eyes of the men who were talking about my death, seeing his hands clench into tiny shaking fists ... It was eerie. I wouldn't watch for now.

I had that right - at least. The dead deserved some rights.

Now, my father had lowered his head. He spoke to the ground, mumbling, and I could make neither heads nor tails of what he was saying. Neither did the policemen, although they appeared more agitated now, desperate to help out in some way.

"Is there anything we can do ... for you ... or Lily," my sister looked up, but then glanced down again - the sight of my father, broken and beaten was enough, "or even Mrs.Christensen, Jenna - she looks ... "

"I want her back."

"Your daughter was ... was a beautiful girl, she took after Jen. She was ... vivacious, from what I've heard ... and joyous ... and free as a bird ... even after ... but she ... she decided-"

My mother turned away, closing her eyes, as if hearing my name not spoken was killing her, but worse was, hearing her dead eldest daughter described. Lily, that pretty little girl with bright eyes and glossy hair looked dull, as if my death had washed her out; drained the life out of her.

"Don't." my father said, and he raised his head. I closed my eyes, and felt them burn with tears I would never - could never - shed. "Don't talk about my daughter in the past tense."


"But I'm afraid we have to now, sir."


The End

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