Why would I hear voices if no one is here? Is somebody playing tricks on me?
After a long while of waiting, I head down the hill, scanning the darkling landscape for clues.
If I am merely locked away in some shadowed corner of my mind in an endless storybook of madness, nothing can be done, but if something stranger is going on, the only option is to keep on searching.
For a moment I pause, watching the glittery particles float down and land on my skin. Like snow, they stay there a moment and then melt away. These little wonders suddenly prompt me to think, to wrack my brain in search of answers to this quiet, fluid reality.
And suddenly, as though in response to my wishes, they come.
I am Lillian Lantos. I am twenty six years old, and live in a small but quaint bungalow in a North Carolina mountain town. My friends are in nearby towns, only a thirty minute’s drive away, and we visit often.
Suddenly I remember where I was before arriving here.
The car. I was driving down the road at night, and the section of sky above the tree line revealed stars as bright and clear as eyes. My favorite band, U2, was playing on the radio, and I was on my way home after a visit with Sharon and Nora, who have been my friends since childhood.
As I grope for understanding, the realization comes that they have found the wreckage of my ruined car in the ravine beside the mountain. I abruptly feel their grief inside me, their anger, turning within me like rusty gears from a twisted machine, churning.
And I feel their confusion, because my body is gone.
No blood on the car seat, no remains in the woods.
This revelation hits me like nothing else ever has.
I scream, and scream, and scream, and I don’t even sound human. It is an unearthly wail, apparently produced by no vocal cords, uttered by no lips, and yet it breaks the silence, tears its oppressive fabric, and echoes through this strange dark world like the cry of a forlorn bird.
Filled with new energy powered by a need for light, I sprint forward, toward the mountains in the distance, desperate to find life, freedom, hope. Desperate to find anything.
The whole time, a voice chants in my thoughts, an insistent mantra of poignant, passionate denial, not dead, not dead, not dead. I’m not dead, can’t be. No.
Perhaps because this doesn’t seem right, perhaps because of incredulous shock, I am not fully convinced of my death. If this is the afterlife, why do I have a body here, why such feelings of pain, of coldness, weakness?
Somehow, I know that the real and undeniable truth lies somewhere in the mountains. The sharp, ragged behemoths that wait in the distance, pointing somberly to the dead sky.