Basically, Alex and Rory are best friends, but Rory dies after taking ecstasy, and comes back as a ghost, much to his surprise. Alex spirals into depression, going from girl to girl, getting addicted to drugs and self harming. Happy days :D
The first thing you should know about death is that it really sucks. Really.
I ruined my life, and as it turns out, I made my death kind of miserable too. Now, I really don’t know where I sit in the Grand Scheme of Things, but it didn’t take me long to decide that it wasn’t going to be “there”.
Wherever that was.
It wasn’t hard, you know. I know I died before my time and pretty much tick all of the “ghost” criteria, but it turns out anybody can go back. Anyway, I don’t think of myself as a ghost. Just a person with a difference. A big difference.
When I went back, I followed my feet back to my old home. I can’t glide, or fly. I have to walk, just like everyone else. I can walk through doors, though; that’s pretty cool. I automatically reached for the handle of my front door, but my hand sunk straight through. I got the idea pretty quickly, but old habits die hard.
The front door led straight into the lounge. I stood for a minute, watching my mum and Steve, my step dad. He was standing at the window, as if looking for something. Mum was sobbing into a handkerchief, only half catching her tears. The rest fell on to the sofa, staining the light blue material. I was surprised, I must say, because I always got the impression that she hated me. I guess not.
I sat down next to her on the sofa, but she didn’t look round. I coughed, trying to get her attention. I talked to her, but she just went on sobbing into her hankie.
Wondering at the depth of her grief, I sat silent for a minute, watching her. I wonder if she knew I wouldn’t cry for her. I’m not cold, or anything, it’s just that we never quite saw eye to eye. And let’s just say it has nothing to do with my being 5”11.
Then something hit me. In the moment it took for me to identify the feeling as panic, it was already coursing through my cold veins, lacing its way into my consciousness. I tried to shake my mum’s shoulders, but I couldn’t seem to get a grip. I yelled in her ear, but she didn’t show any sign that she had heard me.
I was invisible.
Then, to add insult to injury, Steve came over and sat on me. Well, he didn’t exactly sit on me; it was more like he sat through me. I didn’t feel it at all, but what bothered me more was that he didn’t, either.
I got up, sharpish, and kicked him in the shin for good measure, mustering all the force I could. I wasn’t expecting him to react, but he sort of winced, and rubbed his leg absent-mindedly. I wondered if it was me, or sheer coincidence.
Then I realised that they were both dressed in their funeral clothes. I hoped I hadn’t missed my own funeral- that would be something to see. I mean, sure, most people are present at their funeral, but I bet not many can say that they know what went on, can they?
I glanced at the clock above the fire; three o’clock. Looked like I would get to be at my own funeral after all.
I hate to say it, but my funeral was a real disappointment. It was really boring; all sobbing relatives and violin music from a CD player. Then Alex got up to speak.
Alex is my best friend. I half expected him not to turn up. It was true that he was getting some funny looks from my family, but I didn’t care. I was just really glad he was there. He was the only one who knew what happened when I died- he was there.
It wasn’t glamorous, or heartbreaking, or a feat of bravery. It wasn’t even particularly interesting. Stupid, cocky teenagers-thinking we would try something different; rebel. We had smoked weed before. Christ, we did it all the time. Alex could afford it, and that was all we cared about.
But pills are a little different. And I didn’t pay attention in Social Education classes.
Unfortunately for me, my body couldn’t handle it, and I died. I didn’t know much about what happened between swallowing the pill and waking up dead; there’s just a handful of dazed memories of dancing, and sweat, drinking even though I had no idea what it was, and more sweat- it was so warm. Then nothing.
It was refreshing, Alex telling it like it was, his usual self, but without some of the sparkle. Face it, I wasn’t a nice guy, my death wasn’t tragic, and my parents knew fine well what I was doing when they got that phone call saying that “Your son was not present in his fifth period class...”
I watched him looking at the paper in front of him but not reading the words- he knew them by heart. Occasionally he shoved his fringe behind his ear, but it kept escaping, like it used to do when he laughed. But today he wasn’t laughing.
His voice didn’t waver at all- I was proud of him for that, I looked at Mum, her eyes swimming, and at Steve, whose face was completely void of emotion. I looked at Alex. I knew who I would rather go with, and in the instant of my realisation I was next to him.
I don’t know how I did it- one minute I was sitting on the cold bench next to my mum, the next I was right there beside Alex.
He finished his speech. I was flattered that he even bothered- he hated all that “sentimental shit”, as he liked to call it. But he put effort into something for me. Maybe he knew I was listening.
He walked back to his seat, hiding behind his silky curtain of ebony hair and accompanied by murmured complaints from Aunt Gladys. I watched him walk away, felt a pulling in my chest, turning into a dull ache, then into agonising pain. It felt like my insides were being stretched on a rack.
By the time he got to his seat, I was doubled over in pain. You can still feel pain when you’re dead, by the way. The urge to follow him was irresistible. I rushed towards him, the pain becoming duller with every step. When I stood behind him it was a mere memory of the pain that resided in my chest.
It looked like I would have to stay uncomfortably close to Alex for the time being- not that it would bother him, of course. I stayed right next to him after that, shadowing him when he got up to leave with his parents.
I never liked his parents- Thomas and Isobel Hildegarde-Bates. Yeah, this is the twenty-first century, and yes, to sum it up they did live in a manor outside our town, speak in posh accents and say “one” instead of “you”.
Alex, on the other hand, spoke like me (not posh, for the record), and went by the surname Bates only. He blew all of his money on music, clothes and drugs, in that order, and spent way too much time with girls. He’s the smartest guy I’ve ever met, but had no common sense; he never opened a book to study and annoyed his expensive tutors so much he was lucky to get a full lesson from them before they quit.
I followed them to their flashy Aston Martin- they couldn’t resist showing off, whatever the occasion. I half fell through the side of the car, landing on the seat. Alex climbed in about as graciously as I had, but more conventionally; he used the door.
His parents got in, and the engine rumbled as Thomas turned the key in the ignition. Nobody spoke for a few moments, as if unsure who should be the one to break the silence. Eventually Isobel spoke, twisting round in her seat to speak to Alex.
“That’s the last time you’re seeing any of those people, Al. I’m sorry.” Alex hated being called Al.
“What people?” asked Alex, playing dumb.
“You know exactly who I mean, Alexander. Those people you used to go round with.”
“Do go round with,” he corrected her. Isobel took a deep breath.
“Don’t be like this. We’re sending you to Graham’s after the Easter holiday,” she said, all softness gone from her nasally voice. Graham Academy. For boys. You can imagine how Alex took that...
“What? No, you’re not!” Alex fumed. Even in what I like to imagine was considerable grief, the idea of being stuck in a school full of toffs with the only girls in a 10-mile radius being 50-year-old teachers still disgusted him. Isobel faced the front again.
“Don’t speak to your mother like that!” warned Thomas. Alex swore. “What was that?” said his father. Alex shook his head, face stony.
“Alexander, we’ve been over this,” said Thomas. Alex said nothing.”I don’t want any more arguments about this school. We let you go to a state school, but you did all of the things that we didn’t want you to do. No more chances- this’ll be a fresh start for you.”
Alex was still silent.
The car made its way up the gravel drive towards his house. Nobody spoke again. The car stopped, and Alex got out and trudged towards the door, head down. Thomas unlocked it, and Alex shoved past, running up the stairs.
“Be down in a few minutes!” Isobel called after him. Alex didn’t respond as he ran to his room. I followed him closely, passing effortlessly through the bedroom door he had just slammed.
He sat down on the edge of his bed, his elbows on his knees and his hands tangled through his hair. He was silent for a moment. Then he let out this weird, strangled yell. It’s the sort of thing you hear when somebody just finds out that a loved one has died- I guess he had. Maybe it had just hit him that I wasn’t around anymore.
Or maybe he was just sad that he had to leave his other friends. I like to think that it was the former.
He flopped down on his bed, sobbing silently; tears cascading down his cheeks. He pulled his tie off with one hand, throwing it down. I sat on a beanbag beside his bed, watching him. He cried for a long time. It was almost unbearable to watch, to use an old cliché. Alex didn’t cry. He was strong. It was strange to see him like that.
I crawled over to him, and tried to rest a comforting hand on his shoulder. He began to recover a little, but he still lay there. His breathing slowed, and eventually he fell asleep. I sat down again on the beanbag. A while later Isobel came upstairs. She came in without knocking, which she should have learned by now not to do, but Alex was still out. She walked over to him and inspected him for a moment, as though checking he was still alive. It might sound weird to you, but I guess you might be starting to get the idea about the hazards of living with Alex.
Satisfied, she shook him gently. He mumbled something.
“Sweetie, just get out of these clothes and you can go to sleep,” she said, gentle again.
She pulled his floppy arms from his suit jacket, but he collapsed on the bed again before she could start the whole “teeth brushed, face washed” routine. She tried to smooth his hair out of his face, but it fell back over his eyes again instantly. She stood up straight.
“Love you,” she said. He didn’t respond. She sighed, and walked out of his room.
As I sat in the darkness, though, I was sure I heard him murmur “Love you, too.”
People are weird. And love is twisted.