Murder Victim's Prologue
Dana Canton shook her long brown hair out of her eyes as she looked around at the group of people sitting inside the hot Pace bus. Everyone was lost in their own thoughts, and the atmosphere was more melancholy than their trip down from heaven had been. She could understand that; she felt the same way. A few days ago, everyone had been excited at the prospect of returning to Earth for a few days to see their families, tie up some loose ends that their sudden deaths had not allowed, and maybe even make a mark that they had not been able to do when they were alive. Now, however, the group realized that this was the last time they would see their loved ones until the loved one's eventual deaths. Those few days, for her at any rate, had been wonderful, but still bittersweet. As she looked at her seatmate, a girl just slightly older than her own seventeen years, she wondered what her story had been. No one had volunteered much information about themselves during their first journey together, and this girl had shared even less than the others. That thought gave her an idea. They would be spending a lot of time together before reaching heaven once again, and what better way to spend it than talking about why they were there? It had to be better than brooding over what had happened or what might have happened. Clearing her throat, she stood in her seat as everyone turned to look at her. "Um, hi, everyone. I was just thinking that maybe we could all do something, instead of just sitting here alone," she said, suddenly nervous speaking in front of this silent crowd. "I was thinking that we could all take turns telling a story. Maybe what we did the last few days, or about our live. Something like that."
The girl sitting next to her spoke up. "I think that's a good idea. As long as we're stuck in this bus, we might as well do something."
There were general murmurings of agreement from the passengers, and Dana smiled, her green eyes showing her relief. "Great! How about if I start? Is that okay?" When she heard no dissenting voices, she made herself comfortable and started her tale.
Murder Victim's Tale
A bright light broke through my dream and slowly woke me up. I groaned and flipped over, burying my head underneath my pillow. The last thing I wanted to do was wake-up, since the only thing I had planned for my day was a lot of studying for finals next week. Something seemed off, though. I stretched my arms out and my hands dropped off the sides of the bed. I flew off the bed and looked around. This was not my bedroom. I had a king-size bed, not a twin. I had pictures scattered all over the pale blue walls, but this room was painted a stark white, and there were no adornments. My panic started to build as I zipped around the room, trying desperately to find out where I was and why I was there. When the door suddenly opened, I spun around to confront the older woman who walked in.
"Dana Canton?" she inquired, with a pleasant smile.
"Yes?" I said suspiciously.
"Hi, Dana. My name is Elizabeth St. George. I just wanted to come and check on you, make sure you were okay."
"Well, Elizabeth, I'd be a little more okay if I knew what was going on," I snapped.
Elizabeth looked concerned. "You mean you don't remember? Oh, you poor dear. Come over here," she said, walking towards the bed. After a brief moment of hesitation, I followed and sat down as she directed. She lifted my hands into hers and told me to close my eyes and concentrate. Just her touch calmed my fears, and once I lost my fears, I was able to remember what had happened the night before.
"I'm dead?" I asked, stunned. "How? I mean, I know how, but why? I'm only seventeen years old. It just doesn't make sense."
"I know it doesn't. It's never easy to leave Earth, but it's even harder when you're young and it's so unexpected," she said sympathetically, giving me a hug.
A new thought occurred to me. If I was dead, what about my boyfriend? He had been right there with me. "Scott! What happened to Scott?" I asked frantically. "Is he here? Can I see him?"
"No, honey. Your Scott wasn't even hurt. He's still on Earth," she told me gently.
Oh. I managed a weak smile. "I'm not sure if I should be relieved or not."
"I know. It's hard to leave someone that you love." She paused, looking speculative. "Dana, I'm going to offer you an option. When someone dies suddenly, they often leave behind unfinished business, which can be as simple as a good-bye or I'm sorry that never was said. If you want, you can have the opportunity to go back to Earth for a few days to wrap your life up."
"What do you mean?" I asked, confused. "Like the movie Ghost? Or Heart and Souls?"
Elizabeth chuckled. "Almost. In your case, you wouldn't be a ghost, though. You also wouldn't be yourself. You'd be a different person, and while you would know your family and friends, they wouldn't know you, which is very hard for some people to handle. Not being yourself doesn't mean that you can't help them, however, and in turn, help yourself, come to terms with your death."
"So I'd just be a stranger to them?" I asked, my eyes involuntarily filling with tears at the thought.
"You'd just be a friend of Dana's, as opposed to being Dana," Elizabeth confirmed. "But you would still be able to talk to them, and say good-bye. You might even be able to find some answers you want."
I nodded. "Okay," I said, my voice barely coming out as a whisper. I cleared my throat. "I want to do it."
Elizabeth smiled and nodded. "Good choice, Dana. I think it will help you, in the long run."
Well, a few days later, I met all of you, and we went down to Earth. I was absolutely terrified at the prospect of seeing my parents and Scott, and not being able to run to them and just throw my arms around them. Elizabeth had set everything up for me: I was now Kerri Locatis, an old penpal of Dana's who had come to town for her friend's funeral.
I came to town the day before my funeral. I really didn't have a clue of what to do with myself. I wanted to see my parents and Scott, but I wasn't sure if I was ready to face them yet. I decided to take a walk around the city, and visit my old haunts. After several hours of wandering around, I found myself in front of an old building just a few blocks away from my home. It was the old library, where I had been killed just a few days before. It still didn't seem real to me that I had actually died in this place. The hot sunshine and blue sky just didn't match the dark red bloodstains I had left on the driveway in front of the building. Walking closer to the front stairs, I noticed a figure huddled at the very top, staring straight down. The person obviously didn't see me, and I walked a bit closer. I gasped as I recognized him.
"Scotty?" I breathed. This was Scott? The energetic Scott Williams that I knew, the one who never stopped moving and was rarely without a smile, would never let himself get this down and depressed. I moved closer to the stairs as if pulled by a magnetic force. I couldn't help it, the very sight of him made me feel happy all over. "Scott?" I said hesitantly. He didn't look up, so I walked up a few more steps. "Scott?" I asked again, a bit louder this time. His head jerked up, and I could see that he had been crying.
"Who are you?" he asked, his voice hoarse, and the words cut me to the bone.
I blinked back my tears. "I'm, um, Kerri. Kerri Locatis. I was Dana's penpal," I said shakily. I couldn't believe how hard it was to see him and not tell him who I really was. "I recognized you from a picture that Day sent me."
He nodded, accepting my explanation at face value, and I sat down next to him. "Here for the funeral?" he asked, spitting out the last word as if it were poison.
Sitting there with him, my heart just broke. I managed to nod. "Yeah. I'm staying over at the Holiday Inn."
"Did you go to the wake yet?" he asked, still not even looking at me.
"No. I donít know if I could, you know, see her there." Or see myself in a coffin.
He nodded again. "Closed casket, though. They did a real number on her head. Hard to make a partly crushed skull look all pretty," he said bitterly.
I flinched. Either he didn't notice, or he didn't care, because he just continued trailing his hands in the dust and dirt on the landing. "I'm sorry, Scott," I said simply, trying not to start crying. He just shrugged, and the pain was starting to hurt too much. I stood up, and looked down at him. "I think I'm going to go now. I want to see Dana's parents."
"Bye," he muttered, still not looking up.
"Bye," I whispered, and walked away. I headed towards the funeral home near my house, correctly figuring that my parents would have chosen a place close to home. Taking a deep breath, I walked into the dark one story building. A woman in the foyer directed me towards the back room, where I could see people milling about. I made my way into the crowded room, and looked around. I could see most of my teachers, my aunt, uncle and their children, and many my classmates. My best friend, Melissa, was sitting in the corner, sobbing as our friend Jason tried to comfort her. I tried to find my parents, but I couldn't see them anywhere. Finally, a man that I didn't know moved and I saw my mother sitting on a couch, looking drained but composed. I made my way over to her.
"Ma-Mrs. Canton?" I said, almost slipping and calling her Mom.
She looked up automatically, and I could see that she had aged years in the past few days. "Yes?"
I knelt in front of her so I was on her level. "Mrs. Canton, my name is Kerri Locatis. I was one of Dana's penpals."
She gave me a small smile. "So you're one of the girls Dana was always writing to," she said softly.
"That's me," I said, my smile wavering a little. "I just wanted to tell you that, um, I'm so sorry for your loss. I'm really going to miss, um, hearing about your family and everything."
"Well, thank you, Kerri. We're really going to miss her, too." Her eyes filled with tears, and I couldn't help it. I put my arms around her and hugged her tight, and she clung to me. Finally, she pulled back. "I'm sorry, dear. I need to find my husband now."
I brushed away a tear that had fallen, and stood up. "Of course. I understand."
"Thank you for coming," she said as she brushed past me. I turned around and made my way out of there as fast as I could. I didn't think I could stand to see much more. When I was back in the sunlight, I leaned against the side of the building and tried to control my tears. I had had enough for one day. I headed back to the hotel, and dropped off to sleep, mentally and physically exhausted. I didn't wake up until mid-morning the next day.
The funeral wasn't until early afternoon, so I decided to walk around more. I deliberately avoided the funeral home and library, but headed straight for my home. I stopped in front of the two story Georgian that my parents and I had lived in for almost ten years, and just looked at it. From the outside, it looked as if nothing had changed. The bushes were neatly trimmed as always, the flowers along the walkway still bloomed brilliantly, and the same cheerful white and yellow curtains hung in the windows. Suddenly, I felt someone staring at me, and whirled around in fear. It was only Scott, though, not some nameless person trying to kill me for a second time.
"Hi," I said, not knowing what else to say.
"It seems like something should be different, doesn't it?" he asked, coming up to stand next to me. "Everything seems normal. From out here, you can't tell that someone who lived there last week doesn't live there anymore. Doesn't live period."
"Yeah." We stood there in silence for a few minutes. I turned to him. "Do you ever wonder who did it?"
"Yeah. I want to know why more than who, though," he said, staring at the window to my bedroom. "Who would kill this sweet young girl who couldn't even hurt a fly?"
"I want to know who," I said insistently. "I want to know who decided one day that Dana Canton should die!"
"Why?" For the first time, Scott turned to face me. "Why? She's dead. She's not going to come back, no matter who it was! It's done, and it can't be undone." He stalked away, apparently going back to his house. I ran after him.
"Scott, please. Scotty, wait! If we can find out who did this, we can make sure it doesn't happen again! Isn't that worth something?" I pleaded, trying to keep up with his long strides.
"Kerri, no, okay? I can't do it. I just can't. That's all." He kept walking, but I just stopped. Somehow, I had thought that finding out who killed me would be easy, and that Scott would help me, because there was nothing he liked more than a good mystery. I glanced at my watch, and realized that I needed to head back to the hotel now to get ready for the funeral.
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