Following the light can’t be that hard, right? So why don’t the dead just do it and leave Stephanie Steward alone? However nothing is ever as simple as it should be as Stephanie learns when her hidden ‘gift’ becomes more than a nuisance, quickly turning into a liability. If she can’t learn to trust someone with her secret, the world as she knows it will go to hell. Literally. But if she doesn’t choose wisely, she might just end up learning firsthand how hard it is to follow that light. Because she’s next on the list to be crossed out.
I couldn’t deal with Mom and her holier-than-thou attitude about decorating crosses. If she had any clue why I needed to do this, maybe she’d back off. I pushed my hair aside and looked down at the wooden beams. My box of paints and Sharpie pens lay close to my side. I had to get the design just right. Roses, or something plainer? It didn’t help that it was so cold in the garage.
Why was it so hard to help the dead go to the other side? It’d be a whole lot easier if they told me what they wanted on their crosses. Dead girl comes, asks for help, and tells me she’s into pink roses. Yes, that would make my job a lot easier.
But one thing I’ve learned is, life isn’t easy. Cliché, but true.
Figures, this was how I’d spend my time on a Saturday – sitting cross-legged on the floor in our garage, worrying about finishing a cross for some dead girl. In a few hours, Mom would drag me to Mrs. Swanson’s house for a sleepover. I didn’t really have time to decorate a cross.
And each time I tried to sketch, thoughts of the meeting drove any thought of the design out of my mind. I mean, how could I even think of helping others – albeit dead ones – when my own life was such a disaster?
I didn’t want to go. But Mom was using the whole sleepover as a way to get me to be around Hillary, whom she thought would be such a good example for me. But I couldn’t tell my mother the truth – I hated Hillary. Yes, we’d once been close, but it wasn’t as if we were BFF anymore. No, Hillary made sure of that when I’d been stupid enough to trust her with my secret. A secret that was better left hidden. No one believed the dead could talk to you.
According to my last counselor, the only way that could happen is through serious Steven Spielberg special effects.
When I admitted to seeing one of my dead friends, he didn’t freak. No, he did something worse. He ended up suggesting to my parents that I needed to see a counselor – for serious psychological help. I mean, only crazy people see the dead.
And, I hate to say this, but his anti-anxiety and antidepressants don’t keep them away.
Sometimes I wished the drug cocktail could just erase them. It sure would make my life a lot easier.
Sighing, I decided to go with pink roses. What girl didn’t like pink?
A sudden coldness permeated the garage. Jeez, did Dad forget to close the back door again?
I pulled my hoodie tighter. Working in near darkness was bad enough without the drop in temperature.
Whoosh. Whoosh. Whoosh.
I dropped my black Sharpie.
Over in the corner of the garage loose papers and dust whirled around – a funnel growing larger and larger.
A light shone next to Mom’s holiday plastic boxes, illuminating some Christmas ornaments, tinsel, and wrapping paper.
The childish voice grew louder. A chill went up my back. I know that voice!
I blinked once and when I opened my eyes I saw the girl. Her long dirty blond hair was clumped into two pigtails, and her bikini top and cut-off Levis brought back memories of the YMCA pool three years ago where I’d spent my summers.
Omigod! I pushed the wooden cross aside. A tingling sensation burned through my whole body. Once I helped a dead person cross over, that was supposed to end the whole rescue scenario. The bright light appeared and poof! Well, not this time.
I scooted away, over the rough, cold pavement. This didn’t make sense. Though I was used to visits from the “other” side, having Allison reappear scared me. I didn’t know what to do.
“Allison, why are you here?” My voice broke.
She took a step toward me. Her lips trembled.
Danger? Did that mean her murderer was out of prison? Just the thought of that perv touching or killing someone else made me want to hurl.
“Allison, what are you trying to tell me?” I slowly got up off the ground. “Is the guy who killed you, out?”
Allison shook her head. It still freaked me out how much the dead looked like us, not fuzzy or semi-transparent like they show on TV. The ones I helped still looked the way they had when they’d been killed, complete with all the blood and stuff.
Yet here was Allison. She should be in Heaven singing in one of those heavenly choirs Mom always talked about.
I bit my hangnail, ripping it off. I couldn’t deal with this. Not now.
The wind picked up, tossing loose papers everywhere. None of this affected Allison.
I had so many questions to ask her. I missed her. I knew she’d understand me, even when others – including my mom – were clueless.
“Allison, what’s it like to be…?”
The wind howled drowning out her answer.
And just as quickly, Allison left.
I felt as if something had punched me in the stomach. I pushed back the sickness threatening to escape. What was going on? But even worse, I didn’t know what to do. One thing had been made perfectly clear. The rules had all changed and no one bothered to give me the new players’ guide.