'That Time You Died' by Alexa Hailey

I found myself dead. I walked out to the end of the driveway to get the mail, only to find myself already there, dead. Only it couldn’t be me because I touched my own face and felt it. It couldn’t be me, but it looked just like me. I turned to run inside to tell Ma but I tripped and skinned my knee. The blood mixed with the gravel and I tried to wipe it away, but instead it snuck further inside me, up in.

I ran inside to my mother, to tell her I was dead outside. “It must be your sister,” she said. She didn’t stop watching her show, didn’t take her eyes off the screen to look at me, not once. It was some daytime show I’d never seen before, some Jerry Springer type show where everyone was screaming at each other.

“Ma, I don’t have a sister,” I told her, and she just laughed and laughed. I couldn’t tell if it was at me or the T.V.

My mother’s apathy didn’t bother me much, apathy being her natural state. I went back outside to inspect myself, the myself that was lying at the end of the driveway, dead. When I saw her I was horrified, not shocked, because of course it would happen like this, because that’s what’s going on here, so I wasn’t shocked but horrified. Horrified to see that just below the hem of her skirt, her right knee was bloody, a red and black splotch just like mine, but hers was closed, dry, like it had been painted on some time ago.

I sat by her and thought of what to do with myself, and I remembered that I had gone inside to find a phone, I must have, why else would I have gone in there? It didn’t work though, I remembered that now. The phone I found didn’t work. I couldn’t get the buttons to dial. So I sat wondering what to do with myself, and thank God our neighbor came by and saw us, although it feels silly to thank God when I don’t really believe in him.

“Who is this?” She spread her arms out wide over the body as she said it, “Who is this?”

“I don’t know, I can’t get help, our phones aren’t working.”

“What happened to her?”

“I don’t know, I just found her like this.”

“Oh Jesus.” We just looked at her. She never said anything about the girl on the ground looking just like me, so I figured maybe it was all in my head? The neighbor lady sat with me while we waited, every once in a while she’d say, “Oh Jesus”, and shake her head a little.

“Is this your sister, honey?” The officer asked. It was getting dark, the sun was gone and I didn’t have to squint to see him.

“I don’t have a sister.”

“Well what happened here?”

“I don’t know, I just found her like this.”

The officers whispered to each other for a while, and then they whispered to the neighbor lady, and then she took me by the shoulders and pushed me inside. “You need to rest dear. You’ve done all you can.” The trailer door cracked behind me too quickly, and when I turned around the neighbor lady wasn’t behind me anymore. Ma was still on the couch watching T.V., somehow it was still the same show. I brushed my teeth, spit in the sink and looked up at the mirror. The skin on my face was mottled, blotchy and red, like maybe I was allergic to something. Or maybe I’d been in the sun for too long.

I couldn’t sleep. Of course, of course I couldn’t sleep. I felt the tips of my fingers, felt their ridges in perfect detail, and I knew I was alive. I lay in the dark for who knows how long. In the night time the ideas usually come to me, in the darkness and the quiet. But I could only keep thinking I’m not dead, I’m not dead. Deep in the night I heard my bed talking, whispering, mumbling, as if someone were moving around in it, but it wasn’t me. I lay perfectly still, thinking I’m not dead, I’m not dead. But if not me then who? Who was the girl in the driveway? Where did she come from? The shouts from the T.V. at the other end of the trailer never stopped, they went on all night.

Sometimes I have these moments, moments where everything is clear and I can see straight to what God is doing, even though I’m not sure I believe in God in the first place. In those moments I do, I believe, I know, and it’s gone before I can catch it, as soon as I can feel it it’s gone, and I’m left with this idea that I knew, I knew and I can’t ever remember what it was I knew at all. Anyway, I had one of those moments and I knew who the girl in the driveway was, but I couldn’t remember.

At some point I fell asleep without realizing it, because of course that’s how these things work. I woke up and went to the end of the driveway, first thing. I wanted to see myself, to see the girl, to maybe remember what I knew I had known, but she wasn’t there. She was gone, of course she was gone. There was no crime scene tape, no evidence she’d been there at all. The gravel wasn’t even really out of order, not the way it should have been from her laying on it all day. All I had left of her was my throbbing knee, and the feeling of the knowledge that I had known, that I knew.


Alexa Hailey lives in Massachusetts. Her work is forthcoming in Detritus Online, and she tweets at @lexabobexa.

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