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I hadn’t thought of that, hadn’t considered…
I didn’t think it’d be cold.
I was glad it wasn’t, you know… the hot place. Glad that for all my fears that I wasn’t being the good Catholic girl my mom had raised me to be, that the guilt my mom still made me feel about running off and being with Josh – glad that hadn’t, in fact, consigned me to everlasting damnation.
That meant I was… dead.
Oh god, I don’t want to be dead! I have all these plans! Josh and I were gonna get married, I swear, and have a couple of kids, maybe. Ok, we hadn’t talked about kids, but every girl wants to be a mom, right? Don’t they? I’m not all that different.
And I want that big white dress, and a church wedding, and my dad to walk me down the aisle and hand me to Josh like he was proud, and happy, and mom was gonna be sitting in the front pew of All Souls’, holding onto her gold cross and crying. Happy tears.
Oh, god, she’s going to be so sad. When Beth Ann Simons died in that car accident three years ago, and Mom and I went to the wake because Beth Ann and I’d been on pep squad together, I remember Mom looking at Mrs. Simons and just shaking her head. “It’s the worse thing in the world,” she said, “When a parent outlives their child,”
It ain’t natural.
Then again, neither was a big ole genie popping out of a street lamp in the middle of a parking lot in a rest stop in Texas. I mean, what was THAT about? And Josh – I love him, he’s amazing, and the things he does to me – but he doesn’t always think things through, and that genie… He tricked him.
And now, I’m dead.
And it’s cold.
And I’m lonely. I thought – I thought there’d be like this gate, and an old man checking names off a list, but it’s just… quiet. Still. Like a waiting area. Like when the nurse has shown you into an exam room for your yearly checkup, and you’re waiting for the doctor to come, and you’re just wearing that light paper gown, and worrying a little about what’s going to happen, even though you know it’ll be fine, there’s nothing to worry about, but still, you think maybe he will find something, and then you worry, and then finally, finally someone comes, and it’s fine, and you wondered, after you got dressed again and were on your way home, you wondered why you ever worried.
But that supposes someone’s going to come.
I don’t hear anyone.
What’s that? Over there. Like… a door? There are doors here?
Ok, sure, why wouldn’t there be doors. So, I’m like, in something. Somewhere. A waiting room. And I’ll just make my way over there, near the door, and be ready when someone comes for me.
Funny how it’s so cold. Like a freezer. Like an icebox – Dad used to call the freezer the “icebox”, and Mom and I’d make fun of him and call him an old fogie. Still, I remember, when I was a kid, and I thought ice was magic. I thought Dad did this magic trick, where he’d put a tray of water in the freezer, close the door, mutter a few words, and then take out ice cubes. I didn’t realize he kept a couple of trays in there all the time.
Haven’t thought of that in ages. They have an ice dispenser in their fridge now, and besides, I haven’t been home to visit in ages. Not since I moved in with Josh, and Mom put on that worried face, and I could just sense the disapproval coming off her in waves. I’ve seen her since then, of course, but not to go home and visit.
There! The door again. It’s like someone’s coming in here and getting something. That guy – he looks familiar. Was he there? At the rest stop? But then – why would he be here? Did something happen to him too?
Or did I… haven’t I left? Don’t I get to leave? Oh god, what is this place? Am I trapped here? In this box? In this… what IS this place? Why is it so cold?
Hey! Hey Mister! Get me out of here!! Get! Me! OUT!!
Eileen brought a couple of glasses of water over to The Professor and his student, apologizing as she put them down on the table. “Sorry, Prof. We’re out of ice. Fat Mac’s having some problem with the damn machine. It’s on the fritz again. Hope this is ok.”
The Professor smiled, “Of course. I hope he’s able to fix it.”
“Oh, you know Fat Mac. He’s got a way of talking to machinery, like he sees its spirit and can talk it into fixing itself. If it weren’t for him, I think this place would have fallen apart years ago. Some of these old things, why I think they’re haunted, they break so often.”
The waitress wiped her hands on her apron. “Anyway, you gentlemen just about ready?”