Welcome To Your Afterlife

Cover to French comic magazine Spirou #3681 by Arthur de Pins, introducing the characters of his series “Zombillenium”. Used without permission, will remove if requested.

If you’ve never experienced the angst of not being able to breathe, it’s difficult to explain it to you. You try to draw air, but nothing happens. And your brain reacts by panicking. That’s what I was feeling, when I realized I must have been dreaming, because there was no other option. If you don’t breathe, you die. And I had been like that for too long.

I laughed.

I must have been dreaming, that’s all. A dream, and nothing more. My brain would surely wake my body up any moment now, just like when I had those nightmares where I was falling and I woke up, sweating, right when I was just about to hit the ground.

I had a flash. And I saw Ella. Her green eyes, her red hair.

Why was she smiling like that? She looked like the Cheshire Cat, smiling so.

The flash was over, and I realized something had changed. I could see, or something like that. I found myself in a box, a long, narrow box.

A wooden box.

A coffin? Dammit to hell, had I been buried alive? My brain, stupid beast as it is, made me remember the tale by Poe, “The Premature Burial”. In that story it was all mistake… But what was happening to me?

Deep down, a part of me kept telling me it was a dream.

But another part was terrified. If this was a dream, it was the most terrible, realistic nightmare I had ever had. I realized I could see my hands, flat against the wooden plank in front of me and desperately pushing against it. It was as if someone else was controlling them, and all I could do was observe.

Another flash. Ella, standing there, in a black dress and a weird hat. But Ella never wore anything but jeans and one of her geek tees. I loved her collections of geek tees. And surrounding her, her family. I had met them months before, and they were all cool.

Only they didn’t look like themselves.

They looked…

The flash ended.

The plank (was it the lid of my coffin? Was it?) creaked under my assault and broke.

Humid soil started falling on me at once. I thought I had been in a panic before, but how wrong had I been. I grabbed at the soil, clawed at it, desperate. The part of me that said “nightmare, nightmare” was almost gone; all I could feel was the need to push and claw and dig up.

Another flash.

Ella’s enigmatic smile.

A rose, falling in slow motion.

On top of me.

Then, soil.

A burial.

And my point of view left no doubt as to who was being buried.

I screamed, but I couldn’t hear anything. I fought against the incoming rush of land and stones, ignoring the pain and the cuts and the blows and the angst.

Until I saw the light.

Just one point of light, directly above me. I lunged up, literally punched towards it, feeling my fingertips bleed and my knuckles rip open with the effort. But I reached the light, and grabbed it as if it was a physical thing.

And the point became a hole, and the hole grew larger. My hand felt the ground, and it was firm, and I kept struggling up, the humid soil clinging to my body, chilling me. I kept pushing, and freed one arm. Then the other. And I pulled myself up and out.

I lay on the ground, exhausted. I could hear me panting.

What was wrong?

“Hello,” a soft voice said. Ella’s voice. I looked up. There she was, in her black dress. I had never noticed the green tinge of her skin, how was that possible? “I wasn’t really sure my spell would work. I almost forgot the rose, but uncle Stan didn’t.”

“Your… spell?”

“Yes. There was no other way for us to be together. Now, let’s see what you’ve become!”

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This is my accompanying entry for the Weekly Writing Exercise: August 15–21, 2016 on the Writer’s Discussion Group in Google+. I am responsible for creating the prompts for the Exercise, so I don’t take part, but I still like to write a story each week.

I chose this image because of the contrast between the fact that the characters are obviously monsters at a burial, and the style in which it’s drawn, where De Pin shows a great sense of humour. Ironically, even though all the participants this week tapped into that humour, I didn’t manage to. I still like my story, though.