Abby is eleven years old and recently deceased.
The rate of decay of Abby’s corpse will directly influence the rate of construction of Abby. The longer it takes for her to decompose, to become dirt, the longer it will take for her to grow again. She will not grow into a flower, but again into a person. A person that is a little different, in a world that is a little different. A person that is a little more ready, and a world that is a little less forgiving.
Today she is buried in a thick wooden casket, wearing her best church clothes. Both her parents are there, at different elevations. It is a sad day but Abby hardly notices.
The expanse of time between her death and her new beginning seems endless and instant. A dreamful sleep that will be totally unremembered. It lasts decades and Abby hardly notices.
When she awakes she is new in nearly all senses of the word. Her parents are again her parents, mostly. They too are a little more ready, and a little less forgiving. As she grows, Abby develops a thicker shell than last time. The boys at school don’t pick on her as much, and the girls are quicker to shun. In both cases her emotional tides are calmer, the smoothness of the low-rolling waves a contrast to her previous choppiness. Where there would be conflict there is nothing.
On Abby’s tenth birthday she again receives a new bike. Her enthusiasm last time is now a concern that she will outgrow the bicycle before she learns to ride it. Yet she learns to ride it and even finds the bicycle comfortable. It takes her less time than before to move on from training wheels. Her favourite part is looking down at the wheel, seeing the tiny black cap holding the air in the tire spin round. She notices that it never starts nor ends in the same place, but always does the same thing. Go round and round. The predictability eases her.
Just as the last time, Abby tries to do a front flip from her parents couch onto the floor. Instead of breaking her ankle on the landing and being taken to a hospital, she sticks the landing and is taken to gymnastics lessons. Her coach is harsh and demanding, as well as being a world-renowned gymnast. Abby wonders why her gymnastics instructor is teaching ten-year-olds instead of training professionals. Before, the instructor sent her prodige to the Olympics to win the gold she could not. Abby could not know that this time, the instructor took the gold. She too was more prepared. She too found herself in a world less forgiving.
When Abby pulls the tablecloth off the kitchen table she lights the cat on fire. Again. This time, the cat dies. Her mother does not know what to do. Abby believes her punishment is disproportionate to her crime and does not know why. For the first time Abby thinks about the inherent unfairness of the world. That no matter what she does or does not do, the world will respond how it wants, and will not take her actions into account. She is partially correct.
Her eleventh birthday is no exciting affair. She feels close to only a couple kids her age and no one else. Given the ultimatum by her mother of inviting her entire class to her birthday party or no one, she chose no one. Consequently, no one chooses her to go to their birthday either. There are two such birthdays she misses before her next death.
It comes as suddenly as the last one. In a moment of distraction, the universe winks out the fire of her human experience. She is buried in a thick wooden casket, whose decades of slow decay leave ample time for Abby to reflect. For all the harshness, all the moments that could be resolved through forgiveness and would not be, all the birthday parties she did not and would not attend, she did not have a bad run. Short, definitely, but not bad.
And then she is back, in a new body as intimately hers as it ever could be. Her previous life has already departed her memory, faded and dispersed as the body she last inhabited. Despite the loss, she is a little more ready. The world is a little less forgiving.