"WHAAAT?!" I whined loudly startled from sleep in the dead of night.
"Oh good, you're finally awake. It's about damn time!" My sister breathed a sigh of relief as I woke up. "I need you to help me bury a body."
I rubbed my eyes not quite comprehending what she had said. "S'cuse me? Did you say something about a body?"
Jodi gave an annoyed sigh and pushed me, "Briana, will you wake up! Come on! I need you!"
I give a big yawn and held up my finger. "Gimme a second in the bathroom then I'm all yours." I dragged myself off my bed and plodded down the hall trying to wake up. As my senses returned, I registered what Jodi has said. My eyes shot open. Did my kid sister really just ask me to help her bury a body? What the hell? Whose body is it? I finish up quickly and wash the sleep from my eyes. I strut determinedly back down the hall to my room but pause just outside my door. I stare through the crack and see Jodi sitting on top of my bed. She has made it, which right there is a miracle. She hates making the bed. She's pulled out some of my dark clothing from the closet as well as my duffel bag. She's scared. I can see it plain as day. She jiggles her legs and her eyes dart around the room rapidly while she waits. I have to know what happened. "Jodi," I say softly as I open the door. She gives a little squeak then see's it's only me. "What is going on?"
Breathing heavily and holding her heart she whispers. "There's no time. Get dressed. Dark clothes. Bring that duffel. There's some stuff we could use." She answers. "Hurry!"
"I'm not going anywhere until you tell me everything. Did you ask me to help you bury a body?" I press her trying to get the story to come out.
"Not. Here." She says through gritted teeth. "I'll tell you everything once we're in the car. Please, Briana. I don't know what else to do."
I roll my eyes at her but nod. "Fine. Meet me outside." She acts like she's going to say something else then nods in return and quickly leaves. I hear her rushing but trying to stay quiet as not to wake my parents. She forgets about the top step and it groans loudly. 'What has she gotten herself into?' I wonder as I quickly pull on the black jeans and tee-shirt, my black converse shoes. I see she didn't take the duffel so I open it to see what's inside. Mostly hiking, camping, and rock-climbing gear; some carabiners, rope, zip ties, metal water bottle, water filter, duct tape, first aid kit, battery-powered lanterns, flashlights, and my scary-looking all-purpose knife. I take out the water bottle so I can fill it, you never know. I grab my wine-colored hoodie from school off the back of my desk chair but remember as I'm putting it on the school's mascot is on the back, in white. I sigh and open my closet to find a black one. I put it on, grab the duffel and head down the stairs. I pause by my parent's door to listen for sounds. They are both out cold, snoring away softly. Good. I tiptoe down the stairs, skipping the top one. I stop in the kitchen, fill the water bottle and grab some granola bars.
I sneak out the back and find Jodi has pulled the car into the alley by the garage. I see her over the chain link fence leaning on the hood. "Psst!" She hisses at me and I cross the backyard swiftly and open the gate. "I grabbed some shovels and buckets. I don't really know what it takes for this kind of activity." She shrugs, a little more relaxed now that I'm here to help out.
"I'm driving! Give me the keys!" I glare at her and she tosses them to me as I hand her duffel bag. "There's some snacks in there. When was the last time you ate?" She nods and we get in the car. I look behind me and see the seats have been lowered and there is a mound of blankets in the back. "Is that it?"
Jodi nods. "Drive, will ya?! I'm getting anxious being in this neighborhood. We have to get away from people!"
I know just the place. I put the car into drive and head out. We sit in silence for about 10 minutes as Jodi eats a granola bar. I thought I'd give her a little time to collect her thoughts. "OK, Jodes. Start talking. What happened?"
She looks at me, her eyes brimming with tears as she blurts out. "I killed Chris!"
"The police chief's son, Chris? Chris, that you've been trying to keep a secret about dating, but I know because I have amazing perceptive abilities. That Chris?" She nods. "You better start from the beginning then."
She gives a sniffle and wipes her nose on her jacket. "OK. Well. I can't believe you figured out we were seeing each other. I thought I'd been so careful."
"You were," I reassure her. "Mom and Dad don't have a clue. Your grades have improved lately so they thought you got a tutor."
"See, that's it. I did. My history teacher told Chris to tutor me. Chris is such a history buff. It's actually really cute. Which is why, when I got to know him, I realized he's not such a jerk. He introduced me to some of his other friends to help me with algebra and writing my English papers. I've read all the books; I just couldn't write the essays well." I nod, understanding. She really was bad at writing. "As Chris and I spent more time together we realized we liked the same things. I was really surprised he was into Dark Horse comics; The Witcher, The Strain, Umbrella Acadamy, and Hellboy. A lot of people only know about Marvel and DC." I smile. My sister was such a nerd sometimes. "Anyway, the more time we spend together, the more time we wanted to spend together. You know." She blushes. "We were at a party. One of his crowds obviously, my crowd is not known for parties. We snuck off to well..." She pauses and looks at me. "Should I be telling you this?"
"Jodi, I'm your big sister. You can tell me anything. I've probably already done it. I know what you're going to say though, it's not a big deal." I reply.
"Yeah?" She takes a deep breath and continues, this time in a whisper. "We were sneaking off to have sex. I know right?! I never thought I'd ever be ready, yet..." She seems to be discussing this with herself. "I mean we'd already been doing it awhile. I didn't think this time would be any different. But it was. When we were finally alone, he handed me a blindfold, told me to put it on him and do whatever I wanted to do. Well, I don't know that much about how to please a guy, let alone what I'd like for them to experience and I kind of panicked. It was an accident. I didn't mean for it to happen." She starts breathing hard, her eyes wide as she remembers the incident.
By this time, I'd reached the park parking lot that I had been driving to. Someplace safe I knew we could talk. "What do you mean you panicked? How did he die?"
"I choked him. I heard some people find it arousing and... He stopped breathing! I thought maybe he needed CPR so I started doing that, trying to revive him. It was going well until someone walked in on us. I thought the door was locked and here someone comes in. We are naked and I'm yelling and crying, calling out his name, and beating on his chest. They came at me, threw a vase at my head. It ricocheted off something and hit me. When I came to there was no one to be found and Chris was bleeding from a shard of the vase that had lodged itself in his shoulder. Because he had bled, I knew he was still alive. The CPR had been working!" Jodi starts crying now. "It was like some bad horror movie. Everything was in slow motion. I ran over to him and pulled the shard out. There was no spurting of blood, barely any in fact. There was a pool on the bed, a few spatters on the wall, so when it had entered him, he'd been alive. I felt for a pulse, in every place I knew of. The groin, wrist, neck. Nothing. Of course, I totally panicked. It was Chris. He's the police chief's son. I was totally screwed! I knew I needed my big sister's help." She sniffled again, big fat tears oozing from her eyes. "What should we do?"
I put a hand on my sister's shoulder, give her a reassuring pat. I sit in silence and ponder our options. All of them were bad. Except one. There was one option where everything turned out alright. If, and that's a big if. If Chris had really only suffocated and not died because of a sliced artery. I had to look at the body. Something I really didn't want to do. "I need to look at the body, Jodes. I have to be sure he's really dead."
"He is. I checked!" Jodi screeches at me. "He hasn't moved at all in the back seat. I'm sure he's dead!"
"I'm sure he's dead too. But I have to check. Get the lanterns out of the duffel and turn them on. How on earth did you get him into the car?" The question suddenly dawns on me.
"I cleaned him up and convinced his friends he was drunk and I needed help getting his sorry ass in the car to take him home. They helped me get the rest of his clothes on too. His friends know his dad is gone and that we were going to spend the night together so someone could watch over him as he recovered from the hangover. He's usually pretty quiet when he gets that drunk so no one thought anything of it when he didn't say a word on the way down. We couldn't get him in the front seat properly so I put the seats down and had them throw him in back."
I give a nod of appreciation. "That was smart thinking, but I still have to check him. What about your clothes? Do you have blood on them?"
"Naked, Briana. I was naked! I took a shower in the bath connected to the bedroom we slipped away to. After checking that the door was locked about 50 times. I thought it had been locked when we went in there! And maybe it had been, but it wasn't latched properly. Whatever the case was, it happened."
"Wow, you've really been through it tonight," I comment as I open the back and begin to peel the blankets off of Chris. With the light from the car and the extra lanterns, I was able to get a good view of the body. "Watch for headlights. If someone sees me, we're so in trouble." She nods and walks off toward the entrance to the lot. There are a bunch of trees blocking my view from the main road. That's why I picked this place, but anyone who turned in would see me. I can clearly see the wound the vase caused on Chris and felt the other side for a pulse. Yep. Definitely dead. His skin was beginning to cool and felt clammy and gross. I found some gloves from the first aid kit. I did not like how he felt, it kind of creeped me out. I examined the body thoroughly, looking for any other injuries that might impede what I had in mind. I didn't find anything. I even stuck my finger in the wound and felt around seeing if I came in contact with an artery. I did not like doing it but I found everything intact. When I finished, I stared at Chris and wondered if he'd really want this.
I closed my eyes and called out to him in the spirit world. "Chris, it's Briana. Jodi's sister. I need to talk to you about what happened. I know you must be terribly confused, follow the sound of my voice. It'll lead you to me and your body. Chris. Christopher?" I repeated his name for about 5 minutes straight and was about to give up when I got terribly cold. Something had arrived. "Chris is that you?" I opened my eyes. Jodi was still at her post and Chris was floating between us. I motioned him over to me. In a whisper, I told him, "Look there's your body. Can you tell me, did Jodi really kill you or was it that shard in your shoulder?" He hovered there, staring at his body, a frown on his face. "Chris! We're kind of on a time crunch here." I said through clenched teeth. "I know this is hard, but I need to know. My sister or the shard?"
He turns to me. "How can you see me? How can you be talking to me? I'm dead!"
Sometimes new spirits are hard to communicate with as I've come to find out in the past four years since I received this gift, courtesy of my own brush with death. I was usually able to get through to them with a little shock factor.
I slapped Chris's dead face. That did it. "Hey!" He splutters, "Whaddya do that for?"
"CHRIS! I hissed. "Answer the question! Jodi or the splinter?"
"The shard! The shard! It was the freaking vase, alright?!" He starts to cry. I feel bad for the guy, but I needed answers. "Thank you. 2 more questions. You don't want to be dead right?"
He sniffles, "Of course not! I'm 17 years old! I'm too young to be dead. I have my whole life a"
I interrupt him, "Ok. What if I told you there was a way you could come back, but there'd be a price?"
"Yes." He said, his voice stronger.
"Even if you don't know what that price is? And the price could potentially make your life a lot harder than it is now?" I tried to let him know the gravity of the situation without telling him exactly what I knew.
He floats over to me and looks me in the eyes, his own red and translucent. "I don't care about that. I want to live. I want the chance to tell Jodi I love her."
"Alright then. I'll see what I can do. It may seem weird, scary, and downright unreal. But if I have any say in it, the day after tomorrow you'll be alive and kicking again. You'll have that chance. Just don't bother us while we do what we're going to do. Please?" He gives me a nod and fades back into the ether.
I turn off the lanterns and Jodi comes back over. "So?"
"I have an idea, but..."
"But what, Bri? If it can get me out of this mess I've made, I'll take it! I want him back. I think I love him." Jodi says. I give a sly smile.
"You love him? Really? But he's so not your type. And you haven't been together that long. Wait, how long ago did this happen?" I remember the task at hand, questions could be answered later.
"We've been together longer than you know." Jodi gives a sly smile of her own.
"I want all the juicy details. But if we're going to save Chris, I need to know how long ago he died?" I reiterate.
"About 2 hours. Why does it matter?" She asks.
I checked my watch. That would cut things close, but I think we'd make it. "Get in the car, now. I'll tell you on the way." I pushed Chris's body further back into the car and tossed in the lanterns. Jodi had started it while I did so. As I slid in the driver's seat, I wondered how much I should tell my baby sister about what happened to me 4 years ago. I decided I'd tell her everything. She always believed in the paranormal stuff way more than I ever had. I jammed the car into reverse and got back on the main drag. I headed out of town to the old Boonedale farm. I probably was driving a little too fast but we had to get out there, the quicker the better. I reach for the water bottle and take a sip, Jodi staring at me expectantly. "Remember the summer you were 12?"
She nods. "That was the summer you went missing on a camping trip with your friends!"
I take a deep breath and nod. "Well, I'll tell you what really happened to me and why I was missing."
Her brows furrow, "You said you didn't know what happened to you. You were adamant about it."
"Well, I lied. It was so much easier than telling people the truth. But I'm going to tell you now. All of it. Please don't interrupt with questions because if you do, I may lose my nerve, alright?" She nods. She can tell this is serious. "So, we decided to go camping out past Boonedale farm. There's a beautiful lake back there and the farm was close enough if something happened, we could get help. Mom and Dad trusted me, I've been a girl scout since forever and they knew we'd be alright by ourselves. We hiked out there carrying everything we'd need on our packs. Set up camp by the lake. It was hot and we decided to take a dip in the lake after one of our hikes. There was a rope swing on the far side, away from our camp. Everyone was scared so I volunteered to go first. We'd been in the water swimming and knew it was deep enough out that we would be fine jumping. We were wrong. I was wrong and it cost me my life." I steal a glance at Jodi as we pass the last streetlight and see her lips pursed into a tiny O of surprise, her eyes wide. I bite my own lips, worried if I should continue. I put my eyes back on the road. We're getting close to the farm.
"When I jumped in, I decided to be spectacular about it. Remember how I always used to be such a daredevil? I did a flip but instead of entering the water feet first, I ended up head first and hit my head. The girls thought I was playing a joke when I didn't come up for air right away. Only Rosalie knew something was wrong. She jumped in after me but it was too late. My head was still bleeding in the water, even though I had drowned. The trauma from the rock had disoriented me and I swam down instead of up. The lake water was murky and I couldn't tell the difference. By the time I realized what I'd done, which was when I touched the sand at the bottom, I panicked. I was close to being out of air already and I knew I wouldn't make it topside. I don't know what happened after that. All I do know is I woke up days later in a shallow grave." I turned off the main road just after the sign for Boonedale's, onto an unmarked road.
"Being buried alive is not something I would recommend, just an FYI. I dug my way out of there gasping for air, wondering how I got in that situation. I was very tired. Too tired to move so I lay there for another day, maybe 2. It's hard to say. I didn't feel time. Soon someone found me. Actually, I believe it was Chris's dad that did. He took me back to the farm where the search and rescue camp had been set up. I was almost 10 miles away from where us girls had set up camp. I didn't see those girls for weeks. I think they were scared to visit. No, I know they were scared, they hadn't expected me to come back. Only Rosalie came to see me. Right before school started. She told me what had happened and that her family was moving. She wanted to come clean before she left. Rosalie told me that, my so-called friends decided to get rid of me. Say I wandered off in the night. They hiked my body into the woods, to where I was found, dug that shallow grave and left me there to rot. What they didn't know is the spot they buried me in, there's something special about that half-acre plot of woods. And that my dear sister is where we are going."
Jodi sits in silence, jostled by the bumpy country road, absorbing my story. "I haven't told you the rest. Something happened to me while I was in the ground. I received a gift." She looks at me strangely. "I can communicate with the dead." I glanced in the rearview mirror and noticed Chris's spirit hunched over his own body, staring at it. Our eyes meet and he realized what was going to happen to him. "I know you've heard me sometimes in my room when the door is locked? It sounds as if I'm talking to someone, right?" She nods. "I am. Spirits find their way to me and ask for help. I have to talk to them and find out what they need. It can be creepy sometimes, but I've gotten used to it. It can also be helpful in instances like these." We pull up to a giant fallen log. "This is it." I glance at the watch again and turn off the engine. "I know you have questions. I didn't expect my tale to take so long. I will answer them, but first, we need to get Chris into the ground."
Jodi doesn't speak but does exactly as I tell her. I find a spot near the fallen log in the circle of trees and we dig about 2 feet down. I shuck off my hoodie when I start to sweat and so does Jodi. Even though its mid-autumn and the air is chilly. We move Chris into it and cover him up so it looks like the ground hasn't been disturbed and I check my watch again. If Jodi was correct, and we got him into the ground less than 4 hours from his death everything should be fine. I lean against the log resting and watching Jodi. "Well, do you have anything to say?" I ask. "You haven't said a word since we left the park.
"What should I say? You died, Briana! DIED! And not one of those oh I was dead for a few minutes and came back kind of dead. You were missing for 6 days! We had no idea where you were. Everyone was so worried. So many things make sense now though. How you got new friends, became more responsible, started watching out for me, started studying more. Oh, and some of those weird books you brought home. How could I have not known?" She rushes over to me and envelops me in a crushing hug. I feel her tears soak me through my t-shirt.
"Hey. Hey now, it's ok. I'm alive. I'm here." I squeeze her back.
"How did Rosalie know to bury you here? I know the others thought you were toast." She clings to me.
"She didn't. The others thought it was far enough away no one would ever find me. Rosalie thought I'd like it because it's pretty." I gaze around the circle to the tops of the trees. It was beautiful here. I'd been back many times trying to understand what had happened. I'd yet to figure it out.
"How long do we have to wait for Chris?" She asks looking up at me.
"We'll come back the day after tomorrow, early in the morning. I know he has to be in the ground for at least 24 hours." I tell her.
"Do I want to know how you know that?" She says and finally releases me from her death love grip.
"Nope, you don't. Come on, we need to get home before Mom and Dad wake up. We don't want them to worry if we have any hope of coming back here to help Chris wake up." She nods in understanding and grabs the shovels. I give the place another look, making sure we aren't leaving anything behind. You can't be too careful. Jodi tosses the shovels back in the car and gets in. She pulls out 2 granola bars and hands me one after I get in the driver's side.
Taking a big bite, she asks another question. "How long did it take for your gift to become apparent? And will Chris have the same one?"
"I don't know what kind of gift Chris will get. Not a clue. Mine though...It was 3 weeks, I think. Maybe a month. After all the hullabaloo died down and right after school started. You know how old our school is right?"
"Actually no. Is it old?" She questions unsure.
"Parts of it have been around since the '20s. The auditorium for example. There was a horrible fire in the late '30s during a performance of Romeo and Juliet. 2 students died and a few of the patrons as well. We've had some nice chats." I tell her.
"Is that why you were going to the auditorium for lunch last year?" Jodi puts 2 and 2 together when I nod. "Wow! It's kind of neat, but I bet it can be scary too. Were they all burned up and gross?"
"No. They look like they remember themselves to be, dressed up for a night out or in costume. You're right. It can be scary. I mean you've watched Ghost Whisper with the rents loads of times. I'm like Melinda Gordon. Same cool hair and clothes, just without the visions." I laugh.
Jodi rolls her eyes at me and laughs too. Then suddenly becomes serious again. "Did you talk to Chris? Is he okay with this?"
By this time, we've reached the main road. Coming back was always faster than getting there. "I did, at the park. I explained as much of the situation as I could. I told him there was a price and he still wanted to come back. Was quite insistent about it, in fact. Even though he has no idea what sort of gift he'll receive. And believe me, he will have a gift. Are you okay with having a boyfriend who might be able to talk to the dead? He could be telekinetic, see auras or maybe even read your mind? I don't even know what sort of thing might happen. I'm talking X-men and Umbrella Acadamy stuff here. It may change him."
She thinks about it as we get closer and closer to home. She finally says something that makes my heart melt with love for her. "I'll help him through it. I'll know he's not crazy. And you too. You'll help." I nod agreeing.
The sun has started to rise as we pull into the driveway, painting the early morning with shades of rose and gold. "Head inside. I'll put the shovels away and clean up the car."
"Hey, Briana. I'm glad you came back. I don't know what I'd do without my big sister." She grins and slips quietly into the house. I can't stop the one that appears on my face too.