Yesterday I decided that since I skipped Nanowrimo, I would do my own Nanowrimo, over a month later. I read that the purpose of the project was not only to write a novel, but to just put your ideas down and write, so you’re not overanalyzing what you’re writing, and kind of harboring your own inner genius that way. I really liked that notion, because I struggle to write fiction. “What if,” I thought, “I just sat down and wrote whatever words came to mind, without really pausing to consider?” Yesterday, thus, the first installment of my prospective novel, “Annie, You’re Dead,” was posted on my blog. Today I’m posting the second part. I’m trying to write 1,700 words a day.
I didn’t provide any background, yesterday. I have a friend, whose name I’ve changed. She died two and a half years ago, though I won’t say why, because I hope that will be revealed later in the story. I used to have dreams of her coming back to life to hang out with me, so I decided to change those dreams into a novel. I can’t say this is the result, exactly, because this will, I’m sure, require a lot of revision. This, thus, is the early byproduct of those dreams. Today is my second day of writing. Here is the first part of the to-be-novel, from Day One.
“Mmmmmmmm,” Annie nearly groaned in a long, exaggerated, guttural voice. “These oreos are fucking good. I don’t know what I was thinking when I was alive, with all that excess dieting, and periods of not eating, and whatnot. I mean, okay, I know what I was thinking, and it was always that I was too fat, but now that I’m dead, who the hell cares? Food never tasted this good to me in life because I was so afraid of it. But in death, man. These oeros are delicious. Do you mind if I eat more?”
Michelle just sort of watched in amazement as Annie leaned over the sink – conscientious of not getting crumbs on my floor – devouring her Oreos with reckless indifference. She didn’t quite know what to say, so she uttered the first question, however relevant or irrelevant, that came to mind.
“Would you say you swear a lot more, now that you’re dead….? I don’t remember you saying fuck so much…”
“Fuck yeah I swear more. The afterlife is more like an Elysian fields than typical Western culture conceptions of heaven,” she began to explain, taking on a highly intellectual air, “meaning its not always easy, and many spirits would prefer, still, to be back on earth.” Annie must have seen Michelle’s face drop, because she added, “Oh, sorry, I know that’s a bummer. You probably didn’t want to hear that. Don’t worry, they’re going through a lot of initiatives to improve things for us eternal spirits but…well…but anyway, so that’s why I swear more, I think. It’s not that the world after this one is bad, per se, but…” and she paused to take a finishing bite of what must have been a fifth oreo, before wiping her hands casually over the sink, “but it toughens you up a little bit, at least, it did to me…”
“But…didn’t life on earth toughen you up…” Michelle asked, pausing. After all, Annie had dealt with a lot in life. Life had never come easily to Annie or me, Michelle thought, but least of all Annie. Annie paused to consider Michelle’s question, looked up, briefly, as if there were a speck on the wall, and then met Michelle’s eyes again.
“Yes, I guess so, but, well, it’s different,” she said, looking down at Michelle as she talked, because she’d always been taller than Michelle in life and she still hovered those weird three inches above the ground, her feet, which were in silver ballet flats, pointed slightly downward as she hung in the air. Michelle realized Annie must have seen her looking at Annie’s limply hanging feet in disbelief – admittedly, it was one of a few elements of the situation that was a little creepy – because Annie began, flatly, to explain:
“The gravity debate. Sending spirits to earth is a new initiative in the world of the afterlife, at least in America. There’s still a lot of debate over whether or not we should be able to walk on the ground. You’re the only one who can see me, so I’m not sure why it really. matters, but, well, here I am,” and she shrugged as she remained suspended.
“Well,” Michelle replied, with a pause. She was intrigued, and frankly a little shocked, not just because her dead friend was in her kitchen explaining the afterlife’s debate about gravity, but because she was so, well, different, from how she used to be. “Let’s go into the living room…”
“I was waiting for you to suggest that.”
“Waiting, why were you waiting? Mi casa es tu casa. You know that.”
“When I was alive. I thought I’d ease in gracefully now that I’m dead. You know, I wouldn’t want to shock you, or anything.”
Annie floated behind Michelle to the living room and sat on the couch, at least, insofar as she could sit at all. Just as she floated in mid-air when she stood or walked, her bum floated three inches above the couch when she sat down, as if there were an imaginary flat surface beneath it. Michelle realized she must not have been able to take her eyes off the gap between the bottom of Annie’s rear end and the navy leather couch, because Annie started waving her hands and yelling,
“Helllllloooo, Michelle, stop staring at my ass. My face is here.” Michelle wasn’t as comfortable around living-dead Annie as she’d been around alive Annie, so her face reddened.”
“S-s-s-orry, I’ve just…it’s just….”
“You’ve just never seen anything like it before. I know, I get it. Humans don’t float, except in water. But humans do float in water, and you used to be a swimmer, so maybe you shouldn’t be so surprised that I can float in air. Anyway, being with you right now, it’s like when you’re talking to someone, and you don’t realize you have food on your face, so they keep staring at the food instead of at your eyes while you talk. I mean, don’t worry, I don’t blame you; I would be shocked, too, I guess, to see my dead best friend floating above the couch she’s sitting on. I have to put myself in your shoes.” Then she paused, and shifted her body, and her thoughts, “Only,” she began, “I need to remember to bring this up to the council. They had some legitimate reasons for wanting us spirits to float when we’re here on earth, but, well, I don’t think it’s working.” Michelle took a deep breath, sighed, and laughed, suddenly less conscientious of Annie’s reaction to her reaction. The situation was just so ludicrous, like she was in an off-beat book by some beginning writer who didn’t really know what she was doing with her characters.
“Listen, Annie,” Michelle said, with mock emphasis, “I’ve never had a dead person knock on my door before. You need to bear with me. A little patience,” she began to sing the last line like she was singing the Guns N’ Roses song, patience, and laughed. Better to inject more humor into this bizarre situation, she thought to herself. It was funny, after all.
Saying, aloud, that Annie was dead, turned out to be a revelation to Michelle. Michelle realized that it was, indeed, the elephant in the room. She had been afraid to call Annie dead, as if it were an insult or a slur. After all, Annie didn’t look dead, so might that word not be insulting? But there it was. Annie was dead. “Dead, dead, dead,” Michelle muttered, without realizing she’d done it.
“Yes, very good Michelle, I’m dead, dead, dead. I’m glad you were finally able to say it out loud. But really, let’s not emphasize that point. After all, I don’t feel dead. Do I look like a cadaver to you?”
“No…” and then Michelle quickly changed the subject by throwing her hands up in the air, as if raising a question spontaneously that she’s been wondering since Annie came, though it really just occurred to her to ask it: “So, Annie? Why are you hear?”
“Wowwww, that was an awkwardly abrupt transition. I guess it’s because the girl who’s writing this thing hasn’t gotten this far in her attempt to write a novel for a few years, and even then it wasn’t a novel structured like this one. She really has no idea what the hell she’s doing, does she? Oh well, I’ll start answering your question with a question: Why do you ask? Why can’t I just be here to visit you, because I miss you?”
“Well,” Michelle stuttered a bit, afraid she had offended her dead spirit-friend, “I don’t know. I guess it’s just that in the stories…you know…the ghost always comes for a reason, like, with a warning, or something. You know, ‘if you don’t change your ways…you’ll end up like me…’” Michelle said, moaning a little bit in emulation of an anonymously conceived ghost that she’d probably taken from Dickens or a bad horror film. “Do I need to change my ways? Are you warning me about something?”
“Jesus,” Annie began, as she put her hands under her butt like she used to when she sat, only this time, there was no couch to sandwich her hands, “a girl tries to visit a friend, and…”
“Listen, it’s a fair question. Ghosts aren’t real…at least, I didn’t really think so before I saw you. This seems like a rare occurrence, to me. I’m excited to see you, but I’m also worried that I’m doing something gravely wrong, or that something horrible is going to happen. Annie,” Michelle began, for it had just occurred to her that Annie’s appearance could be a harbinger of something awful to come. Michelle was of the anxious variety, after all. Her voice got really hushed and serious as she peered into Annie’s eyes and leaned toward her, “is there something you need to tell me?”
“Always drama with you, Michelle. But, okay,” and her voice and facial expression changed, and for just a second or two, she looked more like the Annie Michelle had remembered, although still a little rounder in the face, “I’ll explain. But first, do you have some milk?”
“Milk? You don’t drink milk.”
“Didn’t drink milk. And I know you probably don’t have any, because you don’t drink milk, either. But you know, Michelle, a lot of people drink milk after downing the amount of oreos I just ate. Do you have any milk? I would really appreciate it if you did.”
“You’re lucky,” Michelle responded, realizing there was a gallon of Meadowbrook 2% in the fridge. “You’re right, I still don’t drink the stuff, but I keep it for James when he comes over. Although, if he notices that any’s gone, he’s going to wonder…”
“He knows you don’t drink it, so he’s going to wonder where it went. Fuck. Tell him I had some, I don’t care.”
“Annie, he’s never going to…”
“Believe you. I know. It will be hysterical Michelle. I mean, even if he and I were here at the same time, he wouldn’t be able to see me. Only you can see me. So you’d have to try to convince him that I was real, an he’d just look at you like, like…” and Annie’s eyes started to water as she started to laugh hysterically, “like you were a complete idiot, or like you were crazy, which you are, a little, and always have been.” And then she paused, straight-faced, abruptly,”
“Okay, sorry, you’re not laughing. You must still be adjusting to this situation. Look, it’s fine, I understand…” and she shifted awkwardly as she reddened a bit, “it’s not every day that you…listen, okay…”
“Annie, I’m sorry, I’m still…”
“I know, I know. I’ll just have the tiniest bit. He’ll never notice. Tell him you got an urge to put milk in your coffee.”
“Okay,” Michelle said, and the two girls – or, the girl and the ghost – got up and went to the fridge, together. Michelle walked, of course, and Annie floated next to her. But Michelle looked up at Annie’s far away eyes for a minute and considered the fact that Annie might not like being dead. But she had to look up considerably. With Annie’s height and her floating, her head loomed six inches above Michelle’s.