If you could talk to the dead, what you can say to them isn’t as important as what they can say to you.
Luckily for Adam, the dead just won’t leave him the hell alone.
The first chapter of my yet-to-be-named urban fantasy story.
I wrote it out of my MC’s POV and into a tertiary character’s POV, the reason being that his abilities are relatively new at this stage of the story and he’s learned to cope with it by focusing on the people his powers cause him to see and interact with rather than how he feels.
I’m still in the draft stages so this chapter isn’t edited, but critique, corrections, and suggestions would be lovely.
Genre: Urban Fantasy
“Why are you angry?”
“I can’t be angry?”
Her lips twisted into a thoughtful frown, and slowly she stretched out her reply, “Noo….” His long strides had her running to keep up with him.
When he didn’t seem to notice her difficulty, she tugged at the hem of his shirt. “Adam.”
He rubbed at his face. “What is it?”
“Why are you angry?”
Sighing in frustration, he glared ahead of him as a few people in the hallway sent him curious looks. He shrugged his jacket on a bit better over his shoulders, ‘Not in the mood,’ indicated the deep furrow in his brow as he increased his steps.
His temper finally getting to her, she stopped trying to chase after him and simply remained in the hallway, arms crossed and foot tapping impatiently. Adam didn’t notice.
With an unhappy puff of her cheeks, she decided on a blood-curdling scream and was only slightly appeased that the people that lingered in the hallway froze in attention, except for Adam.
Though he had paused to rub at his ears and cringe a little, he kept his pace, and with a cry, Olive raced after him once more. “Wait, wait – please wait! Don’t leave me! Tell me what’s wrong!”
They passed the double doors and into the waiting room, and only for a moment did the thought pass that she hadn’t been in there for an awfully long time.
It was as white as her room with uncomfortable plastic chairs and bright, fluorescent lights. The reception desk was busy, the phone ringing nonstop as someone tapped away at the computer on the desk.
The room itself, though, was noticeably empty.
Except, for, “Daddy!”
Having a new target, Olive redirected her attention to her parents and Doctor Stein, and made a break for it, hugging tightly to her father’s pants’ leg. “Daddy! Daddy! What are you doing here, Daddy?”
It wasn’t that he never came to visit, only that mommy always said he was busy – he had work, he’d come tomorrow. And could it be? It was finally tomorrow!
Olive had noticed that her parents didn’t behave together like they normally would, but Grandma Edna said it was just because of stress, they were worried about her, that was all.
But Olive never understood why.
She got better. Though she was certain she wasn’t as pretty without her hair, Grandma Edna had told her it would grow back eventually. Olive didn’t know why Mommy started crying afterwards.
She was running now, at least! Maybe Daddy could take to the Spring Day festival for her birthday, she couldn’t go last year because she was in a wheelchair and it made her angry, but she’d be good this time. She could run again!
Her father, however, didn’t seem to hear her while her mother cried into her hands. Olive blinked at them, uncertain, before coming around to wrap uncertain fingers around her mother’s waist. “Mommy, why are you crying?”
Her parents didn’t acknowledge her, and it was Doctor Stein who said, “I’m sorry for your loss.”
“Loss?” Olive repeated, looking up at them. “What did you lose?”
She saw Adam grimace from the space between where her parents and the Doctor stood, and she looked up at them again.
Mommy was crying really hard, and she’d never seen her daddy’s face look so sad. Even sadder than when they watched that movie about a dog that stayed at the train station waiting for his master even though his master was gone…
“Daddy,” she began slowly, blinking back the confusion, “am-am I what you lost?”
“Can we see her?” Mommy asked instead, and Olive cried out, “But I’m here, I’m looking at you, you’re looking at me! Mommy, I’m here!”
Doctor Stein nodded, and with their hands clutched tightly together, her parents followed him through the double doors again, the door swooshing closed in her face.
Adam, standing off to the side, only took a few deep breathes in as gripped the reception desk.
There was a burning feeling in her throat and her eyes felt like they were stinging. “A-Adam, what’s happening? Why-why can’t they see me? Why, why am I gone?”
The doors opened again, and with Olive in its way, she closed her eyes with a startled gasp, waiting for the smack of the door against her. To her shock, however, the door moved right through her, and so did Adam’s mom, Nurse Josie.
“Oh, sweet, I heard what happened,” she said, wrapping him in a hug.
“Mom, don’t.” He tried to move away from her, but she wouldn’t be stopped. Olive noticed that he was shaking.
“Shh, shh; it’s okay.”
He blinked and his eyes were starting to turn red. “It’s not…”
“It is, it will be,” she insisted, cupping his face. Though he was much taller than his mom, she still managed to make him look small as she pressed her thumbs against his cheek to wipe the tears that escaped from his tightly shut eyes. “I know you and Olive were friends, and I’m sure she appreciated that very much, but you shouldn’t be sad.”
“She’s gone; how can I not be sad?” he asked, baffled. “She was a kid, Mom, she was – she was turning eight!”
“I know, I know; shh – it’s okay…”
He shrugged her off again and reached for Olive’s hand as he pushed through the double doors once more. He tugged her along until they reached her room, and they stood in the open doorway. Her parents were holding a girl that looked just like her but wasn’t her.
Her hair was gone. She looked like a doll, paper thin and wearing only that ugly hospital gown. There were tubes stuck into her, and the machines that were at her bedside were…quiet.
Olive remembered having to sit in “group” with a few of the other kids sometimes. It was always loud, with voices; with laughter; with the constant beeping of their respective machines. They would play games or read stories or watch movies, or something-anything to take their mind off another one of them not coming back the next day because if you didn’t come back you lost, and losing was bad because it meant –
“Adam,” she murmured in a terrified whisper. “am I dead?”
There was one beat of silence, then two. His nod was minuscule, but she saw it anyway.
“Were you…were you angry because I lost?”
He swallowed and glanced down at her. “Lost?”
“Lost to the sick,” she elaborated, tugging at the braid of hair mommy had done for her from what seemed to be a long time ago. “Ashley lost on Thursday; Mommy said she had heart failure…that’s when your heart is broken.”
“I’m not angry that you lost,” he said quietly. “I’m angry that they couldn’t make you win. They were…they were supposed to save you.”
Her parents bracketed her on either side of the bed, Daddy kept kissing her head and he was crying now and Mommy was holding her hands really tight, and Olive remembered Nurse Josie’s instructions, “Squeeze my hand so I know…” and within Adam’s hold, Olive squeezed as hard as she could. Mommy only cried.
Doctor Stein said, “I’ll give you guys some time, okay?”
As he turned for the door he spotted them, or rather Adam. With a glance over his shoulder to make sure her parents didn’t see; he nudged Adam aside as he shut the door behind him. “You shouldn’t be here.”
“I’m sorry, I just –”
Doctor Stein had kind eyes. “I know it’s hard for you especially with all the things you’ve been through this past year, but just give them their space, alright?”
“Yeah, yeah of course,” he echoed, averting his eyes, and Olive wondered if Doctor Stein was talking about Adam’s sister.
Patting him comfortingly on the shoulder, Doctor Stein walked on.
“What…what happens now?” Olive asked uncertainly.
“I don’t…I don’t know.”
“Can I – do you think I can stay with them, for a little bit?”
He shook his head as if to shake away some shadow that came over his face. “Yeah, of course; stay with them until you have to go, okay?”
Adam shrugged hopelessly, his expression pleading, so she just nodded and whispered back, “Okay” before she reached for the door knob and went in, closing the door behind her as she went.
He stood there for several minutes, head tipped to the ceiling as he blinked against the harsh fluorescent lights.
Why was this happening to him?
Deciding that he just couldn’t be here anymore, he took off for the reception again, only pausing at the sight of several gurneys being brought in, and a man, who looked almost exactly like the one they were trying to resuscitate, stared at him.
Oh, hell no.
I have a math test tomorrow, Adam thought desperately as he took a detour, and kept on walking. I can’t do this – I can’t – “Wait!”
He shut his eyes tightly. “I don’t have holy water on me, and I don’t know how to send you to heaven, please just leave me alone.”
Wait, I know that voice. He looked over his shoulder. “Lottie?”
She scowled. “Yeah, Bautista, what the hell’s your problem?” She crossed her arms. “My mom told me to get over here twenty minutes ago, and now she isn’t picking up. It was just my luck that they’re bringing in that disaster from the intersection so no one’s helping me!”
“What makes you think I can?” he asked warily.
“Well I don’t know; you practically live here don’t you?”
“I was just visiting a friend.”
A trick of light flickered at the corner of his vision, a sudden unknown movement that felt like some kind of pin that was starting to itch at his cornea; he scowled. “Listen, I’m not having a good day, so just ask at the desk, alright?”
She took a breath and began to explain, “My mom isn’t well, okay? And if she called me –” The hint of desperation she had let seep into her voice made him take a step back.
“Like I said, I can’t…I can’t help you.”
“Let me guess; not your division?”
“It’s really not,” he said faintly.
Huffing, she muttered, “Weirdo” before retreating back inside, and he groaned, gripping his hair in frustration. Just what he needed, perhaps the meanest girl in school having some sort of idea about his condition.
The full moon all but winked at him from its perch in the night sky as clouds drifted by; as if the universe seemed to be in on some joke that he didn’t know about.
He sighed again and turned for home.
One day at a time. He reminded himself. It was one of the few pieces of advice he got from his therapist that was actually useful.
“It will get better,” Dr. Martins said, “if there is one thing about this life that is a guarantee it is that nothing is permanent, and though times are tough now, it won’t be forever. It will get better.”
Three years later and it didn’t.