“Are you sure that this is what you want?” she asked slowly. There was a certain aristocracy in her high-pitched voice, as if there was more than just a glass desk standing between us. She was dressed in a polished pink jacket and a matching pin skirt and a tiny top hat. It was almost comical that even in death people cared what they looked like. Her manicured hands clasped in front of her on the desk as she waited patiently for my answer.
I slumped back in my chair, but after a pointed look from her I straightened myself and nodded.
I knew what she probably thought of me. Soggy converse shoes, skinny jeans and a large oversized guns and roses t-shirt. I hadn’t fit in much in life so why would I expect any different in death? I had inherited my mother’s face—her blue eyes, plump lips and ebony hair, but that was about as far as anyone would go in calling me beautiful. I despised my lean form and my dainty little feet. To top it off I was stuck dead at 17.
More than anything else I knew that was what really defined the condescending look in her eyes. I was a teenager, therefore I knew absolutely nothing.
I had gotten used to this stare from my life. My parents were always giving me this look—and that’s why I did it…to show them that I could take care of myself. Perhaps if I had listened to them I wouldn’t be in this position at all. I would be home, warm and tucked under my blankets while my mom made me dinner. If I was less stubborn it would be easier to acknowledge, but I didn’t want to feel guilty. My own selfishness was the only thing that kept me from falling apart at the news of my own demise.
“I am” I said, grinding my teeth together. This was another thing that I thought would pass after I had died. I had ground my teeth down so much that I had been forced to wear a retainer at night for protection. I couldn’t say I was going to miss that thing.
The lady sitting across from me—Petunia Plattwood, printed in big shiny letters on the gold plate in front of her—was oblivious of my inner struggle. She just sat there behind her desk, patiently as if nothing affected her. This seemed to be a pattern here. The white sanitary (well, whatever this place was) was filled with people, all dressed in a wide variety of outfits—whatever you were wearing when you died, that was what you were stuck with until you made the cross over. So if you died naked in a bathtub, that was it. Your birthday suit on display for everyone to see. Everyone was very calm though, very still—not at all what you would expect a large crowd to look like.
Even I felt the strange sereneness from this place. I only had my thought to keep me company.
“This decision should not be taken lightly Alexandria” Petunia said calmly. “Going back to earth is dangerous no matter what the circumstances are. You haven’t been fully cleansed of your humanity so you are an easy target of seduction.”
I smiled slightly, but thought it would be inappropriate to laugh.
“Look when I got here—my guide, Gilly”
“Gilbert” she corrected.
“Gilbert, he already gave me the whole run down on everything”
Gilbert had been the man who had told me the basics…everyone has a guide when they die, to explain things and to let it sink in before sending on your way to deal with people like Petunia. Death was a very complicated process.
I remembered when I first got here. I was still coughing up water, could still feel my throat burning and my fear of not being able to breathe—drowning was a very unpleasant feeling. Then I woke up here. The white room was empty when I got here, and only Gilbert was there to comfort me—though there wasn’t very much of that. The people in charge around here weren’t very affectionate, but I suppose without humanity they wouldn’t be expected to be.
“You died” he had said, plain and simple. As if there was nothing complicated about it. I knew that voice he used, my father had used it often. ‘It is what is, and there’s nothing you can do about it now’. It was how he had reasoned with everything. My father and I were so different. I saw things with meaning and affection and well, he didn’t.
Gilbert had also explained the choice that I would be able to make now—to go straight to heaven where my humanity would be cleansed or go back to earth and finish out unfinished business, but be easily perceptible to demons and seduction.
I have to confess that I wasn’t really listening to his long lecture about demons. I only heard the part about where I would be allowed to go back to earth.
Petunia straightened and then paused briefly.
“Alexandria, you are still very much tormented with humanity, and you died very young so you will be a more perceptible target. Demons are not what you would expect them to be. They look like ordinary people and will say or do anything to possess your soul.”
“I understand” I said, “I do, really, But I also know that I won’t be at rest until I figure out what it is that needs to be done on earth.”
She took a deep breath and then nodded once.
“As you wish, you will be given one human year to get it together and then you will be taken up here to get cleansed, assuming that in that year a demon doesn’t conquer you first, which in that case I am afraid there isn’t anything we can do. Rules; one, no one from your previous life will be able to see you, so in order to keep a low profile you must make sure that the other mortals do not realize this. Two, you are no longer human even if you do have a presence on earth so you will not ever be hungry or tired…but all of your human instinct will be heightened. It’s important that you try to stay away from emotions of anger or jealousy or greed which will draw you out to a demon…And lastly, but most important of all…you can never fall in love with a mortal.”
“No problems there boss.” I smiled. Falling in love really wasn’t my thing.
“Alright then Alexandria, good luck”
She opened a clear box and pressed a big button that made the chair I was sitting in sink into the ground. It all passed in a flash. I could feel my hair go up into the air and my hands clenched down on the seat I was sitting on for fear of falling off of it, but in an instant it was over. The chair was gone, as was the white room and Petunia. I was at my hometown sitting in a pew of a church. I should’ve known I’d end up here. I got up, my legs shaky and I moved out to the aisle. At the front of the aisle a priest stood. He winked when he saw me and I gulped surprised that he knew who I was.
“Alexandria?” he said. I nodded and walked over to him. “You’ll find what you need in that box over there.” He continued, pointing to a box at the end of the room.
I walked over to it. I wasn’t sure if I’d even be able to touch it. In all of the movies I had seen, when a dead person tried to touch something there hand would shoot right through it. Then again I suppose if this was from Petunia and those other souls, then I would be able to touch it. I placed my hand on it carefully, and at the feel of smooth wood I opened it and grimaced. There were clothes—very preppy, expensive looking clothes, an I.D.—a picture of someone I didn’t recognize. There on the picture was a girl with ivory skin, big brown eyes and light caramel colored brown hair. I had yet to see my own reflection, but I was pretty sure that I didn’t want to. My last name was also changed…Alexandria Watson had now become Alexandria Angel.
I rolled my eyes at their serious lack of creativity. Stuffed all of the stuff from the box into a backpack and left the church, ready to enjoy the heck out of last year I had on this earth.