It started the way it always did.
One minute I was sleeping peacefully, dreaming innocent little dreams and the next I was rudely jolted back into consciousness. I sat upright in my bed, childish superhero bed sheets tangled around my ankles. My first thought was that the rowdy new neighbours in the grubby flat above ours must have just staggered drunkenly up the stairs. Either that or that single mom with the tie dyed shirts and dreadlocks must be doing the three AM feed.
The first thing I noticed was that it was cold, freezing even. And that it was silent, no baby crying or drunks yelling and falling over themselves on the landing. I blink in the darkness of my room. The light from the hallway crept for the slight opening in poster covered door. Dad had been leaving it on overnight for the past few months now, but we never mentioned it. I was too proud to sleep with my own light on, no matter how my night terrors got.
A shadow moves on the other side of the door and I tense, but realise it was only dad checking up on me. I knew he lay awake most nights worrying about me, about the accident, about how different things had nearly turned out. The familiar uneasy guilt creeps up on me. I wonder if I should risk going to the toilet. My bladder was suddenly full and aching. From the end of the hallway I hear the unseen clock chime loud and clear, taunting me almost. It chimed it’s all too cheerful tune once, twice, three times.
Three in the morning.
I should have known then, the time was always the first signal. Well actually, I think the icy chill was, but I couldn’t tell as our boiler had always been a bit dodgy. That was the problem though, I never realised until it was too late.
Stupidly ignoring the signs, my bladder dictating my actions, I get out of bed and carefully pad across the threadbare carpet to the door and flick the light on. It still felt alien to see my room so tidy. You used to require a hazard suit to enter, but I soon decided that it was harder for my mind to play tricks on me if there wasn’t a load of crap everywhere to cast shadows at night. Except this was no trick.
I tiptoe to the bathroom and do what I needed to do. I wash my hands; carefully avoiding looking at my sunken eyed reflection in the mirror and make my way back to my bedroom. Instantly I knew something was wrong. I heard the tortured sobs as soon as I flicked of the bathroom light.
A bloodstained rope swung menacingly from above the door, a tight knot shaped by desperate hands making clear this swinging ropes purpose. I try to duck under the noose to enter my room, but I am frozen to the spot. I can`t even turn and ran back to the safety of the toilet.
In the middle of the room, a young woman clothed in only a shirt sits with an ordinary kitchen knife carving away blindly at her arms. Blood dripped from the wounds and onto the carpet. Lying in my bed was a young man, my height, with my mop of red hair and my Black Flag hoodie I slept in.
The first time I had an out of body experience after the accident I panicked. I thought I was dead, because it reminded me of the floating feeling I had when I looked at my broken body on the concrete.
The ghost turns to face me, her eyes blurred with tears as she looks right through me.
I needed to get back into my body. Now.