I have to get out... I have to get out! I have to-!
I sit upright immediately, spluttering and coughing until my throat felt sore. I blinked around, feeling disorientated. I was on my front porch, supine, and for a few seconds, my mind is as blank as new canvas. Everything felt fine, like I had no cares in the world anymore, and that I was ethereal.
Slowly rising to my feet, I brushed the dirt off of my black jeans...
Why am I covered in soot?
I turn to open my front door (which looked like it was made of charcoal) and jiggle the handle. It was locked, and I couldn't locate a key.
I broke into another coughing fit, and my glasses fell onto the floor, smashing the delicate lenses. However, my vision was still 20/20. There's a thumping in my temple and my hand unconsciously goes to massage it, but it jerks away as my fingertips come into contact with scarred skin. I scramble to find the nearest window, and as I peered at the grimy pane, I hardly recognize the...monster staring back at me. I caress my face, shuddering from the texture of my once-smooth skin, and the tears falling from my bloodshot eyes feel like ice against my scars.
The view caused bile to rise to my throat, and I ran. I ran as far as I could. I've never been athletic, but I could've kept running for miles if I hadn't nearly been run over by a van. I leapt out of the way just in time, and I flipped off the erratic driver.
My pace slowed and I continued along the path this time. I identified this street as the same one my colleague lived on, and as I rounded a corner, I smacked directly into him.
"I-I'm so sorry, Payton, I didn't see you-" I begin pathetically, but his face twists into one of anger.
"Watch where you're going, will you?" His lapis eyes narrow and dart around, looking for something. Or someone...
Payton's face falls into confusion, and he slowly spins, looking for that someone.
I call his name, trying to draw his attention. However, he shrugs and shakes his head.
"Must have been a leaf or something..."
A leaf? What the hell was going on?
Repeating his name, I chase him down the street. Eventually, I give up, and feel invisible - why was he avoiding me?
My hands cover my face as I let out a few shaky breaths, trying to calm myself, and just wishing to be home. A woman walks by, exhaling the smoke from her cigarette and my eyes widen because...
Clear as glass, a vision overtakes me.
The barking of my dog roused my slumber, and I made a mental note to withhold treats, especially when I have an early meeting tomorrow.
"Shut up, McKenzie." I mumble, half-asleep. Nevertheless, he continued his barking, and jumped onto my bed, pawing me. Why was it so warm? And why did it smell like... Smoke!
Adrenaline coursed through my body, and I vaulted out of my room, making a beeline for my roomate, Effie's room. The fire had started in the main living room, I observed by the crisp couches that I passed. I broke the weakened door down, but stopped short when I saw her ex-boyfriend, Flint, with her. She had her sheets and some of her clothes crafted into a makeshift rope wrapped around her securely as she leaned out her open window.
"I saw the fire from down the street and I came over as soon as I could!" He lowered her gently, and sighed when she got down safely. I wanted to press on more about his alibi, but time was like candle, burning away, and I didn't want to run out of wax. My lungs were filling with thick, heavy smoke and the sound of my home (of seven years) crackling in the fire was almost enough to make me want to jump out of the window.
As he pulled the 'rope' back up, I ushered McKenzie towards him. As my beloved pet was lowered, I noticed matches on Effie's bedside table. I snatched them and shoved them into Flin't face.
"What the hell are these?"
His eyes darted to one of the corners of the room, and I follow his gaze to the large, empty bottle of gasoline.
The last time me and Effie spoke the morning before, I recall, she had forgotten to pay her rent. I threatened to evict her because this was the third time this year. She retaliated by screaming that I was going to burn in Hell.
The reality hit me, leaving me defenseless for a moment. Just a moment, but that was all he needed. Flint grabbed my arm and, swinging me around, pinned it to my back.
"Effie was always complaining about you, you know. Saying you were a pain in her ass, and that you just wanted her money. She never even liked you, so I stepped in and proposed a way of getting rid of our little problem."
I lashed around, trying in vain to escape. He grabbed the back of my neck and forced me to lean out the window. I remember the screams of people looking at the blazing scene, and the bitter autumn wind stabbing my face then...
I yell out of fear, but I'm back on the street. Feeling paralyzed, I gradually comprehend what happened and feel the tears spill down my cheeks.
It's been a week since I've died. Around five people have put flowers around my old home, and my parents have been over eight times. Seeing them breaks my heart, and the only thing I can do it push a bouquet of flowers over, but that never usually draws their attention.
Effie has brung McKenzie over twice, and it turns out that dogs can sense ghosts because he sits patiently, wagging his tail excitedly.
I expected to be able to see other ghosts, but I haven't - will the rest of my dreary, burned existence be lonely? I often ponder this as I glide by the river, my favourite place as a child. Today, though, there were a couple of teenagers playing by the riverbank. I watched them as I passed by wishfully, wanted to be able to wave to them or to say "How has your day been?" but I knew I was as invisible as… well, a ghost. Busy pondering the living, I don’t notice the little old lady.
Why do the living feel when ghosts bump into them? Will I ever know?
Out of habit, I apologize.
“Oh, it’s quite alright, dear. I’m not wearing my glasses today,” She smiles warmly at me, and I smile back. Suddenly, my face falls, but she just looks deep into my eyes and says:
“Freyja Persephone, professional medium.”