Note: this is the sequel to ‘Top Ten Things Zetta Grace Excelled At’, wooo! That story received way more positivity than I expected (like 60 likes and a ton of comments in six days??) and I felt like it was kind of unfinished, so here’s a part two. Like the first story, this is a...STRANGE 2k words. Also like the first story, this is darker, more romance-y, and a lil’ more emotional than my normal writing, just to give some closure on Zetta Celestine Grace and a glimpse into her final moments and memories. Enjoy!
I can’t see.
The world is a haze of black and white.
No. There is no world.
Or at least, my mind draws a blank.
Nothing is in there, in my brain. Memories vanish. Sucked into the black hole of time.
Time and space.
Haven’t I written an essay about that?
I don’t know.
Waves of nausea roll over me, an ocean of diced confusion. Confusion. What’s going on? I try to trace my life back.
Where am I?
My name? My family? It’s like I remember Earth, but not my personal life. Did I even have a personal life? I’m lost in a blur of question marks.
Life is gone. All that’s left is...existence.
Color. Sound. Light. Piercing brightness, burning into my eyes. Pain hammering at my head. I can’t feel anything, my physical body lost in a void somewhere. My mind tattered and torn, scattered among the stars. Heart cracked, body bruised.
All I remember is the wetness.
Fat raindrops splattering against the sidewalk.
The grainy concrete beneath my scuffed black boots.
The smell of rain hangs in the air, a sweet smell of youth and life. Seeds dropped into soil, the shells cracking open as delicate green sprouts emerge from the soil. Breaking the surface, soaking up the sunlight. A city stretches on in front of me.
A lingering thought in the back of my mind says it should be the city.
In my other life, my other world, I’m familiar with this place. My home is this city, the roar of cars background noise. Or was it? Maybe I just felt like it was my home, like I was destined to be here, among the scents and sounds and perfect randomness.I was taking a walk, I think. With...somebody. I forget who. They laughed, telling me I smelled like orange blossoms and vanilla. Like smiles and sunshine. They said this was my scent, and I laughed too. The sky was clear, just a few puffs of cotton lingering against the sapphire backdrop.
Then it changed.
Dark clouds rolling across the sky.
My shattered memories. I try to piece together the scene...
Him. This boy, my life, whom I don’t remember.
The rain. Scaring away pedestrians, cars disappearing from the streets.
We don’t care. Me and...him. Laughing under the sky, smelling the dewdrops. Running. Through the city, feet slapping against the sidewalk. Storefronts beam at us with welcoming light. Warm air meets cool rain. We smile.
Then something happens.
The glinting bright blue of a car, shades echoing in my eyes. I remember how much I hated cars, my fear of them. Hunks of metal that can end your life. Airplanes were another story. They terrified me but...took me places. Like here. Made my life worth living. But even through me despising cars, I loved their coloring. Sleek shades, glittering in the sunlight. This one was the color of oceans we used to draw as children before we realized our polluting, among other things, turned oceans into dark greenish, sludge greenish. But colors are only pretty if you have a positive view of what the shade decorated, and soon...
I’m whipped back to the present.
No. There is no present.
Like my old life and memories are there, in my mind, but hidden under a tarp. I sense their existence. They’re here. I just can’t break through the sheet. Can’t be that seed. I can’t access...this.
All that happened.
Why am I here?
In my mind?
Struggling for air?
Like a dream. The last few moments of a nightmare. Scenes blurred but the fear is real. You’re there, tossing, turning, mind in the wild waves of the scene. Reality disappears from your thoughts. Just a haze, patchwork of fear and pain and you, so broken you can’t tell yourself it’s fake.
Time isn’t real.
Not here, anyways.
New York. Is that where I lived?
How does my mind get a location from a word but can’t remember my relation to this place?
My mind dissolved into another flashback.
I point to a dot on the map. Our country, broken into states. My purple-painted fingernail lands near the top right. “Let’s go here next. Does that sound fun?”
That boy...he squeezes my hand. “Z—”
I stop. The thoughts. Kind of. They broadcast behind my eyelids but they fade into the background noise as the blurred voice in my head thinks, Z? Is that the first letter or my name? Who am I?
I tune back in.
It’s like the scene was paused.
“Listen,” he says, “traveling with you is fun but…money doesn’t grow on trees.”
I laugh, not giving the recurring statement a second thought. Well, this time. I’d worried before but...YOLO. “What’s paper made of?”
“And what’s money made of?”
“Paper…” his voice trailed off. He slaps me and grins. “Ze—”
Zeh? Is that the first sound to my name? My mind blanks on the rest, but I’m getting somewhere.
“I get it, you’re funny. Among so many other things. I swear I need to make a list one day. But for now…” his playful smile disappears. “Don't you think we should save money? Our student debts aren’t going anywhere. We need to put money in the bank instead of traveling. Pay off our debts, start saving for a home…”
How old was I?
Graduated from college, maybe?
Still. A home? That seemed a bit much.
Then again, I’m here.
In this reality.
Then, in the real world, so many centuries ago…
Ze loved this guy. As a friend. As a partner. As another half.
“I know,” she says, “but A—”
And then it stops.
And I’m spinning.
Spinning, whirling, twisting, smiling. An object in motion will stay in motion. Zooming through sound and shapes and shades, orange blossoms and vanilla captured in bottles. The scene fades and I’m stuck, back in a world of pain crashing through my mind.
Through the blood and cries and hollers of people universes away from my current state, I think, ‘Ah’. Not pronounced like ‘aw’, but like screaming: ‘AHH’. first sound to...his name.
The world is fading back now. Time is still dead, impossible for me to comprehend with everything in my mind. But now...it’s not. I’m still trapped here, in my shattered memories, but I start...feeling.
Concrete. Wet, cool concrete.
No. Maybe not concrete. It’s kind of rocky, like roads.
Sounds, wailing sirens in the distance. I hear people, but their nervous murmurs fade into a hum at the back of my mind.
Another memory flashes to existence, this time a longer scene.
Sunlight streams in through the colored window panes, dust dancing in the light. I always hated church. All that nonsense and weird names and magic. Myths. My mother always scolded me for not being in touch with my spiritual side, being too down-to-Earth, but that’s not true.
My mind. I was the master of my mind as the boy put it. He always sat with me every Sunday. His blond hair capturing the sunbeams as he peeked over my shoulder. I loved poetry, the abstract sense of choppy words or perfect stanzas. Thoughts inked. Another spiritual concept, as Asher said.
That’s his name.
My whole body—mind—still throbs, but excitement briefly pounds through my veins. Asher. What a beautiful name. Musical. Mystical. Light. Like it belongs in a fairytale. Asher was—is—important to me.
I zone back in on the scene.
As I doodled in my notebooks, sketches and poetry and the funny remarks Asher whispered to me when people were busy chanting, my mom glanced over, her dark eyes somehow matching the bright shade of red lipstick she always donned. “Zetta Celestine Grace, you put that notebook away this instant! Stop wasting that time with that nonsense. Poetry will never pay the bills. Being naïve and crazy won’t help you in life so it’s time to plant your feet back on Earth. You’re a legal adult and you need to get your life together. Now chant.”
At first, I’m too lost in the secondhand fury to register my full name.
Even now, I’m my fragmented thoughts, I’m mad. I can feel the fury of me that day, rolling waves of red. And here, witnessing this scene like a spector, I’m mad again. How dare she?
She said my name.
My full name.
My mind didn’t blank.
I know it now.
Zetta Celestine Grace.
That’s beautiful, too. Musical and lyrical like Asher’s name. Our names click together: Zetta and Asher.
The whole church is staring at this point. I wipe my damp eyes. “I don’t care what you think!”
I storm out of the room, slamming my textbook shut and racing through the open door. I don’t stop running until I’m at the small playground for little kids half a mile from the church. Framed by meadows, it’s a small play structure in a sandbox. I sit down on one of the strings, struggling to catch my breath after the sprint.
My vision blurs through my tears. I hear thuds, more feet in the sandbox.
I glance up. It’s Asher. I’m a long-distance runner but he’s insanely fit too. He doesn’t even look out of breath as he sits down next to me. “Listen, Zet,” he says in a low voice, “your mom is wrong.”
I sniffle and look up, wiping at my tear-stained cheeks. “She is?”
“Yes,” he emphasized. “You’re amazing, okay? Sweet and funny and kind and thoughtful and— Well, I could go on all day. And I would, but you don’t need me complimenting you to make your qualities true. Your mom’s view of you doesn’t define you. You’re a strong, confident person with a lot left to give the world. Don't you remember what Ama used to say?”
Ama was his great-grandmother who had sadly passed away last fall. Asher and I loved her.
I say it with him: “‘Naïve just means you have big dreams.”
We smile at each other. He always knew how to make me feel better. “Thanks,” I whisper.
And I’m still there as a second person, dancing through the cosmos.
Until I’m pulled out of my orbit.
Time ticks back to life, reality flooding in.
My eyelids flutter open.
The sky is dark, thunderclouds dripping with rain. My face is wet. Some from water, but I see glimmers of red. The raindrops and stir, clouds...like that first scene. Everything is how I remember it. How much time had passed since...the car? It doesn’t seem like much. People line the roads. I’m collapsed in a sea of black street. A blue car bumper clogs half my vision when I look straight up. My arms and chest are sticky with blood, the pain piercing me.
The other half of my sight is…
And I’m Zetta.
I’m trying to hold on. Trying to not let reality slip through my grasps again. But I’m destined for that final black hole. I can feel my breathing slowing down like my legs at the end of a race. My lungs feel like they’re clogged with cement. I can feel the end creeping up on me and it feels like he can sense it too.
“I’ll see you again,” the boy whispers, his golden blond hair shining as clear tears slip down his cheeks. His eyes capture my attention: blue and green swirling together, fuchsia undertones catching in the nonexistent sunlight.
“You will,” I whisper, my scratchy voice surprising my bloody ears. I thought I had a pretty voice. This boy—Asher—had said it was like honey, smooth and rich and beautiful. I remember honey.
Gold, like his hair.
Amber, like my eyes.
Which I hadn’t seen since the last mirror. When was that? I didn’t both myself with my looks even though many complimented on them. Mirrors don’t reflect beauty—they reflect looks, and those are completely different things.
“In another life,” he agrees, his quieter tone yanking me back to the conversation.
I can’t muster a nod. All I can do is weakly smile, my unspoken words hanging in the air.
But for now, goodbye.
And just like that, my consciousness fades into black.