Dallas G. Releford
The old weather beaten house at the end of the long gravel driveway didn’t look the same but everything seemed familiar to her. Linda didn’t know why she was visiting an old friend but she was sure that Miss Sherry Preston would be most happy to see her. She also couldn’t remember exactly how she had arrived at 2245 Mockingbird Lane but she was sure that she had driven her car. She looked back down the road to see where her car was but it was too dark and too much fog obscured her view. Linda felt disoriented, confused and wasn’t quite sure about anything.
She heard people talking and someone was calling her name but it didn’t seem important or possible. She was more than fifty yards from the house and there wasn’t anyone around. What was important was for her to get to the house.
The house seemed to be pulling her toward it like a giant magnet and she wanted nothing more than to walk through its doors once again. She didn’t feel like she had any other choice so she chose not to resist. There was something special about those doors, something mystical and she had a strong urge to walk right up to them and walk right in.
You don’t belong here. Go away.
Voices all around her, distant but audible were telling her but she didn’t listen because she didn’t know how to go anywhere else.
Eerie distant voices from somewhere but where were they? It wasn’t really important she thought and walked on toward the ominous gray house.
She wanted to resist but the will to do so wasn’t there. Was her mind not her own? Linda could only see glimpses of the old house. The fog hid some of it from her view. It was the door with the two small, round windows that seemed to be her destination and the most important thing. The rest of the old structure just seemed to waver in and out of her mind as if it was trying to hide part of itself from her.
She knew she was walking but couldn’t feel her feet moving. It was like the house was pulling her toward it without any effort on her part. Everything was natural yet something seemed all out of balance.
The door was in front of her. She knew that she had to knock on the door before someone would let her in but Linda didn’t know how to do that. She was confused as if she had been drugged or had just awakened from a long sleep.
The door was wide open now and in the doorway stood a beautiful young woman who was smiling at her. “Can I help you?” She asked still smiling.
“Sherry, it’s me, Linda Marshal. We went to school together and I haven’t seen you for ten years.”
“Come on in Linda,” she instructed still smiling. “I’ve been expecting you. How have you been?”
“Fine, I guess,” Linda said, “but for some reason I can’t seem to remember much.”
“Yes, of course,” Sherry said as they sat down at the kitchen table. “We only remember the things that we need to remember sometimes.”
Linda couldn’t understand exactly what Sherry was talking about but she was sure that if Sherry told her something that it must be true. “I don’t know why I’m here,” she blurted out not fully understanding why she had said it.
“I have to go now but I’ll be back,” Sherry told her unconcerned and still smiling with her beautiful white teeth showing between her soft, pink lips.
“Yes of course,” Linda said not understanding why Sherry had to go but she was sure that it was the proper thing to do.
“You’re welcome to wander around the house while I’m gone,” she said. “You never know what you will find here. It’ll be just like it was when we were kids.”
Sherry brushed her beautiful, long brown hair from her eyes as she got up from the table and walked quickly away. Linda didn’t remember seeing her leave. Her mind was doing another blank job on her again. It wasn’t important but something else was important. She just couldn’t think what it was but she would, she was sure of that.
Linda looked around the dark room and her attention was drawn to the tall windows dressed in pink curtains. They were the same as the ones she had seen in the house when she and Sherry were little girls. She noticed that it was light outside but the sun wasn’t shining.
She could hear voices but something told her that she was alone in the house. She looked around the huge living room noticing the old flowered couch and the other ancient furnishings. The long stairs that led up to two other floors caught her attention. Everything seemed to be just as it used to be and yet it wasn’t.
She sensed that the hallway that led to the downstairs bedrooms, the utility room and to the outside was missing. Suddenly it appeared to her right just between the windows with the pink curtains and the tall, long stairs. How could she have been so wrong? Was she hallucinating? After all, she had played in this very room a thousand times and Sherry had chased her up those very same stairs at least that many times as they played tag or hide and go seek. She had thought that the windows were much further away from the hallway than they were but she thought that she might have been wrong.
Where was Sherry? Why had she left her so abruptly? Didn’t she say that she had to go? Go? Where was she going? It didn’t matter because she said that she would return. Sherry always did what she said she would do. Good old Sherry but hardly the same old Sherry.
The house was dark. The hallway was dark and Linda still heard voices in her head. Where else would they be because there wasn’t anyone else in the house but her? The voices were saying that she didn’t belong there but she didn’t pay any attention to them. After all, if Sherry wanted her to leave she would have told her so.
She was moving down the hallway not at a steady pace but in sudden jerks, minute escalations from one point to another point and never staying in any one place for more than a few seconds. Funny, she thought as she looked down the endless hall with endless doors on both sides, that the hallway was much larger than she remembered. Linda had a sudden urge to reach the end of the hallway and to get out of the building but something deep inside of her told her that it would take forever.
There was something behind her but she didn’t know what and furthermore, she really didn’t want to know. Was it a something or was it somebody? Maybe it was just an IT, a thing that she didn’t want any part of. Whatever it was, she knew it was there because she could feel it and it was a threat to her. Linda wanted to move forward but was restrained by some dark, unseen force. She knew that she could go back but she was having problems moving ahead toward the door at the end of the tunnel that she couldn’t even see yet she knew somehow that it was there.
There was beauty, lights, people and other worldly things beyond that door and Linda wanted to be part of them, to share their merriment and their company. Something told her that was important. She didn’t know how she knew but she that it was important.
She heard more voices, people talking, people laughing and people saying things that people normally say. She was facing one of the doors now, a green door with huge red block letters that said CLUB ROOM and then just below that, ENTER.
She entered not because she turned a knob but because she found herself inside the room. It was a big room, a banquet room where you could have a wedding and invite a couple of hundred guests and the party wouldn’t even take up half the space in the room. There were walnut paneled walls, beautiful crystal chandeliers and mahogany stairs that led somewhere but Linda didn’t know where.
There were people, lots of people but none even smiled at her or noticed her as she walked by them looking for a familiar face. Finally she saw someone that she recognized. Jay Rousey was in a corner talking to a blonde haired girl. He always had been the person that the ladies loved. His red hair, slender build and freckled face set him aside as a target for every girl in school.
Wasn’t there something that Linda should remember about Jay? He couldn’t be more than sixteen. Was age really that important? Was anything important except that she was there and he was there? Linda tried to remember what it was that was bothering her about Jay but something blocked her mind. She tried to remember how old she was but couldn’t do so.
She looked down at her hands but didn’t see any sign of aging. She felt of her head, her cheeks and even her chin but it all felt smooth as a baby’s bottom. No telltale wrinkles were there to even give her a clue.
Was age important? Was anything here important? She walked toward him unaware of her feet moving or any forward motion at all but she knew she was getting closer to him because she could see it with her eyes. Linda knew she was getting closer but she didn’t know how she was doing it. She sighed as she looked at the figure that she knew so well but couldn’t remember much about.
“Hi Jay,” she said expecting him to be happy to see her. He looked exactly like he did the last time she had seen him in the empty locker room at Hustonville High School when they had necked after class. Something was important about Jay but Linda just couldn’t remember it. She couldn’t remember about a lot of things but she supposed that she would, in time.
Jay turned and looked at her with a smile on his face and a sparkle in his blue eyes but his expression quickly diminished into one of complete coldness as he looked at Linda. “You don’t belong her,” he complained.
Linda was shocked that Jay would say anything like that to her. It wasn’t important she thought as several people stood around her replacing Jay who was instantly gone.
“You don’t belong here,” they told her but she tried to tell them that Sherry owned the house and she had told her that she could stay but they didn’t listen to her.
She was in a dark room now, a place with only one window. In the shadows she could see several people. Some were passing a joint between them while others were drinking beer. She wondered how she had arrived there or why she was there but couldn’t remember.
There were memories of friends, relatives and casual acquaintances that flashed through her mind but none of them stayed in her mind long enough for her to form a complete picture of any of them. Some of the images were of Jay. Something about Jay Rousey disturbed her. She saw images of a dark night, heavy rain, screeching tires, breaking glass and a car wreck that disturbed her immensely. But that must have only been a dream because she had seen Jay and he looked the same as he had on the night before the accident.
The accident. She gasped as the stark horror brought her to a new realization. Jay had been killed in an accident. He wasn’t the only one either because there was another one but she couldn’t remember what their name was. How could Jay be there if he was killed over thirty years ago? He had died two days after they had kissed in the locker room. He had cheated on his girlfriend for the last time but who was his girlfriend? Linda couldn’t remember. Something behind her urged her to move forward again but her attention was strictly and defiantly focused on the little group in the darkened room. There was a secret hidden here in the darkness and she needed to learn what that secret was.
Linda remembered the room now. It was clearly the old utility room in the basement of Sherry’s house where they had often gone to talk and smoke a few cigarettes. The old furnace and the coal chute were still there just as they used to be. Sherry’s father used to send huge chunks of black coal shooting down that chute into the basement.
Those were the days of their tender teen years. Those were the days before Sherry fell in love with a redheaded, freckled faced, young, hot bloodied boy name Jay Rousey. Linda was allowed those memories now because they were important. Linda really didn’t know why they were important any more than she knew why she was there. She did know why Sherry had loved the boy but a lot of memories were missing about Jay and Sherry.
Linda was now more aware of the little group of people in her tiny part of the world. For the moment, it was the only world she knew. Things were beginning to come together but there were still quite a few cogs and gears in the machine that she didn’t quite know where they went. But, she would know.
Faces were unrecognizable at first but bit-by-bit she was able to identify each one of them. It was like she was looking at them through a misty fog that kept getting thicker and thicker but then it would clear up just long enough for her to clearly see a face. Jay was there and so was Jan Robinson, another friend of hers. Jay was laughing and talking to a brown haired girl of about his own age. Linda found the face of the fourth person to be unknown because they weren’t important but she was shocked when she recognized the brunette that Jay was talking to. It was Sherry.
Things began to come back to her as the truth hit her with the impact of a hammer. She was standing with a group of schoolgirls on the steps of the school when another classmate came up and asked if they had heard about the tragedy. They had all been terrified to learn that Sherry, Jay and Jan Robinson had been killed Saturday night. The girl had said that the Police had stated that they all were drinking and using drugs when they crashed.
Linda was horrified and wondered how they all could possibly be there right in front of her.
Was she dead? Had she died and gone to some place where you relived your life and maybe you could be any age that you wanted to be?
She wasn’t alone anymore. Linda didn’t feel alone. She had friends now in the cold, dark, damp place. She was part of the group.
Someone handed her a joint and offered her a beer but she declined. She had never used the stuff so why start now?
“Where am I?” She asked. “Why am I here and how come you guys are so young?”
They stared at her and cold chills ran down her spine as she further realized that they all were dead. She wondered if she wasn’t dead also but she hoped that it all was just a bad dream and she would awaken at any time.
“You don’t belong here Linda so please leave us and go back home to your family,” Sherry told her but she wasn’t smiling anymore.
“I don’t understand --- I mean, I don’t understand at all,” Linda screamed with tears in her eyes. She was now in a state of panic. If she wasn’t dead then what was she?
“Simple enough,” Sherry explained, “you’ve had an accident or something and it was so violent that you’ve been propelled clear across the galaxy to a world where the dead people go. It’s an unreal world where nothing is material, a world of dreams, fantasy and make believe where we shall be for eternity. You have to leave because it isn’t time for you to come here yet.”
“I don’t understand why I’m here,” Linda said still crying. “What’s the purpose for all this?”
“Maybe you are supposed to know something about what happened,” Sherry said. “I know that Jay was seeing you but I wasn’t jealous. I was angry for a while but we went for a ride that night hoping that we could work things out. Jay wasn’t drunk either. He was just driving too fast on the rain soaked road. We slid, went off the road and hit the side of a concrete bridge. That’s the truth and when you get back home I wish you’d tell my family about what really happened.”
“I will,” Linda promised. “I don’t know if they’ll believe me or not but I’ll tell them.”
“Thanks,” Jay said, “and we really are happy to see you again and someday you can be with us forever. Hell Linda, just have a few sips of beer and you’ll feel much better.” He handed her the cold, frosty, brown beer bottle.
Linda reached out to take it but her fingers slipped right through the bottle. I am dead she thought as things began to slowly fade away. She felt the creature behind her reaching out and pulling her backward through a dark tunnel that consisted of houses, streets, stars, memories and a million other things that now were important.
Then there was blackness. Then there was nothingness.
The next thing she was aware of was the tube that was running from her mouth (and there were tubes running from many other places), the smell of a hospital room and the screams of her aching body.
She could remember the wreck now. The screaming of the kids in the backseat, the bursting glass and the yelling and cursing of her husband as the big truck pulled right out in front of them and they didn’t have any other place to go but straight ahead.
The dream or whatever it was would trouble her for years but somehow Linda would always believe that she had been there simply because they had cared enough to tell her that she didn’t belong there --- not yet anyway!