Short Story: Dead Girl Jam

Here is a small story I wrote about a girl's nonchalant consciousness after her suicide. I tend to write stories and poems and things in feverish moments and keep them unfinished in a folder, but I think it's good to let them out every so often just because we often think of writing in terms of polished, printed books and generally finalised and edited items which hold stories when really the journeys and the drafts and the ideas are just as valuable. There are so many ways I could assess and edit and re-write this story, and there are so many things I could write and then keep hidden or throw away (sometimes wisely), but each draft and each new word is not only part of a journey but also a little part of a person and a life and a universe. Or something. Anyway, here's the story.

Dead Girl Jam 

I am the hole in a bagel, the empty sky, a gap between legs. Mind the gap is printed on the platform. The gap is me. I move for your feet if I’m feeling polite. I am the darkness in a bedroom at night. I am the bubbles in beer. I’m here. That I know. I’m most definitely here. Hidden. I am the between.

Or maybe a gap-shaped girl. Cold and soft and alone. I’m thinking about the Pet Shop Boys, then thinking about pet shops as a concept. I whisper to myself “alone, allein, alone, allein” as if in one language it is not enough. I smile at the yellow lines on the platform. They’re yellow like a joyful cartoon sun, they’re yellow like the children’s hospital ward all decorated with suns and simple yellow sweetness. An attempt at cute. The hospital tries. The sky is grey today, a thick, bright sky of a dark kind of light. A light that has been filtered through a dusty curtain before it met us this morning. There are few other passengers, shuffling slightly in long smart coats in the cold, some carrying newspapers. A small curiosity moves around inside me and I am tempted to see what headlines mark today, but I quash the urge. No one else’s stories matter. I don’t need to think about them. I don’t need thoughts in general.

Everyone is varying levels of restless and groggy. The morning is still seeping out from the sky like a viscous treacle working leisurely across a slightly slanted kitchen counter. I hear the train lines making electrical rustling noises. A man reacts almost imperceptibly as he notices too, but I sense his noticing as if he was a dog whose ears pricked up in excitement. The train is coming fast into the station. I look at the yellow lines, sloppy around the edges, and I wish my love to them as if they are my dearest friends, and then I am running. All my force pushes me past my dear yellow friends and I push off the edge of the platform like a superhero, like I am going to fly. There is a scream as I hit the air, and seconds later I am dead.

I’m mud That’s all I can think. If it was even really a thought. I’m mud. I’m mud, I’m mud, I’m mud. There’s a breeze. I don’t know where it is, but it’s there, just gently flickering at me. A bird is chirping. The sky is a blue that singes, a too bright blue. I can see pockets of light. Blobs of light. Lava lamps of sky drooping into me. I can see. Why can I see? I find a memory of an old photograph, burning and blistering. I find it because it’s what the sky looks like. But I shouldn’t be able to see at all, so I don’t know how to feel about it. I don’t think I feel anything. The globules of sky are widening, changing, familiarising. I can see.

I realise I am in the tree now, near to the birds. Chirp chirp. I try vaguely to see downwards. There is a long yellow blur there, down below me. What is it? I move like a sheet in the wind. I catch on the branches and then I fall through them, slowly and sloppily like a jam. Maybe I’m the lava lamp. Maybe after you die you become a lava lamp. I laugh to myself, or, actually, no, I don’t laugh. I can’t laugh any more. But I would be doing it, probably, if it wasn’t for the circumstances. It’s funny, is what I mean. I can sense it’s funniness and a part of me warms. I enjoy it. I slip and fold downwards in the air. I am nothing. I am nothing, but a sort of nothing that is amused by the thought of jam. I am a nothing, then. Not the nothing or just nothing, but a nothing. A nothing in particular. A specific nothing. I flop or slip or fall onto the surface, whatever it is that was underneath my tree. What I can see is still delicately bubbling in front of me, but I know what it is. I am standing on the train tracks I died on.

When was it I died, I wonder. Maybe it was yesterday. Maybe longer. I’m not really used to having to assess this sort of situation. There are no obvious signs of a recent death that I can see. I walk along the tracks. To be more precise, I’m not walking. I’m not exactly doing anything, physically. I have an acute feeling that I may be a mass of jam, but there is nothing to see of me. There is no thing that I am, but I am moving. Whatever I am now is moving. Am I thoughts disjointed from a body? Am I a typical ghost? Am I a unique jam-like spirit? I don’t know. All I know is a feeling and vision with a certain appearance of viscosity. It’s quite disgusting, actually. But perhaps that’s just my lack of experience. Obviously this is weird for me. I’m used to being a girl, not an amorphous blob. Mind you, what’s the difference?

I canter over to the train platform (I can use any verb I want, so I’m using canter. You can’t exactly argue with me when I’m a dead girl jam, can you?). I canter over to the train platform and I see my friends, the yellow lines. The long yellow blurry thing I saw from the tree. My lava lamp vision is starting to settle now. I say hello, I coo a little to the yellow lines. They were my last goodbye, after all. My friends. The thing I gave all my last love to. Paint stripes. Well, maybe in my eulogy I’ll be called “arty”.

I clamber onto the platform and lie on the yellow lines and just exist, in whatever semblance of existence this is (It’s probably unnecessary for me to get into a philosophical debate here, although maybe it’s best to do after you’re dead). You wouldn’t think a ghost would have to do anything resembling clambering, but I suppose I don’t know if I’m a ghost. I shouldn’t assume I’m a ghost. I’m something. I’m a nothing.

I am awake, slowly but suddenly, because of course I’m a contradiction. Like everything. Like the distant sadness and happiness that happens all at once, stupid feelings swirling together like those jars of peanut butter and chocolate mixed into each other. Too much, too fast. I remember. I’ve never tried the peanut butter and white chocolate spread in one jar like a sickly entwined couple on public transport who are captivated by the newness of each other’s touch at the expense of the conservative comfort of other people around them. Personally I find it sweet. There’s a naivety and a fluidity and unconsciousness of body and bodily fixation that seems pure and gentle to me. Or something. I guess every disgusting couple is different, but it always reminds of something personal. Some old happiness. Some old love.

They’re at a distance now, because my memories on waking are like when you wake up without your glasses and everything’s just blobs of colour, blurry forms. That’s my memories now. There are some feelings, though. I wouldn’t have expected public displays of affection to be my first thought, but apparently that’s the emotion bubble that burst through the surface of my eyes and brain at the moment of consciousness.

I rise as if from a black pool of water, here, refreshed, alive and breathing. I take in my air in gulps. The breaths make me feel uneasy. I feel my whole self in my throat, shuddering at something - I’m not sure what. And there is a sense - like I’ve said - of memory, of some cold feeling tracing my shoulders. I’m sick. I’m sick. I think to myself that I’m like a shell. That creeping unease trickles in veins, in threads down my body. I’m scared to exist, it seems like. Something like that. Anyway I get up and shuffle myself around. Familiarise myself with… myself. Curl my toes. Stretch my legs. I feel sick. I feel sick. Dew moistens my feet as I step, back and forth, hopping rabbit-like on the grass. I’m naked and grass is everywhere. There’s a greyness to the place. The woods. I observe my wobbliness as I hop. I shiver deeply and feel the electric and surge of blood and force through my arms and my spine. I’m lithe, but stiff and timid. My hair is lengthy, flaxen, some tangles from sleep. I’m a little straw-headed, goose-bumped, bare thing. There is too much. Too much sensory stimulation. The wind is too much, but it’s only a breeze. I close my eyes. I stand still and feel the dewdrops on the soles of my feet. Dewdrops. What nice alliteration there is to that word, I think to myself. I repeat the word in my head. Dewdrop, dewdrop, dewdrop. I whisper it into the cold. My whispers melt into sobs.

There’s a rustling to my left, clear as the bold touch of breeze against my naked skin. I look through the edge of my tears as they thicken quicker than I can blink, and I see a man. His eyes wide and his mouth ajar, he stops still like a deer caught. “Dewdrop”, he repeats, slightly questioning, but mostly with a tone of confirmation, like it wasn’t real until he said it.

Bodies are funny. I mean, they’re funny in general. They make fun shapes, they’re oddly fascinating when they have no right to be as unremarkable shapes of flesh that we see all the time when we walk down the road to the post office. But they’re also funny when they’re not there any more. From the perspective of a dead girl with a certain viscosity of self like me, but no actual body in the traditional and generally accepted human sense, bodies are increasingly hilarious. You’d think I might miss mine, but I don’t. It was the cause of a lot of weird issues, for a start. I mean, I am - or rather, I was - a girl. And the sheer amount of times I walked into door handles when I had it, well, I don’t miss that. No thanks! Glad to be rid of door handle related pain and trauma forever. That’s probably actually the best thing about being dead. But when I start thinking about bodies I just can’t stop laughing. I almost can’t begin to remember because I’m too busy laughing. I keep getting this picture in my head (or in whatever the equivalent of my head is now), or holding a strawberry, and tasting it, and feeling its pitted skin with my fingers, and of ripping off the little leafy crown, and I can’t stop laughing. Whoever was I with a body?

Anyway what brings me to bodies is them. The people. The living, I mean. I’m here with them in some afterlife, I suppose. I keep expecting Bruce Willis to show up, but he doesn’t. Disappointing. I keep wondering why I’m here, though. Is this normal for dead people, or am I in a subcategory of dead people who are doomed to live a subsequent life as an invisible jam with deteriorated senses and memories? It does carry some of the conventions of traditional ghostly narratives, but the whole jam thing is pretty weird. As far as I can tell what’s weird any more. Critical thinking is a bit different after you’ve died. Things get confusing.

Still, everyone’s here. I mean, there are people here. Shuffling down the platform like awkward crows jostling each other. There’s a woman with a loose ponytail and a long coat, with little woolly tight legs poking out. She’s yawning, just a little bit. The train is here. I can feel myself standing (I don’t know exactly what I’m doing in this form, so let’s just call it standing) at the edge. Right at the edge of the platform where the doors are. And the doors open. The woman is the only person to step on through this door, and as she does it she glides right through me. I don’t really approve of that. She freezes as she passes through me, right foot hovering over the gap, toes almost touching the metal lip of the train floor. Then she’s in. And I’m here. Cursing my diminished, ghostly awareness. Something just felt wrong about that. Like rubbing a cardboard box with a gloved hand. I watch the woman. She’s taken her seat next to a toddler with an iPad and as the train pulls away from the station I think I see her crying.
“Yeah,” I think, “I feel emotionally challenged when I see children younger than seven with expensive electronics too.”

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