I realize that another chapter of Estrelas is probably what people were expecting when this Author Alert popped up in their inboxes. Instead, I spent a number of hours fixing the details I had ret-conned while re-reading all 71,907 words of it (Good God) to make sure everything fit neatly with the ending, which is just tantilizingly out of reach.
By the time I finished reading and editing, I was so not in the mood to write, especially the difficult Jazz-Reams-Danny-For-Forgiving-Vlad-Too-Easily scene that I'll be starting with. Instead, I wrote this.
Sometimes, you know how when you're meeting new people, like at camp or a school orientation, they want you to share your most vivid memory? An icebreaker that apparantly helps everyone get to know you in thirty seconds or less? Or when you're writing down your memoirs for your high school yearbook, and the form asks for your most memorable moment?
My clearest memory is one I'd never share with my classmates, that's for sure. After waking up screaming when it comes to me in sleep, I'm not sure if I ever even want to recall it to my friends. But I can't stop it from creeping into my dreams, when I forget that it's only a memory, and in terror the image only grows sharper and more defined, as though the Fates themselves are laughing at my misfortune.
This is the moment I died.
Well, that's only a half-truth, much like the nature of my half-death. The dream always glosses over the pre-accident scene; the curious inspection of the Fenton Portal's controls, the lame jokes I'd traded with my best friends, Sam and Tucker. The darkened interior of the contraption that was supposed to lead to the world beyond. I'd touched something, a switch or a button, and then--
Pain beyond imagining. Confusion. I felt like I was being torn apart from the inside; like the monster that was taking over me was clamouring to get out, and screaming in my ears, but they told me later that I had been the one screaming--
And then, that terrible awakening.
I'd opened my eyes to see the tall, silvery ceiling of the Portal's interior, but it had brightened, and shadows danced on the metal finish, the aftereffects of the enormous lightning storm that had just taken place. Energy was still sparking around the mouth of the door, preventing my friends from entering, though I could hear Sam's shrill voice calling my name, sounding panicked. I'd wanted to shout back that I was fine, but I knew before I moved that everything wasn't fine, that something was in fact very wrong. And I was so dazed that I could hardly even think about moving, much less staggering to my feet.
I felt...terrible. Empty and cold. There was a new sensation flooding through me, one that I'd never felt before, that was almost indescribable at the time and still is. It is, I can only assume, my ghostly aura, a proud companion to the chill I was feeling there on the floor as all the heat in my body left me in a sudden rush. I raised my hands to my face and got the shock of my life.
My limbs were fading in and out of visibility, and through them I could see my bones. My bones. Right through my skin! I couldn't help it then; I screamed, and Sam's reply rose in pitch to match it. "Danny! Danny, are you all right?"
"Yes! No!" I howled, the realization of what had happened setting in. My hands...this horrible empty feeling...
I'm dead. I'm a ghost.
A thousand worries tore through my head at once; a dozen emotions, panic fear pain anxiety panic what do I say to Sam and Tucker panic revulsion self-loathing panic hatred panic--
A ghost. The very thing that my parents lived to hunt, that I myself had been brought up to hate. I was lost.
That was my moment.
Of course, it was not as bad as it originally seemed; I was not quite as dead as I'd thought. In fact, I eventually welcomed my ghost powers and put them to use doing what I hope is the greater good, but of course my closet is full of skeletons and little white lies as a result. No good for those getting-to-know-you chats. "Hi, I'm Danny Fenton, and my most memorable moment is the time when I became a half-ghost."
I hate those kinds of questions. I've gotten kind of used to being a secretive kind of guy, and even if I wasn't, I wouldn't be sharing this memory or the panic attack it usually brings on. There are some things better left unsaid, some stories better left unvisited. I'd rather not dwell on it. Bad enough that often my dreams are invaded by the memory of my transformation, forcing me to relive the agony of the storm and the terrifying instant of realization when I'm in no state to remember that I'm home and safe in my bed, that I'm alive, that I'm only half a ghost. It's like nothing can interrupt that moment, and a thousand times I'm back in that portal, staring at my bony hands, screaming loud enough to wake the dead.