The girl awoke splayed out on the hard, uncomfortable sidewalk of an unfamiliar street corner, beneath the awning of an equally unfamiliar convenience store. She pushed herself on to her elbows, racking her brain for memories of the night before, trying to figure out how she ended up in this particular situation.
Was it a wild party? It could have been. The girl prided herself on being one of wildest party-going fifteen year olds living in the small town of Modesto, California, and had been known to wake up in odd places after a night of carelessness. Once she awoke curled up underneath a desk in what had once been, many years before she had ever even heard of the term "shit-faced", her kindergarten classroom. She was alone, and, after exploring the classroom wrapped in nothing but a muddied sheet she had found thrown over her naked body, had discovered that she had busted the wide window peering out to the playground to get inside. The girl left quickly, and to this day, the mystery of the kindergarten break-in at the Elementary school, in which the only thing altered in the classroom was a broken window and muddy carpets, has never been solved.
But the places the girl normally found herself in with no memory of the night before were often vaguely familiar, as she had lived in the same small town for her entire life, and it was odd that she would wake up in front of a convenience store that didn't immediately set off some sort of childhood memory in her. She sat up and rubbed her eyes, then cursed aloud. She had most likely been wearing an unreasonable amount of eyeliner the night before, as she usually did when she was too fucked up to apply her makeup properly, and had probably just smeared the stuff all over her face. The girl looked at her hands, expecting to see black smudges on her index fingers, but instead, her pale hands were completely clean, save for the large black heart drawn on her left palm in Sharpie.
Maybe I didn't wear makeup last night, the girl thought to herself. Frowning, she stood, and ran her fingers through her hair, expecting to feel slightly tangled shoulder length hair. But when she touched her hair, she found that it was much shorter than it had been the night before. In fact, it barely reached past her ears, and felt choppy and messy, as if a two year old had taken a pair of safety scissors to her while she slept.
The girl cursed again, this time much louder than before. What the hell happened to me last night?
She inspected the rest of her body to see what else was off about her situation. She twisted the piercings in her eyebrow, septum, and in the middle of her lip, checking that they were all still there. She ran her fingertips down her arms, feeling the slight bumps of her many scars, but she found no new injuries. Looking down, she saw that she wore a Rise Against band tee that was slightly too big for her, a pair of bright yellow skinny jeans that she felt positive belonged to someone else, though she couldn't remember who at the moment, and black Chucks that were a little too small, and pinched her feet a bit.
Everything about the rest of her appearance seemed to sit well with the girl, so she took a deep breath, and began walking. It was still early morning, and light had barely begun to break over the horizon, so it didn't surprise the girl that she was the only person on this lonely street corner. What did surprise her was the fact that her feet seemed to sink into the sidewalk with every step she took, as if she were walking on tar.
She stopped for a second, pondering what was wrong with the ground. But before she could give the matter much thought, she heard a low drone coming from the sky. It was immediately noticeable because everything else around the girl was so eerily quiet, and she turned her gaze towards the heavens in search for the source of the noise.
What she saw made her jaw go slack and her eyes widen to the point of being comical.
Floating majestically above the low buildings in the vicinity was a huge silver blimp-looking thing, and it was gradually lowering itself to land in medium sized park across the street from the convenience store. The girl tried to back up instinctively as the thing grew closer but her legs would not budge, as if they were encased in stone. Looking down, she saw that she had sunken into the ground down to her thighs.
The girl panicked. She frantically began to squirm and wriggle and yank her legs out, but all of her movement only seemed to make her sink down farther and farther. Soon she found herself sunken into the earth to her belly button, and sinking down farther fast. And the feeling of being buried like this! It didn't feel as if the earth surrounded her, it felt as though it were in her, passing through her, filling her, suffocating her. It was the most unpleasant thing she had ever experienced in her life.
She looked up to see that the blimp thing had landed, and that a gangway had been lowered to the ground, and a magnificent creature with red hair and dressed in green had begun to descend it. It was another girl it seemed, most likely around the age of fifteen herself. She reached the ground and started to make her way across the street.
The sinking girl felt a spike of fear and excitement combined pierce through her belly. Would this person help her? Would she even reach her in time? The girl was already up to her chest in the ground. Or would the other just watch as she was buried alive in this strange quicksand-like material?
The girl attempted to move her arms, but realized that the earth had already consumed them as well, and it hit her that the other girl would be too late to help her. She began to cry as the earth started to swallow her chin.
Just as the earth covered her eyes and stole away her vision, and she felt utterly hopeless and lost to the world, she felt a strong hand reach into the earth and latch on to her upper arm. She was pulled, dragged, tugged slowly, inch-by-inch, upwards, until her eyes could once again see the daylight, and she could see the beautiful girl who was leaning over her with a determined look on her face. Then her arms were free, and the girl released her arm to grip on to her waist to gain better leverage, and she wrapped her own arms around the other girl's neck to keep herself above the ground. In a matter of minutes, she was completely free, and as the earth released her with a final sucking sound, both her and her savior tumbled backwards on to a solid patch of earth.
The girl was sobbing, and she didn't know why. She had just been saved, she was fine, she was alive, wasn't she? What was there to be crying about? She hadn't cried for years. But for some reason, she couldn't stop herself, and the other girl held her as she sobbed, rubbing her back soothingly. She felt like a drowning victim that had just been saved by a lifeguard, and she clung to the other girl as if she were in the ocean and the other girl was the only thing keeping her afloat.
"Shh, it'll be okay," the girl in the green dress whispered. "Everything's okay. What's your name?"
The girl sniffed. "My name," she began, but realized with a terrified gasp that she couldn't remember it. "My name is…it's…Ellie!" she exclaimed, relief flooding her at the remembrance of it. "My name is Ellie."
"My name is Mary, Ellie. I'm here to help you."
Ellie just nodded, unable to form any more words in her current state.
"Do you know where you are?"
Ellie was silent for a few moments as she collected her thoughts. She began uncertainly. "I think…I'm on the East Coast…visiting relatives…my Mom's sister! That's it!" Her voice grew more confident as her memory returned to her. "We've only been her for like two days, but… I really miss California…"
Mary said nothing first, then sighed. "That's not exactly what I meant, Ellie." She looked at Ellie intently then, studying her gray blue eyes and the dark circles beneath them, her short untidy raven colored hair, her thin, pale face, and the silver piercings adorning it. "This is going to be very hard to hear, Ellie," Mary started slowly. "But it's my job to tell you."
Ellie turned her head to the side like an inquisitive cat. "Do you know what happened to me last night?"
"In a way," Mary said, "yes, I do. But it didn't happen last night. It happened nine months ago." She paused and reached out a hand to place it comfortingly on the other girl's knee. "You died, Ellie."