One of the weirdest days of my existence began with a kiss.
Standing beside my locker before the start of my first-period class, I had to do a double take at what I saw. My mouth fell open, and I stumbled into the closest locker as I scrambled to stay hidden from view. Zack, who was supposed to be my boyfriend, had his lips locked with Lauren’s, who was supposed to be my friend. I pressed my mouth into my cupped hands to quiet my laughter as it erupted from me.
I couldn’t have cared less who he kissed. Or who she kissed, for that matter. My relationship with Zack was built on a lie. The lie: my mother loved me. She didn’t. Well, maybe a miniscule amount, but she had the strangest ways of exhibiting her affection. Mostly, she only wanted what was best for her. And what was best for her was having people believe I dated Zack. Family dynamics of the rich were confusing, but one thing was clear—the rich dated the rich. Period.
I had an issue with the concept, but that wasn’t public information. Prim and proper, I stayed in my place because, if my mother had to force me into my place, it was never a pretty scene.
As I ceased my laughing fit, I spun around to find Zack and Lauren standing before me. Oh! I instantly whirled around in the opposite direction. If I could forego a confrontation, that’s what I typically did. So my fleeing was a normal response to this situation. But then the tilt of Zack’s mouth and sharp angle of his head as he stared down at me gave me pause. He caught my hand, pushed me against the closest locker, and narrowed his eyes. He lowered his head to mine, like what he had to say was extremely private, and he didn’t want Lauren to hear.
“We need to talk. Now.”
I glanced at Lauren. Her face was slack with no emotion. Umm. Weird much? She stood bone-straight, with her head bent and her eyes on Zack. Like she was locked in a trance.
What’s her problem? And why is he angry? With me?
His anger stole away any humor I’d found in our awkward situation. His grip on my arm tightened, and my fury grew.
I tried to suppress it, to push it back. But it was palpable and fueled by his reaction. To calm myself, I took a deep breath and tore my eyes away from him. That was when it registered.
The silence.
It was deafening.
The normal clank of heels hitting the floor and melody of cell phones were non-existent. There were no classmates hunched in groups telling secrets and whispering lies. Only an abyss of silence.
And, of course, Zack, standing over me, scowling. Maybe I should have turned and bolted in the opposite direction. But Zack wasn’t patient. He wouldn’t wait for me to contemplate a response to him kissing Lauren.
I forced my eyes upward, letting my mind rifle through all the things I could say to avoid making this worse than it already was. My thoughts were scattered; the right words slipped away. “I… no… you are not–”
My head jerked back suddenly, which cast a dozen sparkling stars across my eyes; a bolt of electricity shot up my spine. The zap was so intense, I stumbled face-first to the floor. The fall should have thrown me to the smooth, dry surface of the wood school hallway.
It didn’t.
My hands met moisture. My eyes bulged as I took in what lay beneath them: grass.
I lifted my head to scan the area, stunned to silence. A sea of green enveloped me. The urge to scream overpowered everything, but I fought it. I clasped my hands over my mouth to muffle the sound that escaped anyway.
The Payton football field stretched before me.
How can I be here? This isn’t possible. I scrambled to my feet, spun around, and gazed at the school I’d been in just moments ago. I shut my eyes tight. “Please, let me be back in the school, about to have the biggest fight with Zack,” I said aloud.
My heart thrummed in my chest, but my eyes remained shut, afraid of what I might find once I dared a peek. But standing with them closed wasn’t an option. A crow cawed overhead to urge me on. My eyes sprang open. Confusion twisted away at my insides. Why was I still on the field? I swallowed back the lump in my throat and ran a shaky hand through my thick hair that was blowing into my face, obstructing my vision.
Straining against the glare of the midday sun, I tripped, my feet two cinderblocks in my boots. Although late August, the wind that had kicked up seemed to scream winter and not fall. I tucked my unruly strands of hair away from the rebel wind and took another reluctant step forward. That was when I saw it—crimson against the emerald green of the field. The colors blended, reminding me of Freddy Krueger’s sweater in A Nightmare on Elm Street. There was a lot of blood in that movie; I was certain that blood was what I saw red on the field.
I gasped. My breath caught in my throat, and the stench of copper invaded my nostrils. I fought against the urge to vomit yet couldn’t contain my desire to move closer.
I’d never seen a dead body before.
After a few steps, my feet refused their forward motion. Fear raced slick and hot up my spine. The familiar face taunted me. It should: I knew it well. It belonged to Zack.
I fell to the ground near his body. My heart sprinted as my emotions swirled. I leaned forward to grasp the rigid turf as a wave of nausea rocked me. But I refused to look away.
Unable to comprehend what I saw, I searched his open eyes that were bleak as night. His gaze was blank: two holes that led to nothing but emptiness. I extended my hand to close them. Tears fell on my outstretched arm as I inched my hand toward him. Fear pierced my resolve. I tried to choke back the fear. It lingered.
Without warning, my body convulsed like I’d been zapped with a Taser. Tiny needles pricked every inch of my skin. Then, with a blink of darkness, the football field disappeared. I stood back inside the school. Zack’s hand trembled on my side, and the veins in his neck protruded. I’d never seen him this angry before. Lauren, dressed in black, stood hunched beside him and grimaced. All this… as if I’d never left.
Zack held me by the waist, and I yanked free of his touch. I swallowed back the bile that rose up in my throat. I didn’t know what to think. Relief he wasn’t dead mingled with anger over his reaction to me seeing the kiss, and the lunacy of being back in the school again. I searched his eyes. No doubt he would think my reaction was a response to him kissing Lauren a moment ago.
He’d be wrong.
He had been dead. How could he be here next to me now?
Normal. No blood, no injury.

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