“Sure, come to an abandoned hospital because that’s such a great idea,” I stated sarcastically as I ducked under the hole cut into the wire fence that surrounded the Western State Mental Hospital. My long, wavy hair caught in a thick, crimson red strand to the rusted fence. I winced in pain as some of it ripped out of my head and the rest fell back to its usual place, in my face. Rubbing my head, I ran to catch up to my friends.
My friend looked back at me and sighed, “Sapphire Alice Dean, did you hurt yourself on the fence?” He smiled at me and laughed, taking the sticking out of my tongue as a yes. He gestured me to hurry with a wave of his hand.
I ran to his side as we entered the hospital, avoiding the crumbling walls and stepping carefully on the decaying floor. I looked up at him; he towered, at 6’2”, over me by a few inches from a foot. He scratched the stubble along his jaw and then his short goatee, his thinking motions. As he took a step I began to turn around, attempting to leave.
Kristen Hendrix, my best friend, grabbed my wrist and spun me around. I stumbled, reluctantly follow her. She looked at me and said, “We can’t let Drew and Jean do this by themselves, Sapphie.” Sapphie was the nickname she and Drew gave me back in elementary school, in the fourth grade. That was also the year Kristen told me she was bipolar and now I knew exactly what she was feeling everyday because of the way she did her hair. It was our code, so I knew when she needed me and when she didn’t. Today she needed me; she had her hair up in a big, light brown, curly mess of a bun and that meant she felt depressed. I could also see it in her brown eyes that reminded me of the darkest part on a tree’s trunk.
Drew and Jean stopped to look back at me. Drew smirked and knocked his forehead against mine, his dirty blonde hair getting in both our eyes. “Don’t chicken out on us, but if you really want to go, go. Jean and I can handle finding one decomposing dead body,” he taunted me.
“Drew Lee, stop torturing the girl,” Jean Smith scolded him, flipping her platinum blonde, a-line cut hair, which was the same length as Drew’s (down to the chin), with her hand. She put her hand to her hip and looked at him with sass in her ocean blue eyes. Then she turned away from him like the classic popular high school cheerleader, which was exactly what she was minus the cheerleader part and add in that she was actually a nice person.
We walked throughout the building, looking for the morgue. After five minutes I could see the faded sign; I wanted to run, turn and run home. “Why did I come here with you guys? I hate morgues. I hate hospitals and I definitely hate dead bodies!” I turned, wanting to leave, but instead I froze in terror.
He was just a young boy, but covered, dripping, in blood. It was deep contrast to his icy blue eyes; only spots of his blonde hair were visible through the thick, gooey, crimson red substance. His clothes were battered and torn, as was the headless teddy bear he held by its arm in his left hand. He faded in and out life television static.
I felt Drew’s hands squeeze my forearms and then remain still there. Jean began to speak, hoping to get rid of the spirit, but was interrupted by the boy:
“Mom? Mommy? Mommy, where are you?” His voice faded away as his body did. Taking a cautious step towards us, the child screamed, a blood-curdling scream, and then disappeared.
I relaxed as Drew let go of me and Kristen asked, “What did you guys see?” I looked at her and then back again as the boy reappeared to start the scenario over.
“Death echo,” jean replied, the spirit asking for his mother again. Death echoes were the imprint of how a person had died, usually a violent and terrible death. These scenes would be left at the sight of the person’s extermination and were always gut-wrenching to watch. It definitely made things difficult for the lucky few who could see them and in this town that meant Drew, Jean, and I.
We were necromancers, controllers of the dead. The realm of limbo, the area between life and death, was visible to us. Lost spirits could speak to us and we would hear them, see them. Those were earth-bound spirits though. Despite seeing limbo, necromancers could not see those in limbo, only force souls into it. Most of us couldn’t stomach looking into that realm all the time, so we block it out until we need it. Necromancers could also pull spirits out of limbo, out of heaven and out of hell. Worst of all, we could raise the dead. That was the one thing I could never do. Souls trapped back in their decaying corpses were tortured and hateful, but also under the control of the necromancer who placed them in their body. It was a more horrible sin then killing someone.
I covered my ears and turned away from the screaming boy. Kristen hugged me as the four of us walked through the long hallway. Halfway to the morgue, I looked over at the big, double door to my right and peered through the crack in the doors. It was the children’s ward; I passed it by.
The doors leading into the morgue were either completely off the hinges of half open. The air around and in the small room was cold and bitter. Drawers of shelves were missing and halfway across the room. A body lay covered on a table in the center, the dirty, dusty, white sheet sinking between the skin-less bones.
Suddenly there was a man standing over the body, his body. The ghost wore a torn suit and had short, brown hair that looked like it had been cut with rusty scissors. He had started following Drew around after he walked by the abandoned hospital a week ago, saying that he had been tortured to death and left in the morgue when the place had originally been abandoned. Now he was insisting that we give him a “proper” burial. Instead, Drew called the cops.
“We should go before the police show up,” Jean said, walking out of the room. Kristen, Drew, and I followed her.
I halted at the doors to the children’s ward. Opening the, already-slightly-ajar, door, I told my friends to go on ahead and that I’d catch up to them in a minute.
The children’s ward was one big room with small, metal hospital beds and side tables with broken table lamps tossed about, making it difficult to move. Bed sheets were scattered on the floor and some were half-way on a few of the beds. There was no light, probably the only room where the walls didn’t have chunks missing from them. I stumbled my way around, tripping over old toys and blankets clinging to my feet. I looked around every bed and every table until I got to the other side of the room. Under the metal bed in the far right corner I found the two pieces of the boy’s teddy bear, the body and the head. Almost all the stuffing was gone and there were multiple tears in the fabric. I grabbed each piece and raced out of the room.
Kristen was waiting for me outside and as soon as I ran up to her, she asked, “Are you going to try to fix that teddy bear?”
“Yeah, that death echo was of a little boy and he was holding this,” I held up the pieces of fabric in my hand.
“I figured,” she stated. “Let’s get out of here. If I don’t get home soon my parents are going to kill me.”
I laughed and started walking.
The next day was Monday of the last week of my junior year at Washington High School. After fourth period, I grabbed my lunch and sat at my usual table. I pulled the teddy bear and a sowing needle with thread out of my backpack. Between each bite of homemade mashed potatoes, I mended a rip in the fabric of the teddy bear. Someone bumped into me, causing me to poke my finger with the needle; a small clot of blood pooled around the wound. I cursed and set my things down.
The cause of my injury sat across from me and greeted me with a smile. I showed him my pricked finger; he responded with an apology. His name was Johnathan West, Jonny for short. Jonny was a talkative, skater boy with clear blue eyes, like still water. He shyly ran his fingers through his dirty blonde hair and began eating the cafeteria lunch in front of him.
“Why are you bleeding?” the energetic, blonde Jamie Jackson clung to me, almost spilling her lunch everywhere. She grabbed my hand, encasing it in her own, chanting, “Laeh.” The pain in my finger was gone, as was the puncture mark.
Jamie was a witch, a female spell-caster. Spell-casters could use a wide variety of spells that could be categorized as either white or black magic. Most spells were simple once learned, but some required things like candles, incense, and ingredients. Spells were chanted in either backwards English or Latin. I didn’t know much about spell-casters other then the basics.
I thanked her as Jamie’s best friend, Nicole Summers, sat down between Jamie and Jonny. She smiled slightly at Jonny and I, in greeting. Nicole, like Kristen and Jonny, had no special powers, but she was an extraordinary artist. She was also almost completely Navajo and her hair was silky, long, and brown, the same color as her eyes. She looked at Jamie and commented, “The brown low lights were a good idea, very cute.”
Jamie flipped her hair with a big thank-you grin. At that point, the rest of our friends joined the table. Drew sat on the other side of Jonny, while Jean sat beside Jamie. Kristen sunk down next to me, already eating, and Matthew Garcia sat to the left of me, less than an inch of space between us.
Matthew, Drew, and my older brother, Alexander, were the graduating seniors of our group. Alex and Drew were staying in Lakewood for college, but I had no idea where Matthew was going. I didn’t want him to leave, but I never told him that. He looked at me with a smile in his brown eyes, then at the teddy bear and sowing needle. He rubbed the back of his neck, ruffling his brown hair, and sighed, “Why are you trying to sew?”
I explained what had happened yesterday and he chuckled at me. Reaching across me, he grabbed the bear and needle. My heart skipped a beat as his hand barely brushed against my arms. In my mind, I was wishing that he would ask me out while he was saying, “Don’t sew, you’ll hurt yourself. I’m a sorcerer, remember?” He waved the teddy bear in my face. “Flesruoy dnem.” The bear came to life and started to sew itself up, like its head wasn’t detached. Matthew was a powerful sorcerer, a male spell-caster, and he had been practicing with his dad almost every day of his life, eighteen and half years and counting.
The teddy bear had finished fixing itself by the time I finished my lunch and my brother had decided to join us. You could barely see his hazel eyes, behind his messy, black and rectangular glasses, glaring at Matthew. He pushed us apart and sat between us.
Alex was protective of me, sometimes over-protective. I understood why, though; I was all he had. Our parents had died a year after we moved to Lakewood from San Diego, California. They had just picked up Alex from school and were on their way to get me. From their blind spot, a large truck had lost control and hit them. I was eight; Alex was nine. He spent a week in a hospital. Now our uncle in Michigan paid for everything, but our groceries, Alex paid for those with a part-time job.
I got up and said goodbye to my friends, walking to my locker. Nobody was in the hall because everybody was eating outside, or in the cafeteria. My locker was #316, a top locker. I unlocked it, 06-28-24. Something fell out, onto the floor. They were blood red roses. I picked them up. They were dead, reeking of the smell, and crumbling in my hands. My stomach turned and threw them in the trash. Even though they were my favorite flowers, they gave me a haunting feeling.
I got my history book and slammed my locker shut. Turning around, I stumbled into Matthew. He gently grabbed my forearms to balance me and asked, “You okay?”
I replied, “Yeah, I’m fine. Just a bit out of it.”
He stuffed his hands into his pockets and looked away, asking, “Can I come over after school? I want to talk to you about something.” He paused before adding, “And not here, at school.”
I smiled told him he could. The bell rang and we had to go to our classes.
After school, Kristen and I went back to the abandoned hospital. We sat in the long hallway, waiting for the kid to appear; it took ten minutes.
I stood up and pulled out the teddy bear, hoping the boy could snap out of the death echo. I yelled at him, telling him that his bear was fixed, having to repeat myself eight or nine times before he stopped and noticed me.
His voice became faint as he spoke, “Do you know where my mommy is, nice lady?”
I frowned and told him no. “But I have your teddy bear.” I lifted it up higher, “I fixed it for you.”
He faded in and out as he tanked me, and the bear he held suddenly had its head attached.
“I’ll leave it here for you.”
He stopped me from setting it on the ground, “You can keep him, nice lady.”
Then he was gone.