I heard somewhere once that ghosts can’t cross water. I think the same thing goes for witches and magic but I’m not sure. The ghost thing though, that’s true. Want to know how I found out? I died. My problem isn’t crossing the water exactly. My problem is getting out of it. When you’re under it, let me tell you, you’re stuck. You’re stuck and alone and cold and there is nothing but stupid fish! Hold on, I’m getting ahead of myself. Sorry about that. I haven’t really talked to anybody in a while. Let me start from the beginning.
My name is Beth and up until… well, I’m not sure how long ago, I used to be alive and happy. I had a job at a law firm. I was only an assistant but the money was good. I had an apartment, nothing special but definitely not a dump. I had a kitten too. Boots was the love of my life, as much as a cat can be, I guess. Poor Boots. I bet he misses me. What if nobody knows I’m gone? What if nobody feeds him? How long can a cat survive on its own in an empty apartment? How long has it been already?
I remember this guy at the office, Daniel, nice looking, fit, lawyer. My mom would have liked him. He was one of those real go-getter types. I heard he was even trying to make partner. But so was everyone else. I’ve never had low self esteem but I know when a guy is out of my league or when even getting his attention would be more trouble than it was worth. That’s why it surprised me when one Friday, he asked me out for drinks. After a few moments of stammering and feeling completely ridiculous, I was able to scrape together a yes. I immediately called my neighbor, Sue, and asked her to feed Boots for me. She was glad to do it, after all she was always telling me I needed to go out and meet someone.
We got out of the office around six and we took his car, I don’t drive, to this place where all the big lawyer types like to go. We had a light dinner followed by some drinks. The entire time he was an absolute gentleman. Ok, maybe I caught him taking glances at my chest a few times, but I pretended not to notice. We had a great time and I really began to like him. It was starting to get dark when we left and I expected him to try to make a move on me, but he didn’t. Instead, he smiled at me, an impossibly handsome smile, and said that there was something that he wanted to show me. You always hear about a woman’s intuition but I have no idea where mine was that night. There should have been alarm bells freaking out in my head but there was nothing, just a sweet dizziness that comes with reaching your alcohol threshold.
We ended up at the lake. There was a place just off of the road where we pulled over and parked. The scenery was beautiful with the moon and stars reflecting off of the water like two parallel universes reaching out to touch each other. He got out of the car and walked to the trunk. He returned a moment later with a blanket, a bottle of wine, and two glasses. I jokingly asked him who kept wine and a blanket in their car. He laughed and said that he had been planning to ask me out all week and that everything so far had been planned. Then he held out his hand and helped me out of the car.
He left the windows down and the radio on. We danced there in the moonlight for a while. Then we sat on the blanket, talking and drinking, staring out over the water. After a while I started zoning out. He was still talking but I had been focusing on the crickets chirping somewhere off in the darkness. His voice brought me out of my reverie. He was commenting about the song on the radio, saying it was appropriate. I tilted my head and listened. It was the song Beth by the band KISS.
Let me take a second to clear something up. That song has been a pain in my ass for a long time. When I was younger, all my friends and even some adults would quote or sing the song to me. They all thought they were so damn clever. Yes my name is Beth, yes the song is called Beth, it really isn’t that great. Whenever I would call my friends on the phone they would always answer with Beth, I hear you calling. How amazingly clever they thought they were. If only someone could hear me calling now.
I turned back to him, ready to tell him how much I disliked the song. Stars exploded in front of my eyes and I felt my head hit the ground. I really don’t know what happened next, but when my eyes fluttered open again I had been placed in the bottom of a boat. I must have been out for a while, but I couldn’t tell you how long. The side of my face felt sticky and tight with swelling. My hands and feet were tied. I tried to look around without moving too much. Every movement made my head throb. A few inches from my face was a rock about the size of a large fist. It was wet and shimmering in the moonlight. Was that my blood? Sickness rose in the back of my throat but I held it down. A sound came from just outside of my range of vision. It was Daniel, and he was whistling. That bastard was actually whistling.
The boat stopped moving a few minutes later. I risked another look and saw him standing above me, wearing that same charming smile he had worn all night. He didn’t speak, but I could tell that he knew I was conscious. He knelt down and lifted me from the bottom of the boat. I knew what he was going to do. I tried to stop him. I wanted to beg him not to do it, but the only thing that came out was a half cry, half moan. He let go of me and I splashed into the water. If I had been drunk, or woozy from being hit on the head, the water had solved that problem right away. I sank fast. The water got colder as I descended farther into it. Every nerve in my body screamed. A weight at my feet pulled me ever farther down. I tried to hold my breath but my lungs burned with the effort. I crashed to the bottom and without meaning to, let out about half of my air. It was pitch black. I looked in the direction I remembered was up and saw nothing. I was too deep to see the moon, maybe too deep to see the sun if it had been daytime. My lungs gave out and what little air I had left was gone. Water rushed in to take up the newly vacated space in my lungs, burning the inside of my chest like embers. I tried to fight it. But really, who can fight death? After what felt like an endless struggle, I let go and drifted into nothingness.
I don’t know when my consciousness returned, or why, or how. One minute there was nothing and the next minute I’m back. This time, however, everything was different. I was there, I knew everything that was going on around me, but I could affect nothing. I was trapped inside of my body, unable to move, unable to feel the cold or the fish casually nibbling on my body. I couldn’t exactly see, not with my eyes, but I just knew everything happening to my body and around it. I freaked out. I wanted to thrash, to scream, to do anything at all. Nothing happened. After what seemed like forever, I gave up.
Being at the bottom of a lake gets to be boring. I started spacing out for long periods of time. Hours, days, weeks, I have no idea. I would blink out, and when I came back everything would be the same. I came back once just in time to see a large ugly fish I couldn’t identify, take out my eyeball. Before I died, I had been no stranger to all you could eat seafood buffets, so I chalked the whole thing up to karma. I figured I might as well pay it back, it wasn’t like I needed my body for anything anymore anyway. Other times I would come back and my clothes would be a little more tattered or I would be missing a finger to a hungry snapping turtle. At first I was upset. Seeing things eat parts of you can be distressing, even if you can’t feel it. For a while I thought I was in hell and this was some sort of eternal torture. After seeing it so often, though, I developed a comfortable apathy towards the whole thing.
Once the shock of being dead and eaten by fish had worn off, I began to get angry. Why was I stuck in my body? Why couldn’t I move on? Why was I stuck in the water while that bastard got to go on living? I thought about him going back to work the Monday after he killed me. I wondered if anyone would ask about me and what he would say. I wondered if he would do this to someone else. Maybe he had already done it to someone before me. What if there were others out there, trapped in their own bodies, sentenced to the same fate as me? For the first time since I’d been dead, I felt an uncontrollable rage build up inside of me. I was hurt, I was furious, and I wanted to take it out on something, anything.
A weird thing happened. My perspective changed and I was looking at my body from the outside. I looked horrible. I patches of hair had gone missing, pieces of clothing were gone, and chunks of my flesh had either been nibbled away or detached from my body and floated off. The look on my face, what was left of my face, was a mixture of terror and pain. The last expression I ever made. The rest of my body was bloated. I had worked so hard to maintain my ass when I was alive and now it was fat and water-logged. I guess I could call that retaining water. All that bloating, however, did nothing for my bust. It figures.
My perspective changed again and I was back in my body. A fish swam away from the place I had been just seconds before. I had just hitched a ride in a fish! My mind raced with possibilities. Did I actually have a mind anymore? It wasn’t important. My goal now was to do it again. I felt outward around my body for anything I could try to hang on to. I searched for what seemed like an eternity in the empty water around me before I felt something approaching. A snake, a water moccasin, I think, came half swimming half slithering by me. People are always so afraid of snakes, but since I’ve been on the bottom of the lake, the fish and turtles have done more damage than anything else. The snakes always ignore me. I reached out, trying to touch the snake on some level, willing myself to join with it. Nothing happened. I pushed harder, but it was no use. A wave of rage bust out of me and suddenly I was swimming away in a fluid zig-zag motion.
A second later I was back at my body, understanding slowly dawning on me. When I was angry I could co-inhabit the creatures around me. I focused and tried to jump again. It worked, but only for a moment. I tried over and over again. The progress I made was slow and infuriating, which helped a little. Every time I jumped, I could feel something holding me back, dampening a power that I felt I should have. I was sure I could fully possess the thing if I weren’t in the water. I focused again. I thought about Daniel. About how he pretended to like me. How he bashed me in the face without even blinking. How he whistled just before he killed me. I wanted revenge and I wanted it to be brutal, and messy. I jumped again.
That last jump was only a second ago. I’m in a fish right now, and the great thing about it, is that this one has a hook through its cheek. I hope whoever is on the other end of this fishing line is old enough to buy a chainsaw, because I’m pissed and I’m almost out of the water. Here I come, Daniel.