Me, reading this story at a Barnes and Noble while at the Alpha Workshop. Photo credit to my friend and fellow Alphan Yvonne.I actually haven't posted anything significant since June, so this is far overdue. But I have just this August been to the 2014 Alpha Young Writers' Workshop, nine days of workshop with four professional authors, ten up-and-coming author staff members, and twenty fabulous students from all around the globe! Alphans, assemble!
It is at that workshop that I penned (and publicly read) this story. Facebook followers, prepare yourselves.
Warning: adult language.
She could have invented a person out of her own imagination, but creativity had never seemed useful to cultivate before, so instead, she did what she did best: she stole. And not even gracefully, either. Buzzards like her only scrounged off the dead, lest stealing a life give them any more pain than they already had. And to steal off a living person would no doubt get her caught the next time that person decided to log in. No. A ghost would do. A ghost was best to become. Maybe, as a ghost, she could finally just slip away.
Sela Octavia Sixten would have been nineteen this year. White. Suburban. Boisterous. Rebellious. Low-quality pics uploaded in a drunken fever to a never-forgetting Internet told it all—the argument, the breakup, the shots, the cliff. The obituary, buried under archive links from months and months ago. Every like, every deleted message, every lying emoticon left a footprint of her life on display.
The passwords to the dead girl's accounts were all 14cherrylane. Sela's childhood address. Sela-New logged into the Cloud with a sigh, letting the false identity scrub her clean.
Gone were the memories of desperate searches for a way to pretend, to one day wake up as someone else, no matter who it was. That ugly, pathetic girl's thoughts were shrugged off, and Sela's thoughts, the thoughts of Sela Sixten as if she had come back from the dead, swarmed around their new brain, their new skull. There had never been anyone else.
11:49. One new message. Dom: Who is this?
11:50. Dom: Is this a Mr. Sixten?
Dom: It says that Sela's online.
11:50. Sela: It's me. I'm back.
11:51. Dom: This is goddamn sick. Go rot in hell.
Sela: Dom, don't you believe me?
It was all rushing into her now. She was bleeding out and bleeding in and Sela-New pushed back the memories—what memories?—years of bruises, years that did not fade but went up in one flame. Years, what years? Years were gone. Memories gone. Something, anything, took their places.
11:52. Dom: Damn you. Damn you all.
Sela: Please, I'm not Sela yet, but I will be.
Dom: That is the most disgusting thing I have ever heard.
Please, she thought, and tried to hold all the word's meanings in one mind: please don't go, please remember me, please give me a chance, please wait until I become myself. Each wave of the mind's ocean swallowed one more piece of the strand, reclaiming what had always belonged to the sea, to Sela, old or new.
11:54. Dom: You didn't even know her! How did you get her goddamn passwords?
Sela: I told you about Cherry Lane. The city planted maple trees but we decorated them with cherry blossoms anyway, every spring. They were cherry trees to us, no matter what they started as.
Dom: We closed the goddamn Facebook page!
Sela: I can stop being dead.
Dom: SHUT UP. You have no idea. Every time the Internet tells us Sela "likes" Coca Cola, Sela Sixten at Gmail.com sent you spam, I DIE! Don't you try invading our lives with this shit! Don't you FUCKING DARE!
Let me back in, she told him in her mind. I'm real. Even if I'm an invader, I am real. The ghosts are passing through my body. How much more real could you get than the human soul grasping and open mind for a moment, however small?
11: 56. Sela: You said if we got married, you'd bring me a hollowed ring to put the little confetti heart in, from when we first met. Don't you remember?
11:57. Dom: Who told you? Who's helping you?
Sela: She told me. I told her. We died waiting for that ring.
Sela: We can be happy again, Dom. I can be alive. I can't go back.
Girl sank and drowned in ghost's mind, but Sela, new and old, who had always been Sela, even when called another, old, forgotten name—Sela smiled and waited for a response.
Six days later. One new message. Dom: Are you still there?
Dom: Can we talk?