Solon High School
Instructor: Lindsay Trutza
I'm not quite certain of how I died.
I don't know if it hurt, and I can barely remember anything from when I was still alive. All I'm sure of is that when my heart stopped beating, I opened my eyes to find myself in a subway station.
It was completely empty. Quiet enough to hear a pin drop, with the gleaming tiles and spotless white walls of a brand-new building. In the corner there'd been a machine where you could buy tickets to only two possible destinations. The "After" and the "In-Between." Each came with a short description. "For those ready to go on" for the After and "For those waiting for somebody left behind" for the In-Between.
I got a ticket to the In-Between subway without a moment of hesitation. And although my memories have gotten worse the longer I've been on the train, the one thing that remains clear in my mind is who it is I chose to wait for.
It's this girl. Her name is Emma. She's there whenever I think about my time when I was still alive- running with me across a playground and wiping tears off of my face in a school bathroom. Whenever I picture her and her wide, dark eyes, this warm feeling stirs inside of me. All I want is to see her again.
When I printed out my ticket to the In-Between subway, the train immediately arrived. It was ridiculously long- A million cars all linked together in a line stretching as far as the eye could see. Only one, the car at the end, had its door opened. I got into it and have been there ever since.
There's not much to do inside the train except to wait. It's just as clean and barren as the station, and the only thing you can see out of the window is a blinding abyss of darkness.
Every once in a while a bell in the train will ring. This occurs without pattern or reason, and whenever it does, the train stops. It'll stand for a moment before going on again.
My heart skips a beat every time this happens. I keep on waiting for the moment when the doors in my own car open. I wait for what could be days or decades.
But one day, I don't have to wait anymore.
One day, when the bell rings and the train stops, the doors slide open too. And somebody steps inside.
At first, I feel a pang of disappointment. This is not the young girl my age I remember. It's an old woman, with gray hair and sagging skin and a slightly hunched back.
But then, she looks up. Her eyes meet mine. And I know- It's her. Nobody else could possibly have eyes like that, eyes so round and large that they seem to defy all logic.
A grin spreads through the woman- Emma-'s face. The train doors slam closed and it begins to move again.
"Evelyn?" She asks breathlessly. I realize with a start how unfamiliar it has become to hear my name spoken out loud.
"Emma," I whisper. I'm not sure if I believe this moment after anticipating it for so long. I stare at her, soaking in every bit of her face. It's changed, but it's her. It feels so right.
Emma suddenly rushes towards me with a nimbleness that surprises me for somebody so old. She wraps me up in her arms and I hug her back. An image flashes through my head of two kids holding each other on a playground.
"Evelyn," She's suddenly crying. Her tears stain my shirt and her words are choked. "I missed you so, so, much,"
I feel it then, an emptiness inside of me I didn't even know was there being filled. "I missed you too," I say, pulling her closer to me. My own tears begin to fall down my face. "I've been waiting for you this whole time,"
Emma pulls away then. She wipes away her tears and stares at me. "You look exactly like you did," She says, shaking her head. "I can't believe it,"
"How long has it been?" I ask.
70 years. So much time has passed. So much has changed.
But we're right here, right together, aren't we? So, in a way, everything is still the same.
Suddenly, the sound of a bell echoes through the room. The train comes to a halt, and Emma and I watch as the doors open. They reveal the same nothingness seen through the windows.
Emma and I turn to look at each other. "Are you ready?" Emma asks.
"I'm ready," I reply. I feel strangely calm on the inside. After all, what do I have to be afraid of?
Emma and I stand up. I hold out my hand, and she takes it.
We run outside to the darkness and fall into After together.