Carine ran for a total of twenty seconds before she slowed down. Tears ran down her face, but it wasn’t from anything but fear. She rubbed her face off with the back of her hands. Slowly, she turned around to see the girl still standing there. Waiting. Waiting for her.
She might have been reluctant, but she had wanted answers. Carine walked back. “I’m only listening though. Nothing else.”
The girl smiled, showing a hint of what had been beautiful about her before. However, it was twisted by the fact it wasn’t the person’s body. Not who was smiling now. Carine could only describe it in that way. “You died that day. A lot of people did. But you were wearing this and that saved you.”
With a boot, the girl kicked the dress out from under the snow. Carine felt her heart in her throat. “What does that mean? It’s just a dress!”
“That’s not what you said when you picked it out.” The girl bent over and picked it up.
“How would you know what I said?” Carine said, all accusation. What she was accusing this thing of she wasn’t sure, but she certainly was accusing.
“Because. This was mine.” She held it up against her body. “Won’t fit me now.”
That was enough. Carine finally ran away.
“Who are you?” Carine asked. “How are you still alive?”
The other frowned, then ran her hands down over her front. “This body isn’t alive. She died, most definitely. But she was the most intact, so I put her back together again. You weren’t listening, after all.”
Carine trembled in place, but held her ground. She was awake. If she wanted answers… “No, that’s not true. She lost her hand. I remember it next to my head.”
“Darling, that was your own hand. Don’t you remember?”
She didn’t, but for some reason she didn’t think the possessed body was lying. Though it made just as much sense as what Carine had thought had happened. “No. Look at me, I’m fine.”
“You weren’t the only one to die that day, you know.”
Carine hugged herself. “A lot of people died. I’m one of the few people who… who didn’t.”
“No, you definitely died. But I wouldn’t touch that dress if I were you.”
They both looked down at it, hidden under the snow. It hadn’t been snowing the day she walked back home. It wasn’t the season. So how had it gotten here?
“Want to listen to me now?” the other asked.
“No,” said Carine. Then she ran away.
The green dress was made up of winter. The coat that had once been attached was somewhere else. She had never put it back on after leaving, it had been found in the “coat closet” of the school. It hadn’t mattered. Now it was July and freezing. The ground was full of snow and the ground was full of the dress.
Carine swept the frost off of the top of it. There was the blood, just as she remembered it. Though from a different perspective, when she had been looking down upon it. When she couldn’t feel anything. There was her dress, the one she had thought was perfect for everything she had wanted.
She reached down for the dress.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”
Stopping in her tracks, Carine tried to recall if it was that voice. The one she couldn’t mistaken. No, it wasn’t. But something about the intonation was the same. She straightened her back and turned.
It was that girl she had danced with. The eighteen year old with the black afro and the beautiful grey eyes.
She wasn’t so beautiful now.
When Carine woke up, she started to look for the dress.
She knew it wasn’t in her house. She had already checked, trying to see if she had thrown it away, or put it in the laundry (despite the fact it was dry clean only) or anything like that. Nothing. Her father hadn’t cared. At the very least, he hadn’t said he cared. It had been expensive, but it was gone now. He was far too glad that she was still alive to complain to her about it. She knew it bothered him though. Just because that was a lot of money for nothing at this point.
Carine searched anyway. Anywhere she would have forgotten. She didn’t know why it was so important, but the fact she woke up in that place still wearing it in her mind meant it was important. Somehow.
Which meant taking the trek between her house and the high school to see where she might have discarded it. She hated the thought – that she would have stripped it off and walked home naked. No one seemed to think much of her other than as a survivor of what had happened during prom, so it wasn’t like someone had seen her. At least, no one that she had seen since.
But it wasn’t home. So she began to look for the dress.
The mistake was finding it.
She woke up, three months later, underneath that would-be called tree again.
Here was her dress. It felt terrible to be wearing it. The blood wasn’t dry, not at all. Carine wanted to rip it off, but she had nothing to change into and she had no idea where she was. However, she had the distinct impression she was dreaming at that none of this was real. She shut her amber eyes and tried to imagine that she was somewhere else, anywhere else, wearing something nice and fuzzy or sleek or something that was not covered in blood.
Opening her eyes, Carine noted that she had failed miserably. She was still where she had been. She was still wearing this.
And that voice. She knew that voice. It was the same one she hadn’t recognized before. “What do you want?” she shouted out, wheeling around to try to catch where it was coming from. There had to be a place. Yet there wasn’t any. She chewed at her lower lip. “Leave me alone!”
“I can’t do that.”
She hated to hear that. It made her heart beat faster. This had to do something about prom. She felt it, in the base of her spine. The pain she had felt before she stopped feeling anything from the neck down. She wasn’t dead. Was she? She had lived on from that day. It hadn’t been great, but she was alive.
Carine decided to do something about it.
Almost all of her class had died that night. It wasn’t very fair, but no one cared about that part of the entire thing. The tragedy couldn’t be explained by anything else. It wasn’t as though prom had been interrupted by a shooter. The state all of the bodies had been left in were nothing that could be described. Except maybe by saying some wild animal had shown up and ripped everyone apart.
Carine didn’t remember any of it. Except for the girl she had been dancing with. She didn’t recall her from any classes or anything like that. Maybe she had seen her around, maybe not. Her class was huge, after all. It seemed strange she wouldn’t have had a single class with her the entire year though. Her entire high school career.
Which now seemed to be put on hold. Carine wasn’t the only survivor. Nor the only one to somehow walk home without any memory of what had happened. She was in the hospital now, her father hovering around outside, as she was checked. Physically, she was fine. That didn’t make sense. One of the few things Carine could remember was that some of the blood on her dress had been hers.
Her dress. Where was it? It hadn’t been in her room. But she had changed into her pajamas. She couldn’t remember.
She thought about the girl she had danced with, with the black afro and the large earrings which hadn’t matched her dress. She was beautiful. Carine would have remembered her. Carine should have remembered her. She was dead now.
Carine rubbed her eyes.
Carine opened her eyes again. The tree was gone. So was the dress she had been wearing. At some point she had transferred herself into her fuzzy sleepwear with the blue little whales on them. Something she had never grown out of. She remembered how her father had sighed trying to help her find something similar for an adult body as she had worn as a little girl.
There was her father’s face, right in front of her. Even if she couldn’t see anything other than the greying mustache she would know.
Carine sat up. “Dad?”
“Carine, thank God!” He, a man who didn’t often do so, engulfed her in a hug. She would have felt more awkward about it if she could have gotten past what she felt like just happened. It was a dream, right? “You are all right! When did you get home! I’d tried to call you and…”
She looked down at her hands. There were flecks of blood on them. Now that she thought about it, she could see the tips of her brunette hair, braided in front of her shoulders, with blood hardening the tips of them. Oh, it had happened. It had happened. And she had only cleaned up enough to get into her pajamas.
“What happened?” she asked her father.
She didn’t like hearing the answer.
When Carine woke up, she wasn’t dead. At least, she didn’t think she was. She wasn’t in the hospital either, which she would have expected after what had happened to her. Instead, she found herself at the base of a tree. The tree had no leaves, and almost no branches. If she wasn’t right up against the bark she might have thought it was some sort of metal structure. Because no tree could be without so many aspects which would make it a tree.
She sat up, being able to do so. Oh, she was still wearing that dress. The dress her father had glared at when she had decided upon it and reluctantly had used the credit card for it. He had expected her to return it, she had thought, despite everything. Well, it was still stained with the blood from what had happened earlier, so there was no returning it.
Thinking about her father hurt.
She looked around for the owner of the voice. She didn’t see anyone. “Hello?” she asked, hugging herself. The fact she couldn’t tell who was talking to her, someone who knew her name, really bothered her. Moreso than being in a place like this where she had no ideas at all about how she could have gotten here. Where here was. What this tree was.
“Carine, I have a proposition for you.”
The word came out immediately. She didn’t regret it at all. “No?” the voice echoed her.
“No. I’m not going to listen to anything you have to say. The fact you started by saying that tells me I shouldn’t listen to you. Leave me alone.”
Then Carine was alone. Dreadfully alone.
If she had known she wasn’t going to survive prom, she wouldn’t have spent so much time worrying about the colour of her dress. As it was, she had spent a great deal of her time and money to come up with a forest green dress with one strap that flowed down from her waist and hugged her top quite snugly. Something she didn’t have to worry about falling out of if she had danced a little too much.
But now it was covered in blood. She didn’t know how much of it was hers, but it was enough to know that she was having a problem. The girl she was dancing with wasn’t around anymore either. At least, not most of her. There was the hand that she had been holding, that was still around. With three fingers left. Another one was nearby her own ear. The rest of the woman’s body was gone though.
The school was too big though and she didn’t remember the other’s name. Maybe that was for the best. People said you didn’t grieve as much if you weren’t that close. That didn’t seem to be the case here. It didn’t matter what the other’s name had been. She felt like crying. And it wasn’t because of the pain she was in.
More and more of the green soaked up the blood and all she could do was look down at it. She couldn’t move. In fact, other than somewhere around her neck upwards she couldn’t feel the pain. Maybe something had happened to her spine. She didn’t remember. It hurt though. The back of her head hurt.
“Oh, that’s not fair at all.”
Carine couldn’t tell what was going on, but the voice she heard followed her into oblivion.