SHORT STORY FOR THE WEEKEND: Still Here by Doreen Fay
Here is the latest in the series of short stories written by members of the 390-strong Portsmouth Writers' Hub
I know there is something odd because I have woken up in the graveyard.
Did I drink too much last night and fall asleep under the trees?
No. The days of my youth, when that might have been a possibility, are long over.
There is a marker on this mound of earth. It states: Mabel Grant 1940 – 2010.
That’s a bit puzzling, it’s me… so this must be my grave. At least I recognise the spot, it’s where dear Arthur is buried. We chose this plot together.
I find to my surprise that I can rise above the grave, this is a lovely feeling, so death has its perks. Where have I been since I ‘died’, and where is Arthur?
It seems to be some weeks ago that I passed on, because I don’t remember anything about it. This is good, it had always worried me that becoming dead might be a painful business but I seem to have got through it unscathed.
I wonder how it happened? I don’t see any signs of my body being operated on, but I suppose it might have been a heart attack.
Perhaps I should go back to my home, there might be clues there. I wonder if I can float that far. Yes I can, and what a delight that is.
A new perspective on the city of my birth, over St Mary’s Church, and into Kingston Road.
Look at all the traffic trying to get into and out of the city. No hold-ups for me and I don’t have to find a garage to fill up the tank.
Over I go up to North End, into Gladys Avenue. It all looks a bit unreal down there. I’m like a balloon. Funny how I’m sticking to the bus route. I could float in any direction I like but, this way, I might spot people I know.
Will they look sad because I have gone, or have they got over it by now?
Now I’m floating over Twyford Avenue and across into Tipner, and there’s my home. There’s a skip outside my house, that’s funny.
I used to chuckle about how, when I died, someone would have to sort out all the things I have hoarded over the years.
I know I should have done it myself but I just never got round to it.
I can see old books and some of my clothes. Perhaps they could have gone to a charity shop, or maybe the charity shop refused them – they have their standards and my clothes were a bit tatty.
Seeing my life laid bare out here is a bit upsetting so perhaps I should go inside.
The doors and windows are all shut but that doesn’t matter to me. I think I can pass through walls or even go down the chimney.
I’m going to try the walls, a bit frightening but here goes...
Wow, that was fun. Not as funny inside though with everything stripped out.
It’s the same throughout the house. There are marks on the walls where pictures used to hang and on the floors where furniture used to stand. I’ve really gone then.
There will be no sign I ever lived here. I feel forgotten already. It’s no good moping, I just hope a family move in and the children grow up here, happy and healthy. Arthur and I would have liked a family but it just never happened for us.
Oops, that’s a key in the door. Bless her, it’s my niece Amy, and I see Neville is with her. I never really got on with him. Why am I whispering, they can’t hear me.
‘Oh Nev, it’s strange coming here and she’s not here. Funny thing is, I can still feel her here. Isn’t that odd?’
‘Not really. You are an imaginative girl and you were very close to her. You didn’t have to come back, you know.’
‘I did. I know the estate agent is handling the sale but I needed to come back just one more time. Aunt Mabel was always so good to me, I could always talk to her. It’s been a shock losing her. I hope she knows she’ll never be forgotten.’
‘Of course she does.’
I can’t listen to this, eaves-dropping is wrong even if you are dead.
Straight through the wall again, this is fun. The grass needs cutting, I hope the new people will be good gardeners.
I am just going to be nosey and float over my neighbours’ gardens. Fences are so high these days that you can’t see.
Um, I think my little patch compares quite well. Better float back – I can see Amy looking in the skip.
‘Don’t cry Amy, you have lots of her bits and pieces to remember her by.’
‘I can’t help it, it’s so sad that this is all that is left, but I do have memories to keep.’
There they go. I hope they have years of happiness.
I’m still puzzled about why I’m here, feeling alive but not alive. I think maybe I am not good enough for heaven or bad enough for the other place.
I’m no longer a physical body so I must be a soul and there must thousands of others out there like me who don’t belong in either place.
I need to seek them out.
Doreen Fay is retired, and currently volunteers at Portsmouth City Museum where she is researching Portsmouth people in the First World War.
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