A scream and then… darkness. That’s all Allie remembered. She woke on soft grass and stared at a wide turquoise sky, bereft of even the fluffiest of clouds. For a moment she couldn’t move. Her legs and arms felt heavy, useless. Numb fingertips caressed the strands of green beneath, but even that felt wrong. Artificial. No sounds filled her ears, no breeze stirred across her cheek, and no breaths rose in her chest.
“There you are,” a male voice called from behind.
Allie felt a pressure on her arm and the world titled. Despite the numbness in her extremities, she could move. Her balance wobbled, but she sat up. She was in a familiar park though she couldn’t recall from where. It was normal as parks go with trees, benches, a small pond, and for some reason she knew there was an ice cream just beyond the hill. But as she glanced at her surroundings, she noticed that the grass didn’t stir, the trees didn’t rustle. Even the pond remained still without a single ripple. No ducks, no birds, no noise. It was as though she stood within a snapshot of time.
A boy sat on the grass verge before her. If she had any breath she would have gasped at this stranger. He was about the same age as her, an older teen if she could guess, and rather nice looking with black hair that famed his pretty blue eyes. He smiled in a way meant to reassure and she opened her mouth to ask where they were. Nothing came out.
“It’s okay,” he said. “It’s a shock, you know. Coming here.” He waved a hand around the park.
Allie opened her mouth again. “Where,” she managed to croak.
The boy shuffled closer and took her hand in his. “I’m sorry. This is… the afterlife, I think. It’s not quite heaven, not quite hell.”
“I’m… dead?” Allie closed her eyes and remembered the scream, the darkness.
“Sorry.” He gave her hand a squeeze. “Do you remember this place? When I came here, it was dark. I saw a light, like in the movies. I stepped through and it brought me here. I thought I’d reached heaven, but… no one else is here. Just you.”
Allie opened her eyes and stared at the park again. She did know it. This was the park her boyfriend had brought her to on their first date. They ate ice cream and fed the ducks. Today was their anniversary and they had driven to the park…
“Who are you?”
An ache spread through her legs and Allie tried to stand. Luke helped pull her up, steadying her. She stood for a moment leaning on him, catching a breath that didn’t exist.
“How did you die?” she asked.
“I’m not sure, to be honest. It was so sudden.”
The ache grew into spasms of pain and the world turned bright as though it was on fire. She heaved a muffled scream and fell to her knees. Luke sank with her and grabbed her shoulders.
“What is it?”
“It hurts. Is it… is it supposed to hurt?”
He chewed his lip. “I don’t know. It didn’t hurt me; I don’t feel anything.”
The turquoise sky burned white hot and the park dissolved into speckles of light. The trees, the sky, the grass; it was all swallowed by white nothingness until only she remained, floating in the heart of it.
She grasped Luke’s hand. His face, his blue eyes, were still here, still real.
“Don’t let me go, please! Don’t let me go!”
He leaned over and kissed her forehead. “It’s okay, you’re passing on. You’ll be happy and safe, you’ll—”
Allie opened her eyes to a harsh fluorescent. Sensations flooded her all at once; a furriness on her tongue, the smell of antiseptic, a dull pain in her leg. Something squeezed her hand and let out a sigh. Shadows appeared over her, blocking out the light, and she blinked.
Her mother, her father.
“You were in a coma,” they explained.
“Luke,” Allie whispered.
Her family shared a concerned glance. “He’s also in a coma, but… the doctors say he may not wake up.”
She moved to get up. Hands pushed her back and she thrashed, screaming. Blackness filled her and only on the third day did they wheel her through to him.
He was unconscious. Tubes filled his mouth, his veins, hiding the beautiful boy underneath. There was no brain activity, they said. Nothing. Allie sat beside him and took his hand. There was warmth there. Life. She just needed to find him and bring him back.
Her beautiful Luke.
How could she have forgotten him?
“Luke… remember the park? Remember when we fed the ducks?”
“You bought me ice cream. I said I wanted bubblegum, and you tried to steal a kiss from me to see what it tasted like.”
“That was three years ago. It was hot, summers day. We sat in the shade and you took my hand.” She squeezed his fingers.
“We had a date planned, you know.” Her voice cracked. “You can’t… you can’t just sleep all day. Luke, we were on our way to the park.”
“Please wake up… Luke, please—”
His finger twitched. Allie yelled. Doctors rushed into the room. They wheeled her to one side and she couldn’t see what they were doing to him.
When they stepped back, blue eyes met hers.
“There you are,” Luke gasped.