Here lies Frank, the guy who woke up and realized that he was dead. Why is he still wandering the earth? What’s keeping him here as a restless soul? Read the story to find out.
It was midnight by the time Frank Thompson decided to light a cigarette and watch whatever late night TV shows popped on before he went to bed. With his newly lit tobacco in hand, he gently blew out the smoke with exhaustion in response to his long day at work. With his other free hand, Frank grabbed the remote that was wedged into his old couch cushions and mashed his thumb on the power button.
He stared with glazed eyes at the screen that sat on a cheap end table placed a couple feet in front of him. His small studio apartment was lit with flickering bright lights that shot out through Frank’s TV further weakening the strength to hold his eyes open.
And with in a moment Frank awoke to a room full of fire. Sometime between Jimmy Kimmel and the crazed inferno that was surrounding the room, Frank had unknowing dropped his lit cigarette on the floor next to the morning’s newspaper. At this moment Frank realized that he was trapped on the couch amongst the flames.
He was definitely panicked, especially as he felt the smoke of the fire burn in his lungs. Coughing and gasping for air, Frank yelled for help.
“Help!” he screamed as he gasped for dear life.
Frank was without his cell phone, and he felt himself slowly asphyxiating from the huge amounts of thick black smoke. No longer coughing, Frank fell over as he wrapped his hands around his neck as he struggled for air. And before the fire even began to creep near him, he passed out chocking on the flames smoke.
Ten minutes or so passed before Frank was rescued by the firemen who burst through the doors. One fireman dragged Frank out from the burning studio apartment and laid him down on the damp grass. The fireman ripped off his mask and began performing CPR on Frank’s limp body.
“Come on, breathe! You can do it!” Another fireman kneeling behind the fireman performing CPR yelled to Frank.
Finally after a few minutes or so, the ambulance came. The paramedics came running out to the front lawn in front of the burning one room apartment that was being put out by the other firemen. The raced with the gurney and equipment and quickly lifted him up and into the ambulance. Speeding towards the hospital, the paramedics in the back assisting Frank started bagging him with air.
When they arrived at the hospital, Frank was rushed into the ER on the rolling gurney still unconscious and not breathing. The respiratory therapist at the head of the bed immediately began intubation while the ER nurses helped perform CPR
Frank didn’t respond to any of it, and fifteen minutes after he was rolled into the room, the ER doctor decided to call in the time of death.
“1:13 am.” The doctor read off of the clock.
One of the nurses wrote it down while the respiratory therapist removed the intubation tube. One of the other nurses covered the body with a sheet while the process of contacting the family began.
Frank’s body was then left alone in the room. And like it was all a dream, Frank sat up and began getting out of bed. Confused at the fact that he had somehow made it out of the fire and into a hospital and unaware that he was now pronounced dead, Frank began to walk towards the opening in the curtain. He was stopped immediately by a girl no older than what it looked to be sixteen.
She had long black hair that contrasted greatly against her pale white skin. She was dressed like a Goth with her nails painted black, her black pea coat layered against her black shirt.
“I need to show you something.” She said still blocking Frank’s exit.
“Show me what?”
The girl pointed to the gurney in the ER room. There sitting as it was all this time before was Frank’s body covered with the sheet that the ER nurse had placed over him.
“What is that?” Frank asked looking at the lump in the bed.
“If I’m not mistaken, that’s your body Frank.”
Frank walked slowly over to the bed, just as one of the hospital workers came into move his body to the morgue. He pulled back the sheet and unzipped the body bag. Frank still standing next to the hospital bed looked onto his lifeless body in shock as the morgue worker began shifting Frank’s body into the body bag. The worker zipped the bag and began rolling Frank’s body out of the ER room.
“What the hell is going on?” Frank asked the girl now standing at Frank’s side next to the empty bed.
“Well, you’re dead, and I get to cross you over.” The girl responded with an eerie smile.
“You’re going to cross me over where?”
“You idiot, I’m crossing you over to the other side. You know, to the afterlife. I’m the Angel of Death.”
It was cold outside. So cold in fact that the nose drippings of globing fluid were freezing as they slid out of my frigid nostrils. I wanted to run back inside my equally cold apartment and turn on the stove top and place my face right over the flames and let them lick the frost that have seemed to have accumulated on my incredibly dry skin. The sad part about it all was that it was too cold to snow. All that meaningless suffering in the tundra like temperatures and I had nothing pretty to look at while I scraped the ice off of my car’s windows.
I tucked the scraping device in the trunk of my car before shutting it and jumping into my car. The key had already been left in from my earlier attempt to just defrost the ice with the car’s heater. It did loosen it up a bit, but I still had to get out and scrape the rest of the ice of myself. Leaving the car on also warmed up the engine and the inside of my car so that it wasn’t unbearable for me or my car to move around and get to work that day. Goodness knows that I would have just called it a day and went inside to read the rest of the Hunger Games and sip molten hot overly-priced Starbucks coffee in bed, but that’s not an option.
I couldn’t just call it a day. I had a very important job to do. I had received a call yesterday. One that was impossible to believe had happened; one that I thought was just some cruel joke played by some sick-in-the-head-kid using Frank’s phone—but it wasn’t some kid—the voice that I heard on the other line was my estranged father’s. He told me that he needed me to go to his house and help him with his unfortunate situation. I almost hung up the phone that was half dangling from the crevice between my shoulder and my ear before he quickly told me something that no one but he would know.
“Years ago when you were a little girl you had fallen ill and had a temperature that read one hundred and one degrees Fahrenheit. You wondered into your parents’ room and came and found me. I carried you in to the living room and we watched Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory on the couch. You asked me if a place like Wonka’s factory actually existed and I told you that it probably didn’t but that if someone had dreamt this in their mind’s imagination that it could be possible to create. Anything really is possible. Like Wonka said, ‘we are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.’”
It turns out Wonka wasn’t the first to say it, Arthur O’Shaughnessy was, but regardless, it was him—my father, Frank Williams, on the other side of the line, awakened after death had dragged him into a sleep not long ago. We hadn’t even buried his body yet, and being the optimistic and open-minded person that I am, I decided to go over to meet my father’s ghost and see what he wanted. I mean, what’s the worst that could happen?
Three young teens were running about that night in the woods. They all seemed to have their minds altered by an extremely powerful drug. They danced and ran and twirled about, half falling, half running down the hillside that led to a chain-linked fence. The trio climbed over the gate one by one until they all reached the other side. They had faced a new adventure of an abandoned pool. One of the three teenagers attempted to run towards the empty pool, and before the other two could grab the girl, she jumped in head first.
Her head surely was smashed against the cold concrete. But just to make sure, the other two boys crept up to the edge of the pool slowly to view the body of their once newly found friend. But when the two boys peered into the concrete death trap they found nothing. Confused the two turned around towards the woods only to collide with girl that was supposed to be faced down in an empty pool.
The girl gave a smirk that radiated an eerily beautiful smile that gave notice to her black eyes. She brushed her black hair away from her awfully pale skinned cheek and tucked it behind her ear. The two boys were definitely both alarmed and stunned just standing there staring. The girl then stopped her smirking and pulled a straight face. And in an instant she shoved both boys with a great force into the empty pool.
Looking over the edge, the girl made sure that the two boys were dead. Satisfied she turned towards the woods and began to take out an old black leather journal. She erased two separate words and then added one more in place of one of the slots. She tucked the pocket sized journal back into her black pea coat pocket. Straightening her black blouse so that it laid nicely over her black skinny jeans, she started walking back to the woods.
And just as fast as had shoved the two boys to their deaths she grew a pair of giant black wings that spread out beautifully from her back in a mysterious forming dark smoke.
“Well come on now.” The girl motioned for Frank to come out from behind the bushes.
Frank was incredibly terrified from the dramatic scene that he had just witnessed. He thought to himself and came to the conclusion that if she had the nerve to kill to young boys in such a gruesome way that it would take nothing for her to cause harm to him.
“You’re aware that I can hear you right? Don’t you know that you’re already dead? I can’t kill you again.” She looked away from Frank’s position and rolled her eyes. “And I know that you tried calling your daughter. I told you already that she can’t help you figure out why your still here. You have to figure that out on your own. But for the mean time, you can make yourself useful and help me round up these other souls.” She motioned for him to come over to her side again. This time he followed her direction. She grabbed his arm, she ever so slightly bent her knees into a half crouching position, and then extended herself as she began to leave the surface of the earth taking a speechless Frank along with her. And just like that they were gone out of site on to the next job.
He used to peer inside his pocket mirror past his reflection and at his door’s manifestation in the corner. Frank often wondered if he could pass the barrier that separated himself from the parallel universe beyond this looking glass. He knew that beyond the door in the world that he lived in was the rest of his small apartment at the time, but he pondered the possibility of something far greater behind the mirrored door just past his own likeness in the reflection.
And now he finally knows.
Frank had stumbled out of his hospital bed completely confused about his situation. Some small child dressed in black who had claimed to be the Angel of Death had told him that he was dead and that he was never coming back. She had led him back to his house to show the extreme amount of damage done by the raging fire to his house, but for some reason, he could let go of his life.
Frank called his daughter to disprove the grim news that he received from the Reaper, but was only able to confirm that his body was heading to the local cemetery.
I’m really dead, he thought to himself. I can no longer go home and relax after work, or see my children when they do find the time to stop by. He knew his life wasn’t some fairy tale, but being thankful for what he did have came easier when it was all taken away from him, and to make it worse, the Angel of Death was dragging him along on her almost demonic mafia hits.
Frank also realized that the Angel of Death was right though. He was stuck in some ghostly realm on earth for a specific reason. And it was a reason great enough that it wouldn’t let him on into the afterlife. Something was tying him down. But what is it? He thought to himself.
He pondered a moment for an answer.
Maybe I need to find out more about how I died? Was it really an accident? I mean I was smoking before the fire started. Or maybe there is something that I have to do before I go on?
Frank ran down a list of people and things that he wanted to do when he was alive in his head. Maybe I should try apologizing to people I have wronged.
It was only a moment later when the Angel of Death appeared with her book in all of her dark glory. “Are you ready to tackle that list of people then?”
Frank just nodded in response.
The Angel of Death revealed a small smirk on her deathly pale face. “Good. I know just who you think we should visit first.”
I feel the palpitating beating of my heart fluttering out of control, and as I breathe in the frigid air, my chest tightens as I lose my grasp within the terror. I really did believe that I was having a heart attack, and I thought, if I did die from it at least my dad would be there—I think.
I only caught a glimpse of it out of the corner of my eye, but the image that is now forever pierced into my mind was reason enough to believe that there was some unexplained force in my father’s house. I violent chill ran up my spine which added even more shivers to the ones given to me by the extremely cold weather. I looked again to the only surviving mirror in the house—and he was still there—waiting for me to come and speak to him, and watching me react to the ghost of my father.
I walked closer to the slightly faded image as he began to extend his arm out towards me. He carefully stepped out of the long wall mirror and stood there waiting for my body to inch closer to his presence.
“Dad?” I asked as I stopped my procession three feet away from the ghost.
He didn’t answer, but he managed to understand my question and nodded, yes.
“Dad, what happened here? Was this really an accident like they said?” I looked into his lifeless eyes and waited to see if he would speak, but he said nothing. How was it that I was going to get any answers if he couldn’t talk to me? I mean, I did hear him over the phone didn’t I?
And that’s when it hit me.
“Call my cell phone.” I pointed to my phone and waited for him to move, or do something, but he just stood there. I started to wonder if it didn’t work that way, or maybe if he just wasn’t allowed to.
“It’s okay, we’ll figure something out.” I said. I started to walk out of the badly burned house when he appeared mystically appeared in front of my path to the front door. He walked closer to me, and at this point I was terrified. My heart started beating quickly again, but he just kept on with his approach. He pointed to his throat and then got close enough to me to touch my forehead. The touch was icy cold and it fell on my skin more like a mist than a solid finger. He waited for my response and I just nodded yes in return.
I guess my dad was going to speak to me through my thoughts? I didn’t understand at first. That was until I fell asleep after I went home later that night.
“I’m really not sure of how you operate, but why would you put me in a room with a person that you don’t want me to talk to,” Frank said the Angel of Death now sitting on a gravestone in the town’s local cemetery.
“You guys obviously worked out the whole communication thing.” The angel rolled her eyes as she opened her book and began scribbling in some notes. “You were able to ask for help while she was asleep right? I don’t know why you’re complaining to me about all this.”
“You know. You’re not very helpful. I have no idea why I’m still here.” Frank’s face looked genuinely confused as he began to raise his voice toward the Reaper. “Is it because someone killed me? Do I have to find out who did this to me?”
“You’re supposed to find that out yourself. If I told you what really happened, then you wouldn’t believe me.” The Angel of Death began to get up off the gravestone and walk away.
“Wait!” Frank screamed as he stumbled behind. “What am I supposed to do? I can’t figure this out on my own. Why can’t you help me?” Frank felt a deep piece of sadness creep up from the pit of his stomach, and the look in his face made the Reaper walk back to the graves where Frank was standing.
The Angel of Death had a face of pity painted on as she grabbed Frank’s hand and led him away from the grave stones. “Okay. Umm, why don’t I take you to your ex-wife’s place? I think you can get some answers from there too.”
“I don’t know if I can see her right now. It’ll be too much for me.” Frank said as he followed the angel towards the woods. He waited for her to stop and say that she wasn’t going to take him there and that she understood the pain that his ex has caused him, but she didn’t. She kept walking and muttered the last thing that Frank wanted to hear at that moment.
“That’s the point.”
Let the light that still shines through guide what’s in your mind.
Look at the beautiful flowers with their petals filled with dew.
Watch the rainbow grow with every vivid color and hue.
Frank had seen this embroidered on a pillow once. His eyes filled with tears as he found it even more relevant today than any day in his life before.
His time on earth was up. Finished. Caput. He had no time to really sit down and chat with his oldest daughter about how school was going for her, he couldn’t drive his youngest son to his soccer practices and cheer him on at games, and he couldn’t call his other daughter about her first few days in college either.
He realized the life he so desperately hated was the best thing he could ever have as all the bad things slipped away from his thoughts and the good things emerged. He found this out a few moments too late as he gazed through the window of his ex-wife’s home and found his kids sharing a family dinner at the table. He had somehow forgotten about the wonderful things he had in his life, and he was reminded now that he could never have them back.
“Why would you take a dead person to this scene going on right now? This isn’t fair!” Frank turned his attention around to the Angel of Death standing with her back against the tree in the front yard.
“Life isn’t fair.” The angel said as she looked up from her list.
“I’ve had enough of this. You’ve have taken people so violent from their lives, killed people in front of me, taken me to see all that I have lost, and made it so that I couldn’t even speak to my daughter or give her a hug when I was standing right in front of her!” Frank was now screaming at the top of his lungs. “Why?!”
“I dunno. You tell me.” The angel went back to her long list of names inside her little black book.
“What do you mean ‘I tell you?!’” Frank moved closer to the angel. “You told me I have to figure out something on my own!”
“But you’re showing me all of this?!”
“Is it not helping?”
“No! Were you really even planning on ever helping me?!”
“I thought I was doing a great job now.” The angel looked up at Frank and put her hand on his shoulder. “You really don’t remember do you?”
“Remember how you died. I never was the one really killing all those people on the list Frank. They did it themselves.”
“No. I’m pretty sure I saw you push those boys into the empty pool that one time.”
“Are you sure it was me, because I’m pretty sure those boys were on drugs and too busy stealing and getting into trouble that night to really know what was going on.”
“What are you talking about? You and I were both there.”
“You and I were both there at your death too.”
“Well of course you were. I woke up and saw that you were the first person there after I died in the hospital.”
“But I was there when the cigarette dropped too.”
“You mean when you dropped the cigarette! You killed me didn’t you?!”
“No. I was there just like I was for the boys in the woods.”
“You pushed them in!”
“No! They jumped in!”
“I saw you push them!”
“You’ve seen me there, but I didn’t push them. I’m only there when people want to die. The rest just leave when they are called and can find their own way.” The angel looked Frank in the eye. “Frank. Those boys wanted to die.”
“I’m so confused.”
“You wanted to go too so I came. You wanted me to come and be by you on your death bed even though that it wasn’t your time.”
“What do you mean that it wasn’t my time?”
“No one killed you Frank. I need you to go over to your daughter in the morning. She will be reading something very interesting then, and I want you to read it too.”
The chills that run up through your spine as you flip through the pages of a dead person’s diary is far more surreal than anything else that you can think of. The words scribbled in between the lines on the page pierce my heart as they bring my father back to life, but even as they do so, the haunting words of my father reveal a mysterious darker side that I never really wanted to know about.
I write this final entry today as I smoke my final cigarette. The pains of my life have finally gotten to me.
My wife left me for my former best friend and my kids don’t even know me. I’ve spent years doing my best at all things that I had to do. I worked at a job that I hated until they decided to fire me after twenty years, I’m drowning in debt, and now I can’t find another job in this recession.
It has all just fallen on me at the last minute and I really don’t think I can take it anymore.
I wonder if this cigarette could be the thing that lets me leave this place…
It was never an accident. No one killed him. There was no vengeance sought for his gambling debts. There wasn’t even a mystery, because everyone secretly knew but never wanted to do anything about it. Hours after the last diary entry was written, my father’s body was found lifeless next to a dropped cigarette—and he had done it. He had killed himself.
I wonder if this cigarette could be the thing that lets me leave this place…
The Angel of Death doesn’t kill anyone; she has just been guiding people to their final destination. But what made Frank so special that she found the time took make him realize that life is precious and that he should have never taken his own? He thought to himself, wasn’t it already too late for him?
“I have great news to tell you.”
“What?” Frank asked.
“Right now you’re not dead.”
“Um, I’m pretty sure I my body’s go in the ground.”
“No. What if I told you that you were in a coma, and that the fire did burn you, but that you were alive?”
“I-I-don’t know what I would say.”
“What if I gave you a second chance Frank? Would you want to go back?” The Angel of Death looked at Frank and waited patiently for the answer that she wanted to hear.
“I would say that I want to wake up—but—how badly burned am I?”
“Your face was untouched, but your torso looks terrible. Your heart was hanging on by a thread and the physical and mental therapy will be intense.” She moved closer to Frank as he began to shy away from the horrific news. “She still knows though Frank. She still had those same dreams, she still read your diary, and she really thought that you were dead. You just were never put in the ground yet.”
“What? You don’t want to live now? ‘Cause I can take you to a really warm and fiery place right now. You were no angel Frank.”
“I’ll go. I want to live. I want to see my kids again. I-I-want to do try again.”
“You’ll be in a world of hurt when you come back.”
“I can deal with that.”
The loving look that was held in my father’s eyes made everyone stop and smile at the man lying in the hospital bed. Finally alive and awakened from a deep coma, my dad was laughing and elated to see my mom and my siblings there and happy that he is back in our lives. This is obviously a far cry from the voice of death and self-pity that I came across in written form, and I find it strange that he led me to his diary in the first place.
Something happened to my father when he fell into a coma. Something so life changing turned his deadened spirit around so that he could come back to me. A joy for life and love has possessed his spirit and brought him back into a world where anyone can agree is really his second chance.
After hours of catching up and talking to our father in his hospital bed, my mother and siblings ventured back to their house leaving my father and me to talk about the events that have taken place over this whole ordeal.
“So—you were in a coma for a week just sleeping away weren’t you?” I turned my full attention to Frank. “I’m glad that you’re back dad. Everyone really missed you.”
“I’ve missed everyone too—but I made sure to visit you while I was away.” Frank looked up at my face with a smile that said ‘I know you know.’
“Oh really now?” I said half sarcastically.
“Hun, it’s okay, you weren’t tripping out or anything. I know what you found in the diary and I was really there in my house with the mirror.” Frank had mustered up a tear in his eye to match the one that had already rolled down my cheek. “I was in a dark place, and it took dying and seeing all that I had lost to appreciate life again. The love I have for you and your brother and sister was enough to save me from myself—and I wish I could have seen that sooner.”
“I wish you could have seen that sooner too.”
“I know hun, and I’m sorry for making all of you guys go through with this. I really am.” Frank said sincerely. “I want to save that time when I really hit the grave for another day, and I want my last judgment to be a flashback filled with good and bad memories, but with no regrets because everything single thing that has happened to us makes us who we are and what we have become. I’m happy now that I’m back here with my kids. You guys really mean the world to me.”
Frank smiled and we hugged for a good minute before we let go. The thing about this whole ordeal is that this situation, where we die and leave loved ones behind, will happen again to Frank, to me, and to all of us. The life we live and the time we have on this earth is so limited as we all speed through childhood, adolescence, and fall into adulthood, old age, and eventually death. The sad part is that some of us never stop to see the things that really matter and that are really important to us until it’s too late. It took Frank dying to realize that he had something more valuable than gold. He had people that he could call ‘his family’ that would love him as much as he loved them, and now he had a second chance to enjoy the time he has his with them and a shot at a new beginning.