The Crimson Illusions

Author’s Note: Plot idea is credited to the amazing Alice Sebold, who wrote The Lovely Bones, a book that inspired this story.

Model: Taylor Momsen

Dear Diary,

Sometimes, I wonder what else there is out there other than the things we see on Earth. I used to have dreams of aliens coming into my bedroom and taking me back to their planet, and they were totally different from the people here. It was both exhilarating and scary at once, almost like a blockbuster sci-fi movie.

     Even though I never was serious about things like this, I was positively sure there were still things out there within our reach, only which we humans were too unobservant to notice, or care, for that matter. Sometimes, I would just wander out of the house and stare up at the blue sky, and I could almost swear I could see an invisible seam separating our world from others, but I could never really touch or reach it.

     But nobody ever seems to believe me. The last time I told mum and dad and Mr. Longman about this, they scolded me and said my imagination was running wild again. It wasn’t as if I could help it. I really think there are foreign people and things out there, and they would be more than welcome to present themselves to us, if only we humans were willing to accept them.

     One thing is for sure: I am willing to. My curiosity might get the better of me, but I am fascinated by the thought of it.

27th March 2002

Clairey Jermmons

 

*

My name was Clairey Jermmons, pronounced as ‘Claire-ee’. I was a fifteen-year-old girl living in a perfectly normal neighbourhood in Phoenix, Arizona, and I used to go to Dr. Maine W. Mason High School, only a few miles from my suburb.

I had two sisters, one was my twin, Chloey, and Heather was two years older than us. Chloey and I were the perfect role model for twins nationwide. I was the one born later two minutes than her, but she never griped about it, and if she did, I never knew, when I was still alive.

Now though, I could tell that she thought about it all the time, but never spoke it aloud, afraid that I was going to be mad at her. I found out she had always idolised me, and often pictured me as a heavenly person, someone she wanted to be like when she grew up. Yes, there were the times when she was overcome with pressure to catch up with my antics, but never once did she stopped looking at me though loving and admiring eyes, always looking up to me as if I was a big sister to her instead of a twin.

Heather could never really put up with the both of us, always claiming that we were too ‘childish and immature to be of any use to her’. She was beautiful, way more beautiful than both Chloey and my dirty blonde hair, hazel eyes, and pale complexion. Heather had platinum blonde hair, and had inherited Grandma Sanders’s green eyes. She was tall and slim, the perfect figure for a runway model. Chloey and I used to tease her about being a Barbie doll, and even though Heather always snapped at us whenever we did that, we could tell that she was also quite pleased at our comparison. Right after she graduated from Dr. Maine W. Mason High, she took up fashion courses at the University of Phoenix, and never came back home after that, except for Christmas and Thanksgiving, even after mum and dad persuaded her to stay.

My parents were a loving couple, and we loved them back. Dad was such a childish man, always participating in all our activities, no matter how stupid and immature they might seem. I still remembered when he tried to interfere with Chloey’s and my ‘greenhouse project’ at the backyard, where we vowed to build a greenhouse out of leaves and twigs in only three days. I didn’t want dad to see it yet, at least not until we’ve finished it, but he wouldn’t have any of it, and in the end, he was the one who stayed up till the wee hours of the morning just to finish the house for us. That was when Chloey and I were ten, and we were what he called his ‘Jermmontastic girls’.

Mum was a direct opposite, always the strict parents, often finding faults in her daughters’ actions. I used to fear her a lot, still do, but now that there was a barrier between us, I wasn’t as frightened of mum as I used to anymore. Once, I still remembered how badly she had punished me for ruining her flower vase, how she had forbidden me from sleeping in the room I shared with Chloey for the whole week, forcing me to spend the nights alone on the couch until I was starting to get sore in my muscles only did she forgive me. I always thought she was strict with all three of us, but now I realised she was only ever stern with me.

The day I left my family was the worst day I have ever been through in my life. The last thing that registered on my brain was, surprisingly, my pink diary under my drawer of my desk in my room, and after that, I was gone.

*

There wasn’t any light, that much I could tell. I was expecting some sort of sign or plate to show me where I should go, when I realised the clichéd ‘follow the light’ choice was a zilch option. I was wandering around aimlessly in the dark, trembling with raw terror and nervousness of where I was. It was no wonder that I started running impulsively when a silhouette appeared before me. It reminded me of the Grim Reaper, and I pelted into the darkness, not sure of where I was heading. But the silhouette got to me first, creating an invisible blockage before me to prevent me from getting away.

The next thing I knew, I was sitting on a sofa in a beautifully decorated room, clad in the same outfit I was wearing that night.

Was it even dark outside to call it night? I wasn’t sure. There were no windows or doors in this room, and it made me feel slightly claustrophobic. Everything in this room was so prim, so proper, it sported a 14th century ambience, embellished with china dishes and cups displayed in antique cupboards and shelves. The furniture looked as if they were imported from some faraway country from the Middle East. The walls and ceilings were painted a light cream hue, making the room seem smaller than it really was.

It was so quiet and still that I didn’t realise someone was occupying the seat on the sofa opposite of me. I gasped as my eyes stopped at a big-built man wearing a grey suit sitting in front of me, an amiable smile planted on his face. He looked young, almost in his thirties, the kind of people movie production companies would find to act as a stunt player in a film.

However, his smile did little to cheer me up, and I was still overwhelmed from the shock of the accident. Automatically, my teeth found my nails and I started biting on them.

“Hi, Clairey,” the man finally said. Every word was so loud and clear that I wasn’t entirely sure whether I was still alive or not. The man’s next words proved my suspicion wrong.

“I am sorry that your life is taken at such a young age. Normally, people who come through this counter are old, but I am pretty sure there are some mistakes to be taken care of later.” His words didn’t make sense to me at all. What counter? Old people? If what he said was right, then had I broken a rule or something?

As if he could read my thoughts, the man quickly added, “No, it’s not your fault of any kind. Do not worry. You are safe right now and that’s all that matters.”

Safe? I wanted to ask where I was, but he beat me to it. “You are now in heaven, yes.” When I raised an eyebrow at him, he sighed and said, “In heaven, we can hear each other’s thoughts. There are no secrets among us.”  Somehow, this information failed to calm me down. In fact, it did the direct opposite. I opened my mouth to let out a cry of fear and terror, my trembling legs betraying my effort to be collected when a sudden sense of calmness that was definitely not my own overcame me. I was shocked and felt intruded, but I could do nothing but gape at the man before me. He shook his head and looked up at me. “I am sorry, but I wasn’t prepared for this. If only I had known someone as young as you was going to come…”

The man stood up abruptly, taking me by surprise. “Come on, I’m going to take you to your guardian.”

*

If there was one thing that was considered taboo in heaven, it was asking someone how they had died. Even though everyone practically knew the full story already by picking it from their thoughts, it was always better and more interesting to hear it coming from the horse’s mouth.

On the first day I arrived at heaven, after the encounter with the grey suit guy, he delivered me to a waiting room full of other people of all ages and races where I took a seat next to an Asian, middle-aged woman. I smiled and waved at her politely, but she just gave me a cold stare and turned away. Frowning, I turned away too, wondering if Asian people misinterpreted smiles and waves as assassination gestures. Staring idly ahead of me, I realised I was starting to miss home already. It was amazing why I wasn’t bawling on the ground, nor was everyone else in the same room. Part of me said it was because I hadn’t really accepted the fact that I was already dead; the other part reckoned it had something to do with the queer calm sensation that I had felt just now at the grey suit guy’s room.

Apart from the Asian lady next to me, there was also a little girl with blonde hair clutching her doll, looking absolutely devastated; an old man in morning robes reading a newspaper and sipping coffee; a well-groomed man in a blue suit and a striped tie holding a briefcase, staring ahead as if concentrating on something that was completely invisible to everybody else. We were such a motley crew that I had a hard time believing this was heaven.

My perception of heaven was a place full of joy, of everything I ever wanted. Of course, that was what mum and dad always told me and Chloey ever since we were young. It was always our dreams to go to heaven after we die, and now that I have really come here, I was disappointed. Mostly because it was so dull, instead of all the dreams and wishes I had hoped for; and also because Chloey wasn’t here with me. I still remembered the promise we made to each other to stay together even when we go to heaven. I wanted Chloey with me, but I didn’t want her to end her life, either. It was such a contradicting thought.

Just then, a girl my age with a cascade of curly black hair entered the room through a door I wasn’t even aware of in the first place. She had a huge smile planted on her face that seemed so out of place in this tense atmosphere. She skipped in joyously, like the kind of person in school who always had a circle of friends because of her optimism and contagious happiness. Her entrance was only welcomed by my pair of eyes, for the Asian lady was still staring at her lap; the little girl clinging onto her doll; the old man had his eyes deep in his newspaper; and the businessman was still staring into space.

The girl took the seat next to me and plopped down confidently. Immediately, she turned towards me and extended her hand. “Hi, I’m Diesel.” I was completely taken aback by her overwhelming glee and unusual name. Hesitantly, I shook her hand. “My name is Clairey.”

“So how did you die?” she asked. So casual was her tone that you’d think she was inquiring about the weather.

Remember what I said about this question being a taboo? Well, I wasn’t aware of that then, having being enlightened later on by my guardian, and neither was Diesel aware too.

The horrifying scene repeated in my mind once again as if it had just happened a few minutes ago, which, I realised, was the truth. It had all been a perfectly typical night; dad was fetching me back from school, because I had to stay back till the gym was decorated for the Homecoming dance, and Chloey couldn’t afford to wait for me because she had a Social Studies test the next day. She was the brainy one who was always concerned of her studies, unlike me. It had been a fruitful day, for my friend Alexis and I had most of the gym completed and agreed that we should continue the next day.

In dad’s car, I talked continuously about Alexis and my effort for the night, extremely worked up about the whole Homecoming event. I even told him about Desmond Knightley, who had asked me to the dance. I told him about the purple dress I had chosen especially for the dance. I told him about Chloey’s partner and I told him about the theme for the dance. I was too busy talking to him that I didn’t realise never once did he respond to my assertions.

It wasn’t until the car started to swerve wildly on the road that I realised what was happening. Heart stopping, I turned to dad and realised his eyes were closed. A shrill shriek escaped from my lips and his eyes flipped open immediately, but it was too late. The car was brought to the opposite lane, right in front of an oncoming truck, and before we both knew it, there was a huge impact against the car and I felt myself spiralling dizzily as if I was on a roller coaster. The roller coaster then did a huge flip and I felt something hard hit my head, which worsened the dizziness by a million times. I felt weak as sharp metal objects poked cruelly at every part of my body.

I felt liquid running all over my face, and had trouble breathing as something was pressed against my chest. It was like one of my asthma attacks again, only worse. I tried to lift my left hand to reach into my back pocket for my inhaler, but it was immobile. In fact, my entire body was frozen.

I heard faint shouts just as I started to feel tired. I had never felt so exhausted before, not even when I had run the 70 miles marathon in town. My eyelids were so heavy, and my body was overwhelmed with severe fatigue. I could feel dad stirring beside me, but I didn’t have the strength left to call out to him. All I wanted right then was to sleep. And sleep I did, right after I saw my own bloody reflection in the car mirror.

*

Diesel was fascinated by my death story. She said hers was way less interesting and that she had died because of leukemia. I was astounded, and felt pity at the same time. Unfortunately, Diesel’s mind-reading sense decided to kick in at that time and she snapped that there was no need to sympathise with her. I apologised hurriedly and was saved by someone calling my name.

I stood up in a rush to see who had called my name but found no one. Instead, an opened door was waiting in front of me, but I was reluctant. “I think you’re supposed to go in,” Diesel offered helpfully. I heaved a sigh and stepped into the room, fingers crossed.

The door closed on its own and I found myself in a small, normal-looking office complete with a desk and drawers full of folders. Sitting behind the desk was a young man who looked to be in his twenties, clothed in a collared shirt and black slacks. He wasn’t bad-looking, and could actually pass off for a famous celebrity. “Please, take a seat,” he smiled affably, and yet again, I felt the sense of calmness present in the room. I took two steps forward and sank into the chair before the desk.

My eyes wandered across the desk; it was full of papers and books and resumes et cetera, but I also noticed two photo frames of a young woman and a boy child in them, but before I could look any closer, the young man cleared his throat and I looked back at him guiltily.

“Clairey Jermmon,” he began. “Fifteen, dead at 9.56 PM, 3rd of March 2002. Entered through the Sanverra Counter, unexpectedly, and welcomed by Mr Edmund Smith. Well, well, did Ed get a scare…” I felt as if I was a patient being told the results of a diagnosis and it was bad. Fear prickled at my skin like tiny needles, and sweat broke out on my forehead. It was as if the young man could sense my fear and offered a smile. “Don’t be scared, Clairey. I’m your new guardian. My name is Gregory Roden, but you can call me Greg.”

Guardian? What for?

“Guardians are like officers, their jobs are to show you around in heaven, what you can and cannot do; what you must do and what you are banned from doing; what are the important rules and regulations found here and how we live in heaven. Basically, they are like your parents –in heaven.”

What do we do here?

“Oh, just about anything. Reading, surfing, dancing, singing, eating. Anything is possible in heaven.”

What do I do now?

“I am going to take you on a tour first, and then I will show you your dorm.” Greg smiled. “You know, Clairey, you should talk more often.”

*

Heaven outside was a huge contrast to the atmosphere of the dank room just now. It was painted with wild, vibrant colours that actually hurt my eyes just to look at it. People were bouncing off buildings and eating the multi-coloured bricks lined at the pavement.

Everywhere I went, activity was in full activated mode, and everyone looked occupied. There were no roads, only pavements that were soft and spongy as if made of marshmallows. The buildings here were all short and squat, with small chimneys fixed on top of the roofs even though no smoke came out. The pavements were full of these types of houses, and people came in and out of them. Where the buildings and pavements didn’t occupy, grass was present. Except this wasn’t green grass. It was red, orange, yellow and purple all at the same time. All in all, it was a colourful world.

Greg pointed out the playground, school, shopping mall, hospital and even cemetery, where people played dead just for fun and the irony. These random places popped up just when Greg mentioned them, otherwise, they were just hidden destinations shielded behind buildings, unaware by the naked eye. Greg led me to a house with the number 67 on it, and as soon as I opened the door, I smelled cake. “Well, looks like Evelyn’s at it again,” Greg grinned. A brown haired girl emerged from what looked like the kitchen, her hands clad in gloves holding a freshly baked cake. She flashed a brilliant smile when she saw us.

“You must be Clairey! Come on in!” she gushed, and smiled at Greg. “Thanks Greg, for bringing her in.”

“No problem,” he answered. He turned to me then and said, “I’ll just leave you to Evie first, Clairey, let you get sorted out in your room first, and then we’ll go on a real tour tomorrow. You must be tired, get some rest,” he advised and exited the house.

From the outside, they were small houses; inside, they were mansions. I was dumbstruck as my eyes took in the actual size of the place. My jaws fell wide open in awe. Evelyn wasn’t surprised. “They always do that, newbies,” she beamed. “I’m Evelyn Kingston, and I’m your housemate.”

Later on, I found out Evelyn was murdered by her own father, but she had been living here in peace for so long now that she never reminisced her life as a human. She was always famous in heaven for her amazing cooking skills, and I reckoned I was considered lucky being chosen to live with her.

My room was ten times bigger than my old one back on Earth. Everything was coloured pink, just the way I liked it, and I was under the impression that everything you wanted would always be given to you here in heaven. It was both exciting and frightening at the same time.

I flopped myself onto my bed and stared at the ceiling. The silence lasted for a few minutes until I broke into tears, tears I didn’t realise I had been holding back ever since I died. My chest heaved a few times as mum, dad, and Chloey’s face appeared in my mind. How were they faring without me with them? Was dad okay? What about Chloey? All remained a question mark to me.

*

The first time I looked down on Earth, I found myself in my own room, pink walls and all. It was still in the same messy condition I had left it before I went for school that day. The closet doors were ajar, a red sweater left sprawling on the bed and a pair of white shorts doing the same on the floor. My guitar was occupying the space next to my dresser, and as I gently ran my fingers against it, I realised it was one of the things I missed the most after dying.

It was abnormally quiet in the house, and a glance at the clock told me it was morning. Chloey should be at school and dad should be at work. However, the first person I met after drifting out of my room was dad.

He was sitting on the couch in the living room, a bandage around his head, but otherwise, he was unscathed. I breathed out a sigh of relief I didn’t realise I had been holding, after making sure dad was okay coming out of the accident. All I knew, from what Greg told me earlier, an ambulance arrived at the spot I died to find my body already lifeless, but my father, was, to everyone’s surprise, alive and breathing, suffering only a slight blow to the head, which even the doctors said was harmless, nothing as severe as a concussion. I hesitated at Greg’s information just then, but seeing dad with my own eyes was proof enough to satisfy me.

The more I looked at dad, though, the more I felt…crept out. There was a faraway look in his eyes that I saw only once in Mrs. Adams eyes when her five-year-old son died in a car crash. It was devastation, and disappointment. His entire body was rigid, immobile, and I could almost see the pain he was going through in his eyes. I wanted to call out to him, to tell him everything was okay, and that I was right there with him, but it was no use. My shouts couldn’t be heard by anyone except Evelyn, and if she did hear me yelling, she didn’t show it.

I left the building after that, feeling pain and heartache pulsing in my dead veins. It was too much of a sight to bear, and curious as I was to know what was going on with my family, it was enough for one day.

*

The next day, I returned home to find mum and dad and Chloey in the kitchen, eating dinner. Dad still had the lost look deep in his eyes, but when I looked at mum, she seemed… nonchalant. Curious, I looked into her mind and found something quite surprising and sad to me.

It was then that I realised how mum saw me through her eyes ever since I was born: insignificant. Somehow, to her, I was always the disobedient, rebellious child among her three children. She loved Chloey dearly, she was sweet and kind and intelligent; and Heather was oozing confidence with every second she lived, proud with that beautiful face of hers. She didn’t understand why she disliked me, but she had considered me a burden all along. Besides, accidents happen every day. She has got to move on.

Chloey was as bad as dad, only worse. She looked pale and skinny, as if she hadn’t eaten for days, which I later found out, was the truth. I had always wondered what it would be like to lose a twin, always using Fred and George Weasley of the Harry Potter series as examples. It would be hard, and I knew the truth of it now. For years, I have been looking at my own reflection every single day; now, without Chloey, it was as if my significant half was chomped away, leaving a raw wound sending agony throughout my whole body. A tear rolled off my cheek and fell onto the wooden floor of my heaven bedroom. I looked up from Earth to find Evelyn sitting next to me, a hand patting the small of my back. I leaned into her embrace and let myself cry in her arms.

*

Greg had almost shown me the whole of heaven by the third day. There was this hotspot called The Sears where people flocked to take a glimpse of dead famous people. I’ve never been in there, but Evelyn said Elvis Presley got the most attention there, especially by old folks.

That morning, Evelyn wanted to take me to The Sears, but I rejected, because I thought I’d rather take another trip to Earth. Was I surprised to find Heather sitting in the living room, next to dad, her eyes glued to the television playing reruns of CSI: Miami. Shock had me stopping in my steps as I wondered why she had returned home after three years of leaving home.

My death, of course, that was the most plausible answer. I was pretty much amazed that Heather was concerned even after I died. I’d thought it would make no difference whether I was alive or not. Had she lived at her apartment thinking I was alive every single day? Would she be disturbed if I died? Apparently, she was, and now she was here, joining in the mourning of my death. Fortunately enough, she wasn’t in a condition as bad as dad’s, who I sensed, was getting worse each day.

Probing in his mind, I realised he blamed himself for my death. If only he hadn’t tired himself out at the gym that day. If only he had paid more attention when he was driving. If only… Our lives were full of so many possibilities, and each one kept getting better after the real damage was done. Besides those accusations he had put on himself, he was in a state of oblivion. The previous accident scene replaying in his mind over and over again. I avoided the scene and dug through his memories until I found something that made me stop in my figurative tracks.

It was a scene of mum with a doctor, and the doctor was saying something about post-trauma attacks which shouldn’t last for more than two days. As I stared at dad, my dead heart beat faster. Was dad going to be permanently scarred by this incident? The thought scared me witless, but somehow, it seemed truer and truer each time.

The door slammed shut and I looked up to see mum coming home. Her arrival didn’t even stir Heather and dad.

“Oh, Heather, you’re here,” mum sounded happy to see my sister home, which, apparently, wasn’t a mutual feeling for my sister.

“Mum,” Heather greeted, and pressed the OFF button on the television remote controller. “What’s happened to dad?”

My mother stopped for a second, as if pondering something, then said, “He’ll be fine.”

“No, he won’t. Do you know what he was saying just now?”

“What?”

“That he wants to die. That he wants to die and meet Clairey in heaven. Mum, what did the doctor say?”

Mum just shrugged and replied, “Nothing. He said dad’s gonna be fine.” Then, in a warmer tone, she added, “Hon, it’s okay. Don’t worry. Everything’s going to be okay.”

That was when I saw the most surprising thing I’ve ever laid eyes on ever since…well, ever since Heather moved out. Standing up from the couch abruptly, Heather took three confident strides until she was face to face with our mother, and snapped, “Okay? You call this okay? Have you gone blind or something? Clairey’s dead, dad’s almost the same, and…and Chloey must be in a pretty bad shape too. Even I feel guilty for not coming back home to see my sister for the last time! Don’t you feel sad at all? Are you human?”

“Don’t you dare talk to me like that!” mum turned from the calm and collected businesswoman she was to a raging mother. “It was your own decision to move away, so don’t you dare blame me for that and Clairey’s death. It wasn’t my fault your sister’s dead and it wasn’t my fault your father’s turn out this way.”

Heather glared tearfully at my mother. “Everything isn’t your fault, isn’t it, mum?”

*

I never imagined I’d miss school so much. For once, the words ‘Dr. Maine W. Mason High School’ was welcoming to my eyes. I drifted into the building, which was now thronging with students, in search of Chloey. I found her alone at Mr. Kestell’s desk in an empty classroom. Chloey had her head bowed down, her usual wide grin wiped off from her face. It was heart aching to see my sister in such a state; it was almost like seeing yourself in a depression state.

“Chloey,” Mr. Kestell started, but Chloey didn’t raise her head. “You’ve been failing your tests lately, why?” When Chloey kept quiet, he continued, “Look, I know Clairey’s gone and everything, we all miss her, but-”

“Who said Clairey’s gone?” My head turned to Chloey, surprised that she sounded so angry. Looking up, she retorted. “Clairey’s fine, thank you very much. I’ll tell her you asked.” And with a disgruntled shove at the door, Chloey left the classroom, leaving Mr. Kestell dumbstruck.

*

That night, all was silent at the dinner table. Mum was fidgeting endlessly on her chair, Chloey wasn’t touching her food, Heather was scanning everyone at the table with suspicious eyes, and dad was shoving food into his mouth robotically. It was a queer sight compared to the usually loud atmosphere every day during dinnertime. When the crowd at the table started to disperse, I decided to follow each of them.

I started with Chloey. She went up to her room, taking her sling bag with her. Upon reaching her room, she settled herself in a chair and took out her homework, behaving like any other normal teenager. A sense of dread overcame me when I noticed the essay topic Chloey was assigned to: A Sad Goodbye. My heart heaved in my chest as I watched Chloey’s complexion for any reaction. Hesitation crossed her face for a second, before she started to place her pen on the paper and write. Losing a loved one is hard, but losing the split image of yourself who also happens to be your best friend is even more so. There isn’t a minute during which I don’t miss Clairey, but that doesn’t mean she’s gone; because she isn’t. She never is. There is a light that never goes out, wrote The Smiths, and the light is my twin sister.

In that moment, that was when I saw my twin sister in a new light. She wasn’t the girl who needed my protection anymore. She was tough, tougher than I’d thought, and all my worries about her not being able to accept my death evaporated quickly. Chloey was alright.

Smiling proudly, I patted her on the back and left the room, never turning back to see Chloey snap up in surprise, swearing that she had felt someone touching her.

Heather was in her old room, which was used as a store room after she had moved out. She stared around her at the place she used to grow up in. She could still remember the dolls and lace curtains and nightlights. It was as if she had just lived here yesterday. Walking to the window, she looked out and saw a flashback replay before her very eyes. The three of us, Chloey, Heather and I, frolicking around in the knee-deep snow at the backyard. Then, the expression of sorrow on my face as she left home for her new apartment near the university. The missed calls from me which she had to put on busy because of a date with her boyfriend. Her knees gave way and she sat on the floor, tears running down her cheeks. “I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you, Clairey. I’m sorry.”

The sight was too aching for me to bear, so I approached mum at the kitchen, where she was slicing up celery for a certain recipe she was preparing. Among my family, she seemed the most calm and undisturbed; I couldn’t help but feel a little jealous. What if it was Chloey or Heather who had died? But Evelyn had advised me about the consequences of evil thinking in heaven. I was in heaven, for Christ’s sake, that should be logical. Despite that, no matter what, she was my mother, and I loved her all the same.

I found dad in his working room, where he used to carry out many of his carpentry projects. He was sitting on his roller chair, his eyes staring at his desk. I wandered into his mind, and sure enough, the accident scene was still in replay mode. I swerved around to look at my father full in the face, and felt my heart shatter into a million pieces. My father was never an emotional man. Even when our cat, Beedle, died, he never showed a sign of sadness. I guess the current situation he was placed in really brought his walls crashing down.

I reached out a hand to caress his cheek like he used to do mine when I was still alive. Tears rolled out of his sockets then, and his lips wavered as he started to sob. I was greatly relieved that he was showing any kind of expression except for deadpan. However, the sound of dad’s sobs triggered a similar melancholic sadness within myself, and I found moisture gathering in my eyes, rolling down my cheeks as I blinked. I wanted to hug him and tell him that everything was alright, like how he used to say to me before. Our father-daughter roles were reversed, and I found myself protecting the more vulnerable party in this close bond –my father.

“My Clairey-Bear,” I heard dad moan. I smiled through my tears.

I love you too, dad. I sent my thought to him before I was gone.

*

Never once did I leave my family ever since day one. Not even when Evelyn held a party at our house and invited everyone in heaven. Life on Earth was too addictive, and I never wanted to be alive so badly as I did right then, to feel my heart pumping in my chest, to feel blood running in my veins, to reach out a hand and touch something solid, to feel something real for once. They say everything is possible in heaven, everything –except coming alive again.

Sometimes, my situation in heaven vaguely reminded me of the times when I would go on a weeklong camp in the National Forest and all of a sudden, I would miss my family late at night, before making the decision to call them in a secluded area in fear of my fellow campers overhearing my whiny call back home. Only now, were I to pick up my phone here, the other line would be a complete silence, my call ignored by my family, no matter how desperate I wanted to reach them, just to say a simple ‘hi’ or ‘how are you?’

Sometimes, Evelyn would accompany me when I make my visits to Earth, and when I came back, she would ask me why I missed them so much.

“They’re the ones who made you suffer back then, and the ones who are making you suffer now,” she pointed out.

“I know,” I said after a minute of musing. “But how can we relish in happiness if we don’t suffer first?”

*

The days flew by so quickly, and after every heartbreaking day, came a moment of pure happiness and joy that triumphed over distress and grief. Each day, light replaced darkness, and people saw through a new radiance. Problems and troubles were discarded, and new hopes were renewed for everyone else.

As much as I hated to admit it, it was the same for me too. I was starting to adapt to my new home, even though I knew it would never be the same as the one I had on Earth. The same applied to my family. I stayed with them through thick and thin, watched them as they grew past my death and into the joyful family I wanted them to be, I was there when my family finally held my funeral on a rainy day, and everyone I ever knew gathered to send me away forever; when Chloey was awarded as Top Student of the Year in school, and no one brought me up to be used as a comparison; when Heather decided to move back home, bringing in all her belongings from her apartment; when mum picked up the purple card I made for her for Mother’s Day and watched as her tears made dark spots on the card; and when dad left the hole he had been crouching in ever since losing me and spread his warmth and love to his remaining daughters. They were a united family once again.

They were the crimson illusions I saw every day, crying and laughing with them. They were and never will be lost from my mind, and neither was I or will I be lost from theirs, for we belonged in each other’s memories forever, right where we wanted each other to be.

*

“What do you think our family are doing now, when we’re not watching them?” Diesel asked me one day, on our way to the Sears.

I smiled gently into my ice-cream. “I don’t know, but I’m not worried.”

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