Why are you nice to me?
Because they think they get away with it.
They burn their victims. They blow them up. They toss them in the ocean. They bury them in the desert. They throw them into wood chippers. Sometimes, you know, years go by. They relax. Then they start living their lives like they didn't do anything wrong, like they didn't spend somebody else's life in order to get what they got. They think they're safe from retribution. You make those bastards unsafe. That's why I'm nice to you.
After a while, it stops hurting.
I wish I could say I went somewhere else.
I wish I could say that I left my body lying there while my soul floated freely. Above the violence, above . . . everything.
But that would be a lie.
The truth is, I felt it all. Every blow. Every slap. The fists. The teeth. The boots. Everything.
And I saw it all. The first time I closed my eyes, one of them slapped me until I opened them again. He screamed at me to keep my eyes open. He told me that he wanted me to see.
That's when I knew I was going to die. They don't let you see them when they hurt you and allow you to live.
So, I watched. I watched as they . . .
I don't like to think about what they did. Remembering is like living through it again. Once was bad enough. Once killed me.
There were five of them. It felt like more but they made me watch, so I counted. Five.
I knew one of them. We were in homeroom together. He only looked at me once. After that, he kept his eyes closed when . . . when it was his turn.
After a while, it didn't hurt anymore.
I still felt it. I still felt everything. But it was like touching a keyboard or a light switch. I felt it but it didn't hurt anymore.
I don't know why. I've had a lot of time to think about it and I still don't know. It was like, the part of my brain that feels pain stopped working. Like it blew a fuse, maybe.
But I could still see everything because they wouldn't let me close my eyes. Even at the end, when the big one took his knife and cut away a piece of my scalp, it didn't hurt. He held it up and I saw it dangling from his hand, a long pale blonde lock of hair attached to a bloody piece of skin. He shouted something about cowboys and squaws but I wasn't listening. I was staring at that almost silver curl dangling in the breeze.
I always loved my hair. I had such pretty hair.
When they were finished, they dumped me in a hole. One of them grabbed my hands and another grabbed my feet and the two of them tossed me in like so much garbage.
The boy I knew from homeroom picked up a shovel and started throwing dirt over me. He moved fast, like he was in a hurry to cover me up.
The big one, the one with my hair, he looked right at me and said, "We're done with you, bitch." Then he knelt down next to the hole and he leaned inside. He had a knife in his hand and it flashed silver before it slid across my throat.
I felt it. I felt the skin open and the warm blood spurt.
And I heard him laugh, just before he stood up and walked away.
Then the dirt covered my face and at last, I could close my eyes.
I never realized how quiet the world could be until I left it.
I still remember the very last breath I took. I was sitting on top of my grave, listening as my body struggled to breathe through the dirt. It sounded painful so I whispered to myself, "Shhhhhh. It will be all right."
And then it was over. The girl I had been for 15 years was gone.
The first night after I died was the longest. It was the first time I had ever stayed up all night.
I watched the trees surrounding the field disappear as they were swallowed up by darkness. I saw animals creep cautiously into the moonlight. A coyote wandered near my hill, sniffing at the ground until it reached the mound of dirt that covered my grave. His paw scraped into the top layer and then suddenly, he stopped and looked at me. Really looked at me, like he could see me sitting there, watching him back. He whined once and ran away.
I got used to the quiet.
Time passed. The heat of summer turned the grass yellow and rain made little streams of mud in the dirt. Fall came and the trees turned gold and scarlet. Then the snow fell.
Then it all happened again.
And still I sat there . . . on my grave . . . watching it all.
One day, a man and woman in a big truck stopped next to my field. They parked in the grass and climbed the hill and stood right next to me, staring at the same trees I'd been watching for three years.
"This is it, Mark! Look at this view!" The woman had blonde hair pulled into a ponytail and looking at her made me sad. I used to wear my hair like that, in a long swoop that swung back and forth when I walked.
She seemed very excited and the man, Mark, seemed happy to let her be excited. They stood beside me and talked about their new house and bedrooms and bathrooms and windows. I was afraid they would step on my grave but they didn't. They stayed for a long time but finally they left and my world was quiet again.
It didn't stay quiet, though.
They came back and when they did they brought other men with them and they all climbed the hill and turned this way and that way and hammered pointed wooden stakes into the ground while she walked around and pointed out where she wanted all the rooms. When everyone left, my grave was surrounded by those little poles.
A few days later, there were even more men with larger trucks. One of the trucks had a big metal bucket and that truck climbed my hill, too. Then it started to dig, carving deep furrows in the ground as it scooped up grass and rocks and dirt. It made me sad, what they were doing. My little hill looked wounded.
It scared me, too, because with every bucket of earth the truck lifted away, it got closer and closer to me. To my bones.
The animals had never come any closer than the edge of my grave but this truck couldn't feel me or see me or sense me. I couldn't stop it. I tried. I stood up and I yelled as loud as I could but no one heard me.
No matter what I did, I couldn't stop it from uncovering my bones.
When it finally happened, I could tell by their confusion that the men weren't sure what they were looking at. They crept closer, like they were afraid I might jump up and yell "Gotcha!" I wanted to. I wanted to rise out of my grave like a skeleton in a horror movie and send them all screaming as they ran away.
But I couldn't. I could only watch as they finally accepted the truth of what they'd uncovered. One man fell to his knees and crossed his chest and began to pray. Another cursed and stomped his feet and threw his hat on the ground. A third man took out a cell phone and walked away, down the hill and away from me.
Within a few hours, most of the men and all of the big trucks left until finally, the only person still there was the man with the cell phone. I guess he was waiting for the police because they were the next people to show up. When a man and woman got out of a big black SUV, the last workman pointed up the hill, toward my grave. Toward me.
This new couple approached quietly, talking to each other in voices I couldn't hear while everyone else followed behind. She had dark hair and pretty blue eyes and he was tall and handsome and stood out from the rest because he wore a suit instead of ugly black coveralls. The woman knelt down to look at what was left of me while a man with a camera walked around taking pictures and measurements. After just a few minutes, she started calling out instructions and then the others, except for the handsome man in the suit, went to work. They were so careful and their hands were so gentle as they brushed away dirt and grass until my grave was open and I was exposed to the sun for the first time in three years.
The question came from the man in the suit. He was standing on the other side of the hole where I'd been buried, watching her.
I was confused. Of course I was bones. I'd been in the ground for three years and although I had managed to keep the animals from desecrating my grave, the insects that lived in the dirt had done their job well.
She didn't seem to think the question was strange.
"Adolescent. Caucasion. Female." She studied each new bone as she picked it up. "Posterior dislocation of the right femoral head." She lifted my skull with gentle hands. "There are tool marks on the frontal bone, approximately 3 centimeters from the left coronal suture."
I didn't know what any of that meant but I liked listening to her deep, quiet voice.
My bones were packaged and put in a long narrow box and when the box was carried to one of the vans parked at the bottom of the hill, I went with it. I looked back once and for just a minute, I thought the man in the suit could see me. It felt like he was looking at me. But then he turned back to the blue-eyed woman and the illusion was shattered.
So I left with my bones.
I was finally free of my hill. I was finally free of my grave.
But I wasn't totally free. Not yet.