• prologue

    Zoe had a grin the size of Texas plastered on her face, her long black hair cracking behind her like a whip. This was the life. She could hardly believe it when her parents let her go on the highway, on a freaking motorcycle, with her boyfriend, Zane. She let out a wild ‘whoop,’ and snuggled into his shoulder. He turned around and winked at her, then looked back at the road.
    They were getting close to an exit, and there was a big semi on the far side of them. It tried to turn into the lane that would take him onto the exit ramp, but hit a slick patch of ice on the road. The back end swung around, just barely missing the two. Zane looked around at Zoe to make sure she was OK, and during that moment, the front end of the semi slammed into his emerald-green Harley.
    Zoe awoke to a quiet, high-pitched beeping in her left ear, and more pain than she’d ever felt. Groaning, she turned from lying on her right side to her left and opened her eyes.
    A hospital, she thought, looking around. Oh, God. What the heck happened?
    A nurse noticed her awake and came over to her. She asked if Zoe was okay, and if she needed more medication, but Zoe just shook her head. She saw her best friend, Lil, in the waiting room, and told the nurse to go get her.
    Lil walked into the room with a worried expression on her face.
    “Lil… What… happened?”
    Lil tried unsuccessfully to smile, and said jokingly, “You died. Have you heard the news that you’re dead?”
    Zoe laughed dryly, and then asked Lil to seriously explain what happened. Lil looked down, and for the first time, Zoe saw a bed with a lumpy object under a white shroud on it. Zane’s parents were on the other side, dabbing their eyes. Zoe sat up as straight as the chords attached to her allowed, and said loudly, “No!” Then, she flopped back on the hospital bed and sobbed.

    two weeks later

    Zane was walking towards her. He looked just like he did that night- dressed in all black leather, his bleached-blonde hair short and spiky. He had his guitar, now… it was all white, a strange contrast to his clothing. Alongside of him was his bike, beat and battered, squeaking as he pulled closer to Zoe, until she could feel his breath. He took her hand and squeezed it gently…
    Zoe woke with a start, breathing faster and more heavily that anyone should in their first seconds of a new day. She squeezed her eyes shut and willed the image to go away. It didn’t, of course. It never did. Zoe shivered, seeing Zane’s smiling face. She really missed him. It had been two years… and they had found a tiny, green velvet box in his pocket, stained with his and Zoe’s blood, which housed a shiny silver ring, with a decent-sized emerald set in the center. It has cost about eight times Zane’s usual paycheck, and was now glimmering on Zoe’s finger.
    She sighed. She had to move on. Zane was gone. Never coming back. She couldn’t help thinking, though, that if Zane HAD asked her to marry him, her answer most definitely would have been-
    “Honey? Good morning!”
    Zoe shook her head. She really shouldn’t think about that. It was bad for her health.
    She called down to her mom and told her that yes, she was awake, and started to get ready for school. She was a senior now. Zoe got out and put on a deep purple shirt and nondescript skinny jeans. Then she ran a brush through her inky black hair, now cut to about a third of the length it was before the accident. Then, she left her room.
    Zoe didn’t eat anything that morning. The thought of food after that dream was enough to curb the appetite of a fat monkey. She knew her mom would worry, but Zoe didn’t particularly care. And, she was understandably upset. She left for school without another word to her mother or father.
    She met up with Lil at their lockers, and hoped her ‘happy’ face was working today. It seemed to be, because Lil was gabbing away about what guy she thought was the hottest. Thankfully, Lil had never asked Zoe’s opinion since Zane died.
    She pretended to follow along, knowing that Lil knew she wasn’t really. After awhile, she told Lil she was skipping their next class to visit the lighting booth in the auditorium; her and Zane’s favorite spot to hang out when they used to skip. Most of the staff didn’t know it existed, and it was impossible to be seen from the ground. You had a view of the stage from about 15 feet high, stage right.
    She and Zane used to go up there all the time, just to talk. It was nice, because the terrible acoustics in the auditorium didn’t seem to apply to the cozy little room, though it was made with the same cement-block walls. Sometimes, they drew pictures on the walls, and wrote things like “Zane♥Zoe 4evr” and “DblZ”. It might have made her feel sad, but she felt nearer to Zane when she was up here. It was like, from this height, he could see her, and felt the need to be near her too.
    She tip-toed to the very back, where loose chords hung without insulation or even a light attached to them, and messed with the copper wire. She remembered coming up here, sobbing, when her parents got divorced, and found Zane sleeping in this corner. It was how she had first met him. She had tried not to wake him up, because she just wanted to look at him. Then, he had light brown hair, tousled from sleep, and tall, wearing a striped collared shirt that his dad made him wear. That was Before Zane got stronger than him, of course.
    She could almost see him now… just like he was last time she saw him. Pale blonde hair, old leather jacket…. In her mind’s eye, he was talking to her… Zoe started crying. Then she started sobbing. Then, she felt a light, cold hand on her shoulder. Her tear-stained face drained of blood. She looked up, and saw a tall, pale boy with bleached blonde hair, spiked up, wearing a leather jacket.
    Zane. He was sad.
    And translucent.
    “Oh, darling, I know what you’re going through,” he said quietly.
    And that’s when Zoe started screaming.

    later that day

    Zoe rubbed her temples. She was lying on the floor of the lighting booth, with a vague suspicion that she should probably be freaking out right now. Why? Because she was lying on the floor, and the last thing she remembered was seeing her dead boyfriend. But she felt very… calm. It was crazy.
    And what should have made her even more panicky? She opened her eyes, straight up, and whose face should be hov’ring so fairly above hers? The aforesaid dead boyfriend.
    But, instead of screaming again, she smiled and thought to herself, wow, you must have hit your head pretty darn hard. But, best enjoy the illusion while it lasts.
    Zane (who couldn’t really be there, of course) looked relieved and said, “You’re just a mess!” He held out his hand for Zoe to take, but Zoe looked at the white, translucent arm and pushed herself off the ground herself. Zane (if he was there) put on a concerned and apologetic face.
    Once off the ground, Zoe finally got the panic-attack reaction she’d been waiting for. She looked at him, her chest heaving. She said faintly, “You’re dead. There’s no way to talk to you.” She looked around, jerkily taking in her surroundings, though they were the same as when she was knocked out… or whatever. “You’re dead,” she repeated.
    “I’ve heard it said… ‘though you’re dead and gone, believe me, you memory will carry on.’” Zane said, obviously thinking this explained something. Seeing that this didn’t make an ounce of sense to Zoe he said, “I died. But, I won’t go until you…” he didn’t finish the sentence.
    He didn’t need to. Understanding flooded through Zoe’s brain, and she was even more horrified than before, if that was possible.
    “We’ll never be worlds apart, “ he whispered, moving closer, parting his lips…
    No, Zoe thought. No, this isn’t happening, don’t let this be real… “Stop!” She screamed. Zane stopped moving, straightened up, and adjusted his jacket. He wore an awkwardly disappointed face. He reached forward and held Zoe’s face, in spite of her squirming. She shivered, the coldness of him spreading through her body.
    “Tell me,” he said slowly, “Now, when did you last let your heart decide?” With that, he let go on Zoe and started walking. Her face burned where the icy phalanges had just left. Zane started stepping up, like he was walking up stairs. Except, of course, there were no stairs, and he was about to run into the ceiling. Needless to say, it didn’t help Zoe with the whole sanity issue.
    Anyway, Zane stopped when his hair barely brushed the ceiling. With a sad wave, he was gone. A slip of red parchment floated down, landing exactly in Zoe’s hands.

    You stole my heart, you silly girl. Now, it’s stopped beating, but it’s still yours if you want it. You can come here anytime you’re ready. I’ll be here, waiting on one knee , if you change your mind.


    a week later

    Zoe walked across the empty stage, looking up at the lighting booth. The steep stairs creaked, as if urging her to climb them. She took a deep breath, squeezed her eyes closed, and took off Zane’s ring.
    “I can’t help it,” she said loudly. Her voice cracked. “I’m still falling. But… I’ve learned from my mistakes.” She exhaled slowly, and opened her hand to look at the ring. She saw her face reflected in its multiple facets, and closed her hand again. Then, she held her arm as far away from her as she could, and dropped it.
    The auditorium filled with the ringing the jewelry made as it clanked and rolled. It ended up on the extreme right-hand side of the stage, propped up miraculously by the stairs to the lighting booth.
    Zoe waited.
    Nothing happened. No apparition, no angry Zane, no nothing. Zoe glanced around quickly and then bolted and grabbed the ring. On the way back to center stage, she gently polished it. No nicks or scratches. She’d been lucky.
    A drop of water fell on her head. She turned upwards as fast as she could, and stared that the ceiling. Another drop fell on her forehead. Dang leaks, she thought. Then, she shoved the ring on her finger and ran to her English class.



    Zane smiled sadly. “Oh, Zoe, I need you,” he murmured, strumming out soft, harmonious chords on the white guitar that was so much like his one down on Earth. It took his mind off of the Nothingness that surrounded him, and the hundreds of thousands of others who paced endlessly, waiting for the ones they loved that had already moved on. They tread a path made of nothing but their loneliness and misery, and Zane sat like a tourist along the edge of the stream made by their tears. Him and Luke, that’s all there was for him. But Luke was leaving soon.
    Luke had been a college-scholarship winning senior in 1969. He played basketball, was tall, with sharply defined features and messy brown hair. All the girls adored him, and he only adored one: Mellissa.
    She was the one who murdered him.
    So Luke had to wait, for as long as anyone could take, for this girl who he loved- and still loves.
    Idiot, Zane thought. Such a hopeless freaking romantic.
    They were in the company of those who refused to leave their world behind them… people, places, things, anything. It wasn’t a place you’d want to go, it wasn’t the Gates of Heaven or anything like that. You got one thing, and then you waited.
    And if the one you waited for doesn’t come for you… Well, you never leave.

    Bibliography of lyrics

    "What happened?" (prologue)- Which to Bury; Us or the Hatchet? [Relient K]
    "Have you heard the news that you're dead?" (prologue)- Dead! [My Chemical Romance]
    "Good Morning!" (two weeks later)- Good Morning [Singin' in The Rain]
    "Oh, darling, I know what you're going through," (two weeks later)- Headfirst Slide into Cooperstown on a Bad Bet [Fall Out Boy]
    "You're just a mess!" (later that day)- Fences [Paramore]
    "You're dead." (later that day)- Dead! [My Chemical Romance]
    "There's no way to talk to you." (later that day)- Dead on Arrival [Fall Out Boy]
    "I've heard it said...." (later that day)- For Good [Wicked]
    "Though you're dead and gone, believe me, your memory will carry on." (later that day)- The Black Parade [My Chemical Romance]
    "I won't go until you..." (later that day)- Check Yes Juliet [We The Kings]
    "we'll never be worlds apart" - Umbrella [ATL]
    "Tell me..... now when did you last let your heart decide?" -A Whole New World [Aladdin]
    "Oh, .... I need you" -Bye Simple [Kill Paradise]