Author: AnnmarieM

Chapter 5
C'est la vie

Dark figures haunted his dreams after that, dreams in which he was running blindly into miles of endless darkness while the shadows with their piercing burgundy eyes followed silently. It was worse than the previous dreams about the door. By the time he was consciously aware again, he could feel the pure, untainted fear and adrenaline rushing through him and numbing his senses. Although now that he thought hard, his senses hadn’t been working much lately anyway.

He waited for a long while, breathing in and out deeply, eyes closed just because he was scared of what he might find if he opened them. Everything that he could remember last seemed like a dream; just a continuation of this endless nightmare that had been going on for far too long. But maybe if he just opened his eyes now…maybe it would be over. With this dashing hope, he gathered the last of his frayed nerves and cracked his eyelids apart.

The first thing he saw was grey; blank, stubborn grey that glared back at him looking positively ordinary. And then he noticed something, something small and barely noticeable that marred the blank grey. It was a piece of mould, in the shape of a musical note, in the corner of what he realised now was a ceiling. Wait – his ceiling. Immediately he felt a wave of relief rush through him and sighed out loud. Everything would be okay. He was awake now and back at home. Any minute his alarm would go off and he would hit the snooze button and sleep for another ten minutes to make sure he was late for school.

And yet it never did.

When he realised this, some of the previous anxiety returned and he frowned up at the ceiling. Maybe it was a weekend? Strangely enough, he did not feel any pain – or anything, for that matter. Shrugging this thought away he attempted to push himself up into a sitting position with his numb arms. Somehow, it worked. He could now see clearly his whole room from his position on the floor (the floor? Why wasn’t he on a bed?) With a grimace he noticed someone had obviously attempted to tidy it and hadn’t done a very good job. They seemed to have given up half way through. He didn’t blame them though. He had tried the same thing on various occasions yet had been completely overwhelmed by the sheer amount of…everything really.

When he finally managed to force himself to stand on shaky, numb legs he felt dizzy again but managed to maintain his balance and stay upright. He blinked blearily, rubbed his eyes and then looked around. When he noticed something – or more precisely someone – lying in what was supposed to be his bed however, the recent memories suddenly returned full force and he stumbled backwards slightly in shock, straight onto a piece of mouldy toast.

He stared at the figure in the bed for a few long moments, his heart thumping erratically and sudden anticipation and fear coursing through his body. He could remember it all clearly now – everything that had happened in the hospital, the fact that his arm had phased through a solid object and the fact that he had had a conversation with himself. If Sean had not already had experience with new and often frightening situations such as these, then he would have screamed. Hell, he was still considering that possibility. Yet despite the fact that no one was even around to see his loss of composure, he refused to give in to every single one of his senses which told him to run. So he stayed there, rooted to the spot, and simply stared.

In the end, he found himself standing by the bedside and subconsciously wringing his hands in desperation. He was not sure what he was desperate for however, except maybe some answers. He still couldn’t quite believe it every time he looked down only to see his own ashen face, his own matted hair, his own body looking perfectly peaceful and content in sleep. It was surreal, but this time there was no doubt in his mind that all of this was not simply a drawn-out nightmare. So with a long-suffering, defeated sigh he stayed, and he waited.

He did not know how long he stood there, simply watching and waiting for something to happen, but he was surprised to find that his legs did not ache with tiredness, his head did not throb any longer, and dammit why could he still not feel his limbs? A disinterested glimpse of the alarm clock beside the bed told him that it was quite late, nearly eight in the evening. Would Hayden still be around? At this time, he was normally out with his large collection of equally abnormal friends, or at parties. Recently he had grown accustomed to scaling the house and bringing a small telescope with him up onto the roof, to observe the stars and try to pick them out. Mother would just be starting her night shift at the 24 hour corner shop. She got a higher salary for taking the night shift.

Steely blue eyes darted back to the bed suddenly when a barely audible yet clearly anguished moan parted pasty lips and the eyelashes fluttered slightly. Sean held his breath in anticipation, waiting for other signs of movement. That came a few minutes later in the form of another twitch of the eyelids, which finally after what felt like months opened to reveal those same eyes which had haunted his nightmares.

They were wearied, he could see, and bloodshot. A mystifying haze was shrouding them as they stared up at the ceiling for a moment. Then they blinked and the haze was gone, only to leave a piercing sense of emptiness in those two brown orbs. Slowly, the head lolled slightly to the side, causing a pained grimace and soft hiss. The two eyes, exhausted and looking completely out of place, flittered across Sean briefly before closing again as though deciding that he was not worth their time.

“I forgot what physical pain is like, after all these years you know,” it finally murmured in a course, raspy voice.

“What do you mean?” Sean narrowed his eyes, still feeling slightly dazed.

“The bruising is pretty bad, but luckily nothing’s broken.”

“I don’t mean that,” Sean snarled, raising his voice slightly in aggravation. His mind was still sluggish and unresponsive, but his confusion and fear was apparent. “J-just…explain. Who are you? What’s happening? Why am I here and you…there?”

Finally, it opened its impassive eyes once more and let out another hiss of pain. “Can’t this wait?”


“You wouldn’t believe me if I did.” The response was somehow patronising, indignant, and Sean bristled with irritation.

“Try me.”

A pained chuckle, but something gleamed in the pair of eyes, something alive. “Tell me,” it started. “What do you think happens when people die?”

“What has this got to do with anything?”

“Just answer the question.”

Sean shrugged. “They stop…functioning, I guess. They’re buried, and then their bodies decompose.”

“You don’t believe in heaven and hell?”

“I’m an atheist. Heaven and hell are just myths, invented in ancient times to blackmail people into being good and not committing crimes.”

“What about afterlives, reincarnation?”

“Still only myths.”

It pondered for a moment, thoughtful. “You have a remarkably scientific view on life,” it finally croaked. “But not everything can be explained by science alone, you know. Sometimes you have to consider other possibilities.”

“Like what?”

“Like maybe, death isn’t the end. Like maybe, death does not mean you simply cease to exist.”

Sean let out a forced laugh then, at how ridiculous this whole situation was. “What? Are you saying ghosts are real? And zombies?” He sneered at the figure in the bed. And instead, the figure just smiled back.

“Actually, yes. I am.”

There was an awkward pause in the room then, and the air itself seemed to have stilled as well so that it was perfectly silent. A stray beam of light filtered through a crack in the grimy curtains and Sean could only stare. He was not sure whether to believe what was happening or not. Ghosts? The paranormal? It seemed so out-of-this-world, the sort of stuff that Hayden liked to read up on. He had always thought it a waste of time. Before he could gather the rest of his thoughts however, it continued.

“I wouldn’t say ghosts, and certainly not zombies, exist,” it started carefully, breaking the silence. “But yes, there are things that come after death. Death is only a transition from this world into another.”

He blinked, vision unfocused. “If not ghosts then what would you call them, then?”

“Imprints.” When Sean could only continue to ogle, looking dazed and confused, it continued. “When a person dies, their soul you could say, leaves their body. It always takes the appearance of that previous body, because it’s really just an imprint of who that person used to be. Like a shadow, you could say. It keeps their memories, their personality, everything except for any physical limitations. Then, that soul is free to wander. However it can’t be seen or heard by living people and its…existence gets weaker over time and the further away from its body it strays. Eventually, these souls just…fade away. Sometimes you hear rumours about reincarnation, but nothing is certain.”

Souls? Imprints? It sounded so unrealistic, like someone’s warped fantasy, but at the same time a part of him believed this explanation. It made sense, in a strange way, that there would be a part of humans that was more than just electrical impulses from the brain, a part of humans that could live on. He closed his eyes and tried to clear his mind, tried to organise the million buzzing questions and thoughts that pounded against his skull.

“I still don’t understand, though,” he finally whispered. “Say, hypothetically, that all of what you just said is true. Then…what does it have to do with me? Who are you?”

Those bright, burgundy eyes that had previously looked so alive dimmed slightly and turned downwards. “That’s what I am; an imprint. I died four years ago. And I wanted to live again, so I…swapped places with you.”

“…Swapped places with me?”

“Surely you noticed. Weeks before that car accident, how you felt like someone was watching you, and the strange dreams you had…that was all me. I’d been following you around, when the perfect chance came along. You got hit by the car, and put into a coma. Your…life force you could say was weak and your defences gone, and it was the perfect opportunity. I managed to separate your soul from your body while the bonds holding them together were at their weakest, and then I took its place.”

Sean blinked again, still not quite able to believe such an absurd explanation. “So…you’re really someone else, in my body? You stole my body?”

It winced slightly. “I wouldn’t say stole…but yes, right now I am in control of your body and you are what I used to be; an imprint of yourself.”

Another long, tense silence ensued. In its own completely unbelievable way, it made sense. Sean felt light-headed, a strange contrast to how heavy his head had felt before. He was almost certain now that this was not just a nightmare. It was too real; too vivid. He let out a sigh and shook his head in frustration.

“Why me, then?” he finally asked. “Why did you choose me, out of anyone else in the world?”

“It was luck that I found you,” the raspy voice answered quietly. “Something like this happening is very rare, almost impossible because most of the time the body is only compatible with one soul, but you…you’re a special case.” A hollow laugh. “I felt it when I first started following you – I felt stronger and more alive around you. It made me want to live again.”

Sean nodded numbly, accepting this information wordlessly and turning his unfocused gaze to his clammy, pale hands that trembled softly like golden leaves in a cold gust of wind. Shouldn’t they be translucent or something? “So it’s…it’s true, then,” he stuttered slightly, voice breaking. “I’m…dead?”

“Not dead, but not quite alive either.”

“A ghost, then.”

“An imprint.”

“And what about you?”

“What about me?”

“Who are you?”

“Who I was, or who I am now?”

“Both, I guess.”

“I used to be a boy, named Drew. But from now on, I am you.”

“That’s impossible.”

Suddenly, a quiet knock came from the door. The corners of Drew’s – at least this thing that was infesting his body now had a name – mouth turned upwards into a twisted smirk, that vaguely reminded him of a jack-o’-lantern. “Really?” It – no, he – whispered. “Then why don’t you see for yourself.”

Before he had time to protest, to run, the door on the other side of the room creaked open gently to reveal a shock of unruly dark hair and Hayden entered the room, carrying a tray laden with a bowl of soup and a mug of liquid.

“Mum asked me to make sure you eat this before she left,” was his disinterred explanation, balancing the tray precariously on one hand as he made his way across the room. Sean felt a streak of hope, which quickly grew and engulfed his thoughts. Finally; an end to the madness. Everything was going to be okay now – his big brother was here and, despite the normal sibling rivalry between them, Sean respected him. With a relieved smile he quickly picked his way across to Hayden and called his name. And yet Hayden made no response, did not even acknowledge the call. Instead he just set the tray down on the table, asking the boy in the bed how he was feeling. Why couldn’t he see? Why was he ignoring him? Sean blinked, shook his head and then tried again. When again he received no response, he let out a growl of irritation and leapt forwards to grab his brother’s bony shoulders, to try and rattle some sense into him.

It came as a surprise, therefore, when his hands never made contact and instead simply phased straight through Hayden’s shoulders.

He couldn’t feel anything. His body was numb, unfeeling; as good as dead. He could not feel the rough, frayed fabric of Hayden’s sweater smothering his fingers, or the ‘misplaced’ sock he was treading on beneath his toes, or…he tried again. He screamed out the name with all of the energy he had left to muster and his hands turned into fists, his own voice reverberating in his ears. He yelled until he should have been hoarse, but he never felt any pain. And all the while, Hayden was scowling and saying something about a party he had to go to, as though Sean was invisible; as though he couldn’t hear him; as though he didn’t exist.

It hit him then, properly and with all the force of a wall of water that stretched up and beyond the cotton-candy clouds, crashing down on him and condemning the world to silence. His world might as well be silent from now on. His own brother, and probably all of his friends and family, did not acknowledge his existence anymore. He wasn’t even sure that he did exist anymore. And if he did still exist, then what as? An imprint? A shadow?  Yes, a shadow almost; a shadow of the body lying in the bed in front of him.

He tried to stop Hayden as the older boy turned to leave, hoping desperately that maybe this wasn’t simply the end, that maybe he might sense his presence or something equally ludicrous. In the end, he blocked the doorway to try and stop him. And yet Hayden, with his gaunt, wearied eyes that could normally see through anyone, simply walked straight on, straight through him without blinking.

There was silence after the door closed then, a stifling silence that seemed to stretch on for days and lingered in the tense air even after it was broken.

“He didn’t…see me,” Sean murmured, and his voice was glass shattering and echoing; a vain attempt to fill something that was empty.

From the bed, there came a shudder, and then stillness. “I told you, didn’t I?” came the muffled, indignant reply. “Only others like yourself can see you now, me being the exception.”

In that moment, Sean wanted nothing more than to feel pain. He wanted to hit his head against the wall and feel the resulting throb, he wanted to scratch at his skin until he drew blood and could feel the sting; something to prove to himself that he was still alive. Yet when he tried to test out this theory, he still felt…nothing, just an endless numbness that was suffocating him into madness. He turned to peer at the human-shaped lump in the bed…and an irrational anger flared inside him. It scorched and combusted and devoured any of the common sense he had left. That lump, that thing that had infested his body, was the reason for all of this.

He lunged for the bed, tried to kick, punch or scratch the now-shuddering lump, but found himself phasing straight through the bed to the other side.

“It’s not going to work, you know, so give it up,” the thing said in a haughty voice, masking pain. “You’re not physically alive; you can’t touch me let alone hurt me.”

Sean just ignored it, the fear and the anger still coursing through his body. “Just GET OUT!” he roared. “Get the hell out of my life and just…I want things to be normal again.”

A humourless chuckle. “Normal? From now on, this is normal.”

Sean glared, eyes boring into the shining pair of burgundy, and advanced menacingly, stopping mere inches away from his own body. “Give. Me. My. Body. Back.”

The other only smirked wryly. “Sorry, Sean, but ‘cest la vie.”




















A/N: So, hopefully this chapter explained things a bit and you're now less confused? If not, you're ready to throw pots, pans and sun chairs at me in exasperation because I've wasted your time and it still doesn't make sense? I'm hoping for option 1 :)

BUT to clarify: Sean was in a coma. He did NOT die. However Drew, a rouge spirit of a 16 year old boy, separated Sean's body from his soul and then basically took over his body. As in, both boys look like Sean on the outside, but actually the real Sean is a spirit, and Drew is in Sean's alive body.

Make sense? Good. Now, on to more important matters.



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