A man woke up one day… and he didn’t wake up one day. He got up, stretched, and turned around to stare sleepily at his body, still laying in bed. One hand lay on his chest, and one dangled over the edge of the bed. He scratched his chest, noticed that whatever he was doing was not matching his actual body, and slowly started screaming. There was no sound, which only intensified his urge to scream. It took several minutes of not actually screaming at the body he wasn’t in for him to realize he wasn’t breathing either.
“Am I dead?” He silently asked himself. He poked his own foot, half-expecting his leg to flail. His foot was ridiculously ticklish, even the slightest touch got a reaction. Nothing happened, except that his hand passed slightly into his foot. Once he’d had another refreshing silent scream he sat down on the edge of the bed to think. It seemed there was no connection between his body and his self. He felt no pull towards the figure on the bed, and passing through himself didn’t make the cosmos realign. His bookcase, sadly barren since his recent move, contained only a cookbook and a couple self-help books on home repair. He’d bought them in a fit of inspiration while preparing for the move.
His nice little studio apartment with sparse furnishings was well lit, full of packed up boxes, and now contained what might be a dead body. He couldn’t check for a pulse, and couldn’t tell if he was still breathing reliably. It didn’t look good though, and he had to wonder how long it would be before someone came to check on him. He worked from home, and had a good few months of buffer… all his bills were paid automatically from his bank account. His life would theoretically go on without him for three or four month without a hitch. His body would probably start smelling before then though… maybe the lady two doors down who always hollered whenever someone cooked something that smelled stronger than popcorn would beat his door down and find him there in a few days, rotting away. He sort of hoped it would be her. It would serve her right to get a bit of a shock, she was such a miserable neighbor.
There was noise outside his door and for a moment his heart leaped with hope. Maybe someone would come, find him barely alive, and rush him to get medical help and he would wake up out of this nightmare. A brochure for a new pizza place slid under his door and the footsteps retreated. He tried to call out for them, then remembered he wasn’t making any actual noise and ran for the door. Instead of grabbing the handle like he’d planned, he rushed headlong through the door into the hallway. The delivery girl slid a brochure under the next door and continued on down the hallway. She reached the grumpy neighbor’s door and made a face at it, leaving no brochure. He got the feeling she knew that woman well enough to know she didn’t like pizza. He rushed after her and through her when she stopped suddenly and turned around. She stared at his door for a moment before shrugging and turning back around to face him. He tried grabbing her and she didn’t react, turning towards the stairs. This was the top floor of the building, so he knew she had probably passed out brochures to the entire building already, and followed her to the exit.
Nothing seemed to be getting her attention and out of frustration he made as if to knock the brochures out of her hand. She clutched them tighter suddenly and hesitated for just a moment.
“Did you feel that? Can you feel me?” He was so excited by the prospect he momentarily forgot he couldn’t make any sound. She straightened her hat and headed for the beat up old moped in front of the building. It was outfitted with a rack for deliveries and the man hurried after her, attempting to make some sort of contact. He hopped on the rack of the moped and it was several minutes of her driving and him flailing in her mirrors before he realized he was riding on the moped instead of falling through it. He couldn’t feel the wind or anything, but he could feel the bike solidly underneath him, running surprisingly smoothly for it’s appearance.
She pulled over in front of a pizza place and he followed her inside as she clocked out, said goodbye to her coworkers, and changed out of her work jacket and hat. She grabbed a bandanna out of the back room and a backpack, and recaptured her hair in the bandanna before getting back on the moped. He hopped on again, trying not to question how he could feel it and rode in a relative silence until they reached a quiet little white house on the far end of town. He followed her inside, but her lack of reaction was beginning to convince him she hadn’t felt him after all.
Inside, the girl said a hurried hello to a remarkably similar looking woman, who couldn’t have been more than a few years older. She cleared her throat in a very “wait a moment” sort of way and the girl stopped with a sigh.
“You have a little, um…” The woman said, gesturing with the knife she was using to chop vegetables at the man.
He looked around in confusion, then gestured to himself and mouthed, “You can see me?” at her. She smiled a little.
“Ugh, seriously? I was trying to ignore this. I have a job you know, I don’t have time for this nonsense.”
“It’s not nonsense, Julie, and you can’t just ignore him. He’s probably freaking out, poor dear hasn’t even figured out how to talk. Come sit down, both of you.”
Julie let out an exaggerated sigh, dumped her backpack on the floor, and trudged over to the table to sit down across from the woman. The man sat down at the side of the table, feeling very confused.
“Do you know his name?”
“He’s too new to the building, they didn’t have a nameplate up on his mailbox yet.” Julie looked very bored with the conversation, picking up one of the freshly peeled carrots and biting into it.
“Well that will make it trickier… but at least we know where he lives. Well, young man, my name is Heather and this is my sister Julie. Once I’ve got you talking we’ll get your name, but for now you’re welcome here.”
“I don’t have time for this! I’m going to do my homework.” Julie shoved her chair back so hard it almost tipped when she stood up, and she stomped upstairs, taking her backpack and the carrot with her.
“Sorry about her… I’m sure you have a million questions right now. First off, don’t worry, you’re not dead.” Heather smiled sweetly at him and went back to cutting up vegetables. She seemed to be making a stew, and the man couldn’t help but wish he had a stomach to be hungry with, “The bad news is somebody or something did this to you, so we’re gonna have to figure out who and why before we can get you all sorted.” He mouthed thank you and she gave him another sweet smile.