Nadia knew she was dead when the call didn’t go through.
She had started to suspect that she might be dead earlier in the day when, one by one, all of her internet passwords were rejected. Not being able to update her Facebook status was one thing, but not being able to pay her City of Minneapolis utility bill was another.
Nadia wondered what would happen to her Facebook page, now that she was dead. Maybe her little icon would permanently read, “not available to chat.”
She had tried to call the cable company to report the problem, but her phone refused to connect. It just kept flashing “calling,” without ever ringing through.
That was when she knew. Dead people were the ultimate in dropped calls.
“Can you hear me now?” she asked her empty apartment, giggling in a way that was only slightly hysterical.
Nadia wondered how she died. It must have been a painless way to go, she thought, since it had taken her so long to notice. She looked around her worn studio apartment: it definitely was not Heaven, and was not quite depressing enough to qualify as Hell. Maybe she had become a vampire? It didn’t seem any less likely than anything else.
Nadia walked into her kitchen and peeled a clove of garlic. She had it halfway to her mouth before she stopped. Even when alive, she would have never eaten an entire clove of raw garlic. She set it back on the battered counter, and walked into the bathroom.
Nadia smiled and waved at her fangless reflection. Probably not the bloodsucking undead, then.
Nadia looked behind the shower curtain, checked under the bed, and peered into the closet. No corpse. Maybe she wasn’t dead after all.
But when she tried to pull up her Twitter account, @gothkitty1, she sat there for ages while the status bar told her it was loading. Then a dull, electronic thunk, and the line “page not found.”
Nadia was dead. She was sure of it.
Nadia was a lot less sure about being dead when she was able to order a beer at Liquor Lyle’s. She was able to order five beers, to be precise. She was not, however, able to pay for them. Her credit card being declined and the fact that she didn’t feel in the slightest bit inebriated had her leaning towards “dead” again. The fact that she had to pee so bad that she squatted in the alley after being thrown out of the bar argued for “alive.” Also, mortified.
Nadia stubbed her toe, and cursed. Death was one of those things that was supposed to be a certainty. Whatever this was, certain was no part of it.
The next morning, Nadia woke up covered in dust bunnies and staring at the underside of her bed. She scooted out from underneath, and tried to lie down on the mattress, but passed through as if it were water.
Dead, then. Or at least seriously incorporeal.
Nadia’s ability to interact with the physical world grew worse as the day progressed. As the sun was beginning to set, a taxi ran through her. The driver didn’t react.
Nadia imagined that if someone could have seen what happened, it would have looked like a scene with a ghost in a kids’ cartoon.
That was when the realization finally sunk in that she was gone, lost to her life, her family and friends, the cute guy she always flirted with at the Starbucks. Nadia sat in the middle of Lyndale Avenue and wept.
When she stood again, saw that she had begun to grow transparent. Her left hand was completely invisible, her arm fading out just above the wrist. So she was shocked when an elegant silver-haired woman walked to the middle of the intersection and extended her hand.
Nadia was even more surprised when she was able to grasp the woman’s hand. It was soft, gentle, with a reassuring strength beneath the skin.
Nadia stared into the woman’s eyes as the traffic whirred through them. Some small part of her still clung to the questions of life. How had she died? Why had the transition been so strange?
But those were words that wouldn’t change anything, answers as insubstantial as she was. It was better to ask new questions, rather than seek old answers.
Nadia held the woman’s hand tighter, then turned with her to the horizon. Together, they walked to where the streetlights met the stars.