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Name: Aurora Lune Jameson
Age at death: 17 | Actual age: 27
Role: Writer's choice
Faceclaim: Chloë Grace Moretz
Amiable | Observant | Self-sufficient | Musical
Shy | Squeamish | Meddlesome
Close your eyes and imagine you’re driving down a lazy road, one of those curvy country ones that were my favorite before the accident. There’s snow falling in the air and it’s dark, but the headlights keep just enough visibility in the mid February air that there’s some sort of nonchalance. You’ve driven this road one thousand times before. Maybe more. It’s been your favorite even before you got your license when you first turned sixteen. Just like me. My Mam knew little that my Papa had been taking me out since I was twelve. I’d been begging him for years before that and he finally gave in: perhaps it was those years of extra practice on the icy back lanes of Minnesota that gave me the instincts I needed to pull my Chevy off the road after being hit. It will come out of nowhere. There won’t be blinding headlights of the other driver because they weren’t on and the snow already piled six feet high from the blizzard a week prior could have buried a canon shot three feet in front of a deaf deer. No, it was invisible, impromptu, and unstoppable, as death comes to most.
Perhaps, I should introduce myself. My name is Rory and I was seventeen when I was killed by a drunk driver in Bear Lake, Michigan. It’s a small fishing community on Lake Erie with less than 400 people when it’s packed during the warmer months. By warmer months I mean June through September and even then it is rare to get a day above eighty-five. We have plenty of folks who come around for our temperate summers and hightail it back home by the time of the first frost, because once it shows in Michigan, it tends to be hard pressed to leave. Everyone in my city knew one another. There was Pam Pritchard at the grocery, Reverend Hubbard at the local Lutheran place of worship, and Miss Jill who probably teaches at one of the last one room schoolhouses in this great country. They all call — called — me cello girl because I’d ride my bike down Main Street with my eighty pound cello strapped to my shoulders. It was the best way I had to bring it home before I got my truck for my sixteenth birthday.
There aren’t a lot of four year olds who see an instrument with more height than themselves and fall in love, but while most little girls my age were dressing their Barbies and playing in the kitchen, I would spend hours in my room with the only stringed instrument that our school had. It was an adult-size cello which was missing a string and hadn’t been properly tuned in six months. I’m pretty sure my parents regretted calling me gifted when I declared my affection for the dilapidated musicmaker. Their ears were in a constant state of torture for the first year of me figuring things out on my own before I was introduced to a teacher.
My parents did their best to give me everything a little girl could want or need and I knew how much they sacrificed to even have me in their lives. I was adopted as a toddler after Mam and Papa had many unsuccessful pregnancies, failed fertility treatments, and even adoptions that fell through. They’d wanted children since before they married and had been thwarted at every turn. My parents were in their late forties by the time I was dropped off at a fire station about two miles from their home. The chief knew them personally, and called my Mam right away. Perhaps it was her warmth and love that inspired me to keep going despite nearly freezing on that night.
My Mam and Papa were older, but what they lacked in energy they certainly made up for in knowledge and their spirit of giving towards me. If I was less grateful for their sacrifice, I would have been spoiled. It was part of how close I was to them and how much they put aside for my years of training (which involved hours of driving to the big city) that made parting from this earth so difficult.
My legs were crushed almost instantly on impact and being pinned, I couldn’t even look to see what had hit me. I wasn’t scared that my legs couldn’t move, but I was terrified about the huge gash that ran down my prominent, left hand. It was my playing hand. I could play cello in a wheelchair, but I couldn’t imagine not playing music at all. That was a fate worse than death. The moments that I held on stretched into hours as the reality that I would be late for curfew hit me. Just as the loss of blood was beginning to make me dizzy, I noticed something: the faint sound of sirens and the way they echoed and pulsed, a final beat to the soundtrack of my life.
I did not take well to death. Not everyone does. Leaving earth with a sense of unfinished business can make a soul have tendencies to wander and so I did. I watched my parents get the phone call and I watched my body being lifted from the ambulance, the car cut apart with the jaws of life. Chest compressions, chest compressions, chest compressions.
The injuries were phenomenal: two broken legs, a fractured left wrist, and multiple shards of glass stabbed into my flesh. I was a goner. However, it was the blunt force impact of the other car that had truly done it. No one should have been driving in inclement weather at 70 miles an hour, but fate doesn’t make friends. Even if you beg.
When I woke up, everything was quiet. Too quiet and too dark. I don’t like the dark and I never have. There’s something about not being able to see three feet in front of you that can take an ordinary room from perfectly friendly to being plunged into the depths of the Mariana Trench. Perhaps, I have an overactive imagination, but even as a young adult I could never sleep without some kind of light coming into my room. Here there was nothing. There were no windows and no lamps and everything was cold, despite the snow being gone. There was a distinct lack of sensation, however, and the pain in my arm had subsided from a demanding throb to a dull ache. All around me were sheets of light that seemed to sway as I turned my head. My body didn’t seem to have substance, but neither was it floating. I was neither alive or dead, but somewhere in between. I was in the void.
I still remember that sense of loneliness and distance, but it did not last forever. If it had, I am certain that things would have taken a turn for the worse. Not everyone can withstand nothingness and my mind was beginning to shatter. It was only then that the soft glow of something appeared. I called it Dory at first. Finding Nemo was my favorite movie as a kid and I always remember how Marlin was a grump fish on his journey through the depths to find something he’d lost. It turned out that his name was Westley. He was kind and didn’t appear much older than I, but that was something I learned quickly. Being turned Aurazin meant being frozen in time. I didn’t understand at first and it took me a long time to accept my death, but fortunately, I had all the time I needed to grieve and come to peace with my passing and there were others who surrounded me during this time. Nearly all of them had suffered some trauma in life and had parted it during a bittersweet time. Some were more bitter than sweet.
That was over twenty years ago now, and I haven’t aged a day. During my training, I started to learn about the burden humans bear of their morality and how most still manage to find joy in the simple and mundane. What was hardest, however, was to watch them grieve. Just like I watched my parents, everyday, I could see the pain. At first, it was nearly too much to bear the idea that I was made to shoulder the burden of death, sorrow, of loss.
That was when I found my eye in the storm. On the first night of bringing someone’s loved one through, I hit my own limit. I felt empty, almost, but when I most needed it an old friend appeared to me. My cello looked as healed as I did in this next life and was no longer missing strings. Somehow, being able to play music again refilled me and enabled me to give back to others.
Sometimes I look like myself and sometimes, I step into others’ shoes, but only recently have things changed. After missions, freeing the grieving, the Aurazin used to always find our home in the veil. It was different for everyone. For me it smelled like my Mam’s rhubarb pie and there was a constant rotation of morning light and Bethoven’s fifth, but now it is gone and we are tied back to this earth. The feeling of my feet on soft grass is unnatural after so long and while I don’t think there was a particular moment where it struck me that the home I once knew was lost, I remember finding Evermore. The previously soft sheets of the veil are conquered by a soft meadow. The charred remains of my human home have been used to construct a memorial and grave to every victim driven off the road by the bottle. Even though I cannot talk to my parents, I do like to observe from a distance. Long ago that winding road had no safety from the blind spots but now there stand warning lights - like a beacon to keep away the dark. Despite my death and many others, people chose to band together. I like to think something good came from my sorrow. My Papa is now a safety commissioner in the city and my Mam runs a support group for lost souls. Often, I find that the words under the town’s tribute summarize this chapter of my journey well. For I have only ever known heartache but, it has made me kind.