+

Chapter 1 | Death in a Morgue

This situation was of his own creation.

He should have known that something was wrong when he walked in and all the drawers were open. He shouldn’t have been pleasantly surprised when he didn’t feel the chill of the A/C blasting to keep the room at freezer temperatures. Most of all though, he should have realized that he wasn’t alone long before the beautiful girl behind him had time to slide her cute little switchblade across his collarbone.

With a precision that made it clear to him that she’d done this before, she slit open his subclavian artery. He tried to reach for the space between his shoulder and neck to add pressure to the spurting blood, but he was in too much pain. He knew he was going to bleed out – there was no stopping it now. She walked around to face him, and he saw a smile that in any other situation would have gotten his heart racing.

“Don’t worry,” she said, “it’ll only hurt for a little more.”

He tried to speak but instead fell to his knees and face planted the floor. She took a step back to avoid getting any of his blood on her and he felt miserable at such an ungraceful death. He had no choice in the matter though, this is how he would die – crumpled on the floor, bleeding out at the hands of a goddess of death.

“Gross,” she said to herself. “So much blood.”


Before his soul had time to truly leave his body, Lars found himself conscious again and sitting upright in a chair. He opened his eyes and realized he was still in the land of the living. He looked down at his shaking fingers and reached up to where she’d cut him. His clothes were still stained with an incomprehensible amount of warm blood, but he couldn’t feel anything where the cut should be. He pressed his fingers to the base of his throat and waited – counting to himself under his breath – before he moved his hand to cover his heart to repeat the action.

Nothing.

“I’m dead,” he whispered.

“Oh,” he heard someone say, “you’re much calmer than the others usually are. I think I might like you.”

His head whipped up and he caught sight of the girl from earlier. His mind couldn’t comprehend what was happening. She’d killed him – he knew that as a fact. So how was he here, in a chair, checking for his heartbeat? She could see the terror sinking into his eyes and she smiled softly at him.

“Now, don’t scream,” she said. Her voice was soft and sweeter that molasses, but her words were stronger than reinforced steel – his body couldn’t disobey her. He clenched his jaw – unsure as to why he was following her orders – and waited for her to continue. “The conclusion you came to is correct. You are dead as a door nail and I’m the one who killed you. And I also brought you back,” she explained. “But I don’t want your brilliant mind to break,” she said, noticing the fear creeping into his expression, “so try not think about it too much for now, okay?”

He nodded and she graced him with another smile of hers. He stood from the chair to test how well his body still functioned but was immediately distracted by the golden light coming from her as she walked around the room. Realizing her words just moment ago – that she brought him back from the dead – his brain started piecing together what she was doing.

“What are you doing?”

She glanced up at him, but said nothing, just continued to walk around the room. First, she touched each wall, then the door frame and knob, and then the small window to his left. She stood in his chair to place her fingertips against the ceiling and then knelt to touch the ground.

“Excuse me, but –”

“Honey,” she interrupted him, “it’s not my job to explain magic to you.”

“I just want to know –”

She closed her eyes and sighed in frustration as the golden light around her faded. She turned and met his gaze.

“Please stop talking,” she said. “You’re breaking my concentration. And despite how perfect my ass is, I can’t just pull magic out of it. So,” she took a calming breath and focused on the bodies in front of her, “just sit tight and watch.”

Deciding it was best not to argue with his murderer, he nodded again and leaned against the wall. He noticed that they were now in a cage of her magic, and he guessed that she’d just sealed the place off to do whatever it was she wanted to accomplish. He turned his eyes back to her and did his best to make a mental note of every detail he witnessed.

A gold light shined from her skin and extended past her fingers. He watched in awe as, with each step, she gently touched the arm of every cadaver and they rose up. Not in a moaning-groaning-eat-your-brain-undead sort of way, but in a I-just-woke-up-from-a-long-restful-nap sort of way. They stretched and yawned and massaged their tense muscles. He watched her closely, and her lips moved ever so slightly whenever she touched someone. He couldn’t make out the words, but it didn’t really matter.

She was waking the dead – in the literal sense – with no effort at all.

In less than ten minutes, his morgue was filled with at least thirty men and women who he’d classified as dead himself. She’d not awakened the children, but he was in such disbelief of what he was witnessing – that was a minor detail in his mind. Without any apparent instruction from her, they moved to stand in five neat rows. His eyes darted straight back to her when she cleared her throat.

She faced the crowd, counted them quickly, then rubbed her hands together, clapped twice and blew what he guessed to be akin to magic dust through the crowd. In an instant each and every person was clothed – their surgical scars were gone – the putrid scent of death no longer clung to the air. She smiled at her handiwork and placed a manicured finger to her lips with a smile.

When she spoke, he heard her voice not only in his ear from standing near her, but also in his head as if her words were his own thoughts. At some point he’d moved to stand two steps behind her on the right. He didn’t remember making the conscious decision to do that, but it felt like where she wanted him to be. Her voice pushed every other thought aside with no resistance from him.

“Listen. Welcome back to the land of the living.” Her words were cheerful and he, along with the rest of the group, nodded in thanks. “You are no longer dead thanks to yours truly,” she giggled and waved her hand, so a golden light circled her smiling face like a halo, “and so now you obey me. That’s the long and short of the situation. Understand?” Again, nods from everyone around. “Good. Now, go out in the world and be normal for a bit. When I call for you, you will know it. You will come.”

She paused and waited before speaking again. “That’s it. You can go.”

She released her magic and the newly resurrected left. All except for Lars who she looked at with a smile. “Not you though. You come with me.”

As A Writer

I want girls with dark skin and curly hair going on adventures. I want them to be bold and strong, but still polite and kind. I want them to be described as beautiful and soft and shy and fearless and courageous. I want them to go to fantastical places and do supernatural things and meet unreal people and wonder at the possibilities of the world and what’s beyond it. I want them to be young and teenagers and young women and old women. I want them to be cranky and hyper and perfect and flawed.

I want stories with girls who look like me who are about more than boys. I want them to be more than urban and angry and upset and hurt and stereotyped. I want them to fall in love with themselves. I want them to see the world. I want them to be more than a side character. I want them to be dynamic and unique. I want them to be about more than the wrongs the world has done to them and their broken pieces. I want them to be about more than distrust and cruelty and discrimination and racism and hatred.

I want a story where girls with brown skin aren’t fundamentally cracked by broken homes and broken families and broken lives. I want them to come from a place they feel loved. I want them to have solid confidence in themselves, and insecurities that come from growing from a girl to a woman. I want them to have a solid foundation and solid friends and a solid family. I want them to be strong in their existence and more than their damaged pieces.

I want stories with brown girls who speak proper English because they choose to. I want stories about girls who can speak properly and still be themselves and speak like where they come from and know how to effortlessly switch between the two. I want nerdy girls who love to read and hang out with their friends. I want girls who keep to themselves by choice — not because they’re shunned. I want stories about girls who don’t curse or party or drink but still have wild nights with their friends and have memories with them that were worth making. I want girls who stay up late reading and writing and listening to music and texting their best friend.

I want stories about girls who aren’t afraid to cry — who face the world in front of them with pain and scars, but aren’t defined by it. Girls who refuse to be sucked into — locked in — held down by a life that wants to limit them.

I want girls who look like me who aren’t afraid to be themselves, even if that means it doesn’t look like “your average black girl”. I want stories about girls who are more than stereotypes. I want stories about girls with dark skin and curly hair who are brilliant and magical, and more than just what the world says they should be because of their skin.

These are the stories I want to read. These are the stories I’m going to write.