Prom Night in Purgatory
Author:Amy Harmon

“No. I’m not dead, I’m just dreaming. I mean, I don’t think I’m dead.” Maggie suddenly realized that she could very well be dead. Maybe she had returned to the past because that is where Johnny had existed. If so, she supposed God had been benevolent; wherever Johnny was was where she wanted to be.

 

Lizzie rose from the bed and walked toward Maggie with a determined set to her chin. She walked with a slight limp, and Maggie noticed her right leg was somewhat shriveled next to the left.

 

“Did you hurt your leg?”

 

“I just got my cast off last week. I broke my leg falling out of the tree in our backyard. It was worth it, though. I got to see my mother. She talked to me just like you. And I could see through her, just like you. That’s how I know you’re a ghost.” Lizzie stopped just in front of Maggie and crossed her arms defiantly.

 

“How do you know Irene? And why are you in my room?” The little girl had some moxie – no doubt about it. She reminded Maggie a little of herself. Maybe being able to see ghosts had steeled their spines and given them courage in the face of the impossible.

 

“Well. This might sound strange…but, I’m your….your…granddaughter,” Maggie finished sheepishly, knowing how ludicrous she sounded. But weren’t dreams supposed to be a little bizarre? Without warning, the pulling sensation she had felt as she’d sat beside Johnny in Irene’s father’s car began to radiate around her. She pushed back against it. She had never known her grandmother. She wanted to stay. The feeling abated a little. She spoke again.

 

“I live in this house, too…just a long time from now.” This time, both of Lizzie’s eyebrows rose and disappeared under her curled bangs. The tugging increased around Maggie, demanding that she succumb. She shoved at it again, annoyed.

 

“My mother was Janice….your daughter.” The pull became a vise – an ever tightening clamp. Maggie sucked her breath in sharply and struggled to free herself from the invisible bands.

 

“Maggie?” Lizzie reached out her hand. “I can barely see you now, Maggie. Can’t you stay a while? I’m really tired of Jamie’s company. He’s just a stuffed bear, after all.”

 

Maggie could barely see Lizzie either. The room had narrowed in diameter, and, just like before, Maggie was whisked away from the past, and the world that held Lizzie winked out like a light.

 

***

 

At first she thought it was her dad calling to her, entreating her with the gentlest of voices. She wanted to see him. She wanted to be held and welcomed. She struggled out of the black she was floating in. The voice urged her on. She moved toward it eagerly. She could be with them now…with Dad and Mom, and Johnny too. Oh, please, Johnny too.

 

But it wasn’t Dad. It was Gus. She stopped struggling. She loved Gus, but Gus belonged to a world where Johnny no longer existed; it was a world she didn’t want to inhabit any longer. But she had risen too close to the surface, and she could no longer block out the words that poured over her.

 

“He’s gonna need you now, Miss Margaret,” Gus said insistently. “He’s gonna need you real bad. He’s been through hell and back to be here with you. So you need to wake up. You gotta wake up now, Miss Margaret.”

 

The words came again. Gus said Johnny was…..alive? Johnny was here? With supreme effort, Maggie opened her eyes.

 

“Where is he?” she croaked. Her throat felt like it had been used to sand down an entire gymnasium floor. The pain shot through her and made her shudder and close her eyes once more. She opened them immediately and gazed at Gus. There was a flurry around her as a series of little beeps sounded and two nurses and one doctor came running. The patient was awake. Maggie endured the bustle, poking, prodding, and questions with as little movement and speech as possible. Irene was there, bursting in and rushing to Maggie’s bedside. Tears streaked down her soft cheeks. Shad was allowed a little later, but he hung back by the door. He stared at her wordlessly, but she could see the relief in his brown eyes, a relief that relaxed the tightness around his mouth and curved his lips into a small smile. She tried to smile back. Her lips were so dry she could only manage a grimace, so she raised her hand to give him a little wave. The motion caused a tug at her arm and she looked down at the I.V. stuck in her left wrist. It reminded her of the dream. She had been with Johnny, but he couldn’t see her. He had been driving Irene’s father’s car. He had smelled so good, and he was painfully real. The dream was unlike anything she’d ever experienced.

 

“We’ll let you rest, dear. I can see that you’re still a little foggy.” Maggie realized that Irene was talking to her, and had been talking to her for several seconds. She looked at her aunt apologetically. Shad tipped his head in farewell and Irene and Gus began to follow him out.

 

“Gus!” Maggie’s raspy whisper rose from the bed, compelling him to wait.

 

“Go on. I’ll just be a minute,” Gus assured Irene. He waited until they left the room and the door swung closed behind them. He turned and looked at Maggie soberly.