“On the Other Side, 15”

by Brianna G. Harte

I lifted my head and found myself face to face with a black rottweiler with spots of caramel brown on his front. It was so similar to Bear, except this one was several years older.

“Mama?”

She crouched down in her jeans, narrowing her eyes at the dog. “Harrison, this dog’s alive. Better get away. Actually, he probably cannot hurt you. You’d phase right through him, I would suppose.”

As if to challenge her words, the dog pounced on me, causing me to fall over. I wasn’t sure if it was from him landing on me or from me just being surprised. The rottweiler’s paws went right through my shoulders, and yet I felt as though some of him was truly on me. There were two little spots of pressure on my shoulders where the dog would have landed if he had not fallen through. The black dog then proceeded to lick my face. His tongue too phased through, but the wet, sticky rub against my face didn’t.

“What is he doing?” Mama asked incredulously. “He must be a crazy dog.”

“Mama? What if this is Bear?” I asked in between licks. “What if he remembers me? What if that’s why I can feel him even though he’s alive?”

“What if? Harrison, you’ve always asked those questions,” she sighed. “It’s just not plausible.”

“What’s ‘plausible’?”

“It’s not really likely that this is the same dog. I can’t see your dad allowing him to live if that same man was the reason for my death and possibly yours.”

“How can we find out for sure?” I asked, looking into the delightful face of the rottweiler. “I got an idea!” I said as I tried to stand up, and then pushed the dog off after realizing that I actually couldn’t get up with him there. Moving toward the back door, I smiled. “Bear! Come here, Bear!”

Sure enough, the dog bounded my way. He came up on his hind legs as if he wanted to put his paws on my chest, except his force pushed me through the door and tumbling down the steps. I shook my head, positive that it was the same rottweiler I knew as a kid. Well, a living kid. Somehow, the new owners of our house must have rescued him.

As I shook my head, muffled voices came from beyond the walls, followed by the door swinging open, and the dog charging down the brick steps. I could almost believe that that Bear had regained its jovial spirit it had when he was a much younger dog, he lept so energetically. Watching him circle around me, I stood up. I smiled at my mom, who slipped out when the dog did, her eyes filled with bewilderment. She didn’t need to talk for me to know what she thought about. We shared the thought. It must have happened a lot when we were alive since it felt natural to predict what she wondered about.

“It’s not a coincidence, Mama,” I told her confidently. “It’s Bear.”

Copyright © 2016 Brianna G. Harte. All rights reserved.

Looking for the previous parts of “On the Other Side”? Check them out here!

“On the Other Side, 14”

by Brianna G. Harte

“Harrison! There are people inside here still!” Mama exclaimed as we passed through the living that strode through the hallways. None of them seemed to notice.

My eyes darted across the rooms, starting to see familiar toys scattered around the rooms rather than the people. They also picked up on the beer bottles laying on the counter and table. At the sight, I stopped short, tilting my head to the side with eyebrows furrowing.

Mama’s eyes peered into my own. “What is it?”

“Don’t you see them, Mama?”

“See what, Harrison?”

“The bottles.”

Her lips pressed together. “What do you mean? I see no bottles.”

I threw my head back. “Mama, it’s our house. Can’t you remember it?”

“Is that what you see?”

I nodded.

“But how?” she asked, her voice trailing off. “Let me try. Keep an eye out, okay?”

“For what?”

“Just in case.”

I shrugged.

It took Mama forever to see the house the way I did, so I grabbed a plastic duck on wheels with a string coming out of its neck. A laugh rang out as I pulled it across the floor. The toy phased through the couches and walls as I did, but both of us ran over the other objects I recognized on the floor. I never felt so solid. So real.

“Harrison! Watch out!” Mama cried.

Just after she yelled, I noticed a chain lying in the air and stopped short. I fell to the floor, stunned. At first, I couldn’t tell whether or not it was real, as in, part of the house as it was presently. With a wavering hand, I reached out toward it. The metal was cool to the touch. I looked down to the end of the chain and found it attached to nothing.

“Why’s this chain here?”

“Well, we used to have a dog,” Mama began. “Your dad tied him to a chain in the house so he wouldn’t run away. Maybe he’s not here because he died.”

“But Mama, why wouldn’t he be with us? We’re dead too.”

She took a deep breath. “Maybe dogs go to a different heaven than this, Harrison. Ever think of that?”

“No, Mama, but -”

“See? Bear could be elsewhere.”

I don’t know why, but at the mention of the name, an image of a short, mostly black rottweiler appeared in my mind. His tongue hung out of his mouth, as though he was happy, even with a chain linked at his neck. I got the feeling that we were good friends in life, which forced my eyes to the ground. It was cruel that I couldn’t see him anymore.

Roof!”

I shook my head, annoyed that I’d remember his bark, but not see him.

Rrroof! Roof roof!

Copyright © 2016 Brianna G. Harte. All rights reserved.

If you haven’t yet, check out the previous parts of “On the Side” by following this link! Don’t forget to let me know what you think!

“On the Other Side, 13”

by Brianna G. Harte

For the first time since we met, Mama seemed agitated. “He never took care of the house. Not once did he water plants or spread mulch. He was always working so hard and didn’t really have time. . .” She trailed off and smiled. “Sorry, Harrison.”

“Should we leave, Mama?”

“Someone else must be living here,” she decided. “That’s odd because when I last came here, it was like nothing changed. But now, well, this can’t be the same owner. You see those sidings? They were falling apart when you played around, always aiming water guns at them and throwing balls at the house.”

Instead, fresh paint and crisp, vinyl sidings lined the house. However, I imagined them differently, with loose panels seeming used, not old. My mind spread toys across the yard, granting a more childish look. Dimples appeared on my face.

“What else did it look like?”

“Why?”

“I want to see our house.”

Mama motioned to the impeccable house in front of us. “It’s right here, Harrison.”

Shaking my head, I said, “No, Mama. The way it was when we lived in it. When I played around in it. When we were alive.”

She nodded, a grin coming to brighten her face ever so slightly. “The house the three of us lived in was two stories tall like this one, but it was tan, not yellow. The windows were all the same. Your daddy and I lived upstairs, watching you play from those two windows right up there. We knew it was a safe neighborhood, so we didn’t worry. Maybe we should have. Anyway, the roof was much simpler. No solar panels lay on top since we couldn’t afford them. I had painted our mailbox with a bear on one side and a patch of flowers on the other.”

As she described the house, the picture in my mind filled. The view of the house that I saw only minutes before was gradually being replaced by the older one that rekindled my memory. Even elements that my mama didn’t name, like the dents in the door and slabs of wood with handmade markings of sayings of love and family, emerged as if I subconsciously recalled them. It seemed welcoming and far less formal than the current appearance.

“Mama, do you see it?”

“I wish, Harrison. But no, I don’t.”

“Do you think I can share what I see with you?” It was more of a wonder than a question. With a giant smile, I grabbed hold of Mama’s hand and only thought of the house I was seeing from my mind. I don’t know how it happened, but in a flash of light, Mama’s face relaxed.

“What wonders death has in store,” she gasped.

I let my feet touch the ground. The instant I touched the grass, I jumped up and down. “Yay! Let’s go inside!” Without waiting for her response, I pulled her with me toward the house and through the door.

Copyright © 2015 Brianna G. Harte. All rights reserved.

“On the Other Side, 12”

by Brianna G. Harte

Soaring through the air, worries drifted away. Boundless houses and cars swept by underneath of us, one by one. Mama avoided all people. She seemed scared to phase through them, but that didn’t make sense. It doesn’t hurt. The feeling of having the parts of our being shift around those of the objects was weird, though I didn’t suppose that it could be bad enough to purposely swerve away from anything.

Seeing as I had no idea where our house was, my eyes turned to my mama, wanting to remember whole. The memories she shared helped a lot to fill in some gaps, and yet it was still feeling empty. I wish I died with pictures or something nearby so I could feel more grounded, so to speak, like Mama. Then again, it didn’t seem like anyone knew where I died or even that I died. At least her hair matched the memories. Her jovial face too. I couldn’t remember her white shirt. Maybe she didn’t wear it all that often, but I would think that it would stick in my mind if it was so white.

Wait, pure white. It no longer had blood stains on it, even though I could swear that she was covered in them when she appeared at the hospital. Could it be that she could wash her clothes? Why didn’t she wash them before if she could? Was it . . . because she met me? Why couldn’t my clothes be clean then? Not that I wanted them clean. If I was like all the other human kids, I probably liked getting dirty. Whatever they played looked fun. Anyway, I just couldn’t get why Mama’s shirt whitened. Come to think of it, her hair was much more tangled and messy before too, except now it had a gleam to it. Hairs collected together smoothly as though recently brushed.

“Mama? Why -”

“We’re here, Harrison.”

We glided down toward a pale yellow house beholding a neat lawn. All of the toys from the memories weren’t there. The grass seemed freshly cut with mulch recently cast down along the house.

“Mama? Are you sure Daddy isn’t here?”

Copyright © 2015 Brianna G. Harte. All rights reserved.

“On the Other Side, 11”

by Brianna G. Harte

I turned around and found the nurse walking in through the doors that said “EXIT” in large red letters with a hard-hatted man in a t-shirt and denim jeans. I shrugged it off, certainly not amused by the man who seemed too curious about lights and wiring. However, I could not completely ignore it. If the nurse was there, things might go sour for Odessa.

Phasing through the double doors close by, where Odessa and my mom had been standing only a minute or so ago, I exclaimed, “She’s back!”

“Who? The nurse?”

I nodded.
“Suzanne, do you know another way out?” Odessa asked my mom.

“Through the walls.”

“You know that’s not what I mean. For me to get out. I don’t want to end up in an a mental hospital if I know I’m not going insane. I know you two are real.”

“There’s always the question of if we really are real,” Mommy said.

“Mommy!” I rolled my eyes. “We are real, okay?”

“I’m sorry, Harrison,” she said nonapologetically. “As for an actual exit, just follow me.”

As she floated off, Odessa and I followed, unsure of where she was going. There was a series of hallways and doors we passed through that looked nearly the same. All doors were wooden. All hallways painted white. All floors tiled with fake granite. Boring. Eventually, we got to an exit that opened up to a somewhat loaded parking lot. I didn’t remember seeing any patients, but it hardly mattered. We rushed through them fast enough that the doors could have been closed or opened and it wouldn’t have made a difference.

“Where would you like to go now, Odessa?” my mom asked.

“It’s night time right now. I’d better go back home and get some rest. On Monday, I’ll ask my friend to look for some documents.”

“Where do you live? We can find you on Monday,” my mom explained.

“Whittleville on Adams Street. Find the yellow hummer and that would be my house. I shall leave around nine for my friend and be back before three,” Odessa said. “That should give me enough time.”

My mom went in front of Odessa before she could leave. “Don’t you have a job?”

“Since I was indeed in the hospital and possibly could be concussed, or rather I am concussed, I can call in.” A slight smile grew on Odessa’s face. “Well, I’d better go. See you Monday.”

As she left our sights, I tugged on my mama’s clothes. “What do we do now?”

“Maybe I should show you our house. Would you like that?” she asked sweetly.

“Not if daddy’s there,” I said. “You said he was mean.”

“But he’s not there anymore, Harrison. It will be safe. I promise.”

She began to turn toward the forest, and I let her pull me along. As we flew through the air, I could not be sure of what to think of the house.

Copyright © 2015 Brianna G. Harte. All rights reserved.

“On the Other Side, 10”

by Brianna G. Harte

I never realized how badly I needed that hug. Being excluded from the larger world must have torn at me more than I had ever wanted to show. Each time someone passed through me, a piece of joy disappeared from my heart. Although they could never have done it out of spite, their inability to acknowledge my existence even by touch hurt. Only now could I feel the emptiness in my heart that was starting to fill.

As we fell away from each other, we grinned and forgot that we could see right through each other’s eyes as they met.

A thought popped open. “Mama, there’s a human waiting over there, and it’s so funny because she can see me!”

She nodded. “Yes, some of the living can see us.”

“Come on!” I pulled her over toward the double doors when I realized that she was not nearly as excited about it as I was. If she saw Odessa, maybe she could feel like I do. I phased through the doors, bringing my mama with me.

“Look, Odessa! I found my mama!” I exclaimed with a big smile on my face.

An eyebrow raised. “Are you sure?”

I nodded enthusiastically.

Mama’s smile softened. “You are Odessa, I presume.”

Odessa nodded in turn.

“Well, Odessa, my name is Suzanne Patu. Harrison is indeed my son. I’ve been searching for him for so long and he found me in the hospital room.” Her expression didn’t change.

“She told me what happened and I saw memories of us together with daddy! Isn’t that cool?”

“Yes, quite. I guess you’re name is Harrison now?”

I shrugged. “Guess so.”

Odessa smiled hesitantly. “Alright then. Hey Harrison, could you make sure that the nurse is gone before we leave?”

“Sure!” I said as I ran through the door. Right afterward, I heard them starting to talk in soft tones. It was just faint enough that I had to be very close to the doors to catch anything.

“You don’t seem surprised to see that I can see you, Mrs. Patu,” Odessa noted.

“You are not the first to see me. Believe it or not, this hospital was very active last time I was here. When I walked through it the first time without my body, I noticed that some of them could see me, although all of the doctors and nurses could not. A fair amount on pain medications or other types of prescriptions even said hello,” Mama seemed to reminisce fondly.

“I see. I began to see Harrison after getting a concussion, actually.”

“Really?”

The conversation began to bore me, so I actually checked for the nurse. She was nowhere in sight. Maybe she left. I quickly dismissed that possibility as I heard, or rather felt, a spark of electricity suddenly shooting across the room.

Copyright © 2015 Brianna G. Harte. All rights reserved.

“On the Other Side, 9”

by Brianna G. Harte

I cocked my head. “No, I’m alone. I’ve been alone for so long, without anyone to touch me or even see me besides Odessa. You can’t be my mama. If you were, why didn’t you come earlier?”

Her lips quivered as I stepped backward. With an arm, she waved toward one of the empty hospital beds, looking just as mundane as all the others. A thin, white sheet clothed both the mattress and the flat pillow. Simple turquoise curtains decorated the tiny section along with the same monitor, switches, and wires as the one Odessa was in not too long ago. As I focused on it, an eerie feeling attached itself to that particular section of the emergency room.

“What -”

“I was taken here when my sister, your aunt Gwenevere, found me unconscious in our home. I woke up in that bed over there, with injuries that the doctors believed fatal. Needless to say, they couldn’t save me. While I died, Gwen told me what she saw. She told me . . . that she couldn’t find you.” She stopped, eyeing me with glassy, fragile eyes.

I frowned. “Who hurt you?”

“Your father. Do you remember him and his drinking? No, of course not. You would remember me if you could remember him . . .” A pause. “I’m sorry. Well, he drank a lot during the nights. His temper blew often, and you were so scared. I did what I could to protect you. But, one night, he started to get really loud. When he came at you, I interjected, so he hit me. I don’t remember much after that. For so long in this lonely death, I’ve wondered if you made it out alright. I returned to our home, but you weren’t there, and neither was Alin.”

Shaking my head, I allowed her to approach in her soft way. “I don’t know what happened. Why can you?”

Moments passed without an answer. “I wonder . . . there were pictures of our family and my good friends beside the bed that my sister brought in. I found a few cards there too; a get well, documents, and a license with my name and address. I followed them. As I returned home and had gone to my sister’s, I regained my memories. There was a newspaper article about what had happened, so it could have triggered more of those that were missing.” A smile creeped onto her face. “All that matters now is that I’ve found you, finally.”

As her hands gently fell upon my shoulders, her forehead reached down toward mine. I let her, believing her story, wanting to believe she was my mama. Her eyelids closed as our heads met. At that instant, images flashed in my mind. Pictures of the young woman claiming to be my mom, and her hugging me with love. She didn’t have any of the bruises on her in them, making her seem fresh and even more lovely. Memories of other adults glowing with happiness. Visions of a house with simple toys scattered across the yard. Sights of a man and the woman before me on the porch. They swept by my mind quickly, yet they stayed in my mind, letting it seem fuller than before. They were like pieces of a puzzle, slowly building on to make it whole.

As we separated, my eyes opened wider. “You are my mama, aren’t you?” While we embraced each other, I whispered, “I love you.”

Copyright © 2015 Brianna G. Harte. All rights reserved.

Links to previous parts of “On the Other Side”

Part 1~Part 2~Part 3~Part 4~Part 5~Part 6~Part 7~Part 8