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The Bridge
Amy, Age 13, Easton, CT

When I died, I heard the ambulance wailing, and I saw the light from the siren reflecting off the black puddles of rain and blood on the road. There were people hurrying about, shouting things at each other.

Suddenly, the memory of what had happened moments earlier flooded my head. I was sitting in the back seat of the family minivan. My mom was laughing about something that had happened at the office from the driver’s seat. Rain flew at the windshield.

I saw a pair of headlights, swerving back and forth on the road. Obviously, someone had had too many Budweisers. As the headlights drew nearer, my mom pulled to the side of the road. The headlights came right toward us. After that, all I remember was a scream, a sickening crunch, and then nothing.

I was stirred later by a siren. (I don’t know sure how long I was unconscious.) I saw my mom leaning over me, talking to me. Thank God she’s alright, I thought. I lifted my head just enough to look at myself. I had never in my life seen so much blood. I was covered from the waist down in the bright red, sticky fluid.  I couldn’t feel my legs. The last thing I remember was my mother’s tears falling on my face, and the warm pressure of her hand wrapped around mine. I wish that I could say that I had some, heroic, profound last words, but all I said was, “I’m so cold.”

There was a blinding white light. I shielded my eyes with the back of my hand. As the light receded, I lowered my hand and found myself in a white waiting room. I was wearing the jeans and tank top I had been wearing when I died, but there was no trace of blood.

There was a pretty Chinese receptionist behind a glass window. She looked up: “Miss Coltrane?  We’ve been expecting you.”

“Where am I?” I demanded.

“The Bridge,” she replied simply.

“Oh, like I’m supposed to know what that is!”

“If you would kindly take a seat, Miss Coltrane, I will be right with you to explain everything,” she coaxed soothingly. Her gentle tone and impeccable manners considering that I had just yelled at her are what drove me to sink shamefully into one of the hard, green chairs.

“Don’t be too hard on yourself for your rudeness,” she coached as she stepped through a door next to the window, “most of the younger ones are. Especially the eight year olds, they are so temperamental,” she sighed wearily.

As she lowered herself into the green chair to my left, I got a whiff of her perfume; I didn’t recognize the brand. She tucked a lock of black hair behind her ear.

“My name is Charlotte, and if you haven’t figured this out already: you are dead,” she began brusquely, “You died in a car accident triggered by a drunk driver. You left your body…” she paused to look at her watch, “… about one minute ago. You are currently at a place called The Bridge. The popular misconception is that when you die, you immediately proceed to Heaven. You actually come here first,” she spoke with such a monotone voice, that I knew that she must have given this speech thousands, maybe millions of times before, “Here at The Bridge, you review your life and then, and only then, can you proceed to Heaven.”

I stared blankly ahead, trying to process the situation. There was a white coffee table in the center of the room. On it, there was a vase of white lilies.

“Where’s my mom?” I asked.

Charlotte crossed over to the door again, and quickly returned with a clipboard in her right hand.  Quickly flipping the pages and scanning a few lines, she replied, “She is currently being driven to the hospital. Her only injuries are some minor scratches. Your body is in the ambulance as well, and in approximately five minutes, you will be proclaimed dead on arrival.”

At that moment, an elderly man appeared in the seat next to me.

“Cindy! Get out here, Mr. Goldman has arrived!”

A short blond receptionist burst out of the door and ushered a bewildered Mr. Goldman into an adjacent waiting room, and as the door swung shut, I saw that it was identical to the one I was trapped in.

“Why aren’t people popping into here constantly? Don’t people die every second?” I said.

“This room is just for your region, and hardly anyone lives in the region of the next waiting room, so when we get a few people at a time here, we just take them to the next room,” Charlotte replied.

“Who was the person who hit me?”

“That is classified information.  We never allow anyone to proceed to Heaven with the knowledge of who was responsible for them being there. It isn’t healthy to know.”

“Did you know when I would come?”

“Yes.”

 “Do you know everything about me?”

“Not all, but a lot.”

“How much?”

“Basics: biography, likes, dislikes, main life events … that sort of stuff.”

“How?”

“It’s all on our records.”

“Okay,” I started, “what is my favorite song?”

Charlotte looked through the papers again, and as she moved her eyebrows together, a line appeared in the middle of her young face.

“Yesterday it was ‘Grand Theft Autumn’ by Fall Out Boy, but this morning it changed to ‘The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide is Press Coverage’ by Panic! At the Disco,” she read quickly. The expression on her face was one of sympathy and amusement upon seeing the way that my jaw had dropped.

“Do they have music, or movies or anything here?” I inquired meekly, bracing myself for the answer as if it were a bullet.

“Yes, we do. We have messengers who wire our networks to the earthly ones,” Charlotte said, “that is what computer viruses actually are. They’re glitches that are created when our network is hooked up to the ‘normal’ one.”

“So … what happens now?”

“Now, you go to sleep and rest your mind. If I make you think too hard after your mind has been separated from your body, you may go into trauma. And now, your mind is the only part of you that you have, so we need to be extra careful to take good care of it.”

“How come I can see my body, like I’m actually here?” I questioned, motioning toward my legs and arms.

“In your mind, there is an imprint of how you visualize yourself. When you die, that imprint goes with you,” Charlotte glanced again at her watch, “you really should be getting to sleep…”

We both stood up, and she led me through the door from which she had originally come.  There was a desk littered with papers and manila folders to my left, and to my right there were filing cabinets lining the walls, stretching for as far as I could see.

Straight ahead, there was an elevator.  Charlotte ushered me inside and then my world went black.

“She’ll make it.”

My world was a blur of voices and colors. Shadows shifted back and forth in front of my eyes. A bright light was receding, its faint glow nearly extinguished.

Suddenly, I was lying on my back, and lots of people in scrubs were leaning over me, watching.  My mom came into view; her face was streaked with tears.

“Oh, honey! For a moment we thought we’d lost you!”

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