A young Nathan wiped sweat from his face after an intense lunch break game of Wall Ball, picked up his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles lunchbox and made his way across the gravel and towards his classmates. He was stopped by an older kid who, with another older kid, accused Nathan of stealing the lunchbox. Now, Nathan knew it was his, and even noticed that his lunchbox sat next to the exact same one – an easy confusion. He snapped plastic latches open as evidence; Nathan knew he’d find a spent Hi-C juice box and empty ziplock bag. It wasn’t enough to quell the feud. His loose blue shirt grabbed, Nathan quickly found himself with a knife to his throat. Everything spun, slowed down, and the already hot day became excruciating. Paralyzed, Nathan stood there without control, waiting for this to end.
“That’s his lunchbox.” The older boy with a knife asserted, motioning to his silent friend. There was no longer any question, Nathan was getting robbed.
“N…no. This is mine.”
He flipped back the knife and shoved it deep into his pocket, instead taking Nathan by the head and forcing him to the ground. While down, his face continually met gravel again and again. Nathan lost consciousness around the third meeting, hovered above himself and the two bullies by the fourth, and kind of just stayed floating up there for the 5th and attempt at 6th – until Mrs. Mutchler rushed the crowd and ripped the boy away from Nathan’s literally lifeless corpse.
Nathan watched it all from above, panicked and desperately trying to get to ground level and stop the assault. Though he wasn’t exactly aware of what was happening to him, he knew something strange was afoot. Above, everything held a golden glow: people, trees, animals. Shimmering silver diamonds replaced eyes and mouths, and the longer he remained up there – the heavier the golden glow, silver turning metallic. No matter how he tried, he was incapable of doing anything – Nathan could only watch himself get creamed.
It’d take four weeks of intensive care for doctors to give the OK for Nathan’s leave though he’d made his way back to body en-route to the hospital. It’d take years before he could get over what happened to him that day at school, however this was the first of many such experiences for Nathan, an extraordinary ability to lift above his own body. With it, he had no idea what he could achieve.
Things certainly didn’t get any easier. Throughout the evolving chapters of his life, Nathan found himself in varying levels of stress and anxiety as we do. Unlike each of us, however, he met increased stress with a fast launch from his body, a quick and startling experience of gold and silver hues before rescinding back to bones. Things got out of control fast, and soon his bouts to keep himself inside himself weren’t limited by much at all. By 20, Nathan could barely sneeze without jolting from his body, lingering above for a few moments, and returning from whence he came.
By 25, Nathan was sick of that shit. He’d undergone intense therapy, spoken with specialists. Each told him it was all in his head, that his vitals remained unchanged during his temporary paralysis. He was given a cocktail of pills that made him lethargic and empty, emptier than his body felt without his presence. Nathan spoke with two friends about his condition, who in turn recoiled and excused themselves from his friendship. Soon, most people knew about Nathan and disregarded him as another crazy in a sea of nuts. Alone and without answers, Nathan turned to death as a way out from his situation.
There were always problems. Something always went wrong. How does a train manage to stop in time? How did he manage to wake up refreshed after swallowing a bottle of pills and bleach the night before? Life clung to Nathan, only offering him moments of freedom before he had to return. It wasn’t fair. Everybody else could die when they wanted – or when they didn’t – but Nathan was stuck between worlds. If there was a way out, however, Nathan was determined to find it.
He began exploring peculiar interests, namely cursed household items like dolls, paintings, furniture, or anything else that might bring with it untimely death. Each piece was rigorously researched, fact separated from fiction, and purchased with the excitement of a kid in a candy store. Each mirror, each painting, each accent was accompanied by a twisted story of death and decay, suffering and murder, trapped souls and lost loves, curses and karma. Yes, when he leered into a mirror supposedly responsible for five deaths, Nathan was met with the undeniable presence of a mother and daughter who seemed to have been stabbed quite a bit. But who cared? The showboats only worked to make Nathan jealous with their silverless, lifeless eyes – those jerks.
And the cursed doll? Yeah, it managed to slap Nathan once – which, to its merit, temporarily threw him from his body. But again, that was precisely the problem. Nathan paid damn good money for that Raggedy Anne looking piece of shit, and for what? One experience? What’s the return policy on eBay?
But that was just it – Nathan learned that if, somehow, he could find a way to launch himself farther than he’d ever been from his body – there’d be no turning back. He’d be stuck in the ether, his body would decompose, and he’d finally be nice and dead.
Nathan knew that he tended to leave his body before it received pain or injury. This could work in his favor, he thought. If he could figure out a way to scare himself from his body before his body worked out the details, he’d be long gone from that sucka. It hadn’t occurred to Nathan before, but he could just jump from a cliff and probably see those results. In a world of plains and tall grass, Nathan had to travel over hundreds of miles to find a cliff suitable for his efforts. There, above the world, Nathan closed his eyes and took a final step.
The golden haze was thick like fog. No silver to be found. Nathan levitated high – maybe – he couldn’t really tell where he was. He looked for his body, his security blanket during out-of-body experiences, and panicked. From wherever he was, Nathan realized it was he who determined a return to his body all this time. Nothing forced him, nothing made him do it. He simply located his corpse and entered it. Without knowing, Nathan wanted to be with-skin. Now lost, he couldn’t really tell what he wanted. All these cursed items, all these attempts at suicide – it’d all been about death to him all this time. There was simply no time to think about life.
He drifted for a long time, maybe years, in a smoky haze of gold. Like the cursed objects, it got old fast. By now, his body was long gone. Somebody either stumbled upon it or it slowly dipped back into earth after all this time. Alone, Nathan remained above the cliff without knowing he was. Giving up the search for his body, he rested without ever feeling a thing: no panic, no stress, no more in-body-experiences.
If there was something good to be taken from his ability, Nathan would never know. The stress of enduring his difference made it impossible to see it differently. Now he was lifted eternally, in a beautiful golden glow, unable to care and instead focused on somehow returning. Like his life, Nathan spent his death searching, uncomfortably, for resolution.
“Those lucky assholes.” Nathan thought of the mother and daughter in the mirror, probably shuffled from home to home since his disappearance staring into many different silver eyes. In the ether, Nathan only managed to drift aimlessly and find jealousy in trapped ghosts.