Joanne: Part 10

Joanne looked at Terry. Terry looked back at Joanne. He had a shocked expression on his face that looked like it may never disappear. She had an awkward smile that may last just as long. Terry was really living up to the reputation he gained from his photos. Joanne wasn’t sure if she should try to talk or if she should let Terry process the situation a bit more. Judging by how things had gone so far it could be an exceptionally long wait so she opted to try speaking.

“So-“ Joanne tried to say but the second she spoke Terry’s arms shot up defensively and he yelped as though something had jumped out at him from behind a corner. Joanne sighed. This was the only other person she had found in the afterlife. A man so nervous he was scared of conversation. She waited fora  few more seconds until Terry lowered his arms.

“Sorry I startled you,” She said, being sure not to step or lean forward and risk terrifying Terry even more.

“No, it’s fine,” Terry finally said, “It’s just, um. I am, uh, pretty easily startled, you know?”

“Of course,” Joanne said. “I totally understand.”

There was an awkward silence that, as awkward silences always do, lasted far too long. Terry had placed his hands in his pockets which caused his far too long arms to bend awkwardly. His university branded t-shirt barely seemed to fit his long, thin body and added to his strange appearance.

“So, how long have you been dead?” Joanne asked.

“About two years,” Terry replied, “You?”

“Three months,” Joanne said, “I’m pretty new to the game.”

“Right,” Terry said, before another incredibly awkward silence ensued. “One quick question. How did you know my name?”

Joanne apologized for not having explained what she had just went through immediately. She had been so caught up in the excitement that she skipped straight to introductions. The two of them sat down and Joanne explained the situation to Terry. She admitted that she may have come off as a creep and a stalker, but Terry seemed to understand.

“I have met so few people in the afterlife,” Terry said. “It’s always kind of a shock when you actually see someone else.”

“How many people have you met?” Joanne asked, leaning back on the couch.

“Maybe nine or ten,” Terry replied.

“Wow, seriously?” Joanne asked, with wide eyes. “Where are they?”

“Oh, they’re gone,” Terry said nonchalantly. “They worked out their issues and get to move on again. Eventually everyone does. Except fore me. I’ve been stuck longer than anyone I’ve met.”

Joanne leaned forward, excited to finally find some new information about the afterlife.

“So it’s like an unfinished business sorta thing?” Joanne asked. Terry squinted at her and tilted his head slightly.

“Sort of,” he replied, “But, you know, more like a ‘you’re not ready for the second door yet’ kind of a thing.”

“Second door?” Joanne asked.

“Yeah,” Terry said. “You know, when Peter gives you his cryptic, self exploratory, psychotherapy session. It’s always ‘Do you go through the door to new things, or the door to the familiar!’ Didn’t you get that same speech?”

Joanne furrowed her brow and felt a deep, sinking feeling in her stomach.

“Who’s Peter?” Joanne asked. Terry looked shocked. He appeared to me at a loss for words.

“You,” he said, pausing. “You never met Peter?”

Joanne shook her head, slowly.

“Oh dear,” Terry said. “You’ve got some catching up to do.”

Joanne: Part 9

Joanne sat in the bleachers at the soccer field with her head rising in her hands and her elbows on her knees. In typical Joanne fashion she had lost track of how long she had been there and just stared off into the distance with a string of drool flowing out of the side of her mouth. She eventually began to sway back and forth, as she did when she was bored, but the swaying didn’t last long. Her elbow slipped off of her leg and she suddenly snapped back to attention. She caught herself before she fell over, slurped up her drool, and inhaled a bit of it before having a coughing fit. Drool in the lungs was not a fun problem to have. Neither was being wandering the afterlife, completely alone, despite having finally found another wandering spirit the day before. Joanne sighed and looked toward the sun. She had been here since far too early in the morning and it was getting to be far too late in the afternoon. She had no idea if Terry would ever even visit this place and if he would, she didn’t know how often or at what times. The city was too big to be able to track down one person with so little to go on. So she stood up, stumbled down the bleachers, and began to walk.

It’s a funny thing how you can go from having so much hope and excitement to being completely bored and depressed in one day. Actually, scratch that, it’s not funny. It’s infuriating. It’s depressing. It’s completely, utterly, unfairly maddening. All emotions Joanne had rushing through her mind at once. She was everything but happy and at a complete loss for what to do. So she decided to make her way back to the university. She doubted she’d have much luck finding Terry there but she had nothing else to go on. Terry’s house, the soccer field, the university. These were her options. She might as well make a cycle of them.

Joanne reached the university as the sun was beginning to set. She had essentially gone in to auto pilot at this point and rather than bother with doors or stairs she just began walking through walls. She picked a hallway and wandered straight through every classroom along the way. Occasionally this involved walking through a classroom full of bored, disillusioned looking students listening to monotonous professors drone on about some sort of math that nobody cared to really understand. She didn’t mind though. She just wanted to walk, regardless of who she walked through.

She walked through classrooms full of bored looking geology students. She walked through offices filled with frustrated looking professors. She even walked through a student lounge with a single, lanky, awkward looking man who stared her directly in the eyes as she passed. And, of course, it took her a few too many seconds to realize what she had done.

“Terry!” she said to herself after walking about three rooms too far. She turned around and ran back, as fast as she could. She passed through the wall of the student lounge and found Terry standing looking at the wall. He turned to her, with wide eyes and slack jaw. She smiled, jumped up and down, and hugged him. He was too awestruck to react so his arms just stayed awkwardly pinned to his side by Joanne’s hug.

“It’s nice to finally meet you, Terry!” She said with her cheek squished up against his chest.

“You too,” Terry said, “And, uh… What, uhh… What is your name?”

Joanne backed off and put out her hand.

“My name is Joanne,” she said. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

Joanne: Part 8

Joanne approached a small, simple looking home in a rather boring residential area of the city. It had brown wooden siding and a similarly coloured roof. It was early in the afternoon and it did not appear that anyone was home at the Dodds’ residence. Joanne walked inside and hoped like she had never hoped before that this was in fact where Terry Dodds used to live.

Joanne walked through the front door with her heart pounding nervously in her chest. She knew no one was home and even if they were they wouldn’t see her, but she still couldn’t help but feel weird about walking into someone else’s home. The house was dimly lit and gave off that nerve wracking “you’re not supposed to be here, Joanne” kind of vibe. She ignored the feeling, though, and began searching around the house. It didn’t take long for her to find a living room with an abundance of family photos hanging on the walls. Several of which had an awkward, nervous looking boy in them. Joanne looked around the room and saw the awkward, nervous development of the exact man she was looking for. She let out a sigh of relief and walked up for a closer look. It was like an awkward, nervous, life story unfolding over years and years of photos. She swore this guy must have come out of the womb already terrified of the world and unsure how to deal with that fact. He was tall and lanky, with a face characterized by almost permanently raised eyebrows and a tight lipped smile. He looked like a man who didn’t want to offend anyone but was clearly unsure what might offend someone. He looked as though he was trying to gauge the response of everything he had ever said. Even more than that, he looked like someone who didn’t have any distinct interests to speak of. No sports jerseys, no work uniforms. No clues as to places he may want to visit in the afterlife. Maybe family photos weren’t the place to start. She decided to try some other rooms instead.

Joanne wandered through the few rooms there were in the house until she passed through a wall and found what looked like a teenagers bedroom. A few photos of Terry sat on a desk and it became clear this used to be his space. Low and behold, the room managed to feel as awkward and nervous as the person who used to sleep there. Movie posters on the wall, hung very neatly, advertising rather generic pictures that would probably be tolerated by most people. A stack of CDs  by some rock bands. Nothing especially hardcore but nothing really soft either. Everything Terry owned seemed to be the most middle of the road, inoffensive stuff you could imagine. He owned nothing that would make him especially noticeable, but also nothing that would cause someone to form an opinion of him. This fact was starting to really bother Joanne as he gave no clues as to where he might like to visit. His home made him look like a man who wanted to go completely unnoticed, and with the exception of a few seconds at the mall he was succeeding with flying colours. With one small exception.

Joanne turned to leave Terry’s room and noticed a small plaque on the wall. It was an award for being the captain of a high school soccer team. Below it was a photo thumb tacked to the wall. Joanne raised an eyebrow when she saw it. It was the first image of Terry she had seen where he looked even remotely comfortable. He had a smile that felt sincere, a stance that looked comfortable, and a group of people that looked a lot like him. He looked like he belonged and for once didn’t have to worry about whether or not he would be out of place. Joanne sighed and decided to take this as the best clue she had. Maybe he remembered the soccer team fondly enough to want to visit. Joanne hoped as hard as she could that she was right, and made her way there. This felt like her only chance to find Terry before going back to square one.

Joanne: Part 7

Joanne waited until later in the evening to begin her search. Later in the evening meant less students, and less students meant easier access to university resources. At least she hoped that was the case. She assumed after seven PM most students would be getting trashed at a local bar somewhere. Joanne was never a student herself, but judging from her friend’s social media posts and various pop culture depictions this was the impression she got. As she walked into the main entrance she deduced that she was mostly correct. A few people were still around reading books, and staring blankly at laptops but the building was, for the most part, deserted. She had never been here before so she figured she should find one of those maps that public buildings place on the walls. Theoretically, maps are a great way to find things. Joanne didn’t think this would be a challenging theory to test. She was wrong. She was so very, very wrong.

Joanne screwed up her eyes staring at the obnoxious array of colours that made up the first map she could find. It was right near the entrance and only took her a few moments to find, but as far as she could tell it was completely useless. Every building was a different bright colour with a series of numbers around the edge that didn’t go in any discernible order. She hoped to find the nearest computer but all she seemed to be able to locate were washrooms. If she understood the legend correctly every floor had at least seven washrooms. She could only assume this meant she wasn’t understanding the legend correctly. Either that or university students peed more than anyone else in the world.

Joanne decided to give up on using these useless maps and take to her usual, much more effective plan. Wandering aimlessly until she found what she was looking for. She walked through the main foyer of the building and turned down the first hallway she could find. It didn’t take long to find a classroom with some computers at the back. She sat down at one and eagerly started typing. Typing was a bit of a struggle despite Joanne’s near mastery of acting natural when she touched things. It was easy to look down and think a bit too much about where her fingers were going. Despite a few obnoxious “fingers falling through the desk” moments she managed to conduct a few surprisingly productive searches on the university website.

DEAD PEOPLE.

Joanne had to admit this one was a bit broad. A lot of university professors write about dead people and all of the amazingly intelligent things they have said. Joanne never realized until this moment just how many dead people there were to write academic articles about. She opted to expand her search a bit.

DEAD PEOPLE AT THIS UNIVERSITY.

Surprisingly, this search didn’t find a god damned thing. This worried Joanne as she started to think that maybe no-one at this university had ever died. This couldn’t be true though. People die everywhere, don’t they? Yes. Of course they do. Joanne pressed on.

DEAD STUDENTS.

This was definitely the most fruitful of the three searches. There were a handful of articles on the university website about students who had passed away while enrolled in classes. It didn’t take long for her to find his article. A smile came across her face and her eyes grew wide.

“Terry Dodds,” She said to herself as she read the article. They used a very pleasant photo of him smiling and spending time with friends. He looked a bit awkward and his smile seems kind of nervous, but it was definitely him. She stood up and walked quickly to the nearest payphone and found a phonebook. She searched for the name Dodds. There was only one Dodds family listed. Joanne knew it must be them. His parents. Or maybe his grandparents. Whoever they were, she needed to find them. She memorized their address and set off. She was one step closer to finding some answers.