This involved choosing a sentence that someone else had written. There were too many to choose from, so I RNG'd it (thanks http://www.random.org!) and ended up getting the sentence posted by
"It took her six months to return from the grave where I put her."
Perchance to Dream
It took her six months to return from the grave where I put her; a year and a half, the time before that. Yet here we were again, speeding along I-93, driving back to her empty coffin.
Melissa had a habit of chewing on her hair when she was distressed; it drove me insane. She’d bow her head down, matted black hair hanging in front of her face, then lap at the closest strands with her tongue like a giraffe trying to reach the last few leaves clinging to a tree branch.
She was doing it right now, strapped into her booster chair in the backseat of the car. I tried to focus on the road ahead; the long hours behind the wheel were causing my eyes to ache and my temper to grow short.
“Missy. Stop that!” I said over my shoulder.
“Uhhhhhn,” she said. She rocked back and forth in the seat, finally catching a few strands of hair in her mouth and began slurping away happily.
The sound was like fingernails on a chalkboard; I winced and ground my teeth together, reaching for the radio dial and cranking the volume up; Bon Jovi. This was worse than the hair chewing. We kept on like this for a dozen more miles until I finally got fed up and swung the car off the road at the nearest rest stop, finding a parking space. Turning around in my seat, I leaned as far back as I could towards her and sniffed the air experimentally; the musky sweet scent of decomposing leaves in early fall, tinged with the acrid tang of formaldehyde. I sighed, daubing a bit of the perfume from the bottle I had in the glove box on her wrists; the grave stink was slight, but I didn’t feel like answering any awkward questions. I got out and walked around to her side, opening the door.
“Nooooooo,” she said unhappily, as I unlatched her seat belt and pulled on her arm.
“Missy, come on,” I said, pleading. “I’m hungry, and I have to pee. Just cause you don’t need to, doesn’t mean I don’t have to!”
“Nooooooo,” she said, finally allowing herself to be coaxed out of the vehicle. I slammed the door behind her, harder than I needed to, and guided her into the building. She immediately went into sensory overload at the rush of people; really, it wasn’t even crowded, but she had always had a hard time processing more than a dozen people at one time.
She started to make something of a scene, falling to the ground and rapid-fire kicking her heels against the tiles; people began to give her sideways glances.
“My sister’s autistic,” I said, by way of explanation. Even though it was true, it still felt like a cop-out; it’s not like anyone really understood what that meant, anyway, I don’t even know why I bothered saying it.
I somehow half bribed, half threatened her off the floor and hauled her across to the bathrooms as quick as she would let me. We somehow made it out of the bathroom without incident, even though she insisted on touching every disgusting thing in there, then complained when I used too much soap to scrub her hands clean. The line at the McDonald’s was, of course, ridiculously long; I almost gave up, halfway through, when she insisted that the stuffed Koala the little boy in line behind us was carrying was hers-- prompting more apologies on my part--but I soldiered through and got us back to the car unscathed.
We continued on, speeding along the freeway, remaining miles flying past; probably too fast on my part, but Tom would be up all night worrying about me and he had a big presentation tomorrow; I had promised him I’d be back by midnight. Melissa somehow never had a problem locating me, even though Tom and I had moved several times over the years for our respective careers. I thought again, for the umpteenth time, about giving up my job to be closer to her, but there were so many variables; this just seemed like the only way, for now, until I could afford a second house or apartment closer to accommodate her unannounced visits.
It was nighttime when I reached the graveyard, gravel crunching under the car’s tires and the headlights playing off the family tomb as I pulled up, the name MORTON carved in bas relief, characters stark white in the darkness.
This time Melissa stepped from the car without a fuss, quietly holding my hand and walking to the mausoleum. I crossed myself before we stepped in through the front doors, then walked with her to her coffin. She lifted her arms up and I bent down to pick her up and place her inside.
She looked up at me, her lower lip trembling.
“No; I sleep sistas!” she said.
“Sweetie, you died,” I said, tears springing to the corners of my eyes in spite of myself. “You can’t sleep with me; you have to stay here and rest, okay? You can’t keep coming back.”
She shook her head; she still didn’t understand. But as I tucked her into her coffin in the center of the mausoleum, smoothing her hair and begging her to stay asleep this time, she looked up at me and said, perfectly enunciating every word:
“Sista; scared. Scared.”
“I know, I know it’s scary; but you have to be brave. You’re the toughest kid I know, okay? You can handle this; it’s going to be just fine.”
I dosed her with a shot, the latest cocktail of drugs the doctors had whipped up; they promised this was the one that would let her rest for good. A coma had initially taken her away from us, and that first time she’d come back, Tom had fainted dead away seeing her on our doorstep. Melissa would die for months, but she’d always awaken and reappear somehow, lost and scared and sobbing on my doorstep.
Finally she settled back and lay still and I stood there for several minutes, wondering how long it would take before the undeath stirred in her chest and sent her from her grave again, searching for me, the only family she had left. I hoped this time she’d finally find her peace, but I knew; I could feel it in my gut that she’d be back again at my door.
Her chest finally stilled and I checked for a pulse; nothing. As I pulled the doors of the mausoleum shut, a familiar feeling of wretched helplessness crept over me, haunting me as I pulled out of the graveyard and drove home.