Caitlyn Jacobson was not used to being alive. She woke up and opened her eyes into utter darkness. Her eyes were dry and sandy from disuse. It was painful to keep them open for too long. Experimentally, she tried to move her head. Failing that, she tried to moan, but had no breath to expel from her body. She opened her mouth slowly, her jaw twanging in protest, and took a deep breath before coughing most of it back out. She could feel her blood, thick and sluggish, begin to make its relentless slow march back towards her heart, which pounded, and then stopped, then stuttered to a start again. It was painful each time, as if she was dying, over and over again. But she was alive, as she had been promised.
It had taken Caitlyn nearly a day to dig her way out of her grave. In her will, she had requested to be buried without a casket, a natural burial, but clearly that direction had not been followed, among others. When she finished climbing out, she had had to rest for the whole night. Her hands were scraped and bruised. She had torn one nail off completely. The rest of her nails were too long and brittle, hardened into dark yellow gnarled points; they felt disgusting. She could ill afford the time it would take for her to heal again right now.
Caitlyn needed to find something to wear, and a way to cover her hair. Her hair, though caked in dirt, was white as diamonds, and would make her noticeable, and she did not want to be noticeable. For now, she pulled it back into a rough braid, yanking out great clumps of hair when the knots wouldn’t cooperate. She took stock of the ugly black dress Edgar had selected for her to be buried in. She had always hated the dress. It was wool, and had always been itchy against her skin. Especially now when her skin was still reclaiming its life, it felt tortuous as it rubbed against her.
He had put her in sensible shoes to be buried. She was sure that he had chosen them meticulously, that he had probably picked them out months before she had died. She could picture him standing in the sterile little closet that they shared in their Cambridge apartment, selecting the least offensive thing to dress her in. Whatever would make her seem less insane when people paid their final respects. What an odd final gift, to be given shoes on your way to meet death. But for now at least they protected her from the hard gravelly ground of the city cemetery. The wind rustled through the ancient trees lining the cemetery borders, and Caitlyn could tell that there was a chill to the air, but she could not feel it. She was still disoriented, but was glad that night was falling as it would be easier for her to make her way in the dark.
After a few false starts, Caitlyn was able to operate her legs in a coordinated fashion, and with a little practice, she was able to run. As soon as she was able to, she took off at a speed that sent ice down her spine and joy through her heart.
Caitlyn raced through the strips of woods lining the highway. She feared burning away all of her new found energy, but running at such a pace was too exhilarating to hold back. She was keeping pace with the cars on the interstate. She worried that someone might see her if she drew too close to the road. A woman running in pumps and a cocktail dress, her white hair flying behind her like a sheet in the wind. Her pale skin reflecting the light of the sun like a prism. She stopped only once, at a dirty rusty gas station in New Hampshire. She saw an ancient telephone swinging on a cord as she passed, and doubled back, trying to keep out of state of anyone who might spot her. She called Moira, waiting impatiently as the phone rang and rang. “I’ll kill you if you hurt her,” she murmured to the answering machine.
She found that if she ran fast enough, she could easily clear the few waterways that she had to cross. The intersections were a bit more convoluted. She could only run at sixty miles per hour, she wasn’t invisible. Hopefully anyone who did see her would think they were hallucinating.
Her daughter was in danger, and nothing, not even death, could hold her back.