Fiction, Monologues, Plays & More
By Sean M. Kozma
Susan didn’t remember dying, but she knew she was dead. Yet here she was, sitting on a bed in an unfamiliar room. She flexed her left hand repeatedly, turning it back and forth in front of her. It looked strange and felt wrong. The fingers were too long and thin. The skin was dry and wrinkled, and there were spots on the back that she didn’t remember being there before.
A man was talking to her.
“It’s Susan,” she said quietly.
The man entered the bedroom and walked to the closet to pull out a red tie.
“Come on, Barb. We’re going to be late,” he said, looping the tie around his neck.
“It’s Susan,” she said, louder this time.
“Okay,” he said, sounding puzzled. He walked over and leaned in to give her a kiss on the cheek.
She stiffened and pulled away from the unwanted intimacy. He hovered there for a moment before withdrawing, not wanting to press the point.
“You should finish getting ready,” he said, and walked back out of the room.
Susan waited until she heard the man retreat to the far side of the house. Sounds of running water and putting away dishes came from the kitchen.
She stood and walked into the bathroom. She gasped as she caught sight of herself in the mirror. A stranger stared back at her. The face was long and sharp, and the hair was dark and straight. Her face was round and youthful, and her hair blonde and curly. She did not know what to do with the alien face looking back at her from the mirror, so she want back into the bedroom and returned to sitting on the bed.
The man returned a few minutes later, putting on his jacket. When he saw her still sitting, he grew concerned.
“Do you not want to go to the party?” he asked.
She didn’t answer.
“Barb? Honey? Are you feeling okay?”
“No,” she said. “I’m not feeling okay. And my name is Susan. I don’t know who Barb is, but she’s not me.”
He stared at her in silence.
“Is this a menopause thing?” he asked.
“No, it’s not a menopause thing. My name is Susan, not Barb. Susan. And I’m dead. But now I’m not.”
The man was unsure what to say next.
“I don’t understand. What do you mean you’re dead?”
“I mean I’m dead. I died. I was alive, and then I wasn’t, and now I am again.”
“But,” he said, trying to understand what he was hearing. “That doesn’t make sense. You’re Barb. You’ve always been Barb. We’ve been married for fifteen years.”
“I’m not Barb. I don’t know you. We’ve never met before, and I’m single. I also look different.”
He was silent again.
“You look exactly the same as you always have.”
“No, I don’t. I look completely different. I’m too thin, and too frail, and too old.”
The man struggled to assimilate this information.
“Don’t call me that,” she shouted.
He recoiled as if she’d struck him. She felt guilty for being so harsh with him, but she didn’t know what else to say and didn’t feel particularly generous toward the emotions of this stranger.
“I’m sorry,” she said, quieter. “Don’t call me that, please.”
“Bar… Hon… I… Susan, you said?”
“Susan, I’m not really sure what to say. You were fine this morning.”
“I don’t remember this morning. I just remember sitting here.”
“Well I remember you being fine this morning. And being Barb. My wife. The same goes for yesterday. You were fine. Well, maybe not fine, but you weren’t Susan.”
“I’m Susan now.”
“Okay,” he said gently. “You’re Susan now.”
He reached out to put a hand on her shoulder, but she stopped him with a raised hand.
He lowered his hand again.
“No touching. I’m sorry. Susan.”
“We were… Barb and I were supposed to go to a party tonight. That’s what I’m getting ready for. I’d like it very much if you came with me. Are you going to come?”
She thought for a moment.
“Thank you for asking, but no. I think I’m going to stay here.”
He didn’t look pleased with that answer, but he didn’t argue.
“Well, I’m going to go then,” he said. “I hope you’ll still be here when I get back.”
With a sad look on his face, he picked up his keys and overcoat and left. She waited for a long time after she heard the front door close and the man drive away before she stood again and returned to the bathroom. The stranger’s face greeted her again.
She examined her new self closely. She should be happy that she was no longer dead, she thought. Yet her new self was considerably less new than the old self she remembered. Every unfamiliar line and crease only made her more uncomfortable in this skin.
She tried to remember who she really was, and how she died. Vague impressions of a life floated by just out of grasp. Each time she tried to wrap her thoughts around them, they fled. One bright memory beckoned, sharp and hard, but when she tried to claim it, images of shattering violence tore through her sense of self and threatened to obliterate her.
She let it go and returned to the bedroom. Digging through the closet, she found a small suitcase and started packing it with unfamiliar clothes. More digging turned up a set of car keys, and she found the car they belonged to in the garage.
She found a piece of paper and a pen and sat down to leave a note for the man who thought of her as his wife. Her hand hovered over the paper for a long moment before she realized she didn’t even know the man’s name.
Finally, she wrote the words, “I’m sorry,” on the paper, picked up the suitcase, and headed out to the car. Putting the suitcase in the trunk, she got behind the wheel and started the engine. She paused a moment to wonder if this counted as stealing before putting the car in reverse and back out of the driveway.
She drove for a long time, wondering where to go and what to do. She wondered if she should try and figure out who she used to be and how she died, but the more she tried to focus on her fractured memories, the more elusive they became.
A bone-deep chill ran down her spine as she drove past an empty lot. She pulled the car to a stop and got out. The neighborhood was run down and sketchy, but still she exited the vehicle and walked over to the lot. The late spring air was warm, but still she shivered.
She walked slowly through the lot, the first thing that had felt familiar to her all evening. Halfway across, she stopped. After a few moments, she realized she was holding her breath, and exhaled. The spot where she stood felt like the hard, sharp memory of violence. One patch of grassy dirt was darker than the rest. She squatted down and touched the ground as her head swam.
Barb wondered what she was doing in the middle of an empty lot in a strange neighborhood. Faint memories of a young woman named Susan flitted through her mind. A deep sadness seeped into her bones. She stood quietly in the lot for a long time, before returning to the car and driving home.
Her husband asked her strange questions when he returned from the party, and she didn’t understand why she hadn’t gone with him. He tried to explain, but nothing he said made sense. She didn’t know what to tell him to make him understand. She didn’t understand herself.
She asked him just to hold her, and they fell asleep in each other’s arms.
Sean M. Kozma is a writer, sound designer, and audio technician living in Los Angeles, and working in professional theatre. He also works behind the camera on independent films as production manager, assistant director, and line producer. Originally hailing from southeast Michigan, he has worked as a dishwasher, a fry cook, a delivery driver, a taxicab driver, a dispatcher, an engraver, and an office drone. He is currently writing a novel, among other projects.