Fiction

2018

Dying to Live

By Jordan Jud
Westwood High School. Class of 2017.

There’s a difference between being alive and living, at least that’s what Kat said.
Personally, I didn’t see much of a difference, but she was determined to enlighten me. I sat at my
desk, rolling a pencil between my fingers, listening to her never-ending lecture on why I should
partake in ridiculous activities with her ridiculous friends.
“You aren’t living your life to the fullest! When’s the last time you went out?”
I thought for a moment, “I went to the library on Wednesday.”
Kat collapsed on my bed and groaned, clearly I was not getting it, “The library? That
doesn’t count! I’m worried about you. We’re all worried about you. High school is supposed to
be fun and I don’t want you to grow up with regrets.”
I didn’t regret going to the library. I love the library, but Kat already seemed disappointed
in me, and I wasn’t about to make it worse. We had been friends for as long as I could
remember, but something was different lately. Kat had started going out more, and I started
going out less. She was so excited to make a new group of friends, and all I wanted was Kat.
Soon enough she’d be gone. I could feel her slipping away.
“What if- what if I went out with you guys tonight?” I stared at the pencil still in my
hand. Maybe I could still be the friend she wanted.
Kat shot upright, “You would?”
It was too late to go back now, “Yeah, I guess. It’s not like I have plans or anything.” I
placed the pencil on my desk in defeat.
“No way! Don’t lie to me! You really want to come out with us?”
Want to? Absolutely not. Would I? If it got Kat to stop nagging me about not “living” then sure.
“What are you guys doing anyways?” Hopefully it wasn’t something too absurd.
I could feel Kat’s excitement. “Andy said there’s an abandoned house in his
neighborhood, we were gonna go check it out. It’s supposed to be like haunted and stuff!”
Trespassing in a haunted house? I stared longingly at my pencil dreaming about all the
homework I could get done tonight. What’s wrong with just being alive?

We all met in the front yard of the house as soon as it was dark. The group eyed me
questioningly as they welcomed Kat. Andy, unconcerned by my presence, got right to work. He
took a rock and hucked it straight through the window of the rickety front door. It shattered into
hundreds of pieces and instinctively I ducked behind the fence and nervously checked the
neighbor’s house to make sure they hadn’t heard.
“Guys, I don’t know if this is a good idea.” The rest of the group looked at me with pity
and rolled their eyes.
“Why’d we take ​her​?”
“Come on, don’t be a pansy! It’s not a big deal.”
Kat pulled me away from the shelter of the fence. “She’s new to this guys! Go easy on
her!”
I swallowed my embarrassment and moved towards the house one step at a time. The
floorboards moaned as I eased across the front porch. Andy slipped his hand through the
shattered window and unlocked the door. With a hard shove the door creaked open, revealing
nothing but darkness. Somebody turned on a flashlight and a beam of light was cast into the pitch
blackness that illuminated a long, narrow hallway.
“Ladies first,” Andy gestured for us to go in. The smile he gave us wasn’t friendly- it was
cold and menacing as if he wanted nothing more than to see me burst into tears. Kat grabbed me
by the arm and yanked me inside. The air was stale and thick with dust. I nearly choked as Kat
hurried me down the hallway.
“This is so cool!” Kat gawked at the cobwebs covering every inch of the house.
“I think I’m missing the cool part”, I replied anxiously eyeing the blackness we were
heading towards.
“Shh! You’re fine.”
A high-pitched siren sounded from outside. That didn’t sound fine to me. We looked
behind us and sure enough there were red and blue flashing lights shining through the front door.
The rest of our group was nowhere to be found.
“What do we do now?” I asked trembling.
“Hey, you! Get out of there!” a police officer was walking towards the front steps.
“Run!” Kat yanked on my arm once again.

We sprinted into the darkness. My feet felt like lead as panic overcame me, “Kat! Where
are we going?” I shrieked as quietly as I could.
“We’re finding a way out!” Any visibility we had had was long gone. Blindly, we
stumbled through empty rooms. Kat’s vigorous pace had slowed into a hesitant tip toe. “There’s
no way out,” she mumbled and by the sound of her voice, I could tell she was just as white as I
was.
Footsteps thundered behind us. The police were closing in fast. My heart was nearly
exploding now, each beat blared in my head, completely disrupting my thoughts. From the
corner of my eye I saw a glimpse of light so subtle I was convinced it was no more than a
figment of my imagination, but we were out of options.
“We’re getting out of here!” It was my turn to pull on Kat’s arm.
We felt our way through a splintered door frame and a dim light appeared. The moonlight
shone through a broken window in what looked like an old dining room. Kat tugged on the
window until it came loose and crashed on to the dining room floor. She pulled herself through
the window pane and then disappeared from sight.
The police officers had heard the crash of the window pane and were now running
towards me. I could hear their hectic voices coming closer and closer.
“Stop! Get down from there!” One shouted at me.
My heart pounded in my chest as I leaped through the empty window pane after Kat. I
landed hard in the backyard, the dead grass did little to cushion my fall.
“Get up! We’re going to the lake!” Kat was already sprinting towards the woods behind
the house.
I didn’t dare look behind me. Instead I scrambled to my feet and and raced after her,
disappearing into the woods as fast as my legs would carry me. Sweat poured down the back of
my neck. Adrenaline pulsed through my veins. Never in a million years did I think I would be
running from the police in the middle of the woods, but it was such a rush. Living felt good,
living felt really good.
Out of nowhere the woods disappeared and a cliff overlooking a lake appeared. We
slowed down and came to a stop at the very edge. It was only then that my body felt heavy with
fatigue and my breathing grew rapid.

“Guys! Stay there! We’re coming!” Andy’s voice sounded from the forest.
Our group emerged from the forest and gathered around us. They were all gasping for
breath and laughing about their near capture. Andy broke away and moved as close to the edge
as he could, gazing down the slope of the cliff.
“How deep is the water here?” he asked.
“I heard it’s pretty deep,” someone else spoke up.
“Andy, get away from there!” Kat shouted.
Andy glanced at the “NO JUMPING” sign posted nearby and then cast his gaze back to
the water. “Anybody want to jump?”
I hadn’t noticed until then that I had been creeping closer and closer to the bluff, as if the
breeze was going to carry me over. My heart started pounding as I tried to guess the height. It
couldn’t be more than twenty feet, maybe thirty at most. A rush of adrenaline began to pulse
through my veins once more, “I’ll do it.”
Everyone just stared at me.
Kat was the first to speak. “You’re kidding right?”
I pulled my t-shirt over my head.
“You can’t be serious! Listen, forget everything I said about living, being alive is fun,
too. There’s nothing wrong with who you are. This is crazy!”
I tugged off my shorts.
“Please. Don’t. Do. This,” Kat was begging at this point.
I looked at her and smiled. The excitement was intoxicating: I couldn’t think, I could only feel.
Then I let my body fall over the peak and down and down. It felt as if I was flying. The
breeze carried me gently until I was embraced by the water and submerged, sinking down and
down. The surface was gone from sight when the rush finally faded. My accelerated heart grew
slower and slower as the current carried me away.
There’s a difference between being alive and living; though I don’t do either anymore.