Norene was a banshee. She had visions of ordinary, living people becoming undead, and for some reason screamed every time she had one. One of those ordinary, living people she’d had a vision of was me. Of course, she didn’t share anything else about that particular vision. What she did share was how odious it was to have to report every ‘scream’ as she called them, how her visions were the most entertainment she ever got, how preachy her sister could get about banshees living on the dead side, and a lot of other things I immediately forgot as soon as she moved on to another subject. She was a chatty one.
“I mean, because banshees are technically alive, you know. So I can see where she’s coming from, but at the same time, does she really think complaining about it’s going to make any difference? She’s certainly not going to convince the living side people that screams aren’t annoying that way. Is it true there are rules about crossing the street on the living side?”
It took me a couple moments to realise that Norene was expecting an answer. “What? Uh, yeah…”
“That just seems so strange to me. Can’t people figure out how to cross a street without rules to tell them how to do it?”
“Uh, well, it’s not really like that…”
“What’s it like, then?” Norene stopped walking and turned to face me, her expression like that of a child at a toy store. “I’ve only been to the living side once, when I was training to be a driver. But then I screamed, so they fired me. I’m not very good at controlling my screams.” She ducked her head slightly so her hair fell in front of her face, like she was ashamed.
“Wait, what was the question again?” I’d been so busy trying to follow Norene’s story that once again I’d missed the fact that she’d stopped talking and was expecting me to say something.
“What’s it like on the living side?”
“Well…” I looked around. I wasn’t sure where to start. “I mean, it’s a lot cleaner. And the houses aren’t falling apart.”
“Really? Does everyone there know how to fix things?”
I frowned at her. “No, there are people you can hire for that.”
“Oh, so like the drivers or the border patrollers? Except they fix houses?”
“Well, no, not really. You have to pay them.”
“Huh. The living side is weird,” Norene concluded.
Well, that was one way of thinking about it. I couldn’t help but think Norene might be the strangest person I’d met since arriving on the dead side.
“Thanks, anyway.” Norene was walking again, and I jogged a little to catch up.
“Most don’t like to talk about the living side. Makes them miss it, and all that. Me, I guess, well, I can’t miss something I never knew, can I? But I’m always curious, because everyone seems to think it’s so much better than here.”
“That’s an understatement,” I muttered.
“See? Just what I mean.” She shrugged. “But here’s all I’ve ever really known, so I’m not stuck dreaming of better times.”