Tom died when he turned fifteen.
It was a spectacular death, if he did say so himself: practicing for his learner’s permit, with his father in the seat next to him, coaching him, they hit a slippery patch in the road and spun out. He remembered that it had felt a little like the split second before a drop on a roller coaster: the moment of feeling utterly weightless and the way his stomach felt like it was spinning inside of him—and then they _were_ spinning, hard and fast, and then there was a tremendous crashing noise and blackness.
Tom was proud of his death. He liked the way that it had left a mark, black skid marks on the street and the crumbled safety railing; the way that the front and side of the car had been completely crunched in, like wet paper instead of steel and plastic. How often could you say you went out _that_ dramatically? Most accidents kids his age had were fenderbenders or running into the mailbox, or maybe scraping up the side of the car because they misjudged how close the other car or building or wall actually was. Tom, however, had managed to completely destroy the car, pulp his entire midsection, and kill his father at the same time.
His father was less impressed, of course, but the old man had already long since moved on, so Tom no longer had to listen to his angry lectures or his yelling—or worse still, deal with his terrible silences. It was a relief, really, to be free from that.
Tom died when he was fifteen and now he spent his days perched on the railing where he’d been killed. It was difficult to tell from a distance the damage that had been done, but since he was so close, he could see the exact place where older metal fused into newer sheets. He could point to the fading grooves in the road and say that that was where it happened; that was the place where I lost control and then my life ended.
For a while people used to bring flowers. Someone had even left a marker with a photo of him and a small teddy bear. It was Lizzy, who sat behind him in English and occasionally asked him questions about the work. He hadn’t known she’d liked him, and sometimes he drifted over to her house to see how she was doing. (Pretty well, though of course she was a little broken up. Tom didn’t blame her. Dying was always easiest on the dead.) He always came back to the scene of his death, though, watching cars buzz past like it was no big deal. He wondered if any of them even knew what had happened here, that they were driving over the places where his blood had spilled out in a dramatic wave. Little bits and particles of it still had to exist in the material of the road itself, he knew, so all those cars that were driving over this spot—they were taking small pieces of him away. There were parts of him that had probably made it as far as Oregon, or Washington, maybe even Canada.
He’d never been to Canada when he was alive.
Because he was pretty sure no one actually realized what had happened in this spot, Tom liked to sometimes call out to people when they drove past, especially the ones that kept their windows down. He would holler as loudly as he can, HEY SOMEONE DIED HERE! and watch as the drivers and their passengers went pale and shivery and uneasy, though they looked around and could see nothing. Tom was just there; it didn’t mean he was visible. Sometimes they swerved a little, but as of yet, no one had managed to crash into the railing or join him.
That really suited Tom just fine, though. This place was his, and it was his blood that marked it. He didn’t really want to share it with anyone else. (Which was another reason why he was glad his father had finally let go and moved on. He was older, anyway, he probably had boring adult things to worry about, being dead. Tom, though, Tom still liked to watch people go and wonder if they would die young too, or maybe wait until they were old and gray.)
Those kinds of deaths seemed like they’d be terribly boring, to him.
The one thing Tom never did, though, was go home.
He thought about it once, fairly soon after he’d died, when his father was still around. He had a mother who was still alive, and a brother who was four years younger than him. He thought about seeing them, and had ultimately decided that it would be too weird to even try.
So he had not.