Whenever Jerry wanted to talk with me, he’d put a tiny electric candle light in his bedroom window. And if I wanted to talk with him, I’d do the same. Yeah, we could have just as easily used the phone, or even a long pole to tap on each other’s window—that’s how close our houses were. But this was the game we had set up for ourselves. Then we’d talk on the baby monitors his father had bought when Jerry was first born.
But then when Jerry was nine, he died, and I found myself with a huge hole in my soul. It felt as if someone had plunged their fist into my chest and ripped out part of my heart. Jerry had become more than just a friend to me. Even though the both of us were just kids, I kind of felt as if he was my soul mate. Yeah, I know that sounds like a dumb thing for a nine year old to believe in, but from the moment I first met him, I found myself melting inside. And then, of course, there were all the things we had in common, such as the same computer games we liked to play, or the same TV programs we liked to watch, but most of all, was our mutual love of books, especially stories about time-traveling space cadets, as well as stories about witches.
After the funeral, I asked Mr. Sullivan if I could have Jerry’s baby monitor. I really didn’t have any use for it, but I wanted to keep it as a way to preserve my connection to my very best friend who was now gone. Over the years, I carried those baby monitors with me everywhere I lived, even to college, which was where it happened.
I was in my dorm room studying when the electricity in the area went out. They said later it was a blown transformer. So, in order to see what I was doing, I lit several Halloween candles, putting one in my window. (The batteries in my flashlight had gone dead.) That’s when I first heard his voice come over the baby monitor Jerry’s father had given to me.
To say I was freaked is an understatement. I didn’t even know the monitors’ batteries were still good, let alone that the devices could work. But that’s when I heard his young voice ask, “Abs, why are you calling me? Is there some plans we made that I forgot about?”
I stared in total mind-numbing disbelief at the two monitors sitting on the top shelf of my closet. How the frig could this be happening?
Standing up, and with tingles of fear running up and down my spine, I shuffled stiff-legged over to the closet, where I reached up and grabbed both monitors, one in each hand. Then carrying them over to my desk, I plopped down in my chair, and set the monitors on top of my books. Then gingerly picking up the monitor that was mine, I pressed the on button and asked, “Jerry, is that you?”
His voice came out of his monitor sounding slightly annoyed, “Yeah, Abs, who else would it be?”
I really didn’t know what to say. I just kept staring from one device to the other until I heard his young voice ask, “Hey, Abs, are you still there?”
This brought me around. “Uh . . . yeah . . .”
“So what gives? Why are you calling me?”
After swallowing hard a couple of times, I finally said, “I wasn’t really calling you. The power went out here, so I lit some candles.”
“What do you mean the power went out? Everything looks fine to me.”
That’s when something clicked inside my brain and I asked him, “Where are you?”
“Where else would I be? I’m in my room.”
In his room? In his room! That would mean he was probably somewhere around nine-years-old and still alive! But how could that be? And how could he be talking to me?
“Jerry do you see my window?”
“Well, it’s a little dark out here, but yeah, I can see the candle.”
I stared for a long moment at his monitor then asked him, “Jerry, are you sure you’re in your room?”
Once again, he sounded a bit annoyed. “Where else would I be!”
“No, Jerry, you can’t be in your room.”
“Because you’re dead.”
There was a long moment of silence then he said, “What do you mean I’m dead?”
I stared at his monitor. I didn’t want to tell him, but I knew I had to. “Jerry, you died nine years ago tomorrow.”
“But that can’t be! I’m looking at your window right now and I see the candle!”
“Jerry, you’re looking into the future. I’m nineteen and in college. That’s my dorm room window you’re seeing.”
There was another extra long pause. “Jerry, are you still there?”
“Yes . . .” he replied, hesitantly. Then after some more time he asked, “Abby, how did I die?” He sounded tiny and scared.
“You allowed Bobby Picolli to goad you into playing touch football in the street. You didn’t even like football, but you played anyway. Then just as you were going out for a pass, a car came flying around the corner and ran you over.”
Another long silence and then . . . “Do you still have your baby monitor?”
I rolled my eyes, thinking how else would I be talking to him? But instead of saying anything negative, I replied, “Yes . . . I even have yours as well. Your father gave it to me after your funeral.”
“But that can’t be,” said Jerry, “I have mine right here. I’m talking to you with it.”
“I know,” I said to him, “but that’s because you’re in your room talking to me on the day before you died.”
I heard Jerry stutter,” So – so how do I sto . . . stop from being run over?”
I almost laughed. “Simple, don’t let Bobbie talk you into playing football.”
“I won’t,” he said.
At that moment the lights in my room came back on and that’s when I heard the soft static begin to pour out of Jerry’s monitor. “Jerry!” I called to him. “Can you hear me?” No answer. “Jerry?” Still no answer. The static became louder, “Jerry!” I called again, while a feeling of intense panic began to seep into every part of me. Would he do what I said?
I sat there another minute listening as the static continued. Finally, I went to reach for the on/off switch on the sided of Jerry’s monitor, and that’s when I discovered it had never been turned on.
Several minutes later, my roommate returned. She found me sitting at my desk still in a daze. By now, Jerry’s monitor had stopped broadcasting static.
“Why do you have those baby monitors out?” she asked, putting down her own books.
Shaking myself out of my daze, I turned to her and said, “I was having a moment of nostalgia.”
“Oh, that’s right, tomorrow is the anniversary of your little friend’s death.” She knew about my friendship with Jerry and how he had died. “I’m so sorry.”
I fixed her with a sad little smile. “That’s okay.”
Then Bernadette’s chubby face broke into a bright grin. “Well, I have an idea,” she said. “Now that the power is back on, how about we go down to the student union and see what they have for a late night snack?”
I thought about it for a moment; why not? So after putting the two monitors back on the shelf in my closet, and blowing out all the candles, I grabbed my purse, shut off the lights then followed my roommate out.
The next morning, I didn’t go to class. I told Bernadette that I wasn’t feeling very well. She said she understood then left for her own classes. After she left, I tried working on my studies for a while, but my eyes kept shifting from my laptop, to the two baby monitors still sitting in my closet, and then to the face of my alarm clock, which was slowly ticking its way toward 10:05 a.m.—the time Jerry had died.
Sitting there, I didn’t know what I was expecting to happen. But what did happen had me bolting right out of my chair: I suddenly had memories of the next four years with Jerry, who was not killed that day by the car. Instead, we had more time to enjoy each other’s company; but then he had to join his parents, who worked for the government, overseas somewhere. He couldn’t tell me where they were going, but promised he would write. He never got the chance. Two weeks after he and his parents left, I saw the title of the article in our local newspaper: Local Couple, Along With Son, Die In Plane Crash Overseas.
After I finished reading the article, I broke down. I remember crying for nearly three days straight. Nothing anyone said or did could stop me from feeling as if my entire being had been torn to shreds. It took the rest of that summer for me to reach the point where I could face life again without shedding tears at the drop of a hat.
But now, as the date for his second death rapidly approached, I decided I needed a plan.
I turned to look at the two baby monitors inside my closet, and that’s when a wave of panic hit me—there was only one. How could that be? What happened to the other one? Panic continued to kick me around for several stomach-churning seconds, until the rational part of my brain finally kicked in. Of course, there was only one monitor. Since Jerry did not die that day when he was nine, there was no funeral, which meant I did not ask his father to give me his monitor. But could I still contact him with only one? It worked when we were kids, so why not now? But this time, I didn’t wait until the night before he and his family were to depart. I began trying to contact him the week before.
Luckily, my roommate was away for the summer. This meant I didn’t have to explain to anyone what I was doing and why. So starting seven days before their scheduled departure, I began each night placing a lighted candle in front of my window, and then tried to call Jerry on my monitor. To my rising panic, he didn’t respond, until the night before.
“Jerry! Thank God!” And then I began to explain to him all about the plane crash, giving him as much details as I could—and then I waited . . . and waited . . . and waited . . . until there came a knock on my door.
When I opened it . . .
“JERRY!” I shouted, jumping into his arms, and giving him the most deeply passionate kiss I could. Afterwards, I grabbed his hand and led him over to my bed.
You can use your imagination for the rest.