WHEN SHE WAS eight years old, she died.
A family winter walk by the lake. Hot cocoa and mittens. A gust of arctic wind and a misstep. She fell hard, splashing into the icy depths.
Two long minutes she was under while her family panicked, her mother holding her sister back. Her father watched, uselessly, scared and motionless. A jogger called the police.
Finally, her father acted, jumped in after her. His long reach combed through the water. Three minutes of frantic search, fueled by desperation. Then he kicked something he desperately hoped was his daughter and dove after it. Her bright purple jacket was waterlogged, and he peeled it off her. Freed from the extra weight, she bobbed to the surface.
Her father pushed her toward the concrete jetty. More people had gathered. They helped pull first her, then him, out. It was harder than it seemed: she was deadweight, and he was too tired to be of much help. Three more minutes before she was laid out on the hard concrete.
Her lips were blue, her eyes unseeing. She had no pulse. She was dead.
The mother pounded her chest and breathed into her lungs.
Someone offered the father their dry jacket and he took it wordlessly, clutching it to his side. He shivered uncontrollably, his teeth chattering. The sister hugged him, unable to believe that this was the end. Her mother's rhythmic cadence progressed.
A minute and a half later there was a cough. A sputter. She vomited up a lake's worth of water. Everyone breathed with her.
Her mother cried, relief replacing dread. Her father collapsed to his knees, bringing her sister down with him. People cheered. The ambulance arrived.
When she was eight years old, she died.
She was dead for nearly nine minutes.
Then she was alive again.
"This is such a murder basement," I say, peering down the dark stairs. "And gross, what's that smell? It's rank."
"Bodies," Shannon tells me.
I know my sister is joking, but she sounds so serious. She catches my expression and laughs, patting my head, like I'm five instead of fifteen. "It's just an old house, Haley. Don't be such a baby."
I huff and turn back to the darkness. Shannon's only older than me by three years, but she acts like I'm a little kid.
"Come on," she says, pushing past me, carrying a giant box.
I want to say "No thanks, you go ahead and get murdered without me," but I tentatively take a step, the ancient wooden stairs creaking even under my negligible weight. Shannon barrels downward, not a care for the possibility of rotten steps giving way...or the less likely scenario that monsters are lurking in the shadows. I follow, moving more slowly. I'm not usually afraid of my own shadow, but this place...
The air cools with each step, and since I'm all sweaty from moving the contents of our entire life, my arms become clammy in the summer heat and I shiver. The stale smell worsens. The only light comes through the open door above.
I take a deep breath when my foot finally hits the bottom. It's just a basement.
Shannon places the large box on the floor and disappears into the darkness.
"Shannon, where...?" I keep to the lit area by the base of the stairs.
Four long seconds tick by, and then the basement is filled with harsh fluorescent light.