top of page

On reading stories where a character comes back from the dead

Madalyn Murray

I wonder of the author’s intention

Sitting at the computer as they say to the reader

Look, here is the place where miracles happen

Here is a place where the hurt isn’t forever

When death is nothing but a blip

An inconvenience

A build up

A plot twist

And then…

And then I think of you and how you came back to me from the dead

How I still hear echoes of suicide attempts and ambulance sirens

Still imagine your voice calling out for me in your drug induced slumber The 

way that every night after my mother told me this, I’ve woken up screaming: 

“I’m so sorry. I would have been there only if I’d known.

If I’d know where you were I would have stolen every car in the country to be by your side just  

so that I knew you were still alive.”

Because you did live and you are still living so vibrantly

And I… I buried a part of me that I can’t get back

There is no undo button on this

No uno reverse on grief

I look at you and I can’t stop seeing ghosts

I read these stories and wonder how –

How can these characters stop smelling the damp graveyard dirt?

How can they stop reliving the moment they knew you were gone?

How can they silence the banshee squeal of grief that has been their bed fellow for 

years? How do we live with the knowledge that losing you once destroyed us?

How do we live with the fear of what would happen if we lost you 

again? I am afraid of losing you again.


Afraid that I won’t hear your calls for help until they’re coming through my Ouija 

board And yet I still can’t be near you

I can’t be near you without feeling like I’m dying

You took a piece of me with you to the hospital each time and they never came back 

I’ve been checking every gurney wheel

Every flashing light

Every ambulance siren for proof that it was just a story

That I can pick up a pen and paper and undo the part of me that mourned a death not yet 

lived Seeing you alive

Seeing you breathing was not enough to assuage my broken heart

I live forever in the moments I feared you were gone

My emotions an endless Groundhog Day I cannot escape

The author magics a family back together from the ashes of three years of grief And I 

wonder how he can look at her smile without seeing blood run down her cheeks How he 

can hear her laugh without hearing the echo of a gunshot and a stranger’s scream

There say that wasn’t enough of them left

I don’t think there’s enough of me left to love you again

I am allergic to grief

And your midnight poetry was anaphylactic shock

I’m still carving the memory of missed phone calls out from under my 

skin Still trying to excavate the guilt I drink like water

The regret I breathe like air

Death and life were never meant to be this

A riddle playing at a light switch

A turn signal bouncing back

How do I live with the death of the undying?

How do I love you without fear?

Death is not a clock we can rewind

We must live the tick of every second even when it feels like a knife in our hearts 

We were graveyard children without a bedtime story

Don’t tell me this could have ended any other way

Don’t speak of zombies and potions

I already know this story could have ended differently

I’m aware of it every time I see the blood on my hands

We were kids playing with matches instead of toys and we burnt our whole childhood to the  


I still cough up smoke

Don’t make me live in the blank pages of could-have-beens

Every day I live my grief and every day I think of how beautiful we could have been if someone  

knew how to help your kind of sick

Don’t now give me a story with a doctor

All these pages

All these alternate endings just give me paper cuts

I let my blood drip onto the pages and cast a silent prayer

Please don’t give me a miracle seven years too late

My heart’s already worm food anyways

I still don’t believe the witch and the happily ever after can exist on the same 

page My story was over the first time you tried to exit the stage

Since the first moment you tried to take your life, I have been a record 

scratch A skip unable to move forward

And then I think of you and how you came back to me from the dead

And then…

A plot twist

A build up

An inconvenience

When death is nothing but a blip

Here is a place where the hurt isn’t forever

Look, here is the place where miracles happen

Sitting at the computer as they say to the reader

All your pain is nothing but dust

About the Author

Madalyn Murray firmly believes that we are all our own haunted houses. Her work deals with haunting, trauma, and liminality with a particular focus on the atemporality of time. Madalyn feels that society likes to confine both life and death into boxes without considering the ways in which they dance across the borders set up between them and how these visits of the dying impact the living. She is proudly of Anishinaabe and Scottish ancestry. Find more of their work on Instagram @sleepcreatecaffeinate

Up Next: Some Thoughts I Write To Leave Behind

bottom of page