Writers (in order): pasta, Alyssa Tang, Anika J, Anna Rodden, Benjamin Liu, CL, Eman Hussain, Emily Zhou, Fiona Li, Cherice, Langston Wu, Rohit Divekar, Catherine Hsieh, and Surya Saraf. Editor: Irene Tsen.

Well, I just died. How exciting. I hope I go to heaven at least, I thought to myself, but considering my life in general, I probably won’t. I was still lying down with my eyes closed, in the position I had died in when I was run over. Well, can’t stay here forever… I groaned and got up.

But my eyes didn’t open to the blinding lights of heaven or the burning gates of hell. Fields of grain fluttered on both sides. There was the normal everyday sun and sky above me, and under me was the road I was just flattened on. Scratch that—the road I didn’t get flattened on, considering I was alive.

There were a couple things I had never seen. Everything in my pockets was strewn across the dirt next to me and my glasses seemed to be carelessly tossed away. I grabbed my glasses and put them on, and that’s when he came into focus. He was someone I had never seen before, but our eyes locked with passionate gazes before I broke the silence.

“WHY WERE YOU FRISKING MY BODY?” I jumped back, and luckily not into the road because another truck soon came barreling through.

The hobo also jumped back, back pressed against a metal fence. He flailed my wallet in his hand in front of him, as if I would lunge at him like an animal.

“H-hey! You were definitely dead!” His screams stretched thinly against the vast fields. I looked around. There were no landmarks or people in sight, just the occasional flash of lights and kick of dust as another truck rumbled past us. They didn’t seem to pay us any mind, even with our rumpled clothing and things strewn all over the ground. Wasn’t this a mugging, clear as day? Would no one stop to help?

I looked down at my bloody lower body, with the distinct pattern of tire tracks running through it. I was surprised I could even stand, when my legs should have been shattered into pieces, but the pain didn’t even register in my mind. It was as if I had never died.

I squinted at the hobo who was now shamelessly looking at the contents in my wallet. In one swift motion, I leaped towards him and snatched my wallet away from his grimy hands. The leather felt coarse and worn out. Strange, I thought, this wallet was new. I opened it and screamed.

As soon as I had tried to look inside, the wallet had become hot to the touch. I dropped it as it burned my hands and a sharp pain shot from my palms up through the rest of my body. It dawned on me that I couldn’t feel the pain of my bones crushed to a thousand pieces by a semi, but a small wallet was able to hurt me. What was going on?

I looked around for something that might tell me anything about my situation. A cool breeze caressed my cheek as the surrounding fields gently whispered and sparkled in the sun. I was overtaken by calm as a wave of tranquility washed over me. Closing my eyes, I turned my face to the sky and the sun warmed my cheeks.

I was jolted out of my reverie, however, when I heard quick footsteps retreating into the distance. Turning around, I found that while I was in my short trance, the hobo had picked up my wallet again and was sprinting down the highway. Back in reality—or at least whatever dimension I was in—I ran after him. I wasn’t sure why, but I was suddenly overtaken by the feeling that I needed that wallet. Desperate for answers, I mustered up the loudest bellow I could.

“WAIT! THAT’S MINE!” The hobo had no response. He just kept on sprinting, as if he didn’t hear what I had said. Putting as much strength and effort as I could into each stride, I did my best to keep up. It seemed like there was some sort of invisible force pulling me towards the wallet. And I wasn’t about to let the hobo get away with it.

“STOP! I WON’T LET YOU GET AWAY!” This time, the hobo unexpectedly obeyed my instructions and stopped running, turning around to face me. He held out the wallet. What was happening? Why was everything so weird?

“Here, take it,” the hobo said, as if he were offering it to me as a gift. A smile appeared across his face, one that I found very unsettling and oddly fake.

I paused, wary of his sudden switch in demeanor. I carefully outstretched my hand, as if he might bite if I got too close. Instead of biting, however (or attacking in any other sort of way), he calmly stood as I pulled the wallet from his grasp. It was no longer hot, yet the burning sensation was still fresh on my fingertips. His grip was loose, as if he had no intention of keeping the wallet in the first place. Still suspicious, I quickly tucked it into my pocket, backing away before he could lunge for it again. He had no reaction however, only staring blankly ahead and continuing to smile. Confused, I stepped to the side, observing his face. It remained the same, as if a statue. His eyes were glossed over and staring into space, his mouth still stretched in that disturbing smile.

“Uh, hey! Are you okay?” I said, waving my hands in front of his face. He blinked and walked past me, as if I wasn’t even there, and kept walking along the road until I couldn’t see him anymore.

I sighed, still looking at the road. My head bent towards the ground, I groaned into my palms.

“What the hell just happened?” I muttered. “What the hell is happening right now?”

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