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This is a work of pure fiction. In tribute to Halloween, I have very loosely based the premise of this story on the cancelled Showtime TV show, DEAD LIKE ME, whose premise I always found witty and a quirky look at life after death. The characters in this story as well as the writing are all my own creation, however the basic ideas were adapted from the show and I wanted to give credit where credit is due.
I hope you enjoy it. Those who know my writing know its not wham bam sex so if you’re looking for that kind of story, please kindly pass this one by. Those who choose to read it, please take a moment to comment and vote. Sorry it took so long to post but schools been crazy. Good luck to everyone in the contest. Thanks all.
* * * * *
The young woman’s scream shattered the night, echoing in the crisp night air as she ran. The tree branches tore at her clothing, trying to keep her in the grips of the nightmare she had stumbled into. Just this morning her life had been perfect, full of light and promise, but now she was reduced torn clothing barely covering quaking flesh, stumbling over the rocks and fallen branches that had tore her bare feet to ribbons.
A desperate sob escaped from her parched, cracked lips as the howl pierced the night. She ran towards the glistening glassy surface of the lake. The boat was moored to the dock. If she could get to it, she would escape
Dark hair feathered across her face as she whipped around when a branch cracked behind her, splinters biting into her heels as she backed up onto the dock slowly. When she saw a shadow appear, she gasped. No,” she whispered. “Leave me alone, Damian. I don’t want this.”
“You can’t stop the change.”
“This isn’t my fate! I don’t want this!”
“But you do. I can feel your excitement, taste it across my tongue sweeter and thicker than the honey between your thighs.”
He smiled as she shuddered. She started to deny it but he leapt forward, knocking her to the dock. She screamed as he pressed her down, his hands fumbling with what was left of her clothing, ripping it off with a sound like flesh tearing.
Her body arched welcomingly under his as the beginnings of the change swept over them. The hair upon his forearms and face began to grow thicker, fuller, his shoulders broadening under her lengthening nails. He leaned his head back, and opened his mouth wide as his face elongated. When he howled again, hers answered…
A shoe bounced against her newly pointed ears a moment before the scene went black, making the fate of the two furry lovers uncertain. I arched a brow as I glanced over in the direction of the stray Doc Marten, calmly munching on a mixed handful of dill pickle chips and M&Ms. I had a craving for a salty sweet combination and I had already polished off two miniature bags of sour gummy worms and half a dozen packages of Tart&Tinies.
“Guess you’re not a fan of the warm and furry.”
A growl more realistic than the ones we’d been hearing from the tube for the last hour, trickled from between my roommate’s teeth. She slumped lower in her overstuffed armchair, black bangs sulkily brushing the tip of her nose.
“Movies like that represent just how perverted the Halloween tradition has become. It’s not about pagan magic’s and mystery anymore. Most people don’t even know the true meaning of Halloween anymore. When I was teaching folklore at the University, young people knew there was more to this night than B-rated horror movies on TV, candy that rots our teeth out of our head and costume parties where people get to live out the tool side of their nature and be applauded for it.”
“It’s just a movie, Miranda.”
“You’re telling me that this commercialization of death doesn’t bother you?”
“We live in New York. We see more death walking through Central Park at 2pm.”
“I can’t believe you’re making light of this, Allison.” “It’s just a movie. Actors have to make a living.”
“Its not just movies! I mean look at the T.V. guide listings for Christ’s sake. Look at this one right here.” She pointed dramatically at a spot on the little book with a polished red fingernail long enough to be a talon. I pitied that scrap of paper, but wouldn’t have traded places for it for the world.
“Last Dance; Former prom queen meets death on the dance floor and must decide whether the good life is really the live life. How can you not be bothered by the fact that most people don’t even believe in the afterlife, yet Hollywood makes billions a years by exploiting it?” Her green eyes narrowed; almost disappearing beneath the heavy black liner that made her look vaguely Egyptian though her accent was pure mid-west bumblefuck.
“I bet death will come to meet her dressed all in black and be some A-List Hollywood star.”
“I liked the one with Brad Pitt. He was easy on the eyes.”
“I don’t know how you can be so flippant about the stereotypes, Allison. You of all people KNOW what death looks like. When the hell have you ever seen a self-respecting ataşehir escort reaper walking around with a sickle?”
Miranda glowered and I switched my attention back towards my bag, crunching on another mouthful of potato chips, whistling low as the salt stung my lower lip. I’ve known Miranda long enough to know that when she started in on one of her rants, it was time to get real nice and quiet and pretend that I was part of the scenery. Blend in was my motto. She might have been dead, but she still packed a wallop and I wasn’t the fighting type.
I wasn’t a lover either to be perfectly honest, because both emotions required a level of passion that I tried to avoid whenever possible. I liked to keep my head down and out of the way. Giving a shit just complicated things and my life had enough complications in it without adding more to the mix.
I chomped a chip. Miranda meant well. Aside from the black clothing and rants about everything and everyone, she still held out hope that there had to be more to life than what was. I on the other hand, firmly believed that life would eventually turn to shit and being prepared for it with a Coke and a smile was the best possible plan of action.
I mean, look at the people of the world for instance. We’re governed by laws. Bad people get punished by human law and then get out on parole six months later to maim and kill again. Good people get spit on by most of those parolees and then punished by Murphy’s Law which sends them out to my corner of town.
True, those words might have sounded like the diatribe of one of those new age cynic assholes who believed that God was dead and human nature was just leading us all down a path of self-destruction, but they had the general idea – at least about us all eventually destroying ourselves.
As far as the whole death, Heaven and Hell bit, I knew for a fact it was all real. I also knew that God existed-he was upper management. The other guy was lower management but we peons never dealt with either side directly. We were sort of the middle ground, taking souls in our spare time when we weren’t struggling through life just like every other moron who wanted to live in a city where the average salary couldn’t buy you coffee and a morning donut.
Oh yeah, one important point I guess I should mention.
I’m a reaper.
As in grim reaper, but the not cartoon kind all in black and definitely not to be mistaken with death, because that doesn’t go over real with the circles I travel in.
Death is a whole separate division in the bureaucratic hierarchy of the afterlife. We’re just the fall guys, there to make sure that souls get where they’re going. Where that is exactly, isn’t part of our jurisdiction. Actually a lot of things aren’t under our jurisdiction, which means we usually feel like we don’t know our ass from our elbow.
For me, this state of affairs isn’t that different from my past life when I worked 9-5 at a dead-end job and the only stimulation I got on Friday nights was from my purple plastic friend stashed in my panty drawer beside my bottles of Jack and Midol.
Being dead hasn’t changed anything except my name and my apartment, a crappy little studio in SoHo. Whoever said that the afterlife is supposed to be all light and happiness is probably on mind-altering drugs and shouldn’t be allowed near small children.
My chair creaked as I got up to refill my empty bowl, my gaze moving away from Miranda for a moment to the clock. She continued her rant and I nodded absently, offering a few grunts in acknowledgement to nothing I had actually heard as I studied the bright plastic alphabet letters I had arranged on the refrigerator as a reminder of tonight’s gig.
J.B. Duff , E. T. D. 12:00 a. m. Central Park.
Miranda thought it was tacky that I liked to use the kid’s toy to keep track of my pick-ups, but it was a sure way of not mixing up our Post-its when we were both home. That had happened once and lets just say I got the short end of the stick there; blood does not come out easily from silk. I yawned as I looked at my watch to make sure that the wall clock hadn’t died again.
It was 11:20p.m. Forty minutes till the witching hour and estimated time of death for the unknown J.B who could have been man, woman or child for all I knew. I always hated the anonymous ones. They could be tricky as shit. Family reunions were the worst.
I set the empty bowl down on the tiny two-seater table in the kitchen and grabbed the leather jacket draped over the back of one of the chairs. I’d never owned a leather jacket when I was alive, but the girl this one had belonged to wouldn’t need it anymore. This late at night, the tiny bloodstain on the right sleeve would look like ink. I grabbed my keys and dropped a few fish food sticks into Mr. Happy’s bowl before I moved back to the living room where Miranda was still going strong.
“What time is your pick-up?”
“Same as yours. Cassandra said it’s a double. She thought it would e easier kadıköy escort bayan to go together.”
“Good. So let’s go.” I got her jacket from the closet and tossed it to her before I checked my hair in the mirror.
The whole reflection thing still took some getting used to. It’d been five years since I’d joined the ranks of those who gave less than a rat’s ass about life because we didn’t really live it, and I still got spooked every time I passed a storefront window.
My hand patted nondescript brown hair into place, though the poker straight strands never needed much fixing. They just hung as limply as overcooked spaghetti around a face with a generous mouth with thin lips, a too pointed chin and wide, freckled cheekbones, illustrating that though death might get you a crappy apartment with a fierce looking landlord and fiercer leather jacket, it couldn’t make you a knock-down, drag-out hottie. Of course I couldn’t really bitch since this was the first time that I had seen the face I’d been born with in a year. Only on Halloween could we be seen for who we truly were.”Time to go.”
“You haven’t been listening to a word I’ve said, have you?”
“Course I have. The world sucks and so does everyone in it who still needs to breathe air. Let’s go. I want to grab some moo-shu pork before we hit the park.”
“That’s not enough time for takeout.” Her eyes narrowed. “We’ll see if you’re this facetious when they start running re-runs of The Corpse Bride.”
I paused, poking my head back inside the apartment. “Don’t even go there.”
“Well I’m sorry, but I needed to get some kind of reaction out of you.”
“You’re going to get my heel up your ass if you don’t shut up and get the hell out of this apartment now so I can get some MSG into my system and think about grease instead of how many ways I’d like to kick your ass.”
She sniffed as she pulled on her hoodie with the cat ears sewn to the top and then slid on a black sequined eye mask. I had a white one that matched the bridal veil my boss, Cassandra, had sent over with a note to have a “Happy Halloween.” I planned to respond with my keys and a smiley face drawn into the side of her car but hadn’t gotten around to it yet.
Everyone was a comedian.
“Will you at least concede that Halloween has become perverted by big business and is a disgrace to the pagan rituals and traditions that have held it sacred for thousands of years?”
“Do I get my pork?”
“And an egg roll.”
I grinned as we walked out the door. “All right, Miranda, you win. Halloween has become all about women wearing lingerie with bunny ears for men who stuff socks down their pants. Trick-or-treating is now a cash business and B-rated movies keep has-been actors in Hollywood.”
She beamed. She was proud that she had managed to get someone else to drink the Kool-Aid. Bully for me.
“But I still think that Brad Pitt was easy on the eyes…”
* * * * *
I hated my life. Miranda had won the fight and I hadn’t gotten my egg roll or even a sniff of one. I was hungry and tired and it was going to be a long night, especially since it was five minutes to midnight and not a single Tom, Dick or Harry, let alone a J.B. Duff, had walked by.
“It has to be a man,” I muttered. “Always unreliable.” I breathed into my chilled hands, and then rubbed them up and down my arms, trying to breathe some life back into the dead cowhide covering me. The temperature had dropped about 10 degrees since the afternoon and I was planning on having a cup of microwave hot-chocolate with real marshmallows if J.B. Asshole ever decided to grace me with his presence.
“Yeah, well join the club.”
I watched my breath float away in a round ring, and then glanced around the park. This late at night, the only people around were the occasional homeless man and of course two girls standing on a bridge who looked like a serial rapist’s fantasy come to life. A little bit from either spectrum to whet the appetite.
“so who’s your appointment tonight? Anyone good? That lawyer from your last pick-up was fun. If I ever get married again, the sucker better pray he doesn’t want a divorce or I will bury him.”
“It’s just something Cassandra asked me to do when I saw her earlier. It’s no big deal.”
I arched a brow. She was being evasive. Miranda was many things, but evasive was never one of them. She also never fidgeted and as I watched, she twirled her hair around her finger twice and shifted from foot to foot.
I felt my eyes narrowing. “Who is it?”
“You’d better put your mask on, Allison.”
“I’ll die before I wear that thing. Answer me.”
“You’re already dead.”
“Well..before I die again then.”
Miranda arched a brow and I burrowed deeper into the collar of my jacket to try and spread some of the heat from my cheeks to my nose. She was trying to change the subject and I knew it, but I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to know who was on that Post-it of hers if escort maltepe she was trying so hard to avoid answering.
I’d only been dead five years. That was barely a college degree for most people these days. I hadn’t really had time to lose anyone close to me, not that there really had been that many in that circle to start with when I’d been alive. As far as I knew, my parents were still alive and miserably married and my brother and sister were each living in separate wedded bliss in opposite ends of the country.
I wanted to know who was on that Post-it.”
I really needed an egg roll.
“You know that Halloween is the only day that we are revealed for who we really are and you’ve only been dead five years. All you need is someone to come by and recognize you….”
She trailed off, smiling triumphantly as I held up one hand to make her stop, the other reaching for the mask that had been in my back pocket. It was a little smushed, but you could still make out the silhouette of the kissing couple in the corner of it. Had there been a dog around, I would have invited him to mark his territory on the sequined atrocity.
She moved around to help me tie it, but I stopped her when I saw movement on the path. “Someone’s coming.” I glanced at my watch and nodded in satisfaction as Mr. J.B Duff decided to keep his appointment with five minutes to spare. I whipped the half-tied mask off and let it flutter from my hands to the ground right in front of J.B’s path as he came up onto the bridge. I dove for it, knocking into his knees, both of us nearly going down.
“Oh God, I’m so sorry! I’m such a klutz,” I gushed, my hand moving to his leg to brace myself as if I had suddenly reverted to my sea legs. I widened my eyes, channeling every blonde I had ever met as I retrieved my mask, one hand stroking up his leg in the process, giving him the last cheap thrill of his life before I straightened.
Mission accomplished, our eyes met, his looking slightly unfocused before he pushed past me and Miranda, moving down the bridge onto the next path that was shadowed by the trees. I grinned at Miranda, but the look on her face made it falter.
I knew that I shouldn’t turn around. I could feel it deep down in my bones, but you know human nature. We are physically incapable of putting our heads into the sand when we really need to. You’d think death would make us smarter.
Miranda was looking over my head at something and I turned even as she said, “Allison, I’m sorry.”
“Shit,” I murmured with feeling.
Not the most eloquent words I had ever spoken, but I’m not sure there really is a speech book anywhere that discusses the appropriate things to say when one’s former fiancé who was never prompt in his life, shows up on time for a date with death.
“This isn’t happening.”
“I’m sorry, Allison. I should have told you, but Cassandra didn’t want you to know. She had me nab his soul earlier at the local diner so you didn’t have to see it. She knew how you would get.”
“So you thought, well I’ll just let her see him then say, ‘Whoops! By the way it slipped my mind that your fiancé is about to meet his maker?'”
“Well from what you told me about him, I don’t think it’s his maker he’s meeting tonight.”
“Ok, that is so not funny.”
I turned back to look at the man who was approaching J.B. Duff and held my breath. Five years later and the son-of-a-bitch still had the ability to take my breath away. Of course since he was responsible for my death , that didn’t come as a surprise.
He looked good.
Too good for a man who was going to be a chalk mark on the ground in the next two minutes.
My gaze slid over him, taking him in. I considered warning him, but I knew the show would go on no matter how I felt about it. I had a front row seat for the action so I might as well take advantage of it.
His dark hair was longer, tugged back into a short ponytail that I immediately deemed ridiculous so I wouldn’t think about what it would look like if it was left to curl around those strong features, highlighting his cheekbones and the cleft in his chin.
He was though he’d put on some weight since the last time I’d seen him. It filled out his leather bomber jacket and low slung blue jeans nicely, making him look more like a man than the boy who had broken my heart, leaving me stranded at the altar waiting to say I do while the whole church whispered, “He didn’t!”
Oh yes he did.
He hadn’t even left a note. He’d skipped town leaving me alone in my white couture dress that I had managed to snag at a sample sale, sitting in the middle of a pile of presents with a bottle of champagne.
It was the damn champagne that did me in. I thought, ‘Hey, why not? A two hundred dollar bottle is sitting here just going to waste because I’ve been jilted and hope my not-to-be-future husband bites it somewhere hard. Why not take advantage and indulge?’ It seemed a brilliant idea at the time, at least until I opened the bottle. My claim to fame is to have been done in by a cork that popped up, bounced off my ridiculously large tiara to the ice bucket and then ricocheted back to catch me in my drunken mouth, effectively sealing off my air passage and any curses I could have put on Garrett.
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