Rotten Luck (A Short Story)

Uhh … uhh … what the …

“Fuck!”

I banged my head on something soft – like a cushion – with something hard behind it as I tried to sit up. It didn’t quite hurt, but my brain felt like it was sloshing around in my skull for a second or two.

That didn’t bother me, though, as much as the fact that I couldn’t fucking breathe!

There was … something … in my throat – in my nose, too! Little darts of pain ripped at my mouth when I prised it open with my fingers to desperately dig around and get whatever the hell it was that was stopping me from breathing out!

Ridiculously, part of me thought that whatever’s blocking my nostrils is more ‘uncomfortable’ than whatever’s blocking my mouth and throat. This part of me was sitting off to the side analysing the situation and thinking about how it’d be really nice to get that shit out of my nose first. But another part of myself was arguing with it, saying that even if I did manage to clear whatever it was out of there, I still wouldn’t be able to get any air into my lungs while this shit was in my throat!

The frantic, animal part of me that was just trying to fucking-well breathe heard these two asshole sides of me arguing over this, but didn’t give a shit as it managed to just hook its nails into whatever it was that was choking me up and started to pull.

I retched as something dry and cold came out in a twisted wad. The retching was almost the last straw – it was a vital half-second more that I wasn’t getting any air!

Still, I finally managed to suck in the most wonderful lung-full of the stuff I’d ever had – not even noticing how stale it tasted, or how rotten, how stuffy, or how … ‘chemically’.

I could breathe!

Still trying to gulp down as much oxygen as I could, I started digging around in my nostrils, ultimately pulling out more of what I assumed was the same stuff. It rasped as it came out, and a lot of it still seemed to be in there – stuck to the sides of my nasal passages – but the airway was clear, and that was all I cared about.

For a while, anyway.

My mouth hurt like a bastard, and when I started poking around in there, I soon realized why …

… someone had sewn my lips together from the inside!

How the fuck did they do that? the parts of me that were arguing before asked in one voice as I started prising out the broken little nylon-like stitches. The animal part of me wondered why the fuck they did that – and what sort of shit was I actually in?

When my breathing eventually got back to normal (and I’d ultimately gotten the last of the stitches out), I finally noticed the air.

Like I said before, stale and rotten.

Stuffy.

With some sort of strong chemical taste.

And thin.

I gotta get out of here.

I was all of one voice on that idea.

Somehow I knew that I was in a small space, even though I couldn’t see anything. In fact, I’d never been in that much dark in my life.

But I’d calmed down just enough to realize that it was probably because there was something in my eyes.

They felt like they’d been glued shut.

Still wondering what the deal was with the taste of the air, I scratched and pulled at the gunk (whatever it was) that was holding my eyelids closed. It seemed to take a long time, but I managed to get most of it away (and most of my eyelashes, too, while I was at it), and realized that it didn’t make any difference.

still couldn’t see.

But … I knew there was something above me, because I’d whacked my head on it before.

I reached up …

What is this … silk?

I pushed on it a bit. It was padded. And – beyond that – the hard thing behind the padding that I’d hit before.

I thought of padded rooms in asylums, desperate to know if that’s where I was.

But what sort of asylum was this … ?

Mapping it out with my hands as much as I could, I followed the curve of my ‘ceiling’. There seemed to be some sort of gap where the curve stopped, sort of like …

… a lid …

Oh, Christ! I’m in a fucking coffin!

I tell you, the loudest sound I ever heard was my own breathing, then. It was like an old puffing billy coming into the station. It echoed and pushed around me because it couldn’t get out, either! It was in the fucking coffin with me!

Dimly, I started wondering where the ‘whapping’ noises I could hear were coming from, until I realized that my hands were smacking against the lid of the coffin in a frenzy. It was then that I understood that the whimpering noises I could also hear were coming from me. If it wasn’t for the fact that … something … was … blocking me … I would have pissed and shit myself for sure. Pure animal terror.

The two little argumentative voices – now merged into one – kept telling me that I was using up my air with all this heavy breathing. But the animal part of me – off on its own again – couldn’t recognize their words. It was just hearing noise; my breathing; the smacking of my hands against the lid; my knees and my head whacking into it, too, as I tried to sit up, or curl into a foetal position (but couldn’t – there wasn’t enough room).

The merged voices thought it was interesting that there wasn’t enough room in a coffin for a person to move into one of the most fundamentally comforting positions known to man.

The animal part of me just wanted fucking out!

Still, I couldn’t figure out why it was so hard to move this fucking lid! I was on the mother of all adrenalin rushes, after all. Mothers have lifted cars off their kids after accidents, I’d read, while on adrenalin rushes! Why wouldn’t this fucking thing move?

As I pounded, I couldn’t help thinking other absurd things. Surely this coffin wasn’t locked, was it? Who locks coffins? Coffins didn’t need to be locked, did they? Why?

Somewhere in there, though, an ounce of sense fell on me. You’re buried, you fucking idiot! There’s six feet of earth above you! How did I know that? How much did six feet of earth weigh?

Suddenly, all my frantic pounding on the lid pushed it up – just a crack – and I was smacked in the face by the strongest light I’d ever experienced. The lid crashed back down (couldn’t have moved more than an inch, anyway), and I just froze in shock.

I saw light!

They haven’t buried me yet!

If you thought I’d been trying to open that lid before, you should have seen me now! Fuck the lid, I’m getting out of here!

And I did just that.

I managed to push the lid up far enough (I even pushed forward with my head, for fuck’s sake, and I pulled a muscle in my neck something chronic), until I could wedge my knees under it. The light assaulted me again, but I didn’t care. Clumps and streams of dirt crumbled in, but as long as I could see that light, I’d be okay! I knew it!

I somehow got my knees up and wedged my feet under the lid in what must have been one of the greatest exhibitions of contortionism in the history of man (although there was nobody there to see it, of course), and pushed like there was no tomorrow.

When the lid finally exploded off, I would have screamed if I hadn’t been so exhausted. As it was, this horrible little wheeze escaped from me that had the effort of a scream behind it, but none of the strength. As for the lid, it lifted up about three feet before falling back – askew – the bottom digging into the space between the bottom of the coffin and the sides of the grave and staying there, ready to fall back on me, but not quite able to.

I didn’t care. I could see sky six feet above me!

Oh, Christ, that air was good! It chilled the sweat on my face and felt like the coldest shower you can imagine. But it was fucking marvellous!

All I could do was lay there. I was absolutely fucked.

But I was free.

And whoever put me in there was … where … ?

What the fuck is that?

Small clods of dirt rained down on me. I could feel something vibrating the sides of the grave.

And then …

… I could hear something.

What the fuck is that? I know that sound …

In my current state, I couldn’t have pissed straight, let alone identify strange rumbling noises, but it felt important, so I tried to, regardless.

I knew that I didn’t have much time, because the noise was getting louder. Still, after waking up inside a coffin, I felt like nothing could bother me again.

I was wrong.

When the load of dirt fell on me, my entire body clenched.

Oh, Christ, they’re gonna bury me!

After a second or so of the same animal terror I’d experienced when I was trying to get out of the coffin in the first place, it suddenly dawned on me that being inside this grave wasn’t the best place to be.

You think … ?

I don’t even remember standing up – I guess adrenalin did that for me – but I do remember trying to squeeze upwards, looking to put my foot on the highest part of the coffin lid where it had jammed against the side of the grave and using it to pull myself up to the top. My feet slipped on the loose dirt that was still trickling down from above, dirt that was in my face, my eyes – dirt that was everywhere – but my hands clawed that dirt, then found grass and clawed that, and I scrabbled up over the edge.

I guess adrenalin did that for me, too.

The Bobcat was driving off to get another load of dirt – something I definitely wasn’t sticking around for.

I took off.

I didn’t know where I was running to, but I wanted to stick to cover as much as possible, I knew that much! Whoever the sick bastard was who’d stuck me in that coffin and was planning to bury me wouldn’t be happy that I was up and about, surely. No, I didn’t want to find myself back in the same position if someone should see me running away and catch me.

Mind you, I wasn’t feeling all that rational, so my ‘plans’ were formulated on instinct as I avoided the main paths in the cemetrey, stuck under trees and bushes, and stayed low to the ground where I could, ducking from headstone to headstone, bush to bush, to avoid being seen.

Although that light had all but blinded me before, I’m not sure how it had – there was barely enough to see by. The sun had nearly set. I guess that any light would have caused me pain after the total darkness of being in that coffin. But the sky – surely it had been blue above me in the grave? Maybe it’d been my desperate imagination, because I glanced up now and saw only a dark smudge with little pinpricks of light beginning to dot its face.

Allison.

The name just popped into my head and I had no idea why. In fact, it wasn’t until I had that thought that I realized that I didn’t know a lot of things … like who I was.

Nevertheless, I also became aware of a lot of things all of a sudden.

One – whatever the deal was with this suit I was wearing, it gaped like a bastard at the back. In fact, it was all but falling off me. And the cold air was shooting up my ass like an Arctic proctologist’s finger.

And that brings me to the next bit of fun in my life at the time – my ass.

Specifically, the fact that something was in it.

What the fuck is all this?

I crouched down in a set of bushes about a metre-and-a-half high, running about half-a-metre out from the back wall of a mausoleum. That was handy the increasingly-annoying part of my mind told me. True. But I wasn’t the only one who’d discovered this place, judging by the little bits of broken glass, the odd needle and a used condom hanging from one of the bushes. Still (and I know how this sounds) it was a place that I could get this shit out of my ass in peace.

I shifted until I was squatting, but didn’t know what to do next. I tried a bit of a push, but nothing happened. I wasn’t sure that I actually had anything in my bowels, except for whatever this fucking blockage was.

The remains of the suit were getting in the way, so I grabbed ’em and threw ’em off to the side … which somehow reminded me that there was something in my dick.

What the fuck is all this?

The same question I’d asked before.

Sue me.

And something else was digging at the back of my mind as I wondered what to do next.

It’d come to me.

I had more important things to worry about.

Anyway, I was getting nowhere fast, so – odd as it sounds – I dug around a bit. Hey, when you’ve got something wedged in your privates, you’ll wanna dig around a bit, too in order to get it out, y’know?

And my muscles … it was so hard to move for some reason. It was like I had to make a real effort to move the way I was telling myself to. I mean, sure … I was contorting a bit. See if you can dig crap out of your own ass without contorting. But something didn’t feel right, somehow.

Besides the obvious.

I mean, picture it: there I was, naked, in the graveyard, trying to push a finger and thumb up my own ass.

Great time for a cop to come along.

Thinking the word, ‘cop’ bothered me, somehow, but I wasn’t sure why. I knew, though, that it was associated with whatever was in the back of my mind.

Whatever it was had just been pushed a little more forward.

I wasn’t looking forward to when it’d smack me in the frontal lobes.

In any case, whatever the thing in my ass was, it wasn’t in very far, and I somehow managed to hook my thumbnail on enough of it to drag it out. No easy feat, considering how stiff my muscles were, and the fact that my fingers and thumbs seemed to be glued together like my eyelids had been. Still, all my digging (both grave-wise and ass-wise) had worked the ‘glue’ (or whatever it was) loose, some, and out came – whatever the hell it was that had been blocking me.

Damn, did I let one go when it came out! What a relief!

I guess it was one of those habits people have that they don’t even know they have – like looking at a handkerchief after you blow your nose (hell, I’m sure even the Queen does that one) – but I just had to know what this thing in my ass had been. Yes … it had been in my ass … but I just had to fucking look at it.

Does everyone look at things that are stuck in their bodies when they come out? the smart-ass part of my mind wondered.

The animal part of me just growled at it.

It was some sort of wad of cotton (or something like it) stretched out a bit, now – unravelled. And it smelled awful. No, not how you’d expect it to smell (having been up my ass), but more … ‘chemically’, somehow. Like the smell that had been in the coffin with me. The smell on the stuff that had been in my throat, my nose.

Formaldehyde.

I told that part of my mind to shut the fuck up, knowing it wouldn’t listen. Nevertheless, what it’d said was true. You watch enough TV and you’ll find out that they stuff the orifices of corpses with wads of cotton (or something similar) soaked in formaldehyde (or something similar, what the fuck did I know? I wasn’t a mortician). It was to stop gas escaping during the funeral, or something. Can’t have the corpse popping off during the service, after all.

And that explained the suit, too. I’d heard somewhere that they cut the backs off the clothes that people are buried in because they can’t bend the dead person enough to get ’em in them, or something. They just sort of tuck the clothes under the body.

The body.

So … I’d been dead!

No …

I’d been through the whole ‘process’, though. The orifice-stuffing thing. The lips sewn together (so decomposing muscles wouldn’t pull my lips back and distort my face during the funeral). The eyes glued shut so that I wouldn’t be giving mourners the hairy eyeball during the service. My fingers glued together so I wouldn’t be making obscene rigor mortis-inspired gestures. The half-suit.

And there was a hole in the side of my neck, I suddenly realized, that hurt like a bastard!

Gingerly, I poked around.

It seemed to have one of those cotton wads in it. Obviously plugging something up. But why was there a hole in there in the first place?

This was all very interesting, but it wasn’t enough to make me forget about my dick (in fact, there isn’t much that can make a man forget about his dick). While I was pondering the hole in my neck, I was removing another one of those cotton wads from the hole in my dick. There wasn’t much to it (the wad, not the dick, thanks) – just enough to ‘plug it up’.

Still, it was great to clear that out.

Another odd thought struck me … if I’ve been ‘plugged up’ … how come I can’t get anything out of my bowels but wind?

A thought flitted through my brain about how they clean out bodies before the funeral. They’d have to. The ‘unconscious muscles’ of the body would stop working when a person was dead. Things like the sphincter. Wouldn’t do to have someone shitting themselves in the coffin at the funeral, would it? It’d make open-casket ceremonies a gas-mask affair. I mean, you don’t see toilet roll holders on the insides of coffins, now, do you? Anyway, they’d have to ‘clean ’em out’. A world-class enema, I suppose.

While all this was going on, I was still digging around in my neck. I saw a movie once where they were draining the blood – or something – from the body through the neck. Well, I suppose that’s what they were doing. Like I said, I’m no mortician.

I decided that I didn’t want to think about it. If I was going to think about it, it might lead me to the conclusion that I really had been dea …

… so I forced my mind in another direction.

I knew that I shouldn’t be poking around at strange holes in my neck just after I’d been digging around in my own ass, but I couldn’t find anywhere to wash my hands. Well, not without being seen, anyway, I suppose. Besides the fact that I didn’t know if whoever shoved me in that coffin was still out there, I was naked, and streaked with dirt and sweat (which had turned into runnels of mud and was starting to cake up). I couldn’t just stroll around the cemetrey like that looking for a tap, now could I?

But I did need one.

Funny what goes through a person’s head sometimes. I’d just been buried, but, by God, I was going to pay attention to my personal hygiene!

There was a road a couple of hundred metres away, though only a couple of cars had used it in the past ten or fifteen minutes or so that I’d been poking around myself and glancing over towards it. Unless I could find a watch in my ass as well as bits of cotton, I wasn’t sure how long I’d been there.

Still, where there are roads, there could be shops. Where there’s shops, there could be a tap, or something.

Of course, if I went over to the road, I’d have the same problem. The fucker who buried me was possibly still out there. In addition – sweaty; muddy; naked. And – no doubt – a little unhinged-looking, too, by now.

Might be better off looking for a tap in the cemetrey.

Nevertheless – not really knowing what I was doing (or thinking by then) – I stood up to try and get a better view.

Off in the distance, the Bobcat driver was still filling in my grave.

Bastard still thinks I’m dead!

It was a weird thought, I know, but it was a weird time.

As I sat back on the dirt, back behind the cover of the bushes, back against the back wall of the mausoleum, it occurred to me that he could have been filling in someone else’s grave. I was so disoriented by my little ‘trip to the cemetrey’ that I actually had no idea just where the grave I’d come from was.

also had no idea what to do next.

Realizing that there were more of those little cotton wads in my ears, I dug them out as I poked my head up over the nearest bush to check on the Bobcat-guy. Oblivious to me in the fading light, he was going from a pile of dirt to a grave, dumping his load, then going back to the pile of dirt again.

Wouldn’t be too long before he finished.

As I kept watching, I had an idea.

Moving around the far side of the mausoleum, I kept low to the ground and to as much cover as I possibly could. As I got closer, I saw that I’d been right. It looked like the Bobcat-guy had finished filling in graves for the day.

Even though it was very nearly completely dark by now, Bobcat-guy hadn’t bothered turning on any of the lights on his machine. I did see a few here and there in the distance as the streetlights began to come on, and some small garden lights set pretty far apart throughout the cemetrey started up. I also saw a tiny light from Bobcat-guy’s wrist as he checked his watch.

I was pretty damn happy with the fact that there were so many trees and bushes around. Between that and the dark, and the fact that the guy hadn’t taken off his earphones (occupational healthy and safety when working around machinery, don’t you know), I was able to get right up close to him.

When you’re keeping low to the ground, it’s amazing just how many rocks and pieces of broken-off tombstones are lying around in a graveyard. Bobcat-guy was just climbing down from his machine and had his back to me, so he didn’t see me when I belted him with a chunk of someone’s grave.

He went down like a sack of spuds, the air pushing out of him, hard.

I didn’t feel too sorry for him. After all, this was the bastard who was trying to bury me!

I rolled him over and sat down hard on his chest. His eyes were wide and rolling around, but he soon fixed on my face.

Asshole!” I yelled in his face. “You tried to bury me, motherfucker! You tried to [/I]bury[/I] me! Why? Huh?! Who told you to do that?!”

Even though his expression showed nothing but fear, I could tell that there was another expression lurking underneath, afraid to come out – one wondering what the hell are you talking about?!

I raised the chunk of rock in my hand, ready to bash his face in, but that pain-in-the-ass voice in my head stopped me.

Look at him … he doesn’t know what’s going on. He doesn’t know anything!

“Shut up!” I screamed at it. Whether or not Bobcat-guy thought I was talking to him, I’d never find out. I brought the rock down hard, again and again.

I don’t know how long I smashed at him like that. It couldn’t have been more than a few seconds. Half-a-minute, maybe. I remember each hit getting weaker, and the strength draining out of me. Sure, I was in an extraordinarily stressful situation (having just woken up in a coffin) and I admit that I just snapped. But I stopped when the thought hit me: What if Bobcat-guy wasn’t responsible? What if he didn’t have anything to do with it and was just some poor bastard just doing his job. What if he was just someone who didn’t know that I was still alive inside that coffin?

Weak, I dropped the chunk of grave and fell forward, my head against his chest. My breath was coming in harsh gasps, and I couldn’t seem to get enough of it, though this didn’t bother me as much as what I’d just done.

When I looked up, I was almost nose to nose with him. Well … what was left of his nose, anyway … which wasn’t much.

Here I was in a graveyard, just on dark, naked and sitting on the chest of as man who’s brains I’d just bashed in.

I had to get out of there.

Not just because I was naked, I felt exposed. It was an empty part of the cemetrey, sure. It was dark. There were a lot of trees and bushes around the place, and I couldn’t easily be seen. I was shielded from sight by the Bobcat. But if someone should happen to come this way …

I didn’t think, I just acted.

Which sort of continued the theme of what I’d been doing ever since I walked up to the poor bastard who I’d just killed.

I started taking his clothes off – first his shirt, then his pants, then his shoes. I didn’t bother with his underwear or socks, though. All I wanted was to get some quick cover.

They seemed to fit me (another awfully convenient happenstance that voice told me), so – once I’d dressed – I dragged Bobcat-guy’s body under some low hedges that were running alongside his machine.

I wished I knew his name.

I don’t know why, but it seemed somehow important. Not like whatever memories were on their way to my conscious mind from my subconscious, but simply out of a sense of decency, somehow.

If it’s not obvious by now that I wasn’t thinking straight after what I’d been through, then there’s no hope for you.

Anyway, trying to find out his name, I started looking through his pockets. His wallet had a licence in it, but knowing his name didn’t make me feel any better.

He also had some money (not much), cards (Medicare, ATM, library card) and a photo of a woman about the same age as him holding a baby, which made me feel even ‘better’ about having killed the poor bastard.

I also found some keys.

Obviously car keys, I figured that he’d have parked nearby. I didn’t know where workers in the cemetrey were allowed to park – presumably the main car parks around the place were reserved for mourners – so I went looking.

The key was for a Holden, which narrowed things down, but not a lot.

Still trying to keep behind bushes, I moved closer to the path nearby, figuring that – sooner or later – it’d take me to some sort of main building – an office, or something – in the cemetrey. Hopefully there I’d find a staff car park, and it wasn’t long before I did.

The problem of figuring out just which car the keys belonged to looked pretty much solved. The only one parked there was an old Holden Commodore. The key fit in the door, no alarms went off, nobody was around to say, ‘Hey, you? What are you doing?’, there was no steering wheel lock and the engine started first turn of the key, so I got out of there.

I didn’t know where I was driving to. Nobody seemed to be around, and that road I saw earlier (hoping for some shops where I could find a tap) proved to be just a road. No shops. No tap.

I looked around the inside of car as I drove, seeing if there was anything else I could find useful, and noticed a bag on the floor of the front passenger seat with a two-litre bottle of what looked like water in it.

And there’s the hat-trick of fortunate things for you today, that voice said. From here on in, your luck’s gonna take a nosedive.

Ignoring the fucking thing (something which wasn’t getting any easier, no matter how much I kept trying it), I found a quiet place to pull over, which wasn’t hard, since the occasional cars I saw before had all but disappeared. The road I was on was narrow and dark, more like some sort of lane. Maybe the cars I saw before were people who worked at the cemetrey going home. Whatever the case, there didn’t seem to be anyone around.

I grabbed the bottle, gave it a quick sniff (yep, water), and splashed it on my hands and face. Still mindful of the fact that a quick wash of my hands with a bottle of water wasn’t as good as a tap and some soap for my ‘exploratory’ fingers, I nevertheless took a bit of time splashing some water on them and rubbing my eyes. There was still some of that gunk – that glue – in ’em.

I tried to take a drink, but most of it leaked out of the hole in my neck.

The little voice asked, Why doesn’t that hurt any more?

“Because I’m a fucking zombie, all right? Now shut the fuck up!”

Curiously, it did.

I don’t know what I was thinking or why I’d said that, but it had a seriously disturbing ring of truth. I mean, how could I still be alive with this bloody great hole in my neck? How could I have survived everything I’d been though if I wasn’t dea …

… I still didn’t want to think about that.

I started the car again.

As I drove, I noticed that I still didn’t see any houses. Wherever the cemetrey was, it seemed pretty remote. The odd streetlight shone down, proving that I wasn’t totally somewhere out in Woop Woop, but it was still pretty isolated.

That changed once the road I was on ended, and I came to a T-Intersection. For some reason, it seemed best for me to turn right. Somehow, I knew, there was something there that I needed to get to.

As I drove, the road filled out. No houses became a single house, which soon became a couple of houses. A couple of houses soon became a street-full. Now, houses in this country can often look kind of similar, no matter where you are, but something about these houses was a little more than familiar.

I’d been down this road before.

All of a sudden, I knew that it must’ve been the town cemetrey I’d been in! I knew there was something familiar about it all! I mean, not that I’d even been there – or even down the road that led to it. But now – the houses, the street – all of it was looking familiar.

This was where I lived!

When you lived.

“Fuck up and die”.

Funny choice of words.

I sighed (some of the air escaping through the hole in my neck).

“Oh, shit!”

There was nobody on the road, despite the fact that there were now houses on either side, which was good, since nobody was around to run up my backside when I slammed on the brakes.

I’d just left Bobcat-guy’s body in the cemetrey!

Just left it there!

Surely the cops’ll find it and …

… that uneasy feeling was back when I thought about cops.

Well, not the cops.

One in particular.

Whatever it was, the memory still hadn’t broken the surface yet. Besides, some cops, one cop – it didn’t really matter. I’d killed a guy! Any cop would drag me in once they figured that out!

Yeah. Better watch out! They could kill you in a shootout!

But even that fucking annoying voice couldn’t stop the anxiety attack I was having! I was running from the scene of a crime! A murder I’d committed!

Curiously, though, there was still that nagging feeling … like it wasn’t the cops I should be worried about …

… it was one cop.

One cop in particular …

One that hurt me …

One that kille …

And boom – the thing I’d been trying to remember hit me! If I hadn’t have already stopped the car, the shock of it would’ve cause me to crash for sure.

Nevertheless, I put my foot down as the memories smashed against my skull.

Allison.

couldn’t believe it.

I’d been with Allison for nearly five years, and she’d left me for that fucking cop son of a bitch!

I never knew where she’d met him, but she must’ve been seeing him behind my back for months. And I don’t know what she told him about me …

… but the bastard killed me!

When she’d told me that she didn’t want to see me anymore, I lost it. Sure. I got mad. I didn’t snap, though, like I did with Bobcat-guy. But there was one hell of a lot of yelling.

Why? I always treated you right”.

But I got the standard, “It’s not you, it’s me”.

Then she gave me the note.

The note was from the cop. Phillip was his name. That was it!

Phillip.

‘Good ol’ Phil’ wanted to meet me to sort things out – to ‘explain’ the situation.

And – like an absolute moron – I walked right into it.

I met him where he said to in the note – in the park (not too far from the cemetrey, now that I think about it). Late.

Dark.

Nobody around.

He was a big guy, too, the bastard. About a foot taller than me, and pretty-much the same wider.

When I met him, he wasn’t dressed like a cop. In fact, he was dressed in black. I didn’t think anything of it, then. But now … now I can look back on it and see why.

He didn’t want to be seen.

Not that there was anyone around at the time to see him as he walked up to me when I got out of the car and smacked me in the face.

I thought he was just looking to rough me up a bit.

remember now.

He succeeded in that.

And more.

He must’ve recognized me from a photo around Allison’s house, or something, ’cause I’d barely shut the door when he came up out of nowhere. I didn’t even have the time (or, to be honest, the presence of mind) to wonder just why he’d picked such an isolated place to meet.

He didn’t say anything. Just came up and smacked me in the head.

I remember suddenly noticing the big guy coming up out of nowhere. I didn’t know who he was, but I assumed it was Phil. Turns out I was right, since he told me that Allison didn’t want me anymore as he kicked me. Between spasms of pain as he kept kicking me, I remember wondering just when was it that I fell down? I was shutting the door of my car, saw him coming towards me when I turned around, then was looking at the dirt under my car.

Somewhere in there, I realized who he was, but it didn’t help me any. He just kept kicking and kicking me.

Then the kicking stopped.

Well … maybe it did.

I don’t know.

Everything had gone dark.

That was it. That was all I remembered.

Right up until waking up in the coffin.

Son of a bitch killed me!

Why?

What sort of a psycho … ?

I didn’t care.

I could see Allison’s house.

I wasn’t subtle about pulling in to her driveway. A screech of brakes and I was out the door without bothering to close it behind me.

There was another car – not hers – in the driveway ahead of me.

Obviously that cop son of a bitch.

Good ol’ Phillip.

And – what do you know – he was heading for the front door when I kicked it in.

Still finding it hard to move …

… rigor mortis, buddy …

… I stepped across the threshold and saw good ol’ Phillip just stop. His mouth actually hung open in shock.

“You’re dead!

With manic strength, I charged him.

Now, as I’ve no doubt mentioned by now, this guy was a cop. And they teach cops how to look after themselves. Not only that, but he was a big cop. He had at least forty kilos on me, and it looked like muscle.

Still, like I said … manic strength.

When I slammed into him, we both toppled over the lounge, right into the wall … and good ol’ Phil hit it first. Head-first. The fibro cracked behind him. And I think a beam did, too.

Ridiculous, I know, but the old, ‘Fifteen men on a dead man’s chest’ thing ran through my head then, and I wondered if that was how many people it took to hold a dead man down.

Stupid.

I hadn’t seen her when I’d kicked open the door, but Allison screamed. She was just coming out of the hallway when I looked up.

For about three seconds, nothing happened. Then, I could actually see shock wash across her face.

She was trying to say my name.

“Hey, honey … I’m home”.

She looked like she wanted to throw up.

“You know your new boyfriend’s a psycho?”

“You … you … died … ”

“Yup”.

Seems as though I’d accepted it at last.

“Someone … someone beat you to death … the police never found … ”

“Mmh”. I tried to sound like I was listening, but I knew what she was trying to say.

Good ol’ Phil hadn’t told her.

I didn’t think he had.

I mean, yeah, she’d left me for another guy. But I knew her. We’d been together for some time, and I knew she wouldn’t be in on killing me.

It was something that Phil had decided to do all by himself.

Fuck knows why.

Actually … I’d already said why.

“He’s a psycho”.

Puzzlement.

Shock.

Fear.

I hoicked a thumb back over my shoulder.

“Good old Phil? Your new boyfriend?”

I was about to reiterate, “He did it”, but something exploded in my neck.

I turned around.

Good ol’ Phil had peeled himself out of the wall and grabbed a gun from somewhere.

Well … he was a cop.

He was still holding it out in front of him. A faint waft of smoke came out of the barrel.

He was waiting for me to fall down.

Hah! That’s not gonna happen! I was so pissed at you, boy, that I came back from the dead to do something about it! You think a bullet’s gonna stop me?

tried to say something along those lines, but I couldn’t get any words out.

The hole in my neck had gotten a lot bigger.

Funnily enough, this didn’t seem to bother me. While Phil stood there (waiting for me to fall down) and Allison stood there, stunned, I was noticing that not being able to get air through my throat into my chest because of the new hole wasn’t actually a problem!

I didn’t need to breathe anymore!

Of course not!

I was dead!

Guess the panic about not being able to breathe in the coffin was an old habit.

The voice and I at last seemed to be agreeing with each other.

So … I couldn’t breath but I didn’t need to.

It’s funny, but there was a real sense of peacefulness to it. Like … breathing had been a flurry of activity, and now that I wasn’t, there was just this sense of … calm.

Still, I needed to push air past my vocal chords to be able to talk, but that didn’t seem to be happening, since my vocal chords didn’t seem to exist any more.

I reached up, gingerly, to explore my neck.

I don’t know. I must have been turning or something, when Phil had shot me. It was just the front part of my throat that had been blown away. The vertebrae – holding up my head – was still there. And … most of the muscles on either side, too. Looking at my fingers, there was some yellow-black gunk on them that must be what passed for my blood by this stage.

So … I couldn’t get my point across to Allison.

Which didn’t seem to matter too much, since I wasn’t going to get a chance to.

At least, not if good ol’ Phil had his way.

Finally snapping out of his shock, he put a few more bullets into me.

These ones hit me in the chest.

Funny, but guns in real life don’t sound like they do in the movies.

I looked down at my chest, more curious than angry, now. I mean, I was still angry at Phil – at the whole situation, really. But this whole being dead thing was really kind of holding my attention.

More of the yellow-black stuff oozed out of the holes in my chest, but the most amazing thing to me was what I suddenly realized.

There was no pain!

Wow! Cool shit!

I looked up at Phil. Even standing there, not three or four feet away from me, bigger than me, trained and everything … and holding a gun, he was starting to exhibit signs of a sudden lack of confidence.

Fair enough, I thought. I can be merciful.

Time to put you out of my misery, I thought at him as I moved closer.

I dunno. This whole being dead thing had left me feeling stiff as a board, but I was across that room faster than I’d ever moved in my life. One second, I was thinking at good ol’ Phil (though, knowing what I was going to do next, I was considering calling him ‘Poor ol’ Phil’), and the next, I had my hand around his throat.

I’d gotten all curious all of a sudden! I don’t know what I thought I’d do when I was kicking in the door, but it seemed to involve visions of smashing the hell out of ol’ Phil somehow. But now … now I was just pushing – almost gently – against his neck.

The force of it had lifted him right off his feet, pinning him to the wall. All the anger in me seemed to have just faded away as I watched him drop the gun and try clawing at my hands, my face … which didn’t do him any good. It also didn’t do him any good when he tried kicking at me. I mean, bullets didn’t stop me … I don’t think that even a couple of whacks in the ‘nads were likely to, either.

Like I said, I was all curious. Calm, even. I just watched as the blood vessels in his eyes ruptured. It happened pretty fast, actually. Wide, whites of his eyes, then – bang – suddenly red.

He tried sucking in a lung-full of air, but, of course, I’d crushed his throat so badly that the likelihood of him doing that was about as good as the likelihood of me doing it.

A ruined throat is, after all, a ruined throat.

When blood and spit started pushing up out of his mouth and dribbling on to my hand, I gave his neck a quick shake, then let him drop to the floor.

And then I turned to Allison.

Despite the fact that she’d left me for another guy, it actually hurt me to see her terrified of me like she was then. I mean, I’d been dead. Now I was here. Still dead. And I’d just killed her new squeeze by giving him a squeeze.

Not the best way to be a calming influence.

I wanted to communicate with her somehow, so I walked towards her, intending to go into the kitchen. If things were still the same as when we lived here together, then the third drawer down had pens and paper. I figured that – if I couldn’t tell her what I needed to – then I could at least write it down and she could read it.

But she had gone.

Confused, I looked around.

She’d bolted through the open front door.

It turned out that that was a good thing, though.

She didn’t have to see what happened next.

Y’see … my hatred of Phil had brought me back from beyond the grave, but it didn’t occur to me that he wouldn’t be too well-disposed towards me for killing him.

As I was heading for the front door, I saw him stand up.

My ‘little squeeze’ had all but crushed the front of his throat. There was no possible way that he was alive.

But he stood up just the same.

And … now … he was just like me.

The problem was that he still had all that height and weight on me.

And he was trained to kick ass like a cop.

He moved past me, cold eyes never moving from mine. He moved slowly, but not warily. It was just that he knew that he didn’t have to rush because he had all the time in the world.

He went through the kitchen and out the back door.

What the hell was he doing?

I mean, if looks could kill (ha ha) then I would have been (proverbially, of course – too late for literally) dead. But he just goes outside … ?

I heard the door of the shed out the back open.

What could he possibly want in there? It’s only got my gardening stuff in it.

Figuring that Phil’s apparent post-life interest in a new hobby wasn’t as important as finding Allison, I looked towards the open front door …

… but the noise brought my attention back to the back door.

And there stood Phil …

There’d obviously been a few changes in the place since I’d lived there.

After all …

… I’d never owned a chainsaw.

Copyright © 2007 by David Scott Aubrey
All Rights Reserved
7,886 Words

This short story is a work of fiction. Any and all names, characters and/or incidents are either products of my imagination or are used fictitiously. Where any such resemblance may exist to actual persons (living or dead), actual events or locales, it is purely coincidental.

Please don’t assume that my characters speak for me or carry my own opinions on various matters in any way, shape or form (though some might … you never can tell).

Give the Man a Hand (A Short Story)

Hob couldn’t believe his luck when he saw the Old Bastard come shuffling down the riverbank.

The Old Bastard had a funny little stumble, caused by his obvious age and his (unsuccessful) attempt to hurry down the steep, muddy slope. Every few seconds, his walk would turn into a tottering little dance-step, which looked for all the world as though he’d just shit himself and was trying to shake the turds out of his trousers. Obviously, the mud was sticking to his shoes and slowing him down some, despite his visible desire to hurry to wherever he was going.

Hob didn’t bother wondering just why the Old Bastard was trying to rush. Around Hob’s Bank everyone moved as though they had somewhere else they’d rather be, although they tried to look as if they weren’t. Nobody wanted to attract the wrong kind of attention, after all, and moving too quickly or hanging around too long would do exactly that. Fear caused people to strike a sort of balance in the way they moved, Hob knew, but he could always tell the difference between who was shitting themselves and just wanting to get someplace else, and who wasn’t to be fucked with – because Hob was one of the ones not to be fucked with and recognized his own kind on the rare occasions that he saw them.

Not that Hob got much company in this part of town. Which was why the Old Bastard’s sudden appearance at the crest of the riverbank had so piqued his interest.

Hob studied the Old Bastard (who’d been christened such when Hob first saw him and thought, “Who’s this Old Bastard, then?”); he was dressed in cheap trousers, but had on dressy shoes (from what Hob could see in the moonlight) – the worst kind to wear in this part of town. Enough for a bottle, easy! He also wore a long-sleeved shirt … and a tie, no less!

“Oh, Jesus”, Hob thought. “How this Old Bastard had managed to get this far from wherever he’d come from without getting’ fuckin’ done … it was a fucking miracle!”

Curiously though, the Old Bastard had no coat – despite the fact that tonight it was cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey. Had to be near to fucking zero if the clouds of smoke pouring from the Old Bastard as he exhaled were any indication. That, and the way Hob’s bones ached like a … bastard.

Hob’s Bank wasn’t really part of the town proper. Nor was that its official name. It was nothing more, in fact, than a section of the riverbank about five kilometres away from the arseholes that cruised the main streets. No houses stood nearby, and none could even be seen across the river, and Hob always found it funny when he thought that his ‘home’ might just have something to do with that.

Sewer pipes don’t exactly make an enticing view for prospective land buyers.

Still, to Hob it was home. It stunk like he was living on top of all the piles of shit in the world. And it was always dank and dark. But a fierce pride stirred within Hob whenever he thought of himself as the ‘owner’. After all, it was important for a man to have his own space.

Hob had learned that particular lesson on his very first night inside, when he’d had to crack his cellmate’s head on the side of the top bunk about fifteen or twenty times for trying to stand over him. That was over twenty years ago, and Hob was willing to bet that the fucker still wasn’t able to chew solid food.

Hard to eat when you didn’t have a jaw.

Hob had staggered down to this part of town a few months ago – exactly when, he wasn’t sure – but the nights weren’t as fucking cold then as they were now. Wandering (stumbling even worse than the Old Bastard was, actually) along paths that took his feet further and further from inhabited areas, Hob found himself down near the river. He didn’t know which river, nor did he care. He didn’t even know which fucking town he was in. But that didn’t matter, either.

What he did know was that he’d woken up the next afternoon in what had turned out to be one sweet place to crash.

Eyelids straining against the sunlight, Hob had struggled from where he’d slept to have a look around.

He couldn’t believe his luck! It was damn near perfect!

Well, not as perfect as a bed … but it’d do.

It was an inactive sewer pipe, nearly big enough for a person to stand up in, jutting out from the steep side of the riverbank like some decaying, half-pulled tooth. It must have been inactive, Hob figured, because – in all the months he’d been living in it – nothing had come from it except the occasional smell of sewerage on a wave of warm air, and – if you could put up with the smell – the occasional blast of heat almost made it worth it.

Sometimes, though, a small animal (most likely a rat) got stuck in the grille that sat a little over one-and-a-half metres up the pipe – chasing after a toad or a cockroach, or something – and died there. It’d end up rotting away nicely, making the place stink worse than usual.

But Hob could handle that.

The pipe was made of corrugated iron, and – since there didn’t seem to be any chance of anyone minding (not that he gave a fuck if they did) – Hob settled down there.

The only problem he had with it was that his feet just stuck out the end of the pipe, dangling over the muddy ground as it led down to the river, and always caught the cold coming up off the water (and always cramped if he curled them up to get away from the chill during the night). If the grille had been just a bit further back, it would have been better – but Hob had been unable to break it.

Still, it was a better place to crash than he’d found in a long while.

Over time, Hob had ‘furnished’ his new ‘home’; a few newspapers found here and there and some large sheets of cardboard torn from discarded boxes chanced upon around the place took the edge off the corrugations in the pipe, providing a mattress of sorts. As for blankets, it hadn’t taken him too long to find a couple of decent ones. All he had to do was go into the main part of the town and roll a dero or two in there, who got ‘em off the charities. Piece of piss.

Hard to defend yourself when you’re passed out.

And so – with the exception of one other item – his ‘renovations’ had been completed.

Hob found his ‘other item’ one day when he’d managed to snatch some bitch’s handbag, which had nothing in it worth a shit, but was made of leather, so Johnson down the hock shop gave him enough for a bottle and a bit of weed … which was enough.

Near dusk, Hob had made his way back to the riverbank, and – walking through the long grass in the rapidly-fading light – tripped over something.

Whatever the fuck it was nearly caused him to break the bottle as he fell down the riverbank, and this pissed him off so much that he’d spent the next half an hour looking for whatever it was that had tripped him.

And just as the light had nearly gone …

… he’d found it.

Sticking out of the mud like a bone from a compound fracture was … an old pickaxe handle. No axe-head, just the handle. But wasn’t it a beauty! Hardwood! The handle had been worn smooth over time … and was perfect for gripping.

Perfect for other things, too.

Instantly perceiving its usefulness, Hob secreted it away under the piles of newspapers and cardboard in his home.

This ‘stick’ of his could come in very handy!

Hob had no idea of the fates of the people he’d attacked over the course of his life, and he cared even less. The way he saw it, if they were stupid enough to be got, then that was their problem. He’d learned something about ‘survival of the fittest’ in Darwin … or something like that … when he was younger. But he’d long since forgotten it.

What he did know was that his stick made him that much more effective at what he needed to do to get his shit.

Despite his newfound weapon, Hob faced the problem that winter always brought with it – once it got so cold, less and less people came out at night. Sure, there were other street people here and there, but they didn’t have anything on them worth a shit anyway, so that was worse than useless …

Hob had finished his last bottle the day before and was getting the headache again. He’d spent a while coughing up a lot of the brown, stringy shit, too, and this had made his headache worse. The thing to do, he knew, was to get another fucking bottle.

But – to do that – he needed to find someone to roll.

Which is why he couldn’t believe his luck when he saw the Old Bastard come stumbling along almost right into his lap … !

The Old Bastard hadn’t seen Hob, hadn’t even so much as looked in the direction of the pipe Hob was watching him from. Which was strange, Hob thought, because of the way his eyes were darting all around the place between occasional looks at his feet through the long grass to check his balance.

And Hob knew the Old Bastard was scared.

“And he’s right to be scared”, Hob thought, silently lifting the newspapers where he kept his stick and gripping it tight.

As he silently climbed out of his pipe – still unnoticed by the Old Bastard who, by now, was only metres away – Hob saw that the Old Bastard was carrying something – a package of some sort, wrapped in brown paper and tied in a hurry with string.

Hoping that something good he could hock was inside, Hob moved closer to the Old Bastard, whose attention became more fixed on the package the closer he got to the water, as if he was scared of losing it. He held it close, even though it was clear, now, that he meant to toss it in the water.

“Can’t have that”, Hob thought.

With that, there was a heavy – yet hollow – ‘clack’, as though someone had hit a watermelon with a baseball bat. It gave the impression of there being something softer inside the harder, outer-covering of what had been hit. The sound echoed off the other side of the riverbank and back again.

Blood jetted from the Old Bastard’s nostrils as his head pitched forward with the clear sound of his neck breaking before he fell to the ground.

Hob had lost his grip on his stick on impact, and bent down to retrieve it from the Old Bastard’s corpse, tugging hard because it had embedded pretty deep in his head. It came free suddenly, with a wet noise and a waft of something sour-smelling.

Hob chuckled and began to go through the Old Bastard’s pockets, but grew more frantic as he realized that the Old Bastard had nothing on him – no money, no smokes, no watch, no mobile phone – fucking nothing!

Disgusted at this, Hob grabbed the body by the back of the shirt and hauled it to the river’s edge, where his anger gave him the strength to lift it and hurl it in.

The Old Bastard’s body was quickly washed away by the current, and – even in the moonlight – Hob could see the water filling the gap in his head before it was taken around a corner, disappearing from both Hob’s view and his mind.

Except …

“Fuck”, Hob spat, remembering the shoes he’d neglected to lift from the Old Bastard.

“Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!”

Self-loathing filled him (not due to his gruesome deed, but because of his spectacular lack of ‘nous’), and Hob trudged back toward his pipe, swinging his stick dejectedly at the twigs and bushes.

“Would’ve remembered his shoes if it wasn’t for this fuckin’ headache”, he thought … then abruptly stopped, a step or two from the entrance to his pipe.

He looked back.

There – almost obscured by the grass – was the Old Bastard’s package.

Excitement grew in Hob’s chest as he stumbled back to where he had committed the murder. Drops of blood or brain were on the paper, but Hob didn’t give two shits, picking it up and tearing at the paper and string at the same time.

Something soft was bundled up inside.

A jacket!

Not quite what Hob wanted, and – for a few minutes – he just stood there, not knowing what to think, before deciding that it might, at least, keep some of the cold away that the booze wasn’t there to.

He tried it on, and – although it was a size or two too large (the Old Bastard must have been bigger than Hob had realized) – Hob figured that he could live with it.

He muttered to himself about how he had at least gotten something out of his encounter with the Old Bastard as he trudged back to his pipe and climbed in.

Hiding his stick in its usual place, Hob settled down for the night. He put the mottled blankets over his legs, happy enough that he could manage to cover his feet some tonight.

He fumbled a few times trying to put the jacket’s zip together, but managed it in the end.

Zipping it up, he settled back for a warm night … and put his hands in the pockets.

A sudden stereo crunch echoed off the inside of the pipe with a horrible volume. Hob felt a sickening wrenching as pain shot its way up his arms like fire … pain which didn’t stop … pain which ran like a juggernaut down to his feet and back again.

Something hot burst against his wrists, and Hob recognized the coppery smell as it filled the pockets of his new jacket.

He pulled his hands out of his pockets and held them up to his face …

… but they didn’t seem to be there.

Instead, he was blasted with twin jets of blood from the stumps where his hands had been.

He tried to scream.

Hard to scream when your mouth is full of blood.

Copyright © 2007 by David Scott Aubrey
All Rights Reserved
2,445 Words

This short story is a work of fiction. Any and all names, characters and/or incidents are either products of my imagination or are used fictitiously. Where any such resemblance may exist to actual persons (living or dead), actual events or locales, it is purely coincidental.

Please don’t assume that my characters speak for me or carry my own opinions on various matters in any way, shape or form (though some might – you never can tell).