Halloween Special: The After-Death Chapter One

Hi all!  So as a Halloween Special, I’m re-releasing my first book “The After-Death” which is a horror novel on Smashwords.  Here’s part of the first chapter, I hope you all enjoy reading it.  If you do, head on over to Smashwords and pick yourself up a copy!  As an added Halloween special, today and today only I will let you set the price.  Pay as much or as little as you want and enjoy some horror fiction on me.  Have a safe and scary All Hallows Eve.

                              -Benjamin

I forced my gritty eyelids open, expecting to see the glare of the early morning sun shining through that single crack in the curtains that I can never quite block out and was slightly surprised to find total darkness instead.  A feeling of foreboding crept over me as flashes of nightmares about being buried alive leapt to the front of my mind.

The surface I was on was hard and cold and I failed to choke down panic when extending my arms met a similar surface and trying to sit up earned me a sharp crack to the skull.  The pain brought the rational part of my brain back online and I began to explore my tiny prison.  A chill that had nothing to do with the temperature of the metal box ran down my spine… I was not able to force my chest to draw a breath.  Kicking hard with my feet slid me down against the wall which gave way slightly.

My vision was assaulted with a brilliant white light that shone through the opening, another pair of hard kicks and the shelf in the morgue where my body lay slid out fully into the harsh metal halide lighting of the room.  What happened last night?  If my body really is dead then why do I burn with the desire for vengeance, and vengeance against whom?  Looking at the stitches crisscrossing my body, and the unwholesome pallor of my skin, I decided that my primary course of action must be covering myself.  Then I would find answers if there were any to be found.

There is something decidedly disturbing about taking clothing off a dead body; even when you yourself are dead.  I cast about the room for anything else that I could possibly do, however the only other option was to cut holes in a body bag which would have drawn at least as much attention as my pale scarred flesh.  The young man whose clothes I was stealing didn’t complain despite the fact that I had to dislocate his shoulders to get his Led Zeppelin t-shirt off without tearing it apart.  It shocked me how easily I was able to do it; perhaps he had some sort of muscle weakness or joint problems.  My fingers and wrists felt stiff either from rigor mortis or maybe just from laying inside the cold steel embrace of the morgue drawer.

I had never been in a morgue before, the stark cleanliness of the stainless steel drawers and white tiled floors, walls and tables suggested either a new facility or else a very fastidious caretaker.  I decided on the latter as I surveyed the neat tidy rows of scalpels, saws, needles and even a tape recorder set out at precise distances from one another on a nearby shelf.  I felt a sudden uncomfortable pressure inside my head as though I was in an airplane making a rapid descent, as though there was a bubble behind my nose, eyes and ears pressing against them.

The pressure kept increasing at an alarming rate; I attempted to force air into my estuation tubes only to find that drawing a breath was a physical impossibility.  Afraid that my eyes would be forced from their sockets, I grabbed a steel probe from the table top and plunged it into my ear.  A burst of air and fluid shot out with enough force to leave a trail of phosphorescent vitriol from the edge of the counter to my shoulder its glow barely visible in the brightly lit room.  Before I had the chance to study the strange glowing purplish green substance I suddenly became aware of voices and the sound of footsteps so close I was astounded that I hadn’t heard them before.

“-omething in the water or maybe an infection or some airborne agent.  I can’t wait for the next episode, seriously I was so pissed off when it was over.”

“Yeah and Fox will probably cancel it just like they have every other decent show.  I wonder what they have against making money.”

A sudden burst of adrenaline startled me, I drew a ragged breath and my heart suddenly thundered in my chest.  A pair of middle aged men dressed in white clothes walked into the room.  “What the hell are you doing in here?  This is a restricted area; you aren’t supposed to be here.  Are you one of those weirdoes who gets off on touching dead people?”  I backed up against the counter and grabbed the first thing my hand touched; the microcassette recorder.

“Gentlemen, I’m with the World News Daily paper and I’m looking to dig up a story on just such a subject, can either of you comment?”  I was shooting from the hip, desperate to distract them long enough to get out the door.  I held the small tape recorder in my hand out in front of my body like it was a weapon “I’ve heard there were some instances of necrophilia in this morgue, I promise I won’t mention your names.”

“My wife reads that shit God only knows why… get the fuck out before we throw you out.  We could lose our jobs just by you being in here!”

Needing no encouragement, I walked out of the room as fast as I could without, hopefully appearing any stranger of a spectacle than I imagined myself being.  I would ponder the sudden flush of life that was rapidly fading from my system later when I felt safe.

I broke into a run the moment I was out of view of the morgue attendants. I had to get out of this place and fast. There was too much I didn’t understand, I needed some time to figure it all out or at least get a handle on my body. What was with me suddenly starting to breathe and my heart beginning to beat again? Why did it stop? I stepped through a door and found myself in a busy hospital emergency room. It was easy to avoid notice in all the commotion even though my lungs no longer functioned and heart had ceased to beat once again. Once outside I ran blindly, taking advantage of not needing to breathe until I reached a park that seemed more or less deserted. As I slowed to a walk an old man approached me

“Spare some change youngster?” I dug in my pockets, surprised to find a couple dollars which I proffered to him. “I’ll take whatever you have in your wallet too.” he said lifting his other hand to show a knife with a wicked looking edge. Considering all that had happened I tried to laugh, all that came out was low groan. Suddenly fear blossomed on his face and he backed away slowly “Just a joke, you understand just a joke! Here take it back, I don’t need it!”

He dropped the money I had given him and the knife, took a few stumbling backward steps then turned and sprinted away. I sat down with my back to a large tree. The look in the old man’s eyes had been one of fear growing into stark terror. What was I becoming and what did he see that frightened him so much? The answer became clear to me as the sun began to set. I could see every vein illuminated from within by a faint glow, mapping out my now defunct cardiovascular system in a beautiful but disturbing trail of interlacing lines. My eyes were bright enough to shine a faint light wherever I looked, and everything I looked at seemed outlined in fairy fire, some green, some blue, some red. I put my hands over my face in disbelief almost dropping the forgotten cassette recorder. Of course, why didn’t I think of it earlier? With a morbid curiosity, I re-wound the tape to listen to the coroner perform my autopsy.

Post Mortem Chapter 18

“What is that disturbance?” Demanded the Elder wearing the Mask the First of the Tribunal.  “Balif, you will go now and deal with it.”

A hulking monster of a vampire stepped from the alcove where he had been standing motionless and stalked far too silently out of the room for his prodigious size.  There was a crash and clatter of small things falling to the floor.

No sound came from the hallway.  After a moment, a slow trickle of strange viscous fluid flowed down the three steps and into the meeting room.  A pair of shatteringly beautiful voices sang out of tune with each other in discord that ground against the ear.  The words of the song, if there were words, were in a language that escaped even the learned Elders in this chamber.

A figure in a torn Armani suit tumbled down the stairs, bleeding from a set of claw marks across its face.  The wounds didn’t seem to be closing even though the figure was obviously one of their kind.  What manner of madness was this?

The First gestured sharply and a cadre of heavily armed and armored guards moved forward to make a shield wall between the Elders and the door.  He sat back, fingering the cane next to him.  It contained a yard of knife sharp steel inside its polished ebony shaft.

The sharp click of a woman’s high heeled shoes striking the polished marble floor echoed throughout the silence of the chamber.  The guards raised the muzzles of their assault rifles and waited.  What walked through the door was a twisted parody of beauty.

Her body was long and graceful, her gait a sinuous stride that made her movements seem slower than they really were.  The tatters of an elegant silk robe still clung to her mutilated torso, shreds of flesh hanging with bits of white bone showing beneath.  Her left arm hung limp and useless and broken but what truly drew the eye was her mouth.

Instead of the elegant pair of sharp canine fangs, or even the sometimes the row of needles that appeared when one of their kind was truly starving, hers showed a bristling forest of spikes.  Some were so long that they overhung her lower jaw and many jutted out at obscene angles, punching through her cheeks.  There were rows of them, and her mouth kept opening wider and wider as more formed.

The sound coming from her mouth was a painfully beautiful, yet off key set of tones that made the air seem to quiver in protest.  When they didn’t respond, the creature paused and an expression that could only be described as primal rage crossed its face.

“Please, you have to kill her!”  The suited man said, crawling toward the line of guards.

“Vladimir?”  The First said, recognizing the vampire on the floor, “What is the meaning of this?”

“Shoot her, SHOOT HER!!!” Vladimir screamed.

The First crooked the little finger on his left hand and a single gunshot tore through Vladimir’s head.

“Stay where you are or be executed.”  The First said, watching in satisfaction as the leader of the Revolution twitched his last, the idea of soaking a rowan wood core in holy water and sheathing it in silver for a bullet had been his.  It was most effective..  “Blessed weapons made of silver and rowan are aimed at your heart, your brain and your gut.”

The creature tilted its head to one side, as if trying to consider something so far beneath or above it.  Like a human trying to understand a dog or a dog trying to understand english.  Then it made an unmusical, croaking sound that resolved into something that resembled words.

“Exe-cute-d?”  It said, “Ble-ss-ed?” It asked, the tangle of its teeth tearing chunks of cheek and lip as it spoke.  Then it turned its gaze to the soldiers in front of it. “Row-wan?”

“What, you don’t understand my words?  You don’t know the danger you are in?”  The First said with a smile.

“Heart brain and gut.” The creature said with startling clarity, “These your weaknesses?  Thank you.”  It smiled and froze the vitae in the First’s heart, as he realized he wasn’t hearing it speak.  This thing was inside his head. “That is where the best flavors will be.”

“Kill her!” He snarled, and the guards opened fire.  The projectiles ripped through the woman, shards of bone and flesh exploding from dreadful exit wounds.  Even the Tribunal Elders who were accustomed to violence and meting out Final Death winced at the carnage.  Those weapons were harsh reminders of how they could suffer if their weaknesses were exploited.

After absorbing dozens of rounds, what was left of the woman stumbled backward against the wall, her head was half demolished and one of her arms had been completely severed.  She swayed for a moment and then slid down the wall to the floor.  Graceful even in death.

“Go finish it.”  The First commanded.  One of the men reloaded his weapon and approached.  Drawing a silver hatchet from his belt, he bent to hack the woman’s head from her shoulders.  The body was obscured by his for for a moment and even as he swung he seemed to flinch away from the thing he was executing.

The flinch was followed by the sound of a whip cracking and he fell with all the grace of a rag doll.  The hatchet rang with a high, pure tone as it struck the marble floor.

“What the hell was that?  Get over there and KILL THE BITCH!” The First stood and leaned forward.

Three men came forward, pulling similar pure silver weapons from their belts.  The beautiful, but jarring sound of the woman’s musical chiming voice reverberated throughout the room and the soldiers closest to her dropped their weapons to clap their hands over tortured ears.

Heedless of their companions being in the way, the rest of the guards opened fire again, the sheer volume of projectiles shattering the marble sheathing on the walls and filling the air with the smell of cordite and burning blood.  The First realized that the chiming sound was laughter.

What rose from the ruined mess of flesh and bone was vaguely humanoid in shape, but gave the impression that it was just a shape made of untold thousands of things working together to accomplish a goal.  Thin threads of ropy muscle strengthened by shards of bone shot from it, impaling each of the guards three times, once in the head, once in the heart and once in the gut.

The chiming laughter made the world seem to tremble.  The First used his Dark Gift, calling upon his blood to grant him power, speed and the most powerful of all, foresight.  He could see possibilities stretch out before him, every movement showing a faint suggestion of what would come.

He blinked, focusing on potential futures, reaching as far ahead as he ever had.  Then the figures on the floor all stood, turning in unison to look at him from eyes that seemed to seethe like spheres of maggots.

“Mine.”  The woman’s voice grated against the inside of his skull as though attempting to bore through the bone.  “All the flesh, old and withered.  All the blood, fresh and vibrant.  All the bone, strong as steel.  All the Powers, bright and fair.  All the curses, black as hell.”

Every future he could see held nothing but the Final Death.

Post Mortem Chapter 17

Riding in a car when blind except for the strange flickers of what I was becoming accustomed to as the flames of the life force of the beings around me was a very unnerving experience.  I could feel the world moving beneath me, even the Earth itself seemed to have a life force of its own.

It was distracting and the thrum of life from below in concert with the flickering flashes of red and gold flying by us at speed made me feel almost dizzy.  Or intoxicated.  I was hungry.

“Focus!” Vladimir had been speaking to me for some time and I’d been ignoring him.  Partially out of principle and partially because I hated the sound of his voice.  “This is important damn you, if you don’t remember-”

“Oh shut up you old windbag!”  I said, “If you wanted me to know anything in advance you should have told me, oh I don’t know IN ADVANCE!”

“It does not really matter in the end does it? Either you will die for my cause and be a martyr or else you will win and kill my enemies.” Vlad said, his annoyance fading into smug satisfaction.

“There’s a third possibility.” I said, my voice a gutteral animal growl.  “I just might decide to eat you and damn the consequences.”

“What did you say?”  He demanded, “What language was that?”

“I have no interest in your petty revolution.  I don’t care about your personal issues, your vendetta or the Tribunal.”  I said, fixing him with what I’m sure was an unsettling stare.  “And what I said was that I might.  Decide.  To.  Eat you.”

The car hummed on in silence for a few moments.  “So you figured it out did you?” He said with a mixture of hesitation and fanatic glee in his voice.

Now it all came together.  The pain.  My Dark Gift fleeing.  Not being able to heal.  The lack of vitae in my veins.  He had infected me with … I shuddered in revulsion and anger.

“You gave me the gods damned virus.”  I said flatly.

“Yes!”  He said with insane fervor, “You will be my triumph where they failed!  I changed it so that the Hunter carrier gene would mutate inside an Undead body instead of a dead body and you, my dear sweet Renyovalia are my crowning achievement.  The ulitmate predator, the perfect weapon!”

“Why shouldn’t I kill you right now?”  I asked, my fingers flashing out to close around his throat.

“Because I alone have the ability to change you back.”  He said, barely able to get the words out as I increased the pressure around his neck.  “You do want the antidote do you not?”

I shook, every animal instinct screaming to kill him and it took every ounce of self-preservation not to.  “If you are lying to me I will stake you out for a sunrise Vladimir.”

He laughed as I forced one finger at a time away from his cold, lifeless flesh.  Was I making a huge mistake?  Probably, but this old fossil didn’t have nearly enough life force for me.  His fire was buried deep and stoked low.  I wanted something more.

“When do we arrive?” I asked, licking a mouthful of razor sharp needles.  “I’m starving.”

Vladimir’s laugh cut off as though it’d been severed by a knife.  Perhaps he was having doubts about his ultimate creation.

The two guards standing outside the doors of the Tilton Corporation’s main headquarters knew to expect extra traffic tonight.  They’d already seen several limousines and a few high end sedans drop off unfamiliar but distinguished guests.  The Bentley Mulsanne was a far cry from the other cars that they’d seen tonight though.

It glided to the curb nearly noiselessly and the driver who exited was wearing an impeccable white suit and chauffeur’s cap.  The large buttons on his jacket gleamed with a color that could only be real gold.  He opened the door with a bow and a man in a flawless grey suit stepped out and offered his hand to someone within.

An arm with all the pigment of a snow drift save for the strange nail polish the color of a day old bruise extended to accept the assistance.  A leg of the same pale color with a small foot clad in a red silk slipper daintily stepped out and a woman emerged with boneless grace.  She wore an embroidered Kimono, obviously modified for comfort, and a pillbox hat on her head with a veil that covered her face.

Unconsciously straightening to an even more rigid ramrod stance, they watched with interest as the pair approached.  Just as his counterpart was extending his hand to ask for their invitation, the guard on the left experienced a slight twinge of pain on his neck.

His Dark Gift flared in response and he moved with unnatural speed, twisting to bring the long knife from his belt so quickly that it appeared as a single arc of steel to the naked eye.  When he turned to see what had touched him, nothing was there.

Turning back with the same blinding speed, he saw only the man and woman.  The man was handing a simple card of embossed paper to his partner and the woman was slithering up to him with that same sinuous grace she had exhibited when exiting the Bentley.

“Excuse me Miss, I’ll have to ask you to wait until your invitation has been verified.” He said, sheathing his knife.

She smiled and looked at him then.  One of her eyes was sewn shut with tidy, even stitches of black thread that contrasted with her pale, bloodless skin.  The other eye had no iris and no pupil but instead was a sphere of unblemished white.  Her smile was a forest of needles.

“Shit!” He yelled, drawing the knife again and slashing at her throat.  Instead of trying to duck or block the strike, she glided forward and his forearm struck her shoulder instead of the blade hitting her neck.  It hard enough to shatter her bones anyway, but she didn’t even flinch.

“Oh yes.”  She said, her voice musically beautiful.  “You are much more to my liking.”  She had grabbed his knife hand with her undamaged arm and now she bit his wrist hard.

He stared at her in shock, his muscles were getting rubbery and unresponsive.  His face even slumped as though the flesh was made of gelatin.  When he tried to speak, it came out as a gurgling, bubbling noise.  Then the pain started.

The woman’s hand punched through his tailor made suit and the reinforced Kevlar vest beneath.  He barely felt the pain on top of the agony that was already making him blind and deaf to everything around him.  The last thing he saw before entering Final Death was his heart vanishing between those spiked teeth.

“Fuck the hell YES!” I said, ecstasy thrilling through my body in a rush of pleasure and, more importantly, Power.  Unlike Hex who had been alive when infected, I had been dead for a very long time.  The only strength I still retained was dedicated to keeping my body functioning and the ‘meals’ I’d had weren’t sufficient to do more than keep me moving.

This young vampire had been healthy, full of vitae and vitality and I felt his strength fill me.  He had clearly been chosen because of his destructive strength and speed; both Powers that were now mine.

To my frustration, I found that I still did not have much in the way of healing.  The bones in my left arm grated and scraped but even though they were broken it didn’t hurt and I still retained some of the motion in it.  Maybe one of the other food inside the building would have what I needed.

Something changed within me with this influx of Power.  My consciousness narrowed to exclude the unimportant details, a process made much easier by my lack of normal sight.  The bits of flame around me were like Willow-the-Wisps.  I wanted to follow them to their source.

I turned to look at the flames next to me.  The smaller one wasn’t interesting but the larger one was beginning to flicker and fade.  I had to consume it quickly or it would be gone.  I removed the guttering flame and ate it with relish.  It was delicious, but already I craved more.

The things between me and my meal shattered beneath my touch.  The tread of my feet would shake this place until all of it broke into pieces.   My hunger would consume it all.

Post Mortem Chapter 16

“So… we’re supposed to be your attendants?” Ian asked me with trepidation in his voice.

“Yes.”  I said, “Now get me a cigarette.”

I had no idea what to do with these two idiots, but I was getting used to being waited on hand and foot, although it’d been a long time since I’d had the luxury..

“Go damn it!” I prodded him with the toe of my slipper.  I had insisted on having proper clothes and was now swathed head to toe in a luxurious silk robe that whispered against my skin like butterfly kisses.

In short order I had a cigarette, and sat smoking idly and trying to figure out what Vlad had in store for me.  Either he was going to sell me out, he planned on making me a marytr, or he was relying on me to somehow regain my Destruction and remove his biggest enemies.

I was hoping he didn’t think I was going to be able to anihilate the factions arrayed against him.  Even though I was getting used to this strange method of ‘seeing’ my regular powers hadn’t returned at all.  I sighed, trailing smoke out of my nose.

A feeling like the first thirst, only not quite as strong tickled at the back of my awareness and it was starting to get annoying.  I didn’t need blood, I needed something else.

“Hey, you morons don’t know anything about what Vald is planning do you?”  I asked, more for a distraction than anything else.

“What?  The professor…” Ian was still having trouble adjusting to reality, “I mean we didn’t even know there was anything going on at the university…”

“I don’t think anyone really knows what’s going on.” Phill said quietly, “I wish I didn’t know.”

“Oh relax, so the world’s full of monsters…” I laughed, “And you’re trapped in the room with one of them.”

“Uh.  Great.”  Ian said, but my moment of levity was gone and I was back to puzzling over my problem.

“Damn it, what’s he thinking anyway?  Why wouldn’t he fill me in on the plan beforehand?” I muttered, crossing my legs and kicking a slippered foot in irritation.

“Maybe he wants your surprise to be a part of it?  Like maybe it’d be more authentic if you were actually shocked by what happens?”  Ian suggested, “Otherwise it wouldn’t make much sense.”

“That’s not a bad idea actually.”  I admitted, “I mean your comment, not his stupidity.  What could he possibly be planning?”

“No idea, but my guess would be it’s not good.”  Ian said, “Not good for you anyway.”

I decided I was starting to like this boy.  “I appreciate your concern.”  I said with a wry grin, “But I’m probably going to be fucked one way or the other.  When a true blue bastard like Vladimir wants you to come to trouble, you tend to come to it no matter what.”

“Well shit.” Phil said, “Is… is there anything we can do?  I mean I’m not hero, but it seems like our lot is thrown in with yours and…”

I would have been touched if I didn’t know that he was just trying to save his own ass.  “Yeah… why don’t you go ask around and see what you can come up with?  Someone must know what the hell is going on.”

“I don’t know anyone here.”  He protested, “I haven’t seen even one single student and everyone seems so…” He trailed off.  I got the impression he was trying to choose his words.  “So unfriendly.”

“Yes, well, most of them are probably bloodsucking fiends like me.” I said, “So you’re probably being prudent.  But that’s not my problem, get out there and see what you can dredge up.”

“I don’t know…” Phil began

“Oh shut up man, we’ve been in and out of this place a hundred times.” Ian said, “There’s no reason someone would try and kill you now if they hadn’t before is there?”

Phil paused, making me wonder what was really passing between them.  Damn but I hated not being able to see expressions.  They were plotting something; I’d stake my … death on it.

“Yeah, fine.”  Phil said, “I’ll probably get killed but what do you care?”

“I’ll be honest.  I don’t give a shit about either of you… but you probably feel the same about me.”  I said, stubbing my cigarette out on a nearby table without bothering to find an ashtray.  “Other than the fact that you know I can eviscerate you in a heartbeat.  I’m probably doing you a favor by sending you away Phillip.  Aren’t I?”

“What?”  The tone of his voice told me I’d hit the mark.  “You’re cracked.”

“Yeah, whatever.”  I said, holding my hand out toward Ian.  He put another lit cigarette into it and I smiled.  I liked an attendent who could anticipate my needs.  “I’m fine with it anyway, you’re free to run away with your tail between your legs.  I wouldn’t mind if you gave me a touch of intel to work with, but you’re a liability if you don’t want to help so get the fuck out.”

The door slammed open and I looked over to see a bright flame moving through the door.  It was Vlad; I’d recognize the signature of his flame anywhere.  How strange that I’d grown this accustomed to seeing beings with this new sight.

“I trust you’re ready for battle Renyovalia?” He asked, and then paused, I assumed looking at my attire in disbelief.

“Battle?”  I asked, “BATTLE?  If you wanted me to be be ready to fight then why the fuck didn’t you tell me?”

“What did you think was going to happen?  We are showing up uninvited to a Tribunal inquiry.  A full meeting at that.”  He chuckled, “Then again it won’t really matter.  Your weapons don’t care what you’re wearing do they?”

“I’ve told you.  My Gift is gone.”  I said, shaking my head at him, “If you wanted me to be able to do anything for you maybe you shouldn’t have broken my power.”

“Don’t sell yourself short.” Vlad said with a strange fanatic glee in his voice.  “Where is Gem?  What happened to Dog?”

“I don’t know.”  I hissed, losing my temper in truth now, “Why don’t you tell me?  In case you hadn’t noticed I’m blind, Powerless and it seems my body is coming apart at the seams from cuts that don’t seem to want to heal.”

“As I said, you’re far from Powerless, and as to the healing… if you do what I want, I will look to some of that.” Vlad said with some of the insane pitch bleeding from his voice to be replaced by a scholarly tone. “Rebecca has some interesting ideas about necrotic regeneration that I think you will appreciate.  But first you must prove your usefulness.”

I sighed in resignation.  Either this was only so much noise or else he really could help.  Either way it wouldn’t matter in a few hours, I’d be dead or they would be.  Maybe both.

The After-Death Chapter 1

So I thought I’d put the first chapter of The After-Death up here for throwback Thursday… I hope you enjoy!

Chapter 1: Awakening

­­I forced my gritty eyelids open, expecting to see the glare of the early morning sun shining through that single crack in the curtains that I can never quite block out and was slightly surprised to find total darkness instead.  A feeling of foreboding crept over me as flashes of nightmares about being buried alive leapt to the front of my mind.

The surface I was on was hard and cold and I failed to choke down panic when extending my arms met a similar surface and trying to sit up earned me a sharp crack to the skull.  The pain brought the rational part of my brain back online and I began to explore my tiny prison.  A chill that had nothing to do with the temperature of the metal box ran down my spine… I was not able to force my chest to draw a breath.  Kicking hard with my feet slid me down against the wall which gave way slightly.

My vision was assaulted with a brilliant white light that shone through the opening, another pair of hard kicks and the shelf in the morgue where my body lay slid out fully into the harsh metal halide lighting of the room.  What happened last night?  If my body really is dead then why do I burn with the desire for vengeance, and vengeance against whom?  Looking at the stitches crisscrossing my body, and the unwholesome pallor of my skin, I decided that my primary course of action must be covering myself.  Then I would find answers if there were any to be found.

There is something decidedly disturbing about taking clothing off a dead body; even when you yourself are dead.  I cast about the room for anything else that I could possibly do, however the only other option was to cut holes in a body bag which would have drawn at least as much attention as my pale scarred flesh.  The young man whose clothes I was stealing didn’t complain despite the fact that I had to dislocate his shoulders to get his Led Zeppelin t-shirt off without tearing it apart.  It shocked me how easily I was able to do it; perhaps he had some sort of muscle weakness or joint problems.  My fingers and wrists felt stiff either from rigor mortis or maybe just from laying inside the cold steel embrace of the morgue drawer.

I had never been in a morgue before, the stark cleanliness of the stainless steel drawers and white tiled floors, walls and tables suggested either a new facility or else a very fastidious caretaker.  I decided on the latter as I surveyed the neat tidy rows of scalpels, saws, needles and even a tape recorder set out at precise distances from one another on a nearby shelf.  I felt a sudden uncomfortable pressure inside my head as though I was in an airplane making a rapid descent, as though there was a bubble behind my nose, eyes and ears pressing against them.

The pressure kept increasing at an alarming rate; I attempted to force air into my estuation tubes only to find that drawing a breath was a physical impossibility.  Afraid that my eyes would be forced from their sockets, I grabbed a steel probe from the table top and plunged it into my ear.  A burst of air and fluid shot out with enough force to leave a trail of phosphorescent vitriol from the edge of the counter to my shoulder its glow barely visible in the brightly lit room.  Before I had the chance to study the strange glowing purplish green substance I suddenly became aware of voices and the sound of footsteps so close I was astound that I hadn’t heard them before.

“-omething in the water or maybe an infection or some airborne agent.  I can’t wait for the next episode, seriously I was so pissed off when it was over.”

“Yeah and Fox will probably cancel it just like they have every other decent show.  I wonder what they have against making money.”

A sudden burst of adrenaline startled me, I drew a ragged breath and my heart suddenly thundered in my chest.  A pair of middle aged men dressed in white clothes walked into the room.  “What the hell are you doing in here?  This is a restricted area; you aren’t supposed to be here.  Are you one of those weirdoes who gets off on touching dead people?”  I backed up against the counter and grabbed the first thing my hand touched; the microcassette recorder.

“Gentlemen, I’m with the World News Daily paper and I’m looking to dig up a story on just such a subject, can either of you comment?”  I was shooting from the hip, desperate to distract them long enough to get out the door.  I held the small tape recorder in my hand out in front of my body like it was a weapon “I’ve heard there were some instances of necrophilia in this morgue, I promise I won’t mention your names.”

“My wife reads that shit God only knows why… get the fuck out before we throw you out.  We could lose our jobs just by you being in here!”

Needing no encouragement, I walked out of the room as fast as I could without, hopefully appearing any stranger of a spectacle than I imagined myself being.  I would ponder the sudden flush of life that was rapidly fading from my system later when I felt safe.

I broke into a run the moment I was out of view of the morgue attendants. I had to get out of this place and fast. There was too much I didn’t understand, I needed some time to figure it all out or at least get a handle on my body. What was with me suddenly starting to breathe and my heart beginning to beat again? Why did it stop? I stepped through a door and found myself in a busy hospital emergency room. It was easy to avoid notice in all the commotion despite the fact that my lungs no longer functioned and heart had ceased to beat once again. Once outside I ran blindly, taking advantage of not needing to breathe until I reached a park that seemed more or less deserted. As I slowed to a walk an old man approached me

“Spare some change youngster?” I dug in my pockets, surprised to find a couple dollars which I proffered to him. “I’ll take whatever you have in your wallet too.” he said lifting his other hand to show a knife with a wicked looking edge. In light of all that had happened I tried to laugh, all that came out was low groan. Suddenly fear blossomed on his face and he backed away slowly “Just a joke, you understand just a joke! Here take it back, I don’t need it!”

He dropped the money I had given him and the knife, took a few stumbling backward steps then turned and sprinted away. I sat down with my back to a large tree. The look in the old man’s eyes had been one of fear growing into stark terror. What was I becoming and what did he see that frightened him so much? The answer became clear to me as the sun began to set. I could see every vein illuminated from within by a faint glow, mapping out my now defunct cardiovascular system in a beautiful but disturbing trail of interlacing lines. My eyes were bright enough to shine a faint light wherever I looked, and everything I looked at seemed outlined in fairy fire, some green, some blue, some red. I put my hands over my face in disbelief almost dropping the forgotten cassette recorder. Of course, why didn’t I think of it earlier? With a morbid curiosity I re-wound the tape to listen to the coroner perform my autopsy.

“The time is currently 1900 hours 25 minutes, the subject is a John Doe who was found alongside the road apparently the victim of a shooting.  The subject is wearing leather protective clothing and a motorcycle helmet, he was found a few yards away from a motorcycle, there is a hole approximately 3 centimeters in width in the front of the jacket, no exit wound is visible.  This will be an attempt to exhume the projectile and ascertain the cause of death.”

I hit the stop button on the player as memories came flooding back.  It had been late, I was on my way home after a long day of work and despite the fact that the sun had gone down and it was far past rush hour I could see a long line of cars stretching out ahead of me in a traffic jam.  At the last minute I decided to take an exit, driving on the shoulder for a short while and then roaring up the ramp, smiling to myself at the disapproving looks from the officers directing traffic.  I knew these back roads well and although they took longer than the freeway it would be a pleasant ride with only a few places where I would have to stop.  The long swooping corners were the perfect stress relief; my dark mood from having to work late was lifting as I pushed my big cruiser to her limit.

Suddenly I saw lights in my mirrors, they were approaching at a speed that I considered borderline suicidal on this narrow winding road.  Looking for a safe place to pull off and finding none, I increased my speed.  I knew there was an overlook just on the other side of a small hill and was sure I would have plenty of time to reach it.

Topping the rise and turning on my signal I suddenly heard the high pitched scream of a sport bike exhaust.  The rider behind me blew by so close the wind nearly unbalanced me, his high intensity headlights illuminating vehicle that resembled a smaller Humvee parked in the overlook parking lot.  It was painted flat black except for a white reflective plate that I could clearly see marked “MUETF” I felt a sudden impact to my chest and my last memory is the motorcycle moving away from me in slow motion, my hands unable to keep a grip on the bars.  The illumination of a lonely street light behind me showed my bike loosing balance, tipping on the right side and knocking over a set of road cones on its way over an embankment.

“After cutting away the outer clothing I am making a vertical incision centered on the entrance wound.  It is a precision shot, appearing to enter the exact center of the sternum.  There is very little blood which is odd for a wound of this size.  Something else that is strange; as I was removing the clothing I note that none of the bones appear to be fractured despite the estimated speed of impact being in excess of 40 miles per hour.

“Other than being dead, this is a very lucky man.  Heh.  I am now peeling away the layers of skin and flesh, the hole in the sternum is clean without any splintering; I have never seen a bone puncture that is this perfect, almost as though a high speed drill was used instead of a projectile.   Probing inside I cannot feel the bullet, I am going to spread the chest in order to investigate further.“

Here the recording was interjected with a high pitched whirring.  I fingered the raggedly stitched vertical incision over my breast bone through my shirt and shuddered involuntarily.  The sun was now truly below the horizon, and the soft phosphorescence emanating from whatever lay in my veins was much too conspicuous for my liking.  I decided to try and make it home regardless of whoever or whatever might be waiting for me there; at least I could stay long enough to get some clothes that fit and covered my arms and hands.  And maybe a pair of dark sunglasses.  I could listen to the rest of the tape there.