Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Of Death and the Dead Men, 4.

“You’re not answering my questions,” said Danny Clark, as the woman who he had just met pulled him through the darkened corridors of the morgue. His agitation throbbed like a second pulse in his gut and head. When it grew to such a deafening roar that he couldn’t ignore it he realised that the death grip of rage that ran through him was the only sound in his body—there was no head pulse, that feeling of one’s heart against one’s temples when the abject rage of life becomes too much; no rumble of attention and wanting in his stomach… the only sound left in him was anger. “I’m not going anywhere until you answer me!”

The woman—her face creased and aged like a mother whose child had just thrown a tantrum in the middle of some public place—was wrenched back in her movements, and looked back at where her hand, and Danny, had come to a stop. “Okay, fine. Do you know what a psychopomp is?”

Danny hadn’t heard the term before. It scratched at the back of his head like a scab, but he couldn’t figure out why. “No, I don’t think so…”

“It’s a spirit guide. When someone had unfinished business on this plane of existence, a psychopomp helps them restore order to their soul. Your soul, by the way, is a mess. What do you remember?” She leaned in close, and her breath smelt of nothing. There was a void from within her now without, and he moved away at her question. “Well?”

Danny looked down at himself, and then back up to the woman. He hadn’t remembered he was a priest before she had shown him his uniform, and then the memories came back in drips and drabs. His mind was a mess, a storm that obscured the facts and made focusing difficult. He was running on instinct, acting how he thought he should act, not knowing if it was the way he would act. Was this him?

“Not much,” he admitted, “and you… I don’t even know who you are.”

The woman smiled, and the creases were ironed out from her face, and she was young again. “Well, I’m your psychopomp. I am the spirit guide that will let you find peace.”

“Do you have a name?”

The woman arched an eyebrow, and considered the question. She looked as if she’d never been asked before, or didn’t know, but then, after a moment of her eyes drifting from one side of the room to another, she settled down, and nodded. “Call me Z. Yup. Let’s go find who killed you, yes?”

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Of Death and the Dead Men, 3.

"You're not supposed to be down here," said the coroner, zipping up his fly rather publicly, wiping his nose with the back of his hand. It wasn't the most hygienic thing to do, the man decided, when he was it occur. But he had been caught, fair and square, and this man, this greasy little sperm of a man, was not one he wanted to agitate.

"I'm looking for Father Clark?" he said, and wondered why he posed it as a question. He was looking for Father Clark. No need for a heightened intonation, no need for verbal question marks. "He was brought out a few minutes ago?"

The coroner's eyebrow cocked high, and his head lolled to his shoulder lazily. "Whadayamean brought out? And minutes? He was brought in over an hour ago. Who are you?"

"I'm a friend of the family, of the church, and when I heard he had been shot-- murdered--! I had to come see the body, had to mourn the passing of a dear friend." The words were horrifically artificial. Terribly emotive but without any glimmer of content behind them. Words to create resonance. "Is he here?"

"No. Not for you to see, not now, not right now, so you can fuck right off, I'm afraid. You ain't allowed down here without a pass, and I don't see nothing of the sort on you. And who do you think you are, traipsing down here all dressed in white? What are you, some kind of pimp? Get out, get out right now before I call security."

The man-- he was not a man but he was in the shape of one-- exhaled, and clicked his heels as he turned away from the main autopsy room. "You, sir, will die in three years, from a stroke. You will be sat on the toilet, get up, feel your face drop and your arm sting and you will gargle and gag and fall head first into your un-flushed refuse. It will take a few minutes for you to pass on. You'll go mad first, of course, as your brain starves for oxygen, and the ordeal will feel as if it were an eternity. And then you will go to purgatory, because I do not like the way you have spoken to me, and will put a word in with St. Peter."

"Alright, fella, fuck the fuck off right now, why don't cha?" The coroner pushed the man up the stairwell leading up to the exit, and shook his head. "Fucking nut." He then headed back down to his lab, and to where the body of Father Clark was waiting for him. The corridor ricocheted noise back out toward him, and when the doors to the autopsy room swung open and smashed close, the noise suddenly cut out. On the table was a smouldering corpse, mostly charred skin and blackened exposed bone, and the lights had all started to fizzle and flicker. "What the fuck?" whispered the coroner, before something hit him hard on the crown of his skull and he blacked out. The last thoughts that crossed his mind were 'what did he mean, 'three years'?' and then darkness and silence, as the world kept turning.

Of Death and the Dead Men, 2.

Danny was attracted to this girl. This female, he reiterated in his head. She was young, perhaps too young, and he knew that it was wrong to be attracted to her if she were too young, but damn, she was a beautiful specimen. He felt a flutter of agreement at his groin, and then looked around, trying to think of a way to change the subject to something much more important.

"What's happening to me?"

The girl smiled gingerly. She moved her long fringe out from her eyes and tucked it behind her ear, and then her smile shifted into something else, something much serious, much more business-like. "You were shot in the back of the head, after an hour's worth of torture. You should be glad you only remember the snap crackle pop of the gun shot, else you wouldn't be as upright and forthright as you are right now. Speaking of upright..."

Danny blushed, and grabbed a cloth from another autopsy table. It did little to hide anything. "I'm dead? How can I be dead?"

"Try surviving a head shot, and then tell me, yes?" she laughed, low and throaty. The laugh made her sound old, older than her years, like she'd been smoking since she was conceived, but when she wasn't laughing her voice was like sweet honey, and god, if Danny wasn't dead right now-- "But I'm afraid you are dead, Danny. Deader than disco. I mean, the rules aren't what they were, and you're double yourself, a bit of a hollow, but alive is alive, if you're talking."

"You're talking in riddles, and I don't like that, and I keep..." He dropped the sheet, and moved over to her. Modesty was forgotten. If he was dead then what was the point? "I can feel you fumbling around inside my head. That's you, isn't it? You're making me think things I don't normally think, and I can't say--" He sniffed, a hard inhale, and the smell of chemicals and preservatives diced hard in his nostrils. "--I can't say I like it."

"Those thoughts? Oh, don't think that's me, don't make assumptions, because you make an ass out of you, and you alone. What else kind of thoughts do you think you're going to have, Danny? You're dead now. Normal rules don't apply. You're free to think however you want to, without boundaries." Her smile grew larger, dimples at her cheeks, and he felt her hand wander down. "Do what you want." Her head leaned back, and she grabbed his hand, and moved it between her thighs. "To who you want."

Danny pulled his hand back in abject horror, hesitated a moment, and then took a step back, his now erect penis just out of reach from the woman. "This isn't me, this isn't happening, I can't, I won't--"

"You've lived a short life of celibacy and politeness, Danny. Or, perhaps, do you prefer Father? Father Clark? You lived a devout life and you found out the truth in the gutter, that man isn't good and a bullet in the brain-pan is as good a way out as any. You're dead, and you're here, and aren't you wondering why?"

"That's all I'm doing!" hissed Danny, as he looked around. "Where are my clothes...?"

The girl held up a clear plastic bag containing all his personal effects, and waved them about from side to side. "Come on, padre, lighten up."

"I'm dead! I died! I was shot in the back of-- of the head--" He looked down at his corpse, the hole in his head and the crevice in his throat, and then shuddered. "And you're here-- mocking me-- and I don't--" He snatched the bag away from her hands. "Who are you?"

"I'm your guardian devil, Danny," she grabbed him by the hips and hitched herself forward. "Here to tell you about the world, and where you stand in it."

Of Death and the Dead Men, 1.

Danny Clark's story began two minutes ago. Two minutes ago, the coroner went for a luxurious piss in the urinal down the hall, leaving Danny on the ice steel autopsy table, grey eyes staring up, chest hairs taut, flaccid penis curled up, skull fragments swimming in brain and blood on the street where he was shot. Two minutes ago. Two minutes ago he was dead, the victim of some horrific, unspecified crime. Two minutes ago, whoever had pulled the short straw with their shift was waiting to hose down the scarlet tanged side-walk. Two minutes ago a too-eager medical assistant had prodded the fleshy gash in danny's throat with his pen, and considered licking the tip. Two minutes.

One minute ago, meanwhile, Danny's eyes began to focus. Focus on the hanging orb of light above him, focus on the fact that-- Danny jerked up from the table, and scrambled with terrified fingers at the back of his head. No, no, he was fine, he wasn't-- he checked his throat, and went to speak, but thought better of it-- he remembered before, before the bullet in his head, and how his throat was a scabby meat whistle, sending spittle and blood out instead of words. He couldn't bear that
sound again, could he?

"No," he whispered, and he smiled-- a sure fire sign, he thought, of being alive, before looking down, past his body, and to the corpse meat below-- where Danny Clark-- he-- was still lying, his modesty decidedly un-modest, his throat an open wound, and, if he dared to take a peak, a bloody void where the back of his head should have been. "No," he repeated, his smile twisted inside out.

"Rough times," said the girl who had mounted herself on the gurney opposite. "Bad way to go, worst way to wake up."

There was a pang of embarrassment-- Danny was naked, his cock shrivelled and sluggish from the pang of cold in the morgue-- but it soon passed. This girl-- barely in her twenties, if-- was wearing a fishnet top, her pierced nipples clear for the world to see, and a short black skirt. Her eyes were shadowed bright blue, her thin lips a shade darker. There was a smile there, a twist at the corner, and Danny didn't know what to think-- She didn't seem to mind the cold, and her lips smacked as Danny looked up from looking down.

"Where are your manners, Danny? Eyes up."

"What? No, ugh, sorry, wait, no, no, not sorry-- what the fuck is going on? And why the fuck am I-- am I alive and then.. there? There on that fucking table? Shit! Shit!"

The girl shrugged. "Luck of the draw, innit? You were dead but now you're alive."

"What? How does that-- what the fuck are you talking about?"

Provenance - Update

I know it looks like I just stalled on this project, but I've got pages upon pages of this story written up in my notebook, and it's just the task of transcribing, building upon what I've done before and making it sharper. It's the boring part of the job, so I'm avoiding it until my notebook is full and brimming. So yeah. Update.

Monday, 16 August 2010


I'm writing again, though it's probably a bit too early to see if anything comes of it, but it's mostly thanks to Claire's input and acting as a sounding board (check out her blog here) when I needed someone to bounce off of. Quite psyched to get this done, and hopefully I've finally found something that I can put into a future issue of Zenith!. Christ.