Thursday, April 15, 2021

After Life by Hannah Burgess

I am dead. I’ve been dead for a while. It kind of sucked at first, you know, no one likes dying but to be honest not much has changed since then. It’s been a week now. I’ve just been sitting around my apartment, mostly watching TV. I can still hold the remote and lounge on the couch. It turns out I can’t really eat which is a bummer but I don’t have to go to work anymore of course, no more being shouted at by that pig equivalent of a human manager for stocking conditioner in the shampoo section. I thought dying would be a little more, you know, walking through walls or hovering or I don’t know reincarnating as a badger or something. 

None of that has happened. I don’t think other people can see me. Every day I walk down the same old streets of my small hometown that I always told myself I would leave and no one turns an eye towards me then again they never did. I’m not asking for a pity party. 

Yeah, my life kinda sucked in a small hometown kind of way. All the smart kids left town for bigger and better things, all the pretty girls left town for bigger and better men and all the loners like me ate entire boxes of pizza in the apartments we could barely afford. Ironically, the only interesting thing that has every happened in my life was dying. The memory still hurts a little, who would have thought duck ponds could be so deadly. Shivers. 

Anyway, I don’t have much to do right now. No job, no need to buy food and no one seems to have taken my apartment away yet. I am beginning to think that no one had noticed that 

I am dead. My manager was probably going to fire me soon anyway and it’s not like I have a three group chats on my phone. I have friends, I’m not a complete loser but no one has called or rushed into my apartment with tears streaming down their faces desperate to know where their best friend Darrel has been. I wouldn’t be surprised if my body were still sitting at the bottom of that duckpond and I doubt the man who hit me with his car would stick around to call the police. Before I fell unconscious, maybe I should have shouted a little more, might have saved my life but you try getting your wits together when your semi-consciousbody is being pecked at by a duck. 

I stand up from my couch and flick the TV off. I’m going to try check the cemetery, see if there is any other ghost pals I can hang out with. If I’m lucky I might see my parents there. 

***

The grim reaper poured himself another mug of coffee. People had been dying everywhere this week and it was all the grim reaper could do to stay awake. Suicide rates had been higher than ever and it was always depressing to bring those kind of people down to the underworld. Where were all the interesting murders? He hadn’t had an interesting murder for some time. Two thousand years of people burning witches at the stake and poisoning rival kings with cranberry juice and now this. Another plague to add to the black one and the great one, he’d seen it all before. 

There was ding from the computer and the grim reaper twisted his desk chair around to face it. Another drunk car crash. The grim reaper rose with a sigh and picked up his scythe from its bracket on the wall, it was good to keep up appearances and he always got a kick from the terror on those people’s faces.

***

Okay can confirm that my parents are not at the cemetery. No one was there except a couple of teens spraying graffiti on old tombstones. I tried to scare them away by running at them with my arms raised but they just laughed and strode off. Still not sure if they saw me, though if they had they would have just seen a late twenty-year-old with his arms in the air, not particularly frightening. Maybe I need a white sheet with two holes poked in it or is that too comical? I’ve been reading some books about death recently. There’s the ascent to heaven or hell I guess, the Buddhist reborn thing, the whole haunting old houses thing, nothing about someone just chilling in their apartment, guess that doesn’t make a great story. A couple books mention the grim reaper of a guardian angel coming to collect the dead souls, guess that bit isn’t true.

***

“Jesus Christ.” The grim reaper had barely sat back down at his desk before his computer began to ping furiously. He flicked open his inbox to find several hundred emails from heaven of all places. He slid his reading glasses onto his nose and peered down at the messages. 

“You!” The grim reaper leapt out of his seat with a yelp as someone burst through his office door. It was an angel in the custom white robes and jetpack that humans had for some reason interpreted as wings. She was breathing heavily with cheeks slightly flushed. 

“Why haven’t you replied to any of the messages from upstairs?” She said pointing a perfectly manicured finger at him. “The boss is frantic.”

“What’s happened?” The grim reaper stepped back, wrapping his black cloak closer around him.

“There is a soul you have not collected.” The grim reaper looked down at his check list, it didn’t look like he had forgotten anyone. The angel snapped her fingers impatiently. 

“Do you know what this means?” 

“Yes, yes Galadria I know. I must have accidently crossed off his name, calm down it can’t have been anyone important.” Galadria flicked back her golden ponytail. 

“I thought updating your list technology would have sorted this issue. I can understand all the haunting in the middle ages but everything is automated now, you shouldn’t be so careless. When I come back you better have that soul.” Galadria slammed the office door behind her before the grim reaper could add anything else. He took another sip from his coffee and then spat it out again. It had gone cold. Damn. Pesky souls, this was going to be a lot of paperwork.

***

There was a knock at my apartment door. I sat up from my place on the couch. A visitor, a real-life visitor. I couldn’t believe it. Somebody had come, somebody must have noticed my absence. I straightened myself up and darted towards the door. I bet it was Fran, we saw each other nearly every day at Ricky’s Convenience Store. Unless she had died about the same time I did, she had been about eighty. But someone had to have noticed I was dead by now, somebody had to have cared.

I flung open the door. 

“Well this is awkward.” The grim reaper said, clutching his scythe to his chest. “It seems that I forgot about you.” 

© Hannah Burgess

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