Pining for the Fjords

Written for Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge: Pick An Opening Sentence And Go
Many thanks to Matthew X. Gomez for inspiration.

I have to admit, being dead isn’t nearly as boring as I feared it would be. I died on Monday, on my way to work. Funny how it still didn’t excuse my not showing up that day. Next time I saw him, the boss man shouted at me until he was red in the face, his voice hoarse and raw. I think he might have disrupted his vocal cords. Good thing I was there for my last paycheck. But let’s backtrack a bit.

It was a day like any other, nothing extraordinary about it. The morning started with annoyingly persistent trilling of the alarm clock. I threw it at the wall — that’s the only way to switch it off — and went back to sleep. Forty minutes later an angry furball landed on my chest, effectively catapulting me out of dreamland. It was time to feed the devil masquerading as my cat.

A quick sprint across the flat with a brief stop at the bathroom, and I was ready to go. If I stopped at the Stars and Scones Bakery, which I obviously did, I was going to be only thirty minutes late. So there I was, walking down the street, nearing the crosswalk at 8th and Maple Avenue, drinking triple chocolate latte… next thing I heard was the screeching tires, and something hit me in the back.

A flimsy paper cup flew out of my hand, spilling too sweet coffee on the ground. I followed its example and added blood to the mix, feeling my bones crush and innards rupture. I had just enough time for one last thought: quite predictably, it was ‘oh, shit!’

The return to consciousness was abrupt. Gasping, I opened my eyes and saw nothing. Everything hurt, but the pain was quickly receding. I was cocooned in a sea of darkness. It took a while to figure out that I was in a body bag. Granted, I expected to come to at the hospital or not at all. Still, the time it took to come to the right conclusion and make an attempt at crawling out was embarrassingly long.

With aching hands — some of my fingers were broken — I tried to pull down the bag’s zipper and after a while succeeded. Temporary blinded by the daylight, I blinked several times and didn’t notice right away a startled paramedic. With a shout, the poor man dropped something. I didn’t see what it was; hopefully, not an expensive medical equipment.

Sitting up, I opened the bag fully, swung my legs off the gurney and clumsily stood up. Looking somewhat unwell, the paramedic recoiled from me. Dismissing him as irrelevant, I focused on the most pervasive need I felt: I was craving meat like nothing ever before. That was absolutely disgusting, because for about fifteen years up until that morning I had been a vegetarian. Still, I couldn’t think of anything other than raw, juicy, bloody meat, and how I will sink my teeth into it.

Slowly, I hobbled in the general direction of my flat, having dimly recalled seeing a butcher shop about a block away from where I was at the moment. It was a long walk, filled with increasingly persistent fantasies of eating bloody chunks of flesh torn from a warm body. With each passing minute passersby looked more and more like walking TV dinners.

Thankfully, before I could assault anyone, I stumbled into the shop. Disregarding a line of appetizers that shied away from me, I went straight to the vendor.

“Pork chop. Ten… no, fifteen pounds.” Better safe than oops-I-have-eaten-my-neighbor.

He stared at me, agape. Maybe because I looked like a chop myself, standing there covered in blood and feeling like one enormous hematoma, or maybe it was for an entirely different reason, I really didn’t care. Either way, he slapped the meat on the counter with remarkable speed. I snatched it up and bit into it, cool blood filled my mouth.

Already faintly ill, the vendor looked away from my face and turned green. Following his gaze, I saw a bone sticking out of the hole in my jeans, right below the left knee. Oh, that’s the reason I can’t stand on this leg, I thought, chewing thoroughly. And that’s when it finally hit me: I am one of the Dead.

You see, most people die, and that’s it: the end, no scenes beyond the final credits. Just plain boring nothingness, while their remains feed the worms or decorate a mantelpiece in a gaudy urn that a distant descendant will smash on the tiled floor in a fit of teenage defiance. But then, there’s about point zero one percent of the world’s population that drew a different straw. For these people death isn’t the full stop but rather a bathroom break at a gas station. In other words, they come back right away, still dead as a doornail but not quite.

They still appear alive with the exception of not having a pulse. They don’t grow older, seemingly stuck at the moment of their demise, but their cells can regenerate back to a perfect condition; being already dead, they can’t get killed, and though not impossible, it is rather hard to destroy them permanently.

The only drawback is the need to consume red meat, the fresher the better. Otherwise, deterioration sets at a fast pace, and before you know it, it’s Welcome to Zombieland without the spread of infection. Aside from that, it’s a good deal. Nearly eternal life, who wouldn’t jump right on that train?

That day after consuming the first pork chop and recovering most of my mental capacities, I paid for the meat and went home. By the time I reached the flat, regeneration — mind and body — was completed. I barely had time to close the door before I went into a major freak out.

Suffice to say, when several hours later someone rang the doorbell, I had reached zen but still hadn’t changed out of the bloody and torn clothes. Outside stood a man in his late forties whose get-up screamed “special agent”. I almost closed the door in his face.

Still, I let him come in and listened to what he had to say. Turned out, the paramedic reported my resurrection, and the agent was here to recruit me.

Since The Dead are nearly invincible that opens a unique career opportunity. The government has a special division in the law enforcement entirely made up with such people. They deal with the most dangerous situations, and they always come out on top. They are called the Dead Squad, and the agent offered me to join them.

I didn’t have to think about it, not really. For the last six years I worked as a secretary at the plumbing company and most of the time was bored out of my mind. What he offered was an chance to change that. Of course, I agreed in a heartbeat I didn’t have anymore.

That was three days ago, and though I’m yet to start my training, being dead is already shaping up into quite the next great adventure. Whatever the future holds, it sure will be more interesting than anything I had experienced while being alive, I can tell.


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