“In the long run we are all dead.”
John Maynard Keynes
"Dying is a very dull, dreary affair, and my advice to you is to have nothing to do with it."
“If we shadows have offended, Think but this, and all is mended, That you have but slumber'd here, While these visions did appear. And this weak and idle theme, No more yielding but a dream…”
A Midsummer’s Nights Dream
You see, the thing about being dead is…. It takes some getting used to. It takes a lot of acceptance. Because at first you’re like; ‘shit, is this real?’ but after a while (For those of us that didn’t choose to go to judgment, and decided to wait it out) it grows on you. Unfortunately there are those that don’t really choose to accept that they are dead, in a constant state of denial; a pity really. I mean death should be considered as part of life, something which every person has to come to terms with, in order to live, well I mean it’s just a part of accepting our human frailty. But beside all that philosophical crap, death can be fun.
I mean look how I turned out. Actually, before I use myself as an example I should probably tell you who I am. My name is Ryce Harding, and I am dead, passed on, no more, ceased to be, expired and gone to meet my maker, a stiff, Bereft of life, I rest in peace! I’ve gone to join the choir invisible. You get the basic idea. Minus one thing though; I didn’t actually go to meet my maker. I’ve skipped, or postponed that part of the process for now. Instead I’ve been given a task, a purpose (figures, I have to die to finally get a purpose). I am a Consultant; I help people accept and realize that they actually are dead and give them a purpose like me.. Hey It may not sound that great, but hey at least I’m not a fate-ist (they are the guys that actually cause the deaths, you get some messed up people in that job), and I could be a ferryman (the people that help the newly dead over into their next place), but that really isn’t for me.
Normally you’d think that the big guy, Mr. Big Black Cloak, Azrael, The Reaper, Death, whatever name you want to call him. You’d think he’d be doing this. But no he decided to capitalize; get those of us that didn’t want to move on (“runners” as some of us are called) to do his dirty work. I don’t know what he does, but he definitely isn’t doing his job, sure people are dying and moving on but he’s got us pushing the paper, and out in the field. But hey, maybe I shouldn’t be carrying on like this.
So yeah my name; Ryce Harding everyone just calls me Ryce. I was a normal guy before I died, one of those Dick and Jane types. I was pretty uptight, and I didn’t have very many friends. I was just about five-foot-ten, average to muscular build, not amazingly attractive, but I sure wasn’t homely either. My job; I was a proofreader for a newspaper based in small town in Maine. Hmm… what else could I tell you, oh yeah. This is a bit embarrassing, but I had been single for 2 years, and hadn’t gotten laid in like 18 months. Life was lame and boring.
Then next thing I know, I take the next step in life, or actually the last if you think about it. At first, I didn’t want to believe it myself. I was a runner, I ran from the idea of death so hard that I ran into my old friend Zeke Wallace. Well more or less of a friend. He was more or less that likeable kid that everyone knew in high school. The one who paid more attention to the ‘high’ part of high school. Well I realized it then, because he died in our sophomore year, crashed his van right into a lobster boat (We still don’t really know how it happened). I knew the whole death thing had to be real at that point.
It was the craziest thing, because he was still driving his old ass Volkswagen van; the one that he died in. Turns out that he was a ferryman, driving people over to the other side with the van all smoke-boxed up. He was the pothead of the freakin’ dead. I jumped in his van to get away from this weird ass guy that kind of reminded me of my boss. You know the type all straight-edged and anal; that kind of guy that reams your ass for a week for moving his stapler. It turns out that he was a consultant.
Wow, I do get off track easy (I just really didn’t like my boss). So back to jumping into Zeke’s van. I jumped in and told him to punch it. He did. Next thing I know we’re on the other side, and I’m face to face with this dude that just appeared in Z’s van (that’s what we called him way back when).
“You’re dead” the dude said very matter-of-factly
“I guess I am…” there was something familiar about this guy, like that one person that you see randomly in the grocery store that you haven’t seen in years. You recognize them, but for the life of you, you couldn’t place what the hell their ‘effin name was. He had that kind of face.
“You don’t want to be, do you?”
“I think so.” I legitimately wondered if I should want to be dead. I decided that I didn’t. “No. Definitely not. I do not want to be dead”
“Sucks to be you then” this guy was kind of starting to piss me off.
“Yeah it does” I sneered back.
“Got a job for you.”
“Do You?” I was using sarcasm. I’m good at sarcasm.
“Yes” he apparently wasn’t good at recognizing it.
“Alright, I’ll bite. What is this job?” he wouldn’t stop staring at me. It was definitely getting really creepy.
“I need you to help people realize that they are dead” completely monotone. Apparently this guy hated whatever job he had.
“I like you, you seem like a people person” he likes me? Well he has a weird way of showing it. He had one thing wrong, I was definitely not a people person. No way in hell was I good at talking to people.
“Really? And what if I turn down this job?”
“You go there” at this point he had stood up and opened the back doors. He pointed down. I didn’t even bother getting up to look I knew what he was pointing at.
“Is that a threat?” I could take him. Dude was a scrawny mofo. Not that I was really ripped or anything, I just watched a lot of kung fu movies.
“Nope, it’s where you’d have ended up anyways” he sits back down. The doors close. The creepy bastard goes back to staring at me.
“Consider me your new employee”
“Good, I’ll Have Mr. Williams here help you out” he turned to Zeke who was apparently scared shitless, or just having a really bad trip. “You can take a break from Ferrying people, and show Mr. Harding what exactly what his job is. Alright ‘Z’?” he used his nickname like it was something that was forbidden or maybe even mocking. This guy was weird with a capital F, as in Friggin Weird.
Next thing I know. Mr. Creep was gone; no big poof or dramatic exit, he was just gone. The only indicator that he was ever there, was that Zeke still looked like he’d shit his pants. But hell I didn’t know if that was just the way he was now, maybe death had done it to him. Turns out death had, but not in the way I thought.
“Who was that? Dude? Are you alright?” It was disconcerting to have a guy that seemed like he was paralyzed with fear driving the van. So I tried to take the wheel (not that I had a clue where we were going). Next thing I know Zeke is in my face, and the van is driving itself.
“That” He sits down in the back “was Death”.
“Death?” I tried hard not to laugh, and failed… Hard.
“No laughing matter dude, that was THE Reaper. You know?” he makes a kind of slow pointing movie that he obviously got out of a movie while pretending to hold a scythe. “Mr. Fear The ‘effin Reaper, are you dumb?” after this he took up flailing his arms about, it looked rather odd to be honest.
Let me describe Zeke to you. He’s the very stereotypical hippie-van-driving-pot-smoking-scrawny-assed-mofo that you just have to have to make high school normal. He’s almost as important as the sits-in-the-corner-and-stares-at-you-while-writing-poetry kid that you don’t think owns clothes in any other color than black. He basically looked like Shaggy, except with a bit shorter hair. He was also the same as Shaggy in another way. He was a Chicken-shit. You’d let a loud fart in the room with him and he’d go through the ceiling.
You knew that he was scared of death even when he was alive, let alone after meeting him in person.
“Yeah man, I get it” and I did get it. What I didn’t get was this job I was supposed to be doing. ‘Help people realize that they are dead’ what kind of job is that? “So what is in my job description?”
“You?” he had to think, you could tell this because he tilted his head back and was stroking his somewhat-bearded chin. It didn’t really look good on him; he just had it there to fit his scene I guess. I will give him this much though, he did look scragglier (I’m just not sure if that was what he was going for). “You’re a ‘Consultant’ as we Ferrymen call them”
“Ok… ‘Consultant’ got it. Now what did you call yourself?”
“A Ferryman. You know, like the guy in the…”
“Ancient Greek myth. Put two coins on the eyes of the dead for the ferryman to take them across the river Styx. That’s what I thought you said”
“Pretty clever isn’t it?” he said this very proudly.
“Wasn’t your idea I bet”
“No…” he sounded crushed. You’d take one look at him and know that the drugs had burnt out anything that resembled cleverness many a toke ago. That and personally I know that he hadn’t been there for that part of high school. He was already dead by then.
“So are you going to show me around or what?” I asked him, changing the subject.
“Definitely” he sat back down in his drivers seat, motioned for me to sit shotgun and from then on we’ve been friends.
So weeks went by and I started to do my job. At first I blew more than a hurricane. But after a while Zeke started to rub off on me and I became more of a people person. That and his pot helped; it was out of this world good (pardon the pun). I was walking around the living world, because sometimes you’ll run into someone that’s dead and didn’t realize it. While I was patrolling a hook in the form of a gorgeous girl caught my eye. She wasn’t gorgeous in the way that a supermodel might be, but more so in the way that I could see what she really was like. I could see what she was like one the inside. Being dead and all, you get to see those things.
My god was this girl beautiful. She wasn’t so tall; she was probably a bit shorter than me (which I liked). She was walking around the mall with her friends in naught but a bikini. This in itself was catching many an eye. Her friends (also bikini-clad) were to say overshadowed by her in an understatement. You knew that they were jealous of her beauty. She was jokingly teaching them how to strut around in their bikinis, a gleaming perfect smile across her face the entire time. I knew that she wasn’t more than nineteen, for some reason I knew. The beige of her bikini bottom blended with her skin, seamlessly extending her long legs even more. The accompanying strapless top was showing off her shoulders.
Underneath all of that, I saw something more, like there was something unfinished with her. She had a glow of bliss floating around inside her, but chasing it around was a scar of sadness. The colors themselves were enough to mesmerize me. Everyone around her (including all the watching boys, which she barely seemed aware of, and of course I was all too aware) was seeing this outside beauty, and I saw her on a level that was so full and complete that I knew nobody else would ever know her the way I did.
You could say I was instantly occupied with her in every fiber of my being. This girl had to, and I mean had to stay alive. Because that’s what she was… Alive. If it weren’t for the fact that I couldn’t move unless it meant seeing her better, I’d have kicked myself for falling for her. After Z found out, he told me to go A.W.O.L. and watch her (but in his own fried way of talking). So I did. The next few weeks I took a vacation (not that we really get any considering Death being omnipresent and all. but nonetheless… I took one) and watched her. I dropped off of the map just so I could follow her to work, watch movies with her, do anything and everything she did.
Her name? It was Leah Eden. Did she know about me? Hell no, I was dead, she wasn’t. It’s really as simple as that. I was so fixated on her that for weeks I didn’t notice that I wasn’t the only person watching her. There was this creepy guy. He was around when I was, almost always. There was an almost instantaneous feeling of jealousy. How could this bastard watch her when I was the one watching her? (It kinda makes me seem like a creep now that I think of it) I knew he was dead too because she only saw him every once and a while.
Normally the living can’t see the dead, but there are a few that appear in the living’s line of sight every once and a while, and even then only in the corner of their eyes. They’re the fate-ists, those creepy sociopathic sadistic bastards (Well not all of them, I found one guy that really didn’t enjoy his job). I asked Z about him, and turns out it was someone else from our high school.
The freak’s name was Edgar Drake.
He was that guy that you hear about on the news ten or so years later, the one that highjacked someone’s car and went on a rampage throughout the city taking out like 13.5 pedestrians. The kid who you know is just going to come into work one day with a shotgun and take out all your co-workers shell after shell. Well this son-of-a-bitch did exactly that, and I mean both (but in reverse order). The instant I heard his name I remembered seeing him on the news. So I knew that this was not a good thing that this guy was watching her.
I had to see what was up. But there was no way in hell I was going to confront this psycho. Hell, would you? So I went through a loophole and looked at the books. Turns out; her time wasn’t marked. Which wasn’t unusual, because basically until you make certain decisions in your life, the way and when of your death is decided. So apparently she hadn’t done anything all too serious in her life. Which was fine by me. However it still irked me that this jerk-off was following her, like he was planning to take her whenever he felt like it.
Because of the unplanned nature of her ending, a fate-ist could take her whenever they wanted. Its almost like when something is free to go whenever, you can take it anytime. But if something is reserved, you touch that thing, and the hounds of hell are begging for a fate-ist steak. So I think this jerk was going to take one of his freebies, but there was no effing way I was going to let that happen. I felt like going to war.
But then I realized something.
I’m a freaking wussy.
Only once in my life had I ever been in a fight; and I lost… hard. Story involved being drunk, and kissing the wrong guy’s girlfriend (not that you can drunkenly kiss the right guy’s girlfriend). Needless to say I avoided conflict from that point on… and bikers.
So basically I don’t think I need to tell you what creek I was up without a paddle. Now this is the part where I say that I panicked, which would be true. I tried just about everything I could not to have him get closer to her. I even had Zeke park his van in front of him once or twice (he stopped doing it when Ed started getting pissed). I tried all the legal and logistical ways of getting him to go away, but that didn’t work because he had apparently made his ‘quota’ of deaths within the past months.
I even talked to Mr. Creepy himself, and all he did was shrug me off and call me stupid for falling in love with someone that was alive (something tells me that he had done it once himself). So yet again, I returned to that shit creek.
I would just have to wait. I’ll wait out like a sniper and wait for him to make his move. Once he tried doing something, I’d stop it. I wouldn’t let it happen. That sounded like a good plan. So I waited, and waited. The longer I waited, the more tension built up. By the time this bastard would have made a move I’d have exploded from all of the damned tension.
So frankly I got tired. I grew some balls, and I went and confronted him.
“So Edgar, how’ve you been?” oh yeah, I meant business.
He didn’t so much as reply, but grunt.
“Oh, so that good huh? Sounds like a great time” hey, there was no need to be rude before I took him out.
“What do you want?” his voice was graceful, but yet there was that dark twinge to it that made you know that he was not all there (and you weren’t even seeing all of what little there was). Don’t get me wrong here he was a smart guy. You just knew that whatever it is that snaps in people and postal workers, had long since been fractured.
“Oh you know, just wondering how things are going. However I was wondering-why-you-were-watching-this-girl” could you tell I was a bit nervous? I thought I was being very steadfast.
“A few things really. One; I feel like it. Two; I’m bored. Three; you’re watching her.” Ok, so three reasons. I could change those things. All I’d have to do is convince him that she really isn’t all that interesting (which would be lying), occupy him somewhere else, and stop watching her myself (that would be the hardest). “Oh, and I’m not watching just her”
“Really? Who else?”
“You Ryce, I’m watching you too.”
“Ehh, really? Why would you go and do something like that?” I hope this isn’t going where I think It’s going.
“I like you Ryce, you’re an interesting guy. You were one of the only nice people to me in high school” ok, good not going where I thought it was… maybe. I find this funny because frankly I was only nice to him in high school, because he creeped the hell out of me and the only way to get him gone quicker, was to be nice.
“Well, I’m not really a mean guy”
“And I guess you not really my kind of guy either”
“Huh?” Confusion, I’m just as good as that, as I am at sarcasm.
“I mean If you were my kind of guy, you wouldn’t be watching this girl would you?”
“Oh, I get it” yeah… it went there.
“Do you want me to stop watching her?”
“Kinda, you were making me worried for a while there.” Actually he still was, I was just worried for a different reason this time.
“What? Did you think I was going to kill her?”
“Well… it is kind of your job to end people’s lives” I had a point there. Was I so hung up on her that I couldn’t see around the issue? Like seriously I had such a preconceived notion about this guy that I didn’t think that he could be nice. However, nice guys don’t usually go around and take out half an office building with a 12-guage. So maybe I had a reason to think that. What the hell, I shouldn’t Friggin second guess it, I should just take this blessing and be on my way.
“Yeah, but I only do people that are marked in the book. I do my job, no more no less, I like my job, but I’m not a crazy.” As he finishes his sentence I contemplate the level of contradiction in that phrase, and if I was right about him or not. ‘Nope, just let it go Ryce’ I tell myself.
“Well I appreciate it.”
“No problem Ryce, I’ll see you around.” I shudder to think about seeing him around, but I guess it won’t be too bad (as long as he doesn’t start hitting on me).
He walks away slowly and waves goodbye before he does.
I have no idea how easy I just got off. I sit there with my jaw on the lowest setting its hinges will allow. I look over at her and see her. She’s lying on the sofa of her apartment. She’s so peaceful. A twinge of relief goes through my heart. As I get closer I see a vacant look in her eyes. I immediately realize that she’s dead.
You don’t get in the business that I am in without being able to recognize what a dead body looks like. Aside from all of the physical indicators, that spark that only us dead can see in the living; is gone.
I look up from staring into her eyes after about a minute, and stare into her eyes again. This time its her; the still alive part at least. She smiles at me, and goes into the light.
That is my story. I hope you liked it. But there is one last thing (as there always is). I’m Sorry to have to tell you this. But I kinda have to do my job. The thing is; you’re dead too.