Will Spark only wants a good night’s sleep after a night of drinking. Instead, two thugs bang on his door, demanding answers to questions he can’t understand. And then they killed him…
GENRE: Dark Fantasy ISBN: 978-1-920972-61-5 ASIN: B004I8WNZU Word Count: 27, 854
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(ebooks are available from all sites, and print is available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble and some from Angus and Robertson)
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and easy to read
This author writes the way I like to read, although I have to admit I've never read anything supernatural before. She doesn't go into lots of description but let's you use your own imagination to decide what things look like surrounding the characters. I hate reading books where they have to describe everything and she doesn't do that. Definitely good for those who like the supernatural!
The pounding on my door jerked me out of sleep like a cold shower, dousing the fire of my dreams with stark reality. I cracked open one eye and stared at the clock. Three a.m.? Who would be pounding on my door at three a.m.? Was the apartment building on fire?
I rolled out of bed, staggered for a bit until I found my balance, and pulled on a pair of dirty shorts. The kitchen light sent shards of agony deep inside my brain when I flicked it on. I squinted, my eyes watering, and fumbled with the lock.
Two men in dark, double-breasted suits stood in the hallway, their hands clasped behind their backs. I stepped back involuntarily, raising my hand above my eyes to I block the glare of the light, but it didn’t help. I had never seen them before in my life.
The taller one had a nasal Brooklyn accent that grated across my nerves and sent them singing. His nose skewed sideways, giving him the appearance of a wannabe prizefighter. His hair reminded me of a skunk, black as night and liberally shot with gray. The other man stroked a pencil thin blond moustache and gave me a smile that showed only a few of his crooked teeth.
“Yes?” I realized that was a mistake as soon as I said it; no one with legitimate concerns would pound on a guy’s door at three in the morning.
They exchanged glances.
Brooklyn grinned at me, exposing capped white teeth. “May we come in?”
“I’m not sure…”
Before I could finish my refusal and shut the door in their faces, the blond one took me by one arm and propelled me backwards, into the kitchen. Brooklyn followed, still grinning.
“It will only take five minutes of your time, really,” he said. “We only have a couple questions.”
“Where is it?” the blond asked. He shook me and I felt another pang of agony shoot through my poor abused brain.
“Where is what?” I tried to pull away from him, but he was stronger than he looked. He calmly pulled me into the living room and pushed me into my favorite chair.
The first tendril of panic bloomed in my stomach. I tasted sour fear in the back of my throat. I tried to stand. The blond pushed me back down.
“Mr. William Spark.” Brooklyn stood next to me, his arms folded against his chest. The guy had to be a bodybuilder or something; he outweighed and outmuscled me by at least a rottweiler. Whoever these guys were, they meant business, even though I had no idea what business they were in. Or what they wanted from me.
“Where is it?” the blond asked again.
“Tell us the truth, Will Spark,” Brooklyn said, and pulled a switchblade from one of his pockets. He inspected his nails, and then methodically began to clean them with the tip of the blade. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from it.
“Mr. Spark, we represent a certain…shall we say, party who is interested in something you saw right around midnight.”
“Three hours and,” he consulted a Rolex on his wrist, “four minutes ago.”
“I was…” I trailed off when I realized I had no idea where I had been around midnight. “I was drunk.” That much, at least, I remembered. I had gone to a party. Larry’s party. And he had refused to give me back my keys. I had walked home in the dark, but I didn’t remember one step of that journey.
“You weren’t drunk enough,” Brooklyn insisted. “Talk to us, Will Spark. What did you see and where did it go?”
“It what?” I shook my head, which only made things worse. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I started to rise out of the chair, intending to lunge for the phone on the coffee table, and the blond punched me in the stomach.
I gagged and barely managed not to puke all over my nice clean carpet. Brooklyn grabbed a hunk of hair and pulled me up. The blond punched me again.
This time, I couldn’t hold it back.
“Look at the mess you’ve made, Mr. Spark.” The blond shook his head. Brooklyn handed me a handkerchief to wipe my mouth. He waited until I had straightened back up, and then he had the blond hit me again.
“Talk to us, Will Spark,” Brooklyn said. “I don’t want to have to hurt you.”
“I don’t want you to have to hurt me either,” I gasped, struggling to catch my breath.
“Then tell us what you saw and where it went,” the blond suggested.
“I don’t know! I was drunk!” I didn’t realize I was shouting until Brooklyn’s hand covered my mouth.
“Quietly, Mr. Spark. We don’t want to worry your neighbors.”
I nodded, frantic to take a breath. When he removed his hand, I slumped in the chair and gasped for air.
“I was drunk,” I finally said. “I don’t remember much when I’m drunk.”
“I think Mr. Spark needs some help with his memory, Lyle.”
I tried to duck away from the blonde’s punch, but I didn’t duck fast enough. His fist slammed into the side of my head. I felt a burst of pure pain, and then nothing.
When I came to, I couldn’t move. I raised my head and realized I sat in one of the old kitchen chairs I’d picked up at the local Goodwill, bound hand and foot with duct tape. I could move my hands in a limited way, but I could not escape. Duct tape isn’t only good for pipes, after all.
Brooklyn and Lyle stood in front of the kitchen table, facing me. Lyle leaned against the battered table, his arms crossed. Brooklyn seemed bored, as if beating up a guy was all in a day’s work. I had feeling it was, for them.
My head had stopped pounding. Now, it throbbed in time to my heartbeat, in great unending waves of pain. When I tried to focus on Brooklyn, the kitchen lurched around me head and I had to struggle not to gag.
“Should I hit him again, boss?” Lyle asked and raised one meaty fist.
Brooklyn stared at me for a moment. “Are you ready to talk to us, Will Spark?”
“I don’t think I have anything to say,” I whispered. My voice sounded funny and the whole left side of my face felt swollen and strange. I did not want to look in a mirror.
“What did you see and where did it go, Mr. Spark?” Brooklyn asked. “We wouldn’t ask you if it wasn’t important. It could be a matter of National Security.”
“I doubt that,” I muttered. Lyle raised his fist. I flinched back before I could stop myself.
Brooklyn smiled. “Hit him again, Lyle. See if you can jog his memory a bit.”
“No, you don’t have to hit…” my protest went unheard. Lyle drew his fist back and plunged it into my stomach. I tried to curl around the pain, but I couldn’t move.
He hit me again for good measure, and I felt something pop inside my chest. Another streak of pain joined what already dimmed my fading vision. I tried to lose myself in darkness.
Brooklyn threw a cup of cold water in my face. It jerked me back to the present long enough for me to notice that the switchblade had reappeared. This time, Brooklyn wasn’t cleaning his nails with it.
“I could kill you right now, Mr. Spark,” he said, his voice both calm and cold. “I could drive this into your heart and you would die.”
I stared at him. My stomach hurt too much to take a breath, let alone a deep one. “Why would you want to kill me?”
“You saw something you weren’t supposed to see,” Brooklyn said. “Lyle, I don’t think hitting him will jog his memory. I think we’ll have to do something a bit more…drastic.”
“Drastic? Look, guys. I don’t know who you are or who you work for, but could it be possible that you have the wrong…” I shut up when I saw the gun in Lyle’s hand.
Brooklyn smiled. “Now we’re beginning to understand each other. What did you see after you left the party, Mr. Spark?” He waved the knife in front of my face.
I tried to remember, I really did, but the whole previous evening was a smudge of booze in my memory. Mom had been right. She’d always told me that drinking would bring me to a bad end.
“Do you want me to shoot him now?” Lyle asked.
“Shoot me?” I tried to twist out of the chair, overbalanced, and ended up on my back, staring up at the fluorescents. I tasted blood in the back of my throat.
“Look, can’t we talk about this?” I’d never been much of a fighter, but I didn’t want to die.
Brooklyn bent over me. “We only came here to ask you a few questions, Mr. Spark. You refused to answer. What more can we do?”
“I don’t remember!” I was babbling now, and we both knew it. “Hell, I’m lucky I remember where I live when I’m drunk. Ask any one of my friends. Ask my neighbors. Ask anyone you like, just don’t…”
“I think it’s too late,” Lyle said, and leveled the gun at my head. I stared up at death. The words shriveled and died in my throat. A hot wetness spread over the crotch of my shorts.
Brooklyn turned away. “Lyle, you know what to do.”
Lyle gave me a sorrowful look and pulled the trigger.
The gunshot deafened everything and sent me barreling down into darkness.
When I opened my eyes, I found I sat on the top of a granite crypt in an unfamiliar cemetery. For a moment, the utter calmness of the place forestalled any questions I might have had, and I sat and enjoyed the spring sunshine for a little while until I realized something was not right.
I wore my favorite pair of jeans, and a black t-shirt with my oldest flannel shirt over it. My feet were bare, which wasn’t that surprising; if I’d lived in the country instead of the city I probably would have gone barefoot most of the time. But they were clean, not dirty as if I had walked to this cemetery in a drunken stupor.
Had I been drinking last night? I tried to remember what had happened, but my memory would only give me glimpses of something I didn’t really want to explore. I touched my ribs, expecting them to be broken, but they were unharmed. I touched my face. It seemed to be the same one I was used to, but I’d have to check a mirror to be sure of that.
Okay. I glanced around the cemetery. First things first. I’d find someone, figure out where I was and how I had come to be there, and then catch a cab home. I’d worry about the missing memories later. Maybe, just maybe, I’d cut down on the alcohol consumption for a bit. I hated waking up in strange places with no memory of how I had arrived.
The cemetery was awfully busy for an early morning. I wasn’t used to getting up so early, but I had always assumed cemeteries to be quiet places, not the bustling metropolis I saw before me.
An old man and an even older lady played chess across a crypt a few feet away from me. Two little girls, one dressed in an odd frilly white dress with a huge bow in her hair and the other in more modern clothes played hide and seek among the gravestones to my right. A man in what looked to be a Civil War uniform lay under a low spreading tree to my left, his cap over his eyes. Straight in front of me, a large woman in a severe black sheath drawled on a cigarette holder that would have been perfect in The Great Gatsby. There were others wandering amid the gravestones as well, but I didn’t pay much attention to them.
I drew my knees up to my chest and contemplated my surroundings. Something was wrong in the picture, but I couldn’t quite pinpoint what the wrongness was. I stared at them, each in turn, and then realized they were not making any noise. The clicks of the chess pieces were the only things I could hear. Everything else–from the little girls’ obvious laughter to the birds that should have been singing in the trees–had vanished as completely as my memory.
I looked at the old man and the shriveled old crone that was his companion. They seemed oblivious to me. I gripped the edge of the crypt, started to slide down to the ground, and realized I could see the grass right through my feet. Right through my feet.
Something dark broke loose in my mind. I felt a phantom pain shoot through my chest. I gasped, doubled over and slid the rest of the way to the ground. Cracking my head on the edge of the crypt should have hurt, but I didn’t even feel the impact.
The old man said something to his companion and stood, pushing his lawn chair back against a gravestone. His companion giggled and glanced my way. She smiled at me, but I didn’t have the strength to smile back.
Up close, the old man resembled my dead grandfather enough for me to instantly relax. He had weathered skin, and his blue eyes were almost lost in the web of wrinkles that surrounded them. He wore a pair of jeans as faded as mine and a blue button down shirt with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows. The patch above his breast read ‘L. Perkins’. His feet weren’t bare.
“Lysander Perkins.” He held out his hand. I stared at it for a moment, and then shook. His grip was dry and firm, with no hint of weakness. “I expect you’ll be having some questions?”
“Will Spark.” I wet my lips and refused to look down at my feet. “Questions?”
Lysander hesitated. “You do know you’re dead, right, son?”
“Dead?” I repeated. Something tried to tug loose in my mind, but I hastily shoved it away. “I can’t be dead. I went to a party. I was…drunk.” But I had never woke up in a cemetery before…
“Would you have worn those clothes to a party?” Lysander asked. “Gone barefoot?”
He had a point. “Maybe I…maybe I went home, changed my clothes, and came here.”
“Drunk?” Lysander shook his head. “Have you ever done anything like that before?”
Frustrated, I stared out at the rows of gravestones. “No.”
“How do you feel? Hung over? Hungry?”
“No.” Which was true, now that I thought about it. I felt…fine. Perfectly fine. My head didn’t hurt, my eyes didn’t flinch from the bright sunlight, my stomach didn’t turn from the thought of food.
“What part of your body is in that crypt, son? They haven’t buried people here since the late fifties.”
I glanced back at the crypt and answered without thinking. “My arm.”
“Where’s the rest of your body?”
I pointed west. “Over there.” And east. “And there.” And north. “And…” I stared at him. “I’m dead?” The shock stunned me. I couldn’t seem to fit my mind around the concept.
“Yes, you’re dead. Murdered, most likely. That’s probably why you’re here.” Lysander shook his head. “You only stay behind if you have unfinished business, and I’d say yours is a slight more unfinished than any of ours.”
“I’m dead?” I heard a gunshot echo in my mind. Lyle. And Brooklyn. The party. Ever so slowly, the memories began to trickle back into my waking mind. “They…they cut up my body?”
“How long will it take for anyone to notice you’re gone?” Lysander asked. “Do you have a girlfriend? A wife?”
I shook my head. “I broke up with Kate a couple months ago. My rent’s not due for two weeks.”
“No, I…” I had to take a deep breath before I could continue. The panic ate into my self-control so badly that I doubted I could stand. “I got laid off a month ago.”
Lysander slapped me on the shoulder. “I’m sorry, son. I really am. Let me go say goodbye to Greta, and then I’ll try to answer some of your questions.”
I watched him walk back to the old lady, help her up, and carefully pack up the chess set. Once she stowed it in her purse and stumped away through the maze of tombstones, Lysander walked back towards me.
“Are you dead too?” I asked. I had not moved from my spot in front of the crypt.
“I’ve been dead since April 17, 1955,” Lysander said. “Greta visits me every day.”
“She can…she can see you?”
Lysander watched her make her way to the entrance of the cemetery. “She’s the reason I’m still here.”
“And I’m here to find out why I was killed?” I asked.
“You don’t know?” Lysander sounded more curious than saddened at the thought.
“I have no idea.” I told him what had happened, hoping it would break something loose inside my mind, but the important thing I had supposedly seen refused to appear.
“Hmm.” Lysander stood for a moment and mulled over what I had told him. “I’ll be honest with you, son. I don’t know much about this modern world, but if I were you, I’d get myself a psychic.”
“A psychic.” He seemed faintly embarrassed to be telling me this. “You know, Tarot cards and bending spoons and all.”
“Why would I need a psychic?”
“They can see ghosts. There aren’t all that many people who can see us, but psychics can. If you find a psychic willing to help, you might be able to find out who killed you and what they were after.” He shrugged. “It’s just a suggestion, son. You don’t have to do a thing.”
“But if I have unfinished business…”
“Some people don’t much care for the thought of heaven,” Lysander remarked. He indicated the young man who slept underneath the tree. “Tim’s a good example; he knew exactly what he needed to do to move on, but he decided not to do it.”
“So he’s stuck here?” I asked, appalled.
“It’s not as bad as you might think.” Lysander smiled. “He spends most of the day in the library. Moving on’s a matter of choice, nothing more.”
I stared at the Civil War soldier for a moment, then down at my hands. “So I could stay like this for the rest of eternity?”
“You could. Being dead isn’t a bad thing, really. You don’t need to worry about food and clothes anymore; you don’t need a place to stay…” He held out his hand and helped me stand. “There are rules, of course, but you live with rules when you’re alive too.”
“Rules?” It hadn’t taken me much time to get used to the idea of being dead. I couldn’t see that I had much choice but accept it; I couldn’t change it.
“You can affect solid objects, but they can’t affect you,” Lysander said. “If you throw a rock at someone, it will hurt them, but if they throw a rock at you, it won’t hurt you, even if you’re solid.”
“That doesn’t sound too bad.”
He smiled. “You can’t cross running water.”
“I thought that was for vampires!” My mythology was a bit rusty, but I distinctly remembered reading that somewhere.
“Them too, but they won’t die if they manage to cross it,” Lysander said. “The dead are tied to the land, and running water will destroy you unless you have enough self-control to fight it. I’ve heard of ghosts who have done it, but I don’t recommend you try.”
“Okay, I guess I can handle that.” There was a river running through the middle of town, but I figured I could get around it somehow. I started to ask him about vampires, but then I decided I didn’t really need to know. Yet. If I met any vampires, I’d ask, but I thought I should take things one day at a time.
“You can only travel five miles away from your body,” Lysander said. “The dead are anchored to their bodies in ways no one really understands.”
“Five miles? That’s not very far.”
“You shouldn’t have much of a problem, since they cut you up,” Lysander said. “It’s a horrible thought, but they did you a favor. You should be able to instantly transport yourself to wherever your body is.”
It was a ghoulish thought. I shivered. I felt the pull of various body parts all over the city now, as if Lysander’s words had awakened the connection.
“Find yourself a psychic, son. And then decide what you want to do.”
I took a deep breath even though I didn’t need to. “Is there anything else I need to know?”
“Just don’t let them exorcise you and you’ll be fine.”
I shuddered. I, like nearly every other adult in the United States, had seen The Exorcist. “I’ll do that.”
“Everything else is just a matter of concentration. You don’t use up as much energy if you’re not solid. Just remember that.”
“Come back and tell me how things are going,” Lysander said. “Good luck.” Before I could ask him any more questions, he vanished.
I stood for a moment and stared out at the cemetery again. My arm–however ghoulish that might seem–would be safe enough in the crypt.
I would have to make sure the rest of my body parts were just as safe.
I closed my eyes and focused on the closest one. The pull strengthened until it was almost a physical thing, and I felt a brush of wind rush past my face.
When I opened my eyes, a semi barreled straight through my body.
Lucky for the driver, I was already dead.