I’ve always found it particularly difficult to start a story. It’s easy to end one, but ever since grade school when my teachers would make me write a short story, I could never make a good start. I suppose I’ll start by saying this is a story. A story about my best friend. He died about 2 years ago. He was in his living room, sitting, watching tv, and he had a heart attack. And boom. Just like that he’s dead. Gone. Bye bye. See you later. It was really shocking when I found out.
He was a hard working man who was a mechanic. He always was sweating from physical labor. It didn’t make any sense how he could have possibly died from a blocked artery. But I guess somethings aren’t always what they seem in this life. We went to his funeral. It was a simple service, family and friends of his showed up. We said a few words about him. We cried and all the usual stuff at a funeral. Then we put him in the ground. And we left.
I got over his death ok. I was sad for quite a while but I knew that he wouldn’t want me to sit there sad all the time. “Stop being a wuss and get on with your life,” he’d say. He was just that kind of guy, a tough, skinny guy, with a mouth full of lemon juice. His name was Tom. You could see him from miles around walking around with his big ego flaunting himself ’round like his sh*t didn’t stink. Hilariously enough, it usually didn’t.
As you can guess by that joke we were real close. As kids we were inseparable. We’d spend our nights and days causing trouble around our small town, ding dong ditching and throwing eggs at random old ladies and such. We grew up and I got married to a beautiful wife. He stayed single, preferring to be a one-night stand kind of guy. He even made me a special promise a long time ago.
“Percy,” he said, “if either one of us goes off to the big yonder before the other, the one that goes should come back and tell the other what it’s like up there in heaven.” I wasn’t to thrilled with the idea. “But I wouldn’t want you to come back. I want to find out for myself what the light is.” He grunted in annoyance.
“Ugh…fine. I still want one of us to come back though.” He scratched his nose in thought. “But only if we have something really really important to tell the other person. Like if they’re going to be in an accident or something.” We agreed and shook on it. It was a promise I know he couldn’t keep. But for a while I really wish he could. As I said though, I moved on with my life. He did however, keep his promise.
At sunset on a summer day, I sat in my living room, like I usually did, with my gorgeous wife cooking dinner in the kitchen. I had just finished an episode of Seinfeld and was lazily looking out my window at the oranges and dark pinks the sun was making on the clouds. Suddenly, I got a knock on my door. It was slow and quiet, and if I wasn’t paying attention, I would have thought it was a tree branch hitting the side of the house due to the wind. KNOCK. KNOCK. Plain as day. After about 4 knocks I got up from my chair and yelled, “I’m coming!” at the door. As walked toward it something didn’t feel right.
Like. Like I shouldn’t open the door. Like if I did harm would befall me. I ignored my feelings and went up to it and turned the knob. No one was there. Great. It was probably the damn neighbor kids. I stepped outside cautiously, looking for any sign of the little intruders. I was shocked out of my mind when I saw him standing there. It was my friend.
All be it, not at all like he was when he was alive, but it was definitely him. He stood there, one leg shorter than the other, still wearing the suit he was buried in. His suit was torn and caked with dirt and moss. It was faded and smeared with stains of various body fluids. As for his body itself, it was literally skin and bones. His skin was no longer tanned from hours out in the sun, but now it was gray dry and cracked. It covered his bones and looked like someone had outlined them with sandpaper, and parts were curled up like cinnamon, revealing the red and white of his aged bones. The contours of his body were distorted like he had been molded out of wax, and his face was a shadow of what it was originally. It was a skull, the hair wisps of thin string and tangles of matted mud and old pieces of wood shavings. His ears and nose had decayed away, revealing morbid holes that looked like caves. His mouth was exposed, his lips long since parted, showing off his teeth and tongue. Entire parts of his lower set were completely gone, and I could see the divots where the teeth’s roots had once been.
But the eyes were the worst part. They had only partially decomposed, the water having seeped out long ago, but his irises and the white stayed behind, each eye looking like a deflated beach ball. The pupils stared blankly at me, as if they could steal my soul at any moment. I stood there in absolute shock and fear, completely paralyzed. He spoke, breaking the silence. “You didn’t think I could do it, did you.” His voice was weak and raspy like a smoker’s. And yet, even with him being so far away it was as if he was speaking right in my ear. When he opened his mouth, what should have been his tongue was replaced by a gob of black goo that squeezed out of his mouth flowed down his neck soaking what remained of his white undershirt.
I breathed out heavily, still looking at him, and said, “That isn’t possible. You’re supposed to be in your grave.” “I know you’re afraid,” he said, “but it really is me. We need to talk. Can I come inside?” I stepped aside and pointed my arms towards the door. He walked up slowly, his short leg dragging his long leg behind him. His arms swung around him. He struggled to breathe, his breath long and wheezing. I opened the door, resisting the urge to throw up as I got the first whiff of his odor. It wasn’t exactly like rotten meat, but more of a mold and dead rat smell mixed with a household cleaner. It burned my throat when I breathed it in. He went in, and fell upon my couch. My wife called from the kitchen. “Hon, who’s at the-”
“Nobody.” I said quickly cutting her off. “Just an old friend.”
“Ok dear.”she said, returning to her work.
I turned and walked back into the living room where Tom was waiting. “Well, well, I’ve been DYING to see you.” He said. He burst out in laughter at his pun. His laugh sounded like an old man choking on cotton.
I looked at him unhappily.
“Why are you here, Tom.”
“Funny you should ask. You remember our agreement, don’t you? Well I’m keeping it.”
“Yes, I can see that but how did you-”
“How did I come back? Well it’s simple really. If you want something bad enough you’ll get it.”
He turned towards the door and sighed.
“It’s time I tell you the news now. What I’ve come here to warn you about.”
I tapped my foot impatiently. “Well, what is it?”
He began to speak, but then he paused for a moment. He looked at me, his prune-for-eyes glinting. His eyes began to glare, and felt a great malevolent force emanating from him.
“You know Percy, I’ve been real lonely in that coffin. It’s cold. The bugs crawl all over you. And it’s boring lying there all the time. I’ve been hoping for company. You know, someone to lye with.”
I felt extremely uncomfortable at that moment.
“Tom, I have to live my life. I’ll go when I go. For now I need to say here with my wife.”
“No, no I’m aware of that. That’s the thing I’m going to warn you about. You see, I won’t be lonely for long.”
I stood there in confusion. “What you mean?”
“It’s your wife, Percy. She isn’t happy. Do you know what she’s doing right now?”
“No.” I said, looking at him concerned.
“She has a pistol, Percy. She’s planning to kill you with it. Then collect the insurance money.”
“How dare you.” I said accusatively
“It’s true, Percy.”
“She would never do that!”
“Fine. Don’t trust your friend. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
He got up from the couch, pieces of his hair falling on the floor. Clumps of mud joined them. He went to the door and opened it. He turned around before leaving .”See you soon.” He croaked. He went out and slammed the door. I sat down angrily on my recliner. I sat there and thought a while about what he said. How could he say such a thing? My wife! The woman I had been married to for 15 years, kill me? Impossible!
I looked up and saw my wife come out from the kitchen. She stopped and smiled at me. Then she drew out a gun from her pocket and cocked her head.
“Percy dear, dinner’s ready.”