It took Lizzie longer than it should have to realize that she was waking up from the nightmare. The world around her still shook and the laughter, his laughter, followed her even when she opened her eyes and saw she was back in her bedroom.
Had all that only been a dream?
“Lizzie, wake up!” Sarah was yelling at her and the shaking? It was Sarah and Elisabeth somehow, Lizzie wasn’t sure just quite how they were doing it, shaking her bed.
They hadn’t been able to move things before, how were they doing this? She didn’t have time to think about it too much as she saw their worried faces as they were looking down at her. They were scared, but they were dead. What could scare them?
“What?” She said. Her voice was little more than a whisper, her throat dry and raspy as she was still not fully awake.
The laughing wasn’t going away, but it changed. It didn’t sound like it had in her dream. It wasn’t that growing cackle that had shook the room, but it was a deep raucous sound that was exploding out of the other room. It was coming from Sarah’s room.
Lizzie’s face went pale, and she turned to her best friend, then to Elisabeth.
They both turned to the open door. Across the hallway was Sarah’s old room, the door wide open.
She hadn’t stayed at Jessica and Dennis’. They had been kind enough to offer and had pushed saying that they had plenty of room for her, but she still said no. She understood their concern. They didn’t want her sleeping alone, not there in that apartment she had once shared with Sarah. What they didn’t realize was that she still shared the apartment with her.
The first night she had slept in the apartment she had done just like she had always had. When she had gone to bed, she had made sure the door was locked and the inside doors were all closed.
It had driven her three guests nuts. Well, one dead roommate and two guests. The apartment had been Sarah’s too, and when she’d been woken up around two a.m. because they were all bored, she had been reminded of that. It seems that dead people don’t sleep, and without friends to torment, they get bored.
Since then, she’d gotten in the habit of keeping open all the doors in the apartment and the television on. That is, all the doors but her own. Not her room. Her door always stayed closed. Last night had been the exception.
Coming home after the funeral and being with Jessica and Dennis had left her in an awful state and she couldn’t stand to be alone. Lizzie and Elisabeth had been happy to stay with her and it had almost felt like a slumber party until she, mid-party, crashed.
That had left her leaving all the doors open, even her bedroom’s. Oh no, that meant that Chuck could have been in there watching her sleep at anytime. Who knows what he might have tried to do.
She knew this was a childish thought. It wasn’t like guys hadn’t seen her naked, though never when she hadn’t wanted them to. Him checking her out while she was sleeping was not cool.
She looked at Sarah who was still looking at the other room, scared. The thought returned… What could spook a dead woman? She was already dead.
“Sarah? What is it?”
Sarah slowly turned to look at her, her remaining eye wide. “He’s in there,” she whispered.
“Who, Chuck? What’s he doing in your-“ Lizzie was going to say room, but before she could say this blunder she saw that Sarah was already shaking her head.
Lizzie looked back to the open door. If it wasn’t Chuck, then who was in that room?
She couldn’t stop it. The memories of that naked man as the maggot slid from his scrotum to land on her chin twisted her stomach. The laugh wasn’t right. She was pretty sure of that, but could she be certain? She remembered the penis lurking over her and later looking into Sarah’s eyes, but other than that most of that day had become a hazy blur. Could she say for sure that wasn’t his laugh? She didn’t think she could.
But how could he have found her? The police had said he had been dead. It couldn’t be him.
He could find me. He had already been dead when he attacked Sarah and I, so what was possible didn’t make sense anymore…
Yet she was surrounded by dead people. They were becoming a part of her everyday life. She was beginning to think that the dead just don’t stay dead anymore.
No. that had not been his laugh. It had stopped of course, the other room now eerily quiet. The whole apartment was. The two people hovering over her weren’t making a sound. All of them were watching that open door and the other room.
“What’s going on? Sarah?” Lizzie tried to whisper as quietly as she could.
“Some guy showed up. He went in there.”
“Should I call 911?” As soon as she said it, she realized just how stupid the question was, but it was too late, the words had already escaped her. To her surprise, Sarah shook her head.
“I think he’s dead.”
“If not, he’s got a terminal case of missing-the-back-of-your-head disease.” Elisabeth whispered and Lizzie had to struggle to take her eyes off the woman. Of course, if it was another dead person now joining her undead entourage they would be able to see how the person died. All of them had the tell-tale signs like gory tattoos, each identifying their deaths. They were the bleeding but not bleeding wounds, as blood sometimes seemed to trickle but no messes were ever found beneath these walking corpses that followed her.
“Who’s dead?” Lizzie whispered as she tossed away the tangled covers and pushed herself out of bed.
“No clue.” Sarah said as she looked over at Elisabeth who shared her ignorance and was shaking her head.
Who the hell was in the other bedroom? She didn’t want to go in there, but she had to find out. Besides, they couldn’t hurt her, right? Both her and the dead person would get intensely sick, so it wasn’t even possible.
The wood panel floor was cold to her bare feet as she stepped into the hallway. The air in the apartment had a chill as well and she wondered what it was like outside? Had the temperature finally dropped? Should she be turning on the furnace. The little fog of her breath escaping as she breathed made her think it was time.
Behind her, Elisabeth and Sarah both hung back in her room. Of course, the two dead people were hanging back afraid. After all, what did Lizzie have to lose? Only her life, so you know, no big deal.
She gave them both dirty looks before turning back and taking another step towards the room.
A crash came from inside the room and Lizzie quickly was beginning to realize that everything she had thought she had known or had learned about the dead was wrong.
Fearing the worse, she held her breath and took the last step, entering the room.
* * * *
There was another crash as she entered and this time she saw the glass from the picture frame gliding across the room, stopping just inches of her foot. She looked at it and then where it came from to see two dead men entangled and fighting each other. One she recognized. The other was a stranger to her.
Chuck was underneath, but the new guy was on top and had Chuck pinned down. Chuck was flailing back and forth, fighting. The two of them were kicking out, thrashing the bed, Sarah’s dresser, her clothes hamper… and the furniture was moving as they did. That wasn’t possible but it was happening. The picture that had fallen had been on Sarah’s dresser. These two had knocked it down. The hamper was swaying back and forth ready to topple over at any time. Then with one swift kick, it fell out over and a week’s worth of forgotten dirty clothes spilled out.
Lizzie’s jaw hung open as she watched the fight, but then she heard the gasp come out behind her.
The first yell didn’t come from Lizzie, but from behind her. “I said stop it!” Sarah bellowed and the stranger turned to them in surprise. Chuck took the opportunity to push him off and the stranger rolled with the push and used the momentum
“Yeah, and who the hell are you?” The stranger’s voice was a raspy gurgle and Lizzie watched as exposed muscle tissue from under his jaw waved with the motion of what was left of his mouth. Half the bottom row of teeth was missing, one dangled there, and flesh from his neck hung strung down in what seemed to only be held together by hair from his overgrown beard. She could almost see through the long hair, the large hole through his chin. It was hard to look away, but she had to as she thought she was going to puke. She had started to get used to the disfiguration of her friends, they weren’t looking good themselves, their own deaths all gruesome leaving them horrified remnants to follow her around. This stranger who was obviously dead was much worse.
“Doesn’t matter. You’re in my fucking room.” Sarah said, quickly passing Lizzie to loom over him.
“Like hell it doesn’t. What the hell’s going on here. Wait.” He was confused, Lizzie watched as he struggled to fight with himself when it came to forming words. “Why can’t I talk right? What’s wrong with my mouth?”
“Half of its missing dumb ass. That’s what happen when you blow your brains out.” Chuck grumbled as he pushed himself up from the floor. He glared at Lizzie and then turned that hate at the rest of them standing by the door.
“Missing? Blown Brains.” The man was confused but getting angrier as he tried to speak.
“Can you tell us who you are? Because we don’t know you. Right?” Lizzie looked at Elisabeth and she nodded. None of them knew who the hell he was so why was he here? So far Lizzie kind of understood why her friends were coming to her. They all had at least some connection. She didn’t know why they were back from the dead, but she knew why they came to her. She’d been the last one with them, each of them before they died. Unless this man died in the same apartment, it didn’t make sense for this stranger to be there.
“I…” He looked at them strangely, his hostility shifting, transforming as Lizzie could see his eyes getting wet. He looked around the room at them, his gaze lingering on Elisabeth, his brow raised in curiosity. Then that look was gone, and he turned back to study Chuck. His hostility returned and with a fire he turned that blazing stare back to Lizzie.
“Josh. My name’s Josh.”
“Any idea what you’re doing here?” Lizzie asked but Sarah was quick to snap herself back into the discussion, and more importantly what she wanted to know.
“And what the hell are you doing in my bedroom?” You would think Sarah had found them going through her underwear drawer and had pulled out one of her panties.
He just glowered at Chuck. If they were dogs, they’d be growling at each other, both with their macho egos on full display. Lizzie was getting sick of it.
And then she noticed the glass on the floor. She hadn’t thought too much of it before, but there was something odd about that. She couldn’t place her finger on why it bothered her, but it did.
“So, are we done here? No more fighting?” Lizzie said.
“Who the hell are you people?” He barked. Lizzie didn’t know how she understood him, his speech was garbled by the missing parts of his mouth, but she still did. She let it go, but still ignored him, her glare lingering on Chuck.
Chuck shrugged his shoulders, looking from Josh and then back to Elisabeth. A weak smile flashed as he stepped over to her and hugged her. It felt right to see them hold each other and Lizzie realized that since they had died, she hadn’t seen them touch one another. It had been like they had been avoiding it. Now they did, and the hug grew stronger, and she barely heard him whisper to her, “It’ll be okay.”
Lizzie hoped so and she turned to Sarah.
“You guys figure all this out. I’m going back to bed.”
Sarah nodded and then to everyone, “Okay everyone, now let’s get out of my room. Out out out!”
“I want to know just what the hell is going on! Who are you people and how did I get here?”
“Josh. Your dead. Face it and live with it. We don’t know who the hell you are or why your here, but there it is. Next time don’t blow your brains out.”
Lizzie heard her friend giving Josh the low down, but she didn’t wait to watch her get them out of her room. She was too tired and felt like she was going to have a lot of bullshit to deal with in the morning. She walked across the room, closed the door, and crashed down onto her bed.
She knew she’d been tired and after the initial surge of energy from being forcefully awakened waned, she was ready for sleep.
Questions haunted her. There were many of them. Why had people she had known, some friends but Chuck she had barely met, come back from the dead? Why were they hovering around her? What was the connection to the new guy, the one no one knew anything about? Though he did seem like he recognized them. She might be wrong, but she thought she had seen it, just a hint of it when he looked at Chuck. And why had they been fighting?
And there was something about the glass, how it had shattered and slid across the floor. There was something odd about that and she couldn’t place what it was? Maybe in the morning she’d figure it out.
A long yawn escaped her, and by the time she’d stretched and settled back into bed, she was drifting off into sleep. This time, the nightmares left her alone.