Dead Friends: Chapter 17

Okay, Lizzie knew she’d enjoy the concert. That much had been a given even with the moment of doubt before hand by the complete and utter ignorance of her companion. She just hadn’t realized how much she would enjoy the concert.

Their tickets had been amazing, right up near the stage. The music had been loud but phenomenal, and Eddie… Eddie had been to die for. 

She had watched him as he soulfully sung to the crowd of adoring fans but she could swear it felt like he was singing directly to her. He would look at her and she thought he was looking directly into her eyes. She had nearly melted to the ground leaving a drooling puddle. Roland had caught her and she was sure she saw a smile as he pulled her back up.

It was after the music had died away and they were filing out of the amphitheater that she noticed how close she was to Roland. She could feel her back occasionally brushing against his chest and thought she felt his warm breath on her neck. Their hands occasionally brushed against one another and what was this? No, her heart could not be skipping a beat. Not again and not for him.

Yet here they were walking. They had made it outside the theater and were now making their way down the street. The night was cool, and somehow she had allowed him to take her hand. They weren’t going towards the parking lot, and all she could think about was how natural his hand felt in hers and how wonderful the show had been.

They turned a corner and it was well lit, the streetlights on both sides were decorated with dangling orange lights as the area was prepared for the upcoming holiday. The streetlights themselves were lower than many of the other nearby streets and done in that faux style of classic candle lit elegance. Then she noticed they weren’t walking down a street. It was brick, a fake street not wide enough to be real but perfect for late night walks. She was sure there were kids who would ride their bikes or skateboards down it, but she saw no evidence of it. Maybe it was heavily patrolled to keep them away.

It was nice and peaceful and when had her hand snuck into his? She looked down at it and then felt helpless as her gaze climbed up his arm, up his chest until they fell on his eyes. He smiled at her, and neither of them said anything. They just walked.

Eventually they found themselves walking along the water, as Lake Michigan stretched out before them. The night had drifted into a surreal dream and if they took a step off into the water, she was sure they could walk on it, following the path of the moon that lead the way into some far off land.

“You enjoying yourself?” Roland asked as they stopped beneath one of the streetlights.

“I am.”

“Good.” He gave her hand a gentle squeeze and flashed her a slight smile as he kept his eyes locked into hers.

“I hate to do this-“

“Oh?”

“I need to go to the bathroom. You going to be okay here for a couple minutes.” He said. She could see his embarrassment as his face turned red.

“Yes, go, I’m a big girl.” She giggled, smiling at him and she could see how relieved he was.

“Okay. Good, I’ll be right back.” He said, and then without thinking, both of them temporarily lost in the moment and forgetting the last month and half, he bent down and kissed her. She returned the kiss until he pulled away and they were both standing there looking at each other, questioning one another with their eyes.

“I’ll be right back.” 

“Okay.” 

He backed away, not turning from her until he was a few feet. Then he turned, rushing off to one of the open bars along the street. She watched him go, then sat on a bench. She hadn’t noticed it before, but as he was now not there clouding her mind, she could sit and take stock of her situation.

No, that was the last thing she wanted to do. She didn’t want to be with him. That ship had already sailed. He had sunk it.

Then why was she still thinking of him, or why return that kiss. Better question how had had he talked her into going. Obviously she still had feelings for him.

No, she had to get her mind off of him. She was not doing this again. She knew how it would end.

End…

Something about that thought seemed wrong. Did she know how it would end? Sure, he’d cheat on her and then she’d be heartbroken all over again, this time without Sarah to help her get through it.

Something about that was nagging at her. There was a thought just out of reach, but if she could grab it, maybe some of what had happened today, maybe even the last few weeks would start to make sense to her.

If it was a word it would be right there at the tip of her tongue. She knew it was there. Dammit!

She opened her purse, and pulled out her phone. It had been off since the concert and figured now would be as good time as any to check her messages. Maybe there’d be one from Jess that would explain it all, or even better, one from her uncle. At least he seemed to know something would be wrong with her…

Of course he had known she would have things going on in her life, strange things that made no sense. He had written her a letter warning her. He had even left a note on the back of her fathers grave, trying to give her a clue. Of course he had known. How had the letter started, not with a greeting, but with two apologetic words. “I’m sorry.”

Her uncle had known her friends would come back from the grave. It had been happening to him too. It seemed so obvious once she took time to think about it. How else would he have known to leave the talisman for her. He knew she would need it.

He knew but how did he know? How would he know that right away her best friend would die?

Because… Because her dying, the shadow man, they were apart of it. It took her friends.

Her phone came to life as messages rolled in. The first came from Jessica, but then a barrage of messages came from an unknown number. What the hell was going on?

Jessica… The shadow man…

Earlier that day she had seen something. Her friend had that red ring around her irises, she was sure of it and had been acting so weird. She was going to get into a fight with that guy. What would have happened if Lizzie hadn’t hurried up?

Mentally Lizzie could see what would have happened. The man had rushed to get back into his car, afraid of the small woman who was coming at him viciously. He would first back away, putting his car in reverse, but he couldn’t back all the way down the parking garage ramp. He’d have to go forward. Jessica would get back in front of the car to get him to stop, he would try to slow down, but somehow his foot would slip and he would careen Into Jessica and she would roll under his car or slam into his windshield. Either way, her head would get smashed and there would be no way she survived. Her friend would have been dead.

She knew it was true. Lizzie had saved her unlike Sarah where she hadn’t been able to get to her in time. But tonight, Lizzie wasn’t in Stevens Point to protect her friend, and some how from deep in her gut, she sensed that the shadow man was on the prowl seeking his next victim. If she was right, it would be someone she knew and cared for. It would be the one he tried and failed on earlier that day.

Lizzie only glanced at a few of the messages but she found it impossible to focus on any of them. Her head hurt and tears were bubbling up inside her. They hadn’t burst through the dam yet, but painfully waited just behind her eyes. 

Screw this, she needed to know.

She called her friends number.

Dead Friends: Chapter 17

Okay, Lizzie knew she’d enjoy the concert. That much had been a given even with the moment of doubt before hand by the complete and utter ignorance of her companion. She just hadn’t realized how much she would enjoy the concert.

Their tickets had been amazing, right up near the stage. The music had been loud but phenomenal, and Eddie… Eddie had been to die for.

She had watched him as he soulfully sung to the crowd of adoring fans but she could swear it felt like he was singing directly to her. He would look at her and she thought he was looking directly into her eyes. She had nearly melted to the ground leaving a drooling puddle. Roland had caught her and she was sure she saw a smile as he pulled her back up.

It was after the music had died away and they were filing out of the amphitheater that she noticed how close she was to Roland. She could feel her back occasionally brushing against his chest and thought she felt his warm breath on her neck. Their hands occasionally brushed against one another and what was this? No, her heart could not be skipping a beat. Not again and not for him.

Yet here they were walking. They had made it outside the theater and were now making their way down the street. The night was cool, and somehow she had allowed him to take her hand. They weren’t going towards the parking lot, and all she could think about was how natural his hand felt in hers and how wonderful the show had been.

They turned a corner and it was well lit, the streetlights on both sides were decorated with dangling orange lights as the area was prepared for the upcoming holiday. The streetlights themselves were lower than many of the other nearby streets and done in that faux style of classic candle lit elegance. Then she noticed they weren’t walking down a street. It was brick, a fake street not wide enough to be real but perfect for late night walks. She was sure there were kids who would ride their bikes or skateboards down it, but she saw no evidence of it. Maybe it was heavily patrolled to keep them away.

It was nice and peaceful and when had her hand snuck into his? She looked down at it and then felt helpless as her gaze climbed up his arm, up his chest until they fell on his eyes. He smiled at her, and neither of them said anything. They just walked.

Eventually they found themselves walking along the water, as Lake Michigan stretched out before them. The night had drifted into a surreal dream and if they took a step off into the water, she was sure they could walk on it, following the path of the moon that lead the way into some far off land.

“You enjoying yourself?” Roland asked as they stopped beneath one of the streetlights.

“I am.”

“Good.” He gave her hand a gentle squeeze and flashed her a slight smile as he kept his eyes locked into hers.

“I hate to do this-“

“Oh?”

“I need to go to the bathroom. You going to be okay here for a couple minutes.” He said. She could see his embarrassment as his face turned red.

“Yes, go, I’m a big girl.” She giggled, smiling at him and she could see how relieved he was.

“Okay. Good, I’ll be right back.” He said, and then without thinking, both of them temporarily lost in the moment and forgetting the last month and half, he bent down and kissed her. She returned the kiss until he pulled away and they were both standing there looking at each other, questioning one another with their eyes.

“I’ll be right back.”

“Okay.”

He backed away, not turning from her until he was a few feet. Then he turned, rushing off to one of the open bars along the street. She watched him go, then sat on a bench. She hadn’t noticed it before, but as he was now not there clouding her mind, she could sit and take stock of her situation.

No, that was the last thing she wanted to do. She didn’t want to be with him. That ship had already sailed. He had sunk it.

Then why was she still thinking of him, or why return that kiss. Better question how had had he talked her into going. Obviously she still had feelings for him.

No, she had to get her mind off of him. She was not doing this again. She knew how it would end.

End…

Something about that thought seemed wrong. Did she know how it would end? Sure, he’d cheat on her and then she’d be heartbroken all over again, this time without Sarah to help her get through it.

Something about that was nagging at her. There was a thought just out of reach, but if she could grab it, maybe some of what had happened today, maybe even the last few weeks would start to make sense to her.

If it was a word it would be right there at the tip of her tongue. She knew it was there. Dammit!

She opened her purse, and pulled out her phone. It had been off since the concert and figured now would be as good time as any to check her messages. Maybe there’d be one from Jess that would explain it all, or even better, one from her uncle. At least he seemed to know something would be wrong with her…

Of course he had known she would have things going on in her life, strange things that made no sense. He had written her a letter warning her. He had even left a note on the back of her fathers grave, trying to give her a clue. Of course he had known. How had the letter started, not with a greeting, but with two apologetic words. “I’m sorry.”

Her uncle had known her friends would come back from the grave. It had been happening to him too. It seemed so obvious once she took time to think about it. How else would he have known to leave the talisman for her. He knew she would need it.

He knew but how did he know? How would he know that right away her best friend would die?

Because… Because her dying, the shadow man, they were apart of it. It took her friends.

Her phone came to life as messages rolled in. The first came from Jessica, but then a barrage of messages came from an unknown number. What the hell was going on?

Jessica… The shadow man…

Earlier that day she had seen something. Her friend had that red ring around her irises, she was sure of it and had been acting so weird. She was going to get into a fight with that guy. What would have happened if Lizzie hadn’t hurried up?

Mentally Lizzie could see what would have happened. The man had rushed to get back into his car, afraid of the small woman who was coming at him viciously. He would first back away, putting his car in reverse, but he couldn’t back all the way down the parking garage ramp. He’d have to go forward. Jessica would get back in front of the car to get him to stop, he would try to slow down, but somehow his foot would slip and he would careen Into Jessica and she would roll under his car or slam into his windshield. Either way, her head would get smashed and there would be no way she survived. Her friend would have been dead.

She knew it was true. Lizzie had saved her unlike Sarah where she hadn’t been able to get to her in time. But tonight, Lizzie wasn’t in Stevens Point to protect her friend, and some how from deep in her gut, she sensed that the shadow man was on the prowl seeking his next victim. If she was right, it would be someone she knew and cared for. It would be the one he tried and failed on earlier that day.

Lizzie only glanced at a few of the messages but she found it impossible to focus on any of them. Her head hurt and tears were bubbling up inside her. They hadn’t burst through the dam yet, but painfully waited just behind her eyes.

Screw this, she needed to know.

She called her friends number.

Here be Dragons: Chapter 5

And for our Young Adult fiction fans out there, here is the latest chapter in Here Be Dragons…

As always, feedback is greatly appreciated.

David Westdale

“No! Stop! Please!”

Riley was suddenly awake, the room around her dark, but the screams she heard were unmistakable. She had heard the cries for help and they had pulled her quickly from her own dreams.  

It was Bruce, she hadn’t recognized his voice at first until she realized just what room she was in. She was still in the hospital. Her side of the room was dark. The door was closed, and when she looked over, she could see Bruce in the little bit of light that came in behind him from the window.  

Bruce was thrashing around like he was fighting for dear life. He was asleep, Riley was pretty sure of that, but it looked like he was fighting something and it was really kicking the crap out of him.

“Hey man, you okay?” 

“Get away from me!  Stop!” Bruce was crying and…

View original post 904 more words

Dead Friends: Chapter 16

Thank you all for understanding about the late post yesterday as well as the positive feedback. Your encouragement always helps to keep this writer going! It is appreciated. Keep up the positive vibes as well as any feedback as it is all appreciated.

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“So why didn’t you sell the tickets?” Lizzie was sitting in the passenger seat of Roland’s car, not sure how she had let herself be talked into letting him drive her. She wasn’t even sure how she had let him talk her into going. Sure she loved Ed Sheeran and up until their break up, had been looking forward to this getaway weekend they had planned. That had been a month ago. She had completely forgotten about the concert and with everything going on, it just hadn’t seemed like something she’d have to worry about.

This was a terrible idea, what was she doing here?

“I don’t know. I just didn’t.”

“And you couldn’t take someone else?”

“Didn’t seem right. Ya know? These were our tickets.”

“You could have just paid me back my half and taken anyone you’d like.” She was watching what she said. It was too early in the night and she didn’t want to start it off with a fight. Still she knew the edge was there and he had to take the meaning of what she was implying…After all, she had dumped him because he had been cheating on her. If he wanted to be with the other girl so bad, why didn’t he just take her. Now there was nothing to stop them from being together. She had done him the favor of letting him go so he could go off and cheat on other woman.

She could feel the anger starting to well up in her again, a rising tide that edged for her to start up the old fights. It wanted the war of words again, as the fire hadn’t faded as much as she thought it had. 

Get your mind off of it.

She looked into the back seat, noticing again how empty it was, and took a long, deep breath. Her dead friends weren’t with them. She took another breath and looked down at the bump under her sweater where the talisman rested on her chest. It felt cool to her skin and it was weird but she swore she could feel a faint hum thrumming through her.

She had found the talisman when she had finally opened the letter from her uncle. Jessica had left shortly after chasing away the dick who’d hit his girlfriend. She’d said that she wasn’t feeling to well, and Lizzie agreed with her. She’d become extremely pale, and dark bags had formed beneath her eyes.

Lizzie had been left in the parking garage, Josh once again hounding her to open the damned envelope. So after feeling the bulging contents, she had done just that.

It came with a cryptic note, telling her only that she should put on the necklace right away and then go to his house. There, she would find a letter explaining everything in his bedroom. There would be a box she was to go through with pertinent information about the legacy he had left her.

The sane part of her had chuckled in her mind at this and thought, “Money isn’t really a legacy, but if he was referring to his own special kind of lunacy, that was a legacy he had left for her.”

But she hadn’t been able to take comfort in that thought. There was too much of the crazy. It now surrounded her to make her feel that money was not the legacy he was referring too. Yeah, her legacy was dead people and they were throwing a party around her. 

Josh had bust out laughing when he read the note over her shoulder. He wailed, screamed, shouted into the air. When that had not been enough, his emotions running him through the gamut, he started crying as he fell back into a nearby car. His legs had given out and he worked himself onto the cold cement.

Lizzie had watched him and had almost felt sorry for him. She had known he was hoping for some kind of answer in the note, something that would tell him why he was there; why they all were. Instead there was some crappy necklace and instructions to go to his house. What, had the guy been so paranoid that he didn’t trust his own lawyers with whatever his ‘legacy’ was?

She had looked at the odd looking thing as she pulled it from the envelope. The object was on a strand of cowhide that had been tied into a large loop. She’d seen the type of work before, often when visiting Native American tourist traps and in Indian gift shops. Hanging on it though, looked like something a medicine man might have made. It was a large round ring with string crisscrossing on the inside. Inside the ring and tied to the strings we’re a animal teeth. It was impossible to tell what the teeth were from, it was definitely vicious as the teeth were long, fang like, and sharp. 

She had held it up to the light, dreading wearing the thing.

“What the hell is that?” Josh asked.

“Liz, the man was nuts. Are you sure you can trust…that?” Sarah asked as she pointed to the necklace. She looked disgusted by it and was glaring at it like a snake getting ready to strike her.

Sarah was right though. Her uncle had obviously been nuts, but what had made him that way? 

What the hell?

Lizzie put on the necklace and Josh and Sarah both disappeared. She wasn’t sure but she assumed that Chuck and Elisabeth were also gone. She was free. They were free. Now maybe she could return to some kind of sanity.

“Earth to Liz. Lizzie anyone home?”

Lizzie blinked, bringing her back to the car she was in and the man who sat behind the wheel of the car.

She looked over at him. Roland was watching the road, but stealing looks when he could spare them to study her with those bright blue eyes.

“Yeah.”

“Really? So what do you say?”

“About what?”

“You weren’t listening.”

“What were you asking.” Lizzie said, getting increasingly annoyed. He used to do this to her all the time. He would talk and drone on about some kind of boring crap until she got to the point that she couldn’t take anymore and would zone out. Then he would start asking her about it, like there would be some great quiz on whatever useless crap he had told her.

She thought she had become an expert on tuning him out. How had she put up with his useless rambles while they had been dating. Oh yeah, she’d talk over him, not allowing him to get rolling into what conversation he’d started. When she’d talked long enough, he’d shut up.

She hadn’t done it this time because she hadn’t felt like talking as much. It wasn’t that she had nothing to say, as so much was happening in her life. No, she didn’t like to talk because she was afraid of what she would say and who she would say it to. The last thing she needed was to people thinking she was crazy. If she started talking to people who weren’t there, that would be the end of it. She’d be in the padded room and hitting the walls.

It was an effort, but she tried to bring herself back into the conversation. 

“I asked a few things.” She said, and realized she had no clue what she was even talking about.

“Huh? No you didn’t. You’ve sat there for the last half hour stealing glances to the back seat like you’re expecting to see someone back there. What I had been talking about was me asking you if you were okay.”

“Yeah, I’m fine.” Lizzie said, pulling herself around so she sat straight in her seat. She didn’t know if she was really doing it, but it felt like she was pulling herself in upon oneself, taking up as little space as possible and becoming as small in the seat as she could. She didn’t like that he could read her like that. 

“Really?” He stole another quick glance at her. 

She didn’t look back, keeping her eyes on the road. She guessed they were nearing Madison as she saw the sign for the Cascade Mountain resort that was near Portage. She hoped that wasn’t the case as if it was, they’d only shared the car ride for under an hour. She was already getting antsy and wanting to pull her own hair out.

“Because I see a mess. I can tell you haven’t been sleeping. You look tired as all get out and your skin is getting pale. I mean, you’re always white but this is ghost white. I don’t think you’ve seen the sun in weeks.” He stole another glance over. Lizzie wasn’t sure how she looked, and didn’t think it was any of his business. Inside though, she felt a heat in her chest and knew there was wetness forming at the corner of her eyes. Who the hell was this bastard, to think he could tell her she looked like a wreck. “Have you? What have you been doing since Sarah died? We share friends, I know none of them have seen you. We’re all worried about you.”

He finished, and they sat in the car in silence for a mile with her mind racing. They were driving to a concert, hours away so he would have her alone in the car. Jessica asked her out to lunch all in the same day. Jess had acted shocked about them going, but had she faked it? Lizzie wasn’t sure and as she thought about it, she was beginning to feel like she was set up. They all planned this. 

But who in hell thought it would be a good idea for Roland to be the one to get her alone. She was going to kill them. Really, who in the hell thought she was going to bare her soul to Roland?

“Who were you originally going to give my ticket too?” 

“I told you-“

“No, you told me some excuse to get me to go with you. Was it Natalie?”

“I don’t want to go into that again. I was never with Natalie. Please, let’s not fight.”

“But who were you going to take?”

The car grew to the unsteady quiet again as they drove miles down the interstate listening to only the hum from the road and the occasional car that passed them.

“Sarah said she’d buy your ticket. She was going to buy both tickets and I think she planned to take you. She knew how much you wanted to go.”

Lizzie felt the anger that had been ballooning up inside her deflate, and a single tear found its way to rolling down her cheek. Sarah. Sarah wasn’t with her anymore. With the necklace on, her friend was always there and now Lizzie was going to have to start grieving. Her best friend was dead, and one of the last things she had planned was to take her to see her favorite singer.

Lizzie wasn’t sure what to say. This time the silence that stretched until they made it past Madison was broken only by the sniffles as she fought to hold back the flood gate of tears. She couldn’t stop herself from looking into the back seat, this time hoping to see Sarah sitting back there, smiling at her. It would have been a relief just to have her tell her how stupid she was being going to this concert with him. Her friend would scold her, call her out on this bullshit. Her friend who would be there for her.

She felt the pinching between her breast when she shifted in the seat, the rings of pain from the teeth causing her to wince briefly. She had put the necklace on. She had sent her friend away, releasing her. Now Lizzie would be alone.

She couldn’t remember a time when she didn’t haven’t any friends. Sarah had been her bestie since…since… well long enough that she couldn’t remember a time without her.

Now she had no one.

She felt utterly alone, stuck in hell with the lying sack of shit she had allowed herself to listen too. It was fitting really. It suited her, didn’t it? They deserved each other. His lying and her betraying her friend, getting her killed and now sending her away.

You didn’t send her away. You released her. Now she’ll be wherever dead people go, with any luck it was a better place and her friend was up in heaven somewhere.

Though as often as she tried to convince herself of that, she didn’t truly believe it.

“So what’s your favorite Sheeran song?” Roland said. The silence must have stretch to a point that he couldn’t help himself and tried again at the dangerous art of talking.

“Huh?”

“What’s your favorite Ed Sheeran song?”

“I like all of them.”

“Sure, but you gotta have a favorite.”

“I do.”

“What is it?”

“It changes. For like, the last month I’ve been listening to ‘Happier.’”

“Really?”

“Yeah, why?”

“Just not sure I know that one.”

“You do. It goes ‘Only one month we’ve been apart, you look happier…” Lizzie screeched out. Roland started laughing as he shook his head.

“Please, please stop.”

“Hey now, I can sing,” she said.

“Remember, I heard you Karaoke. No, you can’t.”

“Fine, like you can do any better.”

“You’re right, but I know my limitations.”

“Oh, you karaoke just as bad as the rest of us.”

“I’m not going to argue. Just I know to wait until I’ve had enough to drink that I don’t realize how bad I am.”

Now it was Lizzie who was shaking her head, and an honest laugh that welled from so deep within her, that the painful memories from earlier was momentarily slipping away from her. With any luck, they would stay away for a little. The wetness that still hovered in the corner of her eyes threatened that they weren’t going to be gone for long.

“So, oh wise one, what’s your favorite song?”

“The A-Team,” he said and in such a way that made it sound like he was announcing it proudly, which was odd. She couldn’t imagine him liking any of Eddie’s music that way.

“Really? Why is that your favorite?”

“Because.”

“Oh no, give.” Lizzie was having a hard time repressing the smile she had somehow slipped into her voice. They were doing it, for better or worse, that old patter of returning barbs to one another and everything was mentally hidden under the fog of the last month.

She wasn’t sure she liked that, but it was hard. They’d been dating for a year and much of it had been a lot of fun.

“How can I not love the A-Team?”

“You’re stalling.”

“No, just don’t see why I need to explain it. I didn’t make you explain yours.”

“Yeah, you do.”

“Why?”

“Because I want to know why the A-Team?”

“Well… it’s the A-Team. How can’t you love a song referring to an old school 80’s show.”

  Lizzie sat there, staring at him, not sure if he was serious or just playing with her. She knew her mouth hung open and she was looking at him dumbfounded, but really, how could anyone blame her. There was just no way he could be this ignorant. Either that or he’d never even listened to the song.

He hadn’t. She should have seen it. Eddie wasn’t his normal stuff. She had known that since she had first started dating him. He liked all that heavy crap with squealing vocals and where the singer, if you could call them that, was grunting indiscriminately throughout the song.

“What?” He asked, glancing over at her, registering her look of utter amazement at him as she realized something else. He would have never bought these tickets if not for how much she had wanted to go. How had she never seen it before?

“That’s not what the song is about.”

“What do you mean?”

“Eddie’s A-Team. It’s not about some obscure-“

“The A-Team was not an obscure show. It was huge.”

“Whatever. So. The song is not about some show trapped back in the 80’s”

“There’s also a movie.”

“So?”

“The movie had Bradley Cooper and Liam what’s his name in it. That ‘Taken’ guy, he played Hannibal. It was awesome.” 

Lizzie had never before wanted to smack her head into the dashboard as much as she wanted to right then. The pain had to be less than listening to Roland as he tried to explain the song has something to do with whatever show he was talking about. She had never been able to understand his love for ancient television. She knew he also loved to watch old black and white twilight zone episodes on holidays. How lame was that?

“The song… it has nothing to do with the movie… the show, any of it.” She said. She had a hard time not yelling the words at him. He was an idiot, how did she ever put up with him? “It’s about angels. The song is about drug addiction and angels. A young woman who drifts away and because she’s too blind to the path her life is taking she overdosed and dies. The angel’s die. Get it.”

They sat in silence for awhile as the miles passed by, marked by the white lines and green signs. Finally he glances over at her. “Na, I still say it’s about the A-team.” 

Her mouth dropped open and he sees it, returning her stunned expression with a smile of his own. If he wasn’t driving, she would have hit him right there, putting all her strength and weight into it, because right then, the only thing she wanted to do was to knock that smile right off his lips.

“I’m just kidding with you. Loosen up. Try to have some fun tonight, okay?”

Dead Friends: Chapter 15

Sorry for being late everyone. It’s been a long weekend with all the snow here in Wisconsin. On top of that I’ve been dealing with a sick child. Apologies, but hope you enjoy!

****

“I must really be losing it. I could have sworn I heard you talking to Sarah.”

Lizzie looked over Jessica’s shoulder to where Sarah was hovering over her. She had a pang of guilt. She really wanted to tell Jess just how right she was. She wanted to confess everything to her. Sure she had never been as close to Jessica as she had been to Sarah, but they’d still been friends. Lizzie really felt like she needed one. Well, one that wasn’t already dead.

They were both sitting outside. The day had warmed up to were it wasn’t uncomfortable and many of the cafes and pubs had opened up their front areas to outside seating. Someone from colder states might have felt it a bit chilly, but Jessica and Lizzie were born Wisconsinites and the chill was refreshing.

It hadn’t taken them long to get to the cafe as it had been just around the corner and they been able to quickly walk there. It went unsaid that neither of them wanted to ride in a car and drive over.

“Oh come on, can we just get some food for take out.” Josh groaned. He had made his opinion clear that he didn’t want to sit around while a bunch of damned women jibber-jabbered, his words. He wanted out of there. He didn’t want to be there or anywhere. 

He was coming to grips with the fact that he killed himself. He’d been high, drunk, and stupid and had gotten the gun from his security case. So he deserved to be… somewhere. He didn’t know if that meant hell or just an eternity of nothing. It didn’t matter. What did matter was that he wanted it all to be over with. He wanted to slip into the dark and let the world around him go away. His family was gone, what did he have to exist for anyway.

“Lizzie, earth to Lizzie.” Jessica said, snapping her fingers. As she did, the waitress was lowering their salads in front of them. Lizzie looked briefly at it, thanking the server before looking back at her friend. She’d gotten so used to dead friends around her always talking amongst themselves, it was getting easier to just zone out when someone living was talking to her. She knew that wasn’t a good thing. She’d have to work on getting better about that.

“Sorry about that?”

“About what?”

“Drifting off there. My mind keeps doing that lately.”

“I’m sure. It’s been hard on all of us, and well, we’re worried about you.”

“Who’s we?”

“Some of the sisters. I know you didn’t get into the sorority, but my sisters still care. And Dennis, as well as Tammy and Cynthia. You have friends you know. We’re all here for you.”

Funny, as Lizzie couldn’t remember the last time she’d talked to half of the people on Jessica’s list and the sorority had made it clear that she had not been good enough stock to be one of their sisters. Though Lizzie wouldn’t say anything about that to Jessica, she couldn’t do anything about the comebacks and the thoughts that festered.

“I know,” was all she said, keeping her eyes downcast, studying her salad. It was what she’d ordered and normally she loved the Mediterranean salad with grilled chicken, but she was losing her appetite. Hearing Jessica talk about all these artificial friends as though they actually were people who cared about her made her wonder just how much Jessica cared. After all, it’s been nearly two weeks before they had even seen each other and even now something was off. It was like there was this rift between them now, and Lizzie wasn’t sure what to say anymore.

They sat in silence for a minute that stretched into another. 

“Come on, this is bullshit. Let’s just get out of here.” Josh said. He kicked at a chair and it fell over. Sarah looked at it shocked but Lizzie didn’t notice it. Elisabeth and Josh were gone again, walking somewhere nearby. More and more they seemed to go off to be on their own.

Lizzie looked up and saw that Jessica was looking at something. She turned and saw that Jessica was looking at the chair toppled over. She didn’t see Josh standing there but Lizzie saw as he squatted near it. He looked puzzled, like he wanted to reach out and touch it but kept pulling his hand back not daring.

“That was odd.” Jessica said and Lizzie looked back at her. She had a far away look like she was thinking about something. “You know, it’s weird but sometimes I feel like Sarah hasn’t moved on. It’s almost like I can feel her and know she’s here with us.”

Lizzie felt the pang of guilt and looked at her dead friend. Should she tell Jess? How would that go? She could see three possible outcomes. Either Jessica would be making some phone calls and getting Lizzie committed, getting pissed at Lizzie for thinking she was messing with her, or some off chance that she actually believed Lizzie. 

Lizzie highly doubted that Jessica would believe her. She knew she wouldn’t had positions been reversed. Just how would she take it? She wasn’t really sure. She knew she wouldn’t get Jessica committed, so that was off the table. She didn’t think she’d think her friend was messing with her, but she also didn’t think she’d believe her. 

No, she knew what she would do and her passive aggressive nature was probably to blame. She’d listen to her friend, tell her it would all be okay, and over the course of the next few days or weeks, stop calling and asking to hang out. She’d distance herself until months down the line they would find themselves getting together and she would casually ask, “So hey, you still seeing dead people?” and if she said yes, would drop her out of her life completely.

She looked at her friend who was reading something off her phone in one hand, holding the fork in the other, and munching on some of the salad. She was completely oblivious to Lizzie across from her and her inner turmoil.

“I know what you mean.” Lizzie said as she pushed around a radish until it fell out of the salad bowl.

“I think we need to get out of here.” Josh said quietly into Lizzie’s ear. She recoiled from it as he had never been that close to her before. It was kinda freaky. 

“Liz, I think he’s right. Did you see what he did? That shouldn’t be possible.”

“I keep saying we need to get out of here and read that letter. Somethings gotta be in there about all this.”

Lizzie didn’t think so. With how crazy her uncle had been it was probably just some crazy wish like, bury me with Elvis, or don’t go in his house. He had been nuts. There’s no way any of this was related back to him.

She felt something pinch her butt and looked at Josh who was on the other side, both hands in view. 

What the hell? She reached back and found the letter, that stance bump in the envelope right where she had been pinched. 

“Dennis just texted, wondering what your doing tonight.”

“Got plans.”

“Really?” Jessica looked up from her phone, setting down the fork. “With Who?”

Great. Open mouth and insert foot. Lizzie did not want to tell Jessica that she was going with Roland to a show in Milwaukee. She should lie. It was the only way. She should just up and lie.

“Roland. We’ve had tickets to see Ed Sheeran.” Dammit. What is with you?

“For fuck’s sake, will you just open the damned envelope” Josh screamed. She tried to ignore him. 

“Wait, What!? Your going with Roland? I thought you dumped him because he was fooling around with that Natalie tramp.”

“Yeah, well..” Lizzie fidgeted with her salad. Now it was starting to feel like old times. These were the conversations she remembered having with her BFF’s. Though she did wish she wasn’t the one to be on the hot seat discussing how she was going out with the ex-boyfriend she had dumped. She did deserve it. She was the idiot who had said yes to going.

“Yeah well what? I mean come on. He turned you into a wreck. You’ve still trying to get over him and now you guys are going back on a date. He already cheated on you once.”

“It isn’t a date.”

“He’s picking you up?”

Lizzie nodded, not trusting her mouth anymore. It seemed to have become too honest for her own good.

“And your going to a show together. How is this not a date?”

“I don’t want it to be. I can’t stand the asshole. We just… We got the tickets and I really want to go to the show.”

“So go by yourself or hell, take me.”

“It’s not that easy. He showed up at the apartment and he’s-“ her phone started buzzing and she flipped it over from how she had put it on the table to see that Roland was calling. “Shit.”

Jessica stood so she could look down at the caller ID from the other side of the table. “Here, let me talk to the son-of-a-bitch.”

Lizzie clicked on the side of the phone, silencing it until it went to voicemail.

“We’d bought the tickets long ago when they went on sale. He’s held on to them, and God, I just want to see my Eddie. They’re really good tickets.”

“Your Eddie huh.”

“Yes, my Eddie. He’s going to look down at me from that stage and realize how much he needs me in his life and going to take me off to tour with him.”

“You are a dreamer.”

Lizzie threw a carrot at her.

“Someone kill me. Again. And again.” Josh said as he started slamming his fist into his head. “This is hell. There is no big mystery. I’m just in hell.”

Lizzie’s phone buzzed again, and she looked down, this time to see the text message Roland had sent.

“Rdy to pick u p.” She saw on the screen and she quickly mentally translated to ‘I’m ready to pick you up.” She shook her head and turned back over the phone. She wasn’t ready to deal with him again. Not yet.

And you still have to survive a three hour car trip with him.

Ugh.

“So tell me how is this a good idea.” 

Lizzie winced, shrugging in acknowledgment that her friend was right. “I get to see Ed Sheeran and try to have him run away with me so I can have wonderful beautiful babies with him.”

Jessica lowered her head, shaking it. They were both giggling.

“You dumb bitch!”

Lizzie was getting used to Josh cursing and yelling at her that it took a moment before she realized that wasn’t Josh yelling. For Jessica it hadn’t taken so long and she had quickly looked up and past Lizzie to the screaming behind her. By the time Lizzie did turn, she had been just in time to see the man a few buildings down as he slapped the girl he was with. Lizzie assumed he was with. 

That was all it took for Jessica as she was already up and rushing to the too strangers. She had looked at Lizie as she rushed past. Had those red rings returned to her eyes? Lizzie wasn’t sure but she remembered them easily enough from a little bit ago and thought about how close Jessica had nearly come to getting killed.

What if…? What if something was killing her friends or those close around her. It was crazy but just what if? It was killing them and leaving their spirits with her. It was targeting those she cared about. Jessica was someone she cared about. What if that red ring was some kind of marker…? Then Jessica could be in danger.

That’s a lot of ‘what if’s’. There’s also the what if that she could be crazy and imagining all of this.

Still, Jessica was her friend. She wasn’t going to let her go alone.

As Lizzie stood, she noticed that the few others that had been dining outside had looked, but were now focusing intently on their food. Everyone seemed to be actively ignoring what was going on.

“Now get in the car and let’s get home.” The man was yelling. Lizzie was paying more attention to him as they were getting closer. He was taller than them both and pretty muscular. Lizzie didn’t find it attractive but she could see other girls fawning over him, though he had that Magic Mike vibe and damn, that was such a turn off. He was flat out pawn scum to her as he stood hovering over the shorter dark skinned woman who was holding her face. He was leading her to his car, door open for her.

“What does she think she’s doing?” Sarah yelled. It sounded like she wasn’t that much farther than Lizzie, hurrying behind her.

“This woman’s crazy.” Josh said and Lizzie could swear she heard him laughing. This was her friend they were dealing with and that asshole is laughing. Lizzie would have to talk to him later.

“Read what’s in that envelope and he won’t be so ornery. It’s all he’s asking for,” her inner voice told her. It was far more calm than she thought it should be as she was running on full alert chasing her friend.

“Hey asshole.” Jessica said. Lizzie cringed. She had no idea what her friend was going to do. He was a beast. Jessica was a fly when it came to him. A fly on the wall and Lizzie was worried that the fly was about to get swat. 

Well, flies can bite, but it was right then that Lizzie realized her friend wasn’t a fly. She was a full on hornet. She ran right at the man and as he turned, she slammed her fist straight into his jaw.

Lizzie stopped and felt a force and a crushing instant headache as Sarah slammed in behind her, but it couldn’t be helped. She was left awestruck watching the blow and the cascading effect of the shock registering on the large man’s face.

“What the fuck.” The man spit out blood from his new busted lip. “You fucking hit me. What the fuck you dumb bitch, you fucking hit me.”

That was all the man was able to say. While he had staggered back, spitting out the words with blood punctuating the curses, Jessica had swirled around, somehow in the process kicking off her shoes. She was near dancing on her toes as she moved and with precision, she had made a complete 360 to finish with a sweeping kick. The large man crashed to the ground, first with a crunch on his ass and then Lizzie watched as his head smacked the pavement with a loud crack.

She held her breath as Jessica stood. Did they just kill the man? He wasn’t moving. What kind of trouble would they be in? They had attacked this random man on the street surrounded by witnesses. Jessica murdered him. She could go to prison. They’d send her away with the death penalty. What was the law in Wisconsin? Was it life or injection?

Then the other thought hit her like a fist to the gut and she quickly looked around at the surrounding crowd. What if he did die… and came back like the others. 

She didn’t see him in the crowd. Yeah, she didn’t see him, but all the others had come back in the middle of the night. He might not come until she was asleep.

“You okay?” She heard Jessica saying. She looked at her, about to reply when she saw that Jess wasn’t talking to her. She’d walked over to the other girl and was looking at her. The girl was crying but she still nodded.

“It was my fault. You shouldn’t have hit him, he’ll only be upset when he gets up. It was my fault. I had forgotten to pay the cell bill and his phone was turned off. I shouldn’t have forgotten.” The woman was in tears, backing away from Jessica as Lizzie approached. She was shaking her head vigorously back and forth. It was obvious that Jess wasn’t going to get anywhere with her.

“Fuck!” The man screamed from the ground. He started rolling back and forth grabbing at his head. Tears were streaming down his cheeks.

Well, at least he wasn’t dead.

Lizzie moved to help the girl, moving slow as the girl backed against the wall of a corner grocery store. She saw inside how people were gathered near the window watching the commotion outside. Sure and none of them were willing to come outside and help. Assholes.

“It’s going to be okay.” Lizzie said. Jess must have realized she was not being any help as she turned away from the woman and walked back to the man on the ground. Lizzie didn’t turn around but it didn’t take long before she heard him screaming.

“She shouldn’t be doing that. It was my fault.”

“I know. She’s a mean person. It’s going to be okay.” 

The woman wouldn’t look up at her and Lizzie continued to ease herself closer to her. The woman kept her eyes locked on her boyfriend. She was a mess, but Lizzie could see that when her makeup wasn’t smeared and she wasn’t hiding herself in this pity, she was beautiful enough to be a model. Maybe she was. She was rail thin, had that long brunettes hair that was perfect even with all the craziness going on around them. 

Lizzie almost admired her. But then, how could someone this beautiful be with such a jerk. Did she not see how amazing she looked? She could go out and find anyone better than this piece of shit with no problem, but here she was.

Lizzie was finally close enough to touch her and gently lied her hand on her shoulder. The woman shot up, her eyes looking directly into her own and they immediately opened wide in fear. It was like the touch electrified her. Her mouth started moving wordlessly and she was sliding on the wall, trying to get away. She was desperate to get away, pulling her shoulder away breaking it free from Lizzie’s hand.

Finally she found her voice as she whispered, “moun ki gen madichon.”

“What?” 

“Madichon. Madichon!” The woman hissed it at her, then spit to the ground. Before Lizzie fully realized what was happening the woman turned around, and ran. She didn’t just jog away, she ran at full speed like she was running for her life, to get away from Lizzie.

“What the hell was that?” Jessica asked. She stepped up next to Lizzie as they watched the woman running across the street nearly getting hit by a car.

Lizzie looked over at her friend. Behind her she could see the man getting up. He was staring at them with venom, but he was also holding his side and could barely stand. She didn’t think he was going to start anything and he didn’t as he stumbled and climbed into his car.

“Don’t know,” Lizzie said and then cocked her head back in the direction of the man. “So where you learn all that?”

“Remember that guy Dennis told you about. Well he’s one hell of a self defense teacher… and he teaches a little boxing on the side.” Jessica said with a wry smile.

“Excuse me. Excuse me. Are either of you going to pay or do I need to call the police?”

They both looked over to the waiter who was standing next to their table, their checks in hand.

Both of them broke out in laughter and walked back to the table. 

Sarah and Josh were already there, sitting in their abandoned chairs. Where the hell was Elisabeth and Chuck and how had they missed all the action?

Lizzie was going to have to ask them, if they ever returned.

Dead Friends: Chapter 14

Lizzie ran. She wasn’t sure if she should be running away. That was her instinct. Run, and get away from whatever was going on. Screaming wasn’t good and she’d heard enough of it in the last month. She thought she had recognized that screamed and ‘oh god,’ she knew it was Jess. Deep in her gut, Lizzie just knew it and there was no way she could run away and leave her friend to die. She’d done too much of that lately, she was not going to let down another one of her friends.

And if she had run away, she knew what was coming. She knew that soon she would see her friend. That Jess would be joining her for lunch and every other lunch soon thereafter. She would be with her eternally as one of the dead that surrounded her.

That sinking feeling in her stomach had already stole any thoughts of an appetite. That couldn’t stop her, and she didn’t let it.

So Lizzie was running, but against all her desire, she ran towards the screaming. It didn’t take her long. Within fifty feet she rounded the corner, and at the lower edge of the ramp she saw where there was a car stopped, it’s hazards flashing and the driver’s side door open. 

Lizzie had somehow known what she would see. She knew there would be a car stopped, the driver out to examine a body, shock already clutching their rational mind as they stood over the dead or dying while they were immobile. 

But that wasn’t what she saw. Yes, there was the driver outside of his car and the door open, but what what Lizzie hadn’t been expecting was to see her friend, Jess, standing there yelling at the driver and occasionally punctuating words with slamming her large oversized purse down on the man’s hood.

“-but you need to get your damn eyes checked. How the hell do you pull out here and not see me. Pay God Damned attention you asshole.” She was yelling at the man. The man stood there and as Lizzie approached she could see his mouth opening and closing, never allowed to get a word in. He looked like a fish as he would just open and close, open and close, never given that moment to speak out and defend himself.

Jess was a professional talker. At least she should be. She could talk forever and not let anyone else get a word in. Lizzie had learned never to argue with her as it was impossible to win. The woman just browbeated you into submission.

Lizzie almost felt sorry for the man. He towered over Jess, but as Lizzie approached, she could tell that Jess was dominating him. He was already backpedaling to his car, occasionally looking over his shoulder to assure himself the door was still open and he’d be able to make his getaway.

“Watch it, watch it, watch it.” Jess continued to slam her purse down, already there was a dent from previous purse attacks.

“Leave the pour man alone.” Lizzie felt her heart relaxing and she took a deep breath as she slowed her walk up to her. Her friend was really still alive, and she was A-okay with that.

“I didn’t see you, you came out of nowhere.” The man insisted, taking the chance to finally speak when Jess had turned her head away. 

“And you still think you don’t need glasses? I mean really, how can you not see this.” She ran her hands up and down her bright orange dress as though presenting it to him, though her face you could tell this was no offer. She was still red, her face burning with anger as Lizzie came up to her.

“So who’s your new friend?” Lizzie asked.

“Some blind man who somehow convinced the DMV to give him a license. I should get your plate number and report you. You were driving like a maniac through here.”

“Hey!” He tried to get more out but Jess had turned back to him and was bringing her full attention down on him.

“What’s your name again? Bobby what? I want your license number and your address. Who’s your insurance provider?”

“Jess, let him go. You hungry? I’m ready for lunch.” Lizzie said. Behind her, she heard Josh whispering to someone.

“Who the hell is this girl?”

“That’s Jess. We’ve all been friends since freshman year. Trust me, you do not want to get on her bad side. She can use that tongue like a green beret can use a knife” Sarah said.

“This little asshole almost killed me. He came speeding around this corner, and I just barely got out of the way. He’d have gotten me if I hadn’t jump so yeah, I feel he needs to be … I don’t know, something.” Jess through her hands up in frustration and let out a long sigh before turning back to the bewildered man.

“I didn’t see you, you just came out of nowhere. I came around the corner and there was nothing, then a big flash of light and I saw you there jumping to the side. I jerked the wheel or I still would have clipped you. I stopped and there you were.” He was talking in a rush. He probably never noticed Lizzie’s open mouth as she turned to looking at her friend. There, just barely reflecting from the light above was the cross Jess always worn around her neck.

Lizzie didn’t have time to think about it as Jess was already approaching the man. He was rushing to get into his car, he must have seen it too, the fire burning in her eyes.

“Jess, come on.” Lizzie said, reaching for her.

“Damn this is getting good. Cat fight!” Josh yelled from behind her.

“Cat fighting is two woman going at it. She’s going to tear that man apart.” Chuck said quietly.

“Nah, that man’s enough of a pussy to qualify.”

“I’d like to see you try to go up against her.” Sarah said, rushing to keep up with Lizzie. The man had made it back into his car, closed the door and to his credit, had locked himself in.

Jess, however, wasn’t letting him get away that easily. When she had pulled on the door handle and found it wasn’t going to open, she started kicking the door. Though there wasn’t much to the kick as she was wearing open toed heels and after one kick, had pulled her foot back howling. Which only fueled her anger as she started hitting the window.

Lizzie felt sorry for the man. He looked so scared in his car.

“I’m calling the police,” he said, holding up his phone to show Jess the screen. ‘911’ was already keyed in and all he would need to do is click the round red button to initiate the call.

“I’m hoping he calls them. Can you imagine the cop when he shows up. I mean, he knows that’s only for emergencies right?” Josh said. Lizzie looked over and saw him leaning against a Ford pickup parked a stall down. 

She was surprised that they were being good, so to speak. Maybe they were all just enjoying the show, but not Sarah. She was right there with her, and that made sense. Sarah was Jess’ friend too. There had been many times Sarah had to hold Jess back. She was small, talked a lot and came off as being really nice, but Jess had one hell of a temper once you set her off.

“Get out of there you little shit.”

“Jess, when did you eat this morning? Jess…” She wasn’t listening and gingerly Lizzie touched her shoulder. Jess turned and looked at her in surprise and Lizzie’s next words stuck to her tongue.

Jess didn’t look right. Her eyes were open wide to where Lizzie could see red forming around them. It wasn’t like her eyes were bloodshot, but a ring of dark red ran the rim and were they stared at her, it didn’t feel like Jess actually saw her.

“Jess?”

She was breathing heavily. Her whole upper body was quivering. Lizzie thought she was having a seizure as her body was spasming. The eyes rolled up into her head and only the whites remained. Drool dripped down the side of her mouth. It was like she was having a convulsion and Lizzie was left standing there not sure what to do or how to help.

Then Jess closed her eyes and Lizzie had just enough time to see her body go limp to reach out and catch her. She couldn’t keep her up, Lizzie was nowhere near strong enough, but she could hold her and ease her down to the cold hard cement.

“Is she going to be okay?” Lizzie heard the man ask. She didn’t turn to face him, but looked at Sarah instead who was also kneeling. Sarah looked just as scared as Lizzie felt.

“Did you see her eyes?” Sarah asked.

Lizzie nodded, then looked over her shoulder at the man. He was still in his car probably with the doors locked but he had rolled down his window.

“I’m sure she’ll be fine.”

He nodded, then looked to the lowering slope of the parking garage and then into his rearview mirror. No one was there. They were alone. “Look, I didn’t see her, she just came out of nowhere.”

Lizzie nodded and then looked around, noticing for the first time that she didn’t see Jessica’s car, which was odd if she had just parked there and was coming towards Lizzie. Which how did she know where exactly to find her? That was some pretty amazing dumb luck of Jessica’s part as Lizzie had only told her the name of the lawyer and where his office was located. She hadn’t told her anything about what parking garage she had found a space in or where she had parked.

“You should get out of here.” Lizzie said, and she didn’t have to look at Sarah to know she was drilling her eyes into her. “She’ll be fine.”

“Here,” he opened his door and handed her a business card, she didn’t look at it as she slipped it into her jeans pocket. “If you need to contact me.”

She didn’t watch him, but heard the door close and then the car pull away.

“Did you see her eyes,” Lizzie said to Sarah as she sat their with her friend.

“No why?”

“There was something wrong. They were red. I mean, like well part of them were. It was weird.”

“Really?”

“Yeah.”

“Hey, What’s going on?” Josh said, pushing himself off the truck to walk over to them.

“You ever seen anything like that?” Lizzie turned to Elisabeth who had been standing back. Chuck had his arm around her and they were keeping a distance from everyone. Had she been crying? Something was up with those two, but Lizzie didn’t think now was the time to pressure them.

“I didn’t see. What happened?”

“Her eyes were red.” Lizzie said.

“Like blood shot?”

“No, like she had a ring of red around her normal blue eyes.”

“Shit, who cares? What does any of this have to do with us. Nothing, unlike that envelope you conveniently forgot and slid into your back pocket.” Josh said, already losing interest.

“That’s odd. No, I’ve never heard of a red ring. Bloodshot or red eyes are burst blood vessels that can look and turn the pupils red. Just a red ring, that’s just very… well odd.” Elisabeth raised her arms in frustration and Lizzie turned back to Sarah. Jess sighed, and her headed rolled back and forth as she vaguely started to come around.

“Lizzie? Sarah?” Jess whispered, her eyes still shut. Lizzie’s eyes shot straight to Sarah, who’s own eyes had gone wide. Around them, everyone else grew still and it felt like all the air had been sucked out of the parking garage, everyone afraid to breathe.

“We’re here. I’m here Jess.” Lizzie said, holding her hand. Jessica’s eyes fluttered then open and at first she just stared at the cement ceiling. Thank God, her eyes were normal, the red ring was gone. Then those eyes fell to Lizzie and focused on her.

We’re here?” She said.

Throwback Thursday – Looking back at CHFF

Here was one of the coolest days… Well not cool as the temperature had been boiling outside, but just one of those once in a lifetime moments…

I was running my film festival, The Chicago Horror Film festival which I had founded in 2003, and had just given an award to Reggie Bannister when a surprise guest just showed up. Yep, Stuart Gordon just appeared to watch some movies.

Well, of course I had to steal him for a picture.

Pictured here from left to right is Edwin Neal (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), Reggie Bannister (Bubba Ho-Tep, Phantasm), Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator, Dagon), and me.

Dead Friends: Chapter 13

She wasn’t surprised when she climbed in the car, to find Sarah in the passenger seat with Chuck and Elisabeth sitting in the back.

“Where’s Josh?”

“Who cares? I don’t.” Chuck said, obviously still upset that he had been attacked by the larger man.

“Okay, I meant to ask you guys this last night because I gotta know, what happens when your not with me, in the car or whatever?”

Lizzie turns to Sarah who shrugs, “I’m not really sure. It’s like, yesterday when you left with Jess. We were with you in the cemetery, but once you climbed in the car, you were gone and then we were back with you when you got out. It’s like … well I don’t know how to describe it.”

“It’s like we don’t exist and then we do.” Chuck said, obviously frustrated.

“It scares me sometimes. You’ll leave and we just disappear, and, well I don’t know what this is. I mean, we’re dead right, but we are linked somehow, to you, and when you leave, we just are gone and then come back where ever you are. Well, what If we don’t come back some time. What happens then? Do we move on? Are we lost in limbo? The darkness scares me, and I don’t know why.” Elisabeth was holding herself, struggling to hold in tears.

“And what happens when you are in the car? Why did Josh not come with? I mean, I know there’s not enough room for him, you really need a bigger car Liz, but who chose that he would be the one in the darkness?” Sarah added.

“It’s scary.” Elisabeth said.

“I hate not having any kind of control.” Chuck continued as he turned to look out the window.

“I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what happened, why you’re here. I’ve googled it and such but I don’t know. I wish there was something I could do to help.” Lizzie said as she started the car.

“We know that. Liz, you’re like a sister. I know you’ll be here for us. And we’re here for you, anytime you need us.” Sarah said as she reached out for a hug, but stopped herself remembering that they couldn’t touch.

“Love you sis.” Lizzie said as she put the car into gear, wiping away tears of her own.

* * * *

Lizzie hadn’t been surprised that once she parked the car and got out, Josh was standing there waiting for them. He was disoriented, looking around at the parking structure, and she now understood why. From what she’d learned, just a few seconds ago he had been with her and the rest of them at her apartment, fighting with Chuck. Now he was somewhere he didn’t recognize with no clue how he got there. 

The rest of them soon appeared around him, not having to get out of the car, but just at one moment sitting there and the next to be standing outside. None of it made any sense and what was controlling it was all things that itched at Lizzie, but she was never quite sure that she actually wanted to know.

Josh immediately turned to Chuck and Elisabeth, his fist already clenching.

“Stop it!” Lizzie said forcefully. Something must have shifted in her voice because all of them had stopped moving and looked at her. She quickly glanced around to see if she saw anyone in the structure before continuing. “We’ll talk about this later. Josh, I get that your pissed. Not sure what your situation is as we don’t know you, right?” 

She turned to Elisabeth and Chuck to confirm that they didn’t know him. They both shook their heads. 

“So we’ll talk later and work this out. Right now, I gotta find out what’s going on with this lawyer and why he needs to see me so bad. I can’t have you guys fighting while I’m trying to talk to him. You guys make it hard sometimes when I’m talking to living people that I’ve been lucky no ones sought to have me committed. Please, not in front of the lawyer who actually could and probably would have me locked up. I don’t know if I trust this guy, he’s a lawyer.”

“The only good lawyer is a dead lawyer.” Josh quipped and Lizzie nodded.

“So please, no getting upset,” she turned and looked at Sarah, “with whatever news he has for us. We need to remain focused.”

Josh was seething. She could tell he didn’t want to do what she was asking, his fists opening and closing were signs he was ready to throw another punch.

“Josh, I don’t know what you’ve been through,-“

“I was losing everything. All of it was going to slip away. My lawyer said I’d never see my family again. All because these two idiots.”

“Josh. Listen to me,” she moved so that she could get him to see her, then her eyes locked on his. It was hard with his disfigured face to look at him but she fought to keep her disgust in check. “We don’t know what’s going on and I’ll be honest, we should have tried to figure this out. We really should have, but Sarah… I was being selfish and I don’t know how I’d been able to handle her being dead. So her and these two… I’ve been selfish. You being here now, that changes things and we’ll figure this out. I don’t know what’s happening or why you’re here, but trust me. Okay.”

Josh wasn’t saying thing, but just watched her. Maybe she was getting through to him. She’d like to think that maybe some of those psych classes were paying off but in truth she just said what felt right. Those psych classes had just taught her about Pavlov and Id and superegos. She hoped that speaking from the heart would help him. 

“I don’t know you.”

“I know that. We don’t know you either which is-“

“I don’t know you so I have no way of knowing if I can trust you. Why should I?”

A car door slammed shut nearby and Lizzie turned, scanning to see if she saw anyone. In the distance, the sound of another vehicle making its turns in the garage as it circled through the layers trying to find a parking spot. It was getting closer.

“I know you don’t know me. I’m just asking you work with me for a little while and go from there.”

Josh continued to stare at her and she felt like the scene was going to continue on until someone saw them and it would become awkward, her standing there glaring at nothing. Then her phone rang and she was relieved for a break in the growing tension.

“Yeah?” She said as soon as she tapped the green button that was just below the glowing picture of her friend Jessica.

“How ya holding up?”

“I’m doing okay Jess.” She said. The group of the dead around her started to walk around her, some growing uncomfortable with just standing around in the parking structure. 

“Really? Its okay. You know you can talk to me.”

“Who is it.” Sarah mouthed even though she had to know Jessica couldn’t hear her.

“Jess” Lizzie mouthed back, and then into the receiver, “Yeah. While I was in the hospital I had met with a nurse and she’s helping me through it.”

“A grief counselor? That’s good.” Lizzie wasn’t going to correct her, but it helped if her friends thought she had already been talking to someone. She knew that if she’d said anything else it would be the beginning of phone calls from a variety of friends and acquaintances, all offering their ears and their advice on professional help. This way, Jess would get word out she already had someone helping. 

That was much easier than explaining that she wasn’t really grieving because she hadn’t really lost her best friend. She was right there, and continued to be with her.

“Fine, I’ll trust you for now but can we just get going? This parking garage has me uneasy. Don’t know why but it makes me feel like I’m in my own grave.” Josh said as he leaned against her car.

“You know, I’m also here to talk and hey, I wanted to ask,” she said, “Dennis is working today, but I’m off with nothing to do. You want to get together later?”

“I have plans this evening.”

“How about lunch?”

“Sure. I’m at the lawyers office now but can meet up when we’re done.”

“Okay, when and where?”

“I’m thinking sushi.”

“Hmm, well,” Jessica said and Lizzie could picture her as she closed her eyes thinking about her favorite places downtown. “We could go to Little Joe’s”

“That works. Meet you there?” She said as Josh started pounding against the car. She turned from him and started walking towards the stairs.

“Is that really necessary?” Elisabeth hissed at him just before he quit and followed Lizzie.

“I don’t know what’s worse between the two of you.” Sarah said. Lizzie wasn’t paying any of them attention and missed the look Sarah gave the two men. “You two keep acting like a bunch of children. We’re dead. Get over it.”

“What the hell did I do?” Chuck asked, running a little to catch up.

“Both of you have acted like children. Your no better than him, yelling all night long.”

“I get bored.”

Lizzie didn’t wait for them as she entered the stairwell, the fire door slamming shut behind her. The silence enclosed around her and she embraced its briefness as her and Jess finalized their lunch plans and she disconnected the call.

She took in a long deep breath, letting it out in a sigh. She was alone and it felt great.

“So what floor is this lawyer on?” Sarah asked.

Lizzie opened her eyes to see that they were all gathered around her. Her solitude was gone, she hoped not forever.

* * * *

The entryway for the lawyers office wasn’t much better for privacy and Lizzie felt cramped in the little amount of space that was used for a waiting area. She had been surprised her first time there, and it hadn’t changed in the last two weeks. It was nothing like she’d ever seen when she watched them lawyer shows. Where was all the glass and the polished metal? There was none of it.

Instead, what she found was that the office was in a complex, the third floor and over a bank. The front office area when she walked in had a younger man sitting behind a desk, an older computer and a monitor littered in post-it notes. The desk was covered in folders, and in fact, folders of paper were everywhere. The walls were lined with filed cabinets and even these had files on top of them. The whole room was a graveyard of dead trees as there was enough paper to fill a forest.

Quickly after introducing herself to the man, his name was Adam and he had a slight lisp, she sat in one of the two chairs. Both were old leather chairs, dark brown and not really fashionable to the light decor of the room. Though the room itself didn’t have much of a theme going for it. The walls were an off white, and Adam’s desk was was gray with dark accents. Someone really needed to fire the interior designer, but that wasn’t her place. At least it didn’t smell bad in there. 

Her first time there, she had thought she was in the wrong office. It was only after confirming she wasn’t that she thought the phone call and letter had all been some sort of scam. After all, who would leave her anything? She had forgotten about her uncle and her parents had long since passed away, and the little family on her mothers side was nonexistent. She never knew why, but her mom wouldn’t talk about it. 

Now she was there again, and her dead entourage took up the extra room around her. She had to wonder about whatever force kept them with her and how it worked? Especially with the size of the small room, it would be nice if one or two of them had vanished into that in between nothing Sarah had told her about. 

Immediately Josh had taken the other chair and was quickly becoming bored with waiting. She was starting to get the sense that he was a highly impatient person. Maybe that had something to do with how he had barreled into Chuck and Elisabeth. 

“Thank you Mrs. Robbins. I’ll talk to you again next week.” Adam said into the phone. He had been taking a payment and now lowered the receiver as he looked over to her. “I can check to see if he’s ready yet.” 

“Thank you.”

He rose and stepped though the door behind him. Other than the entrance it was the only other door in the room.

“Hurry up and wait. Just as bad as being in the military.” Josh said as he slumped down in the chair.

“You have some big date?” Elisabeth gave him a frustrated glare and Lizzie was suspecting that the truck driver was getting on many of their nerves.

“Hey Charles, tell me, you like a good joke?” Josh said, not even looking at him, keeping his eyes returning Elisabeth’s stare.

“Sure.”

“You can come in,” Adam said as he quickly emerged from the office. Lizzie was quick to stand, already feeling crowded by the bickering dead people  scrambling around her. The dead could be so annoying even if they couldn’t physically interact with her.

“So this man was working out on his roof and it was hot and all that. He was putting down some new shingles with his friend helping him. His friend was getting frustrated and asks him, ‘Hey, what time is it?’” She heard Josh as telling them as she left the room. Sarah was following and Lizzie wished the rest of them stay in the outer office.

If she’d been unimpressed with the piles of files in the outer office, she was equally unimpressed with the lack of files and the dingy furniture in the inner room. Even the computer looked liked it had been out of date five years ago. The desk looked like one of those back to school specials on sale for fifty bucks at any office supply store and the chair was a thrifty high back rolling chair with its faux leather torn along the back side. She sat in the chair across from the lawyer.

The man behind the desk looked tired and old. When she’d seen him before, he had been an older man yes with a complete matching set of silver hair and beard, but it had been perfectly in place. In fact to all the chaos his office represented, his appearance had been perfect.

What has happened to this man? He looked so haggard now, his hair on end and she could imagine him having running his hands through it in frustration. His eyes were dark, deep shadows under them as though he hadn’t slept since she’d seen him. His suit could have been the same one he’d worn then and has since never been removed. It was wrinkled and fit him poorly. Had he lost weight since she’d seen him?

Oh no, he’d better not be dying. If he did would he become one of her ghosts? Something about this unkempt old man following her around sent a twinge of disgust through her. It just seemed wrong. 

“Hello Miss Rogers” He said as he looked up from his computer screen. “Do you like music?”

She was surprised by the question and he must have noticed as he smiled at her and his pale face colored with embarrassment. She could see red stains on his teeth in that smile and she barely suppressed a shudder as she thought of the naked man as he crushed Sarah’s skull.

“I’m sorry. I just, sometimes in rough times, get lost in a good melody. I didn’t mean to keep you waiting but had been listening to Dylan and was lost in that soulful way he releases his pain.”

“The man saw as his watch slipped off but he couldn’t stop it, it was going to go off the side of the roof.” Josh said, watching Chuck for any kind of reaction as they entered the room. Chuck lingered in the doorway, not entering quickly filling space. 

Lizzie briefly glanced up at them, annoyed. “I listen to mainly Imagine Dragons and stuff like that. I love Ed Sheeran.”

“He has some good stuff. Nothing as intense as Dylan, but it’s great to just disappear into the rhythm and let your thoughts fade into.”

“Stop it!” Elisabeth hissed at Josh who didn’t care as he kept telling his joke.

“So the man ran across the roof, slid down the ladder and was running back around to the other side of the house, back over to where he had been when his watch had slipped off. All of this while his son-“

“Thought you said it had been a friend helping him on the roof.”

The lawyer seemed to have drifted away, looking blankly out his window, studying the view of the neighboring rooftop. Lizzie was relieved as she glared at the men that only she could see and hear and who had no regard that she was trying to have a conversation. Neither of them paid her notice and she briefly caught Elisabeth’s eye as she shrugged apologetically back at her.

“Your right, his friend-“

“I’m sorry. Where was I? Oh yes, sorry about that. I haven’t been sleeping well and as my partner passed away last month. I don’t know if you remember me telling you that, but he had, and this had actually been his case. He’d been managing much of your uncle’s dealings for the last ten, fifteen years.” The lawyer said. She tried to pay attention to him, but the lawyer spoke softly while Josh was loud, his voice boisterous.

“But the man ran around to the side of the house. He was huffing of course by this point and the friend watched him, wondering why he was hurrying so much just to pick up his watch that by this point would have fallen to the ground.”

Lizzie was shaking her head, getting frustrated with all the noise confusion floating around her. It was all too much and she found herself closing her eyes to help herself focus. At the funeral it hadn’t even been this bad, but with both of them talking, Josh and the lawyer, it was like she had struggled to listen to two fighting, squabbling kids as they talked over one another. She just couldn’t do it.

“-Are you okay?” The lawyer cut off whatever story he was just about to tell her when he’d seen her shaking her head, noticing the first in the latest set of tears. 

“-Yeah” she gasped.

She could feel more tears welling up inside of her and she had no clue why. Why now? Why here? She could feel her chest getting tight and knew she was on the verge of letting loose.

Come on girl, get it together.

“Liz?” Sarah asked. Lizzie heard the lawyer getting up from behind his desk. She tried to push them all away, but found that the harder she tried, the more she thought of Sarah lying there on the floor. 

That had been her fault. All of it was her fault. Sarah wouldn’t have been there if it hadn’t been for Lizzie asking her. Sarah would still be alive, with her her today and really be there for her.

“Are you okay? Can I get you something or call someone? I mean-“

He was hovering over her and she wanted to listen to him and get this over with, but she just couldn’t tune it out. Josh was telling that hideous joke and with all the chaos around her, she just kept hearing him.

“The man reached out and grabbed it. The friend had watched and couldn’t believe it. He called down and asked, ‘how’d you do that?’ and the man replied, ‘well, the watch always was a bit slow.’”

Lizzie couldn’t help it. The joke wasn’t even funny, but she found herself giving in and letting the laughter take her. It brought with her more tears and she truly thought that the last bit of her sanity had just snapped.

“Lizzie, come on. It’s going to be okay.” Sarah was saying. Lizzie had her head in her hands, the laughter shaking through her, but she could feel her friend close to her. 

“I’ll be fine.” Lizzie said, trying to reign in the fluttering of different emotions inside her.

“Are you sure. I can get you a glass of water.”

“I’m fine, really.” And if she just kept repeating that long enough, she might actually start to believe it herself.

“You sure Lizzie?” 

“Yes, I’m fine.” Lizzie said, looking briefly at her best friend before looking back at the lawyer. She knew eventually she’d remember his name. It was something to do with food, she remembered that much.

The lawyer was going to the door anyways and she had no doubt he would return with a cup, probably filled from the fountain in the hallway. So then, she had been surprised when a figure emerged in the door handing the surprised lawyer a bottle of water.

“Thought she could use some water,” Adam was saying to the much older gentleman who nodded his appreciation. Though as Adam went back into the outer room and the lawyer was turning away from the door, she noticed that he was closing it behind him. Josh had quickly ducked into the room, pushing up against Elisabeth, leaving Chuck to sit it out in the waiting room.

“So you want to hear another one.” Josh said as soon as the door was closed and the lawyer returned to his seat behind the desk, passingly handing her the water as he had gone by.

“I hadn’t realized you and your uncle were so close,” he said as he started sorting through his piles of folders, looking for one he eventually found near his computer. He pulled it out and perused the contents, occasionally looking at her. It took a few seconds to realize that he was purposely avoiding eye contact.

She glared at Josh for a moment longer, long enough to see the little smirk and his quick glance to her. The smug bastard was enjoying this and he was doing it on purpose. He was doing it and she was sure it was because he knew she couldn’t do a damn thing about it. She couldn’t’ just walk right over there and knock that damn smirk right off of his mouth.

She would have too. She’d never hit another person in her life, but she felt the anger, the violence rising up inside of her. She had never wanted to hit someone so hard in her life. 

“We weren’t. I don’t know if I’ve ever met him. He had a huge fight with my dad and they’d never talked until just over a year ago, shortly before my parents passed away.”

“Oh, my misunderstanding.”

“My best friend just died last week.” She turned to look back at the lawyer who was now looking up from his folder and studying her. She could feel those judgmental eyes on her, and she hoped she was about to wipe that right off him. “She had been murdered in my uncle’s house while we had checked it out.”

She watched the color drain from his face and his jaw was ready to hit the floor. Win! Score one for the crazy person. We’ll see if he still wants to judge her for breaking down in his office. Though she didn’t feel like a winner. Far from it.

“I…I’m sorry for your loss. This happened at your uncle’s house?”

“Yeah.”

“You got a key?”

“Yeah, Adam had given it to me when I had stopped by to sign the paperwork you left for me.”

That started to bring the lawyer back. He seemed like he had checked out there when she had told him about her friend. It had probably been a cruel thing to say to him, and she did feel a twinge of guilt. There had been no point in telling him other than to poke him with his own arrogance.

“Right right. Hmm,” he studied the piece of paper again that he had pulled from the folder. Then he pulled out an envelope that she hadn’t noticed before.

“Is there a problem?” 

“What? For you, no, probably not. For me, maybe. It all depends on how you would like to proceed and if you decide to come after us, I completely understand. I just want to start by saying, I’m sorry about all of this.”

“What’s going on?” She looked at Josh, surprised that he was actually staying quiet. He was still smiling at her, but didn’t say a word. He just made that childish motion of zipping his mouth and then flicking over his shoulder as though throwing away a key. She turned back to the lawyer who was again looking her over.

My God, he thinks I’m crazy.

“I’m sorry but we misread the will. That is to say-“ cutting her off as he could see she was obviously about to say something. “We left something out.

“You see, your uncle changed his will a few days before he passed and we hadn’t logged the new will into our system so we went off what we had recorded in our latest file.” He handed over the envelope. “This was left to you by you uncle.”

She gingerly took the envelope. It was yellow with age, probably having sat around that dirty old house for years before he finally used it. Then she looked at the front to see her name delicately printed in that messy handwriting of his. Each word of her name was printed large and readable, and he had spelled out her whole name, not the nickname everyone else called her. “Elizabeth” plainly visible as she took it.

She immediately noticed the hum that emanated from it the moment it touched her fingers and there was something inside it. There was a lump of something larger and irregular and she felt a piece of a sharp edge that was ready to bite her.

“Okay, so what is so important that I needed to rush down here.”

“Well, that’s it. The new will stated that you were not take possession of the house or have any of the money until you took possession of that envelope. We couldn’t transfer the money or move ahead with anything else until you had it.”

“Really?”

“So what’s inside it?”

“No clue. It arrived sealed.”

“Okay then, well that’s odd, but so was my uncle.”

“Never met him. All his business was normally through my partner. This thing with the new will, it’s all strange. Doesn’t make sense to me, but-“ The lawyer doesn’t finish what he was saying and instead looks out his office window. “Tik-tok”

“What?” She looked around to see that everyone else had heard it too. They were all studying the lawyer. Even Josh who probably had no clue who the shadow man was had caught on and turned to watch the lawyer.

“Tik-tok.” The lawyer seemed to break out of whatever trance he had gone into and turned to look at her, though she didn’t feel like he had fully returned. His eyes were glazed over and he had this dreamy quality to his voice as he spoke. “Tick tock, it’s getting close to lunch and I have a meeting. Was there anything else I can help you with?”

Lizzie shook her head and got up slowly, not taking her eyes off the man. He had already dismissed her and had gone back to shuffling around paperwork on his desk. She watched, and wasn’t sure if he even realized he did it, as he slipped her folder to as far away from himself on the desk and as if that wasn’t good enough, buried it under all the other files.

She left the office, catching out of the corner of her eyes him turning back to the window and gazing out. The sounds of Johnny Cash followed her out. She hadn’t even seen him press play or turn to his computer.  As she waved to Adam who returned it politely, she could hear the soulful chorus of “When the man comes around.”

In the elevator she realized she was still holding the envelope. Why hadn’t she opened it in his office or even now as she was in the elevator? 

She turned it over and studied the writing. It was her name, written in large letters. Whoever wrote it had taken great care to get it right and there were indentations from the pressure from the pen.

“You gonna open it or just stare at it all day?”

“Shut up Josh.” Sarah hissed at the larger man.

“What you gonna do to me sweet heart? Kill me again?”

“Calm it down.” Chuck said. Lizzie ignored them, something that when no one else was trying to talk to her, she was getting quite good at.

“Go ahead playboy, take another shot. If not, then just stand there in your corner and let the adults here have a conversation.”

“What the hell is your problem?” Chuck was getting closer to Josh, his fists clenched.

“My problem?  Really? Your going to ask me what the fuck my problem is.” The door to the elevator opened and Lizzie was quick to exit into the parking structure. “My problem is I’m fucking dead. I’m dead because my life was ruined when you two dipshits pulled out in front me. I was facing vehicular manslaughter charges and my scum bag of a lawyer said the best he could get me was six years in jail. I was going to jail, no way to support my wife and kids all because of you two dumbasses.

Then it gets better because I just don’t die, I’m stuck in some kind of limbo purgatory hell with you two shits, that glaring bitch, and some kid who we follow around with no fucking control, always just whisked away to wherever she is.

This is bullshit, and she’s got an envelope, something in her hand, right there, and she’s not rushing to open it. Fuck this. Fuck you! I want this shit to end, and she’s not doing a damned thing about it.”

Lizzie hadn’t really thought much about it but noticed it struck her as there was something different. It was how she heard him talking so crisply. She looked at her friend Sarah and noticed that, yes, her face was different. Like part of it had healed a little and wasn’t so disgusting to look at and that she’d been able to speak clearly the longer she was dead.

“Lizzie?” Sarah was looking at her, those soft blue eyes that had melted away many hearts still had the ring of blood shot, but it had clearly faded since she had first come back from the dead.

“Don’t trust the dead.” Isn’t that what someone had written on her parents tombstone? Something close to it. What did that mean? Had someone else been completely surrounded by them. 

“Just open the fucking envelope.”

“You think all this has something to do with her uncle.” Elisabeth said, looking back and forth from Lizzie to Josh and then back.

“And you don’t? Are you that fucking dense?”

They were all looking at her, she could feel their dead eyes collectively drilling into her.

“What about all that creepy shit we saw there. It was like, like he worshiped the devil or, I don’t know.”

Lizzie had forgotten about the carvings on the floor, the drawings, what had looked like blood, the burned candles. All of it was pushed away and she hadn’t realized just how hard she had tried to forget it. It was like how she kept forgetting that her best friend was dead, which it was so easy to do because there she was, standing and talking to her. But that wasn’t her, not truly. That dead thing was not the girl who had slept over at her house.

She turned the envelope over in her hand and then grabbed a corner to rio it open.

Her phone chirped breaking her focus. Then another chirp. She pulled it out and looked at the screen. There was nearly ten messages, all from Jess, the last one saying “There you are! I see you. Walking over.”

That was when Lizzie heard the screeching of tires, a horn blaring and amongst all of it, she heard the screaming.

Dead Friends: Chapter 12

Oh Wednesday…how you frustrate me. My eyes are barely open, I can barely function and am wondering how I will stumble to the decaying halls to that we call work… Still, before I wonder off, here is Chapter 12 of Dead Friends. I hope you enjoy the chaos contained within these pages.

Happy Hump day!

****

The phone was ringing. She understood that it was ringing. She had that sensation of being ripped from some shared collective deep in the bowels of sleep to open her eyes to the revelation, and yes, there it was, her phone on the nightstand. The screen was lit up, and she saw the unfamiliar number on her lock screen.

“Probably a telemarketer,” she mumbled under her breath as she crashed back into her pillow. The room was bright. It was obviously some time in the morning, but she wasn’t ready to get up yet… and really, what was the point anymore. She had no job, no school, no life… Why the hell not sleep in until noon. The idea sure as hell appealed to her.

She grabbed a spare pillow and turned over, snuggling into it like it was someone lying there with her. It took some work, a little wriggling back and forth, but finally she had found that spot when everything felt comfortable and soft, perfect to go back to sleep and ignore the rest of the world.

Someone was knocking at the door. She didn’t want to answer it, and the pillow she was snuggling into became ear muffs as she pulled it down over her head.

“Hey Lizzie! Lizzie! Someone’s at the door.”

Sarah was her best friend. She had been since childhood and now after death, but right then Lizzie wanted to scream at her. Didn’t she know that Lizzie just wanted to hide and get back to sleep? It just wasn’t fair. All she wanted to do was go back to sleep. Wouldn’t anyone just let her? The world seemed hellbent on preventing it.

“Lizzie?”

Lizzie felt the groan escape her and it surprised her to find that she was getting up. The long stretch came and then she was reaching out to her cell phone, glancing at the time but more at the displayed list of missed calls. Majority of the missed calls came from a number she vaguely recognized, but couldn’t place it. There were two of them, one with a voicemail.

She tossed the phone on the bed as she stood and went to the closet only to realize that she hadn’t checked the time. Sure, she’d looked at it, but had completely blanked. 

“Lizzie, they’re still knocking.”

“So, let them knock. It’s probably just more Jehovah Witnesses or something.”

“I don’t think so. They’d have given up by now.” 

That was probably true, she thought as she finished pulling on her pants and tossed on a t-shirt that had hung in her closet. She didn’t pay attention to what it said, she didn’t really care yet. It was still too early for her to deal with people. Whoever was at the door was about to get her worst.

“You know, sometimes I wish you were a ghost rather than whatever you.” Lizzie said as she straightened the shirt and looked at herself in the mirror. She was never going to win any beauty pageants, that was for sure. She grimaced, wishing she had Sarah’s body. That girl could make anything look good.

Someone was still knocking on the front door, but Lizzie noticed that outside her room had gone quiet. No, not quiet. She could just barely make out the sound of someone sobbing. 

What had she just said. She wished Sarah was a ghost and not whatever… Had she really just said that about her best friend?

Lizzie opened the door to her room to see Sarah sitting on the floor, her knees pulled up to her chest.

“You know I was just kidding. It was like, so you could float through the door and see who it was. Ya know?” Lizzie said, and Sarah launched into a new torrent of tears. The tears dripping from her cheek to make a wet spot in the carpeting beneath her.

“How would you like to be dead, or told you should be a ghost because it makes your best friends life better? You’d just love that wouldn’t you?”

“Sarah, you know it’s not like that.”

“You know it’s like that. You just said it.”

The knocking on the front door stopped. Thank God for small miracles as whoever it was must have gone away.

Lizzie’s cell phone started ringing again.

“Oh for fucks sake.” She spun and dashed into her room and grabbing the buzzing rectangle. Without looking at the caller ID, she tapped the screen, ready to release the full pulsating rage burning through her.

“Tik-a-tat, tik-a-tuk, I smell a good fuck,” came the familiar raspy voice. Even through the electronics of the phone she could feel his hot breath on her and she dropped the phone.

“Hello! Lizzie, you there?” She heard coming from the phone as it fell. She looked at it, not wanting to touch it when it landed. She recognized the voice but that hadn’t been there before. No, the shadow man had called her. What was going on?

Slowly she bent and reached for it, afraid it was somehow going to reach up and bite her. That was crazy though, right?

“Hey, Lizzie, I heard you answer.”

She picked up the phone, though she refused to bring it to her ear.

“Hey.”

“Liz, hey, I’m at your door. You mind letting me in?”

That voice. It wasn’t the shadow man, but another voice that made her recoil. She’d heard it enough threw the last few years, and one she thought she was done with a month ago when she had dumped his cheating ass. 

“Roland, why the hell are you here?”

“Liz, come on, let’s talk?”

Ugh, she thought all this was over. Sure, she hadn’t caught him with Natalie, but those hadn’t been her panties she had found in his place. When she’d confronted him about it, he stuttered like a floundering fool, then had the gaul to tell that they were hers. Did he really think she wouldn’t recognize her own panties?

Such a creep…

Yet she found herself lowering her phone, hitting disconnect as she tossed in on the bed, and going to the front door. There was no knocking but she knew he was on the other side, like she could feel his presence there. She imagined she could hear his breathing, then felt it when his breath held waiting for her to open the door. Her hand lingered on the knob. Maybe she imagined he was holding his breath because she was holding her own.

“Lizzie, we need to talk.” Chuck said. He had come up behind her, and she hadn’t even realized he had been following her to the door.

“Not now,” she hissed back at him.

“It’s important.”

“Your dead. I don’t think anything’s going to change in the next five minutes.”

“Liz-“

“It can wait,” she said just before she opened the door and saw the tall lanky man in the hallway outside her apartment door. He was standing there, a bouquet of roses in his hands.

“What are you doing here?” She didn’t reach for the flowers but he continued to hold them out for her. It felt like a long minute, stretching into eternity as she held his eyes with her glare. Then he gave in, lowering both his arm and his eyes.

“I heard about Sarah. Guess I just wanted to check in and make sure your doing okay.”

“I’m fine, you can go now.” She didn’t step into the hall, and she didn’t get out of the door frame to let him in. Her arms crossed, her body language screaming ‘pissed off woman who’d been cheated on and was now ready to get payback’ as she stood there.

“Liz, I know that’s bullshit.”

“Yeah, and how do you know that?”

“I know you and I knew Sarah. You two were inseparable.”

Lizzie fought to keep her breathing calm and her anger in check, but her chest burned while she bit back the curses she wanted to spew at him. This piece of bile actually felt like he could console her, that he knew something about her? If he knew anything about her, he’d have known not to cheat on her. Where does he get off at implying that he knew her.

“Liz, can I come in. Maybe you could put these in water?”

“Just toss them in the dumpster.”

“If that’s what you want. I guess I can just toss these away too.”

She hadn’t noticed the envelope that had been in his other hand. She looked at it, and had to think about it. What was the date today… Could those be…?

He brought up the envelope, jostling the flowers as he needed the other hand to open and pull out the contents. He got frustrated and handed the envelope to her. She opened it and there they were.. tickets to see Ed Sheeran, tonight. The event was in Milwaukee, so they’d have a three hour drive. 

She remembered when they bought the tickets, how they had laughed and made plans to make a weekend of it, getting a hotel and maybe while they were in town checking it out and maybe going to a Brewers game. It seemed like forever ago, and in a away it was a lifetime ago as so much in her life had changed now. For one, she was no longer with Roland. Why would he show up now and still want to go? She would have thought he would have sold the tickets or taken whoever he was screwing.

He couldn’t be dumb enough to think she’d go with him, right? She had always thought he’d been smarter than that. He was a sure fired geek/computer nerd. He should have something in that head of his telling him that the idea of them going together would be idiotic. 

He kept looking at the floor, occasionally sneaking a peek up at her. He was probably gauging how she was reacting as she let him fidget.

“What do you think you are doing? What do you expect to happen here?” She returned the tickets to the envelope.

“I’m not expecting anything to happen. I came to say that I’m sorry. I messed up. In addition to that, I’m worried about you, and I wanted to see if you were okay. As to that,” he raised his eyes and nodded to the envelope she was now playing with in her hand, hitting the corner of it into her palms as she continued to study him. “We’d already bought the tickets. I never felt right about selling them, and I had no one else to take. I thought maybe we could go. Not as a couple, but just as two people. No strings.”

“You know how stupid that is right? There’s no way I’m going with you.”

“You don’t have to. You could take yourself. Hell, you can have my ticket. I just thought you could use it as a distraction from, well…”

If she was honest with herself, she really did want to go. She loved Ed Sheeran and the tickets were really good. Roland had spent more than he should have on the tickets. He’d spent all that money, just to go and do something so stupid. Maybe he really was dumb under all that smart exterior.

Lizzie was wavering. She knew she shouldn’t be.

“Shut the door Liz. He’s not a good guy, and we really need to talk to you,” Sarah said into her ear. Of course Sarah was listening in. Hell, they were probably all behind her, watching and listening. She never had moments alone anymore…

Maybe she could use that to her benefit. If she did go to the show with him, it wasn’t like she’d be alone with him. She’d have all her dead friends. Oh, how odd of chaperones they were but they’d keep her from doing something stupid.

Was she really thinking of doing it though? She thought she was done with this loser. She should shut the door and never see him again, let that be the end of it.

But she wasn’t shutting the door.

She could go, but they both go in their own vehicles… No, that wouldn’t work. Milwaukee was what, two hours away, three? She’d never actually been there so she wasn’t really sure. Either way it was too far and made no sense to take separate vehicles. Even if he was a creep that she didn’t want to be around, she still couldn’t bring herself to be that wasteful.

Dammit, she was going to do this. She knew it was a bad idea, stupid really, but she had already said ‘yes’ to herself. It was just a matter of telling the asshole.

Her stomach twisted with the thought of spending at least four hours in the car alone with him. Then she was reminded that she had just gotten up, was standing on the threshold of the hallway and still hadn’t gone to the bathroom. Her bladder was reminding her that it was not going to be patient for much longer.

Then her phone started chirping again from the bedroom and she realized she really needed to get out of the hallway.

“Fine, I’ll go. Give me a call later and we’ll get it figured out when to leave. She started to close the door but then opened it again, ignoring his outstretched hand as he tried to hand her the roses. “Better yet, just text me.”

She closed the door and rushed to her room. The bathroom was calling, but going in there without her phone just wasn’t happening. She grabbed it and glanced at the recent missed call. That same number again.

“Liz, I can’t believe-“ Sarah started, but Elisabeth was talking over her.

“Lizzie we really need to-“ Elisabeth was saying. In the background she could hear Chuck.

“For crying out loud.”

“-you’re going out with him.”

“-talk to you.”

She rushed into her bathroom ignoring the cacophony of voices trying to get her attention. The door slammed behind her.

*

The voicemail had been from the lawyer and had taken away any joy she had about the concert. His words, a nervous stutter as he bumbled through leaving the message, repeatedly saying there wasn’t much he could say over the phone.

“Ms. Rogers, I’m calling to say that there was been a mistake in the, in the reading of the will. You see, your uncle, well there’s not much I can, I can say over the phone. You see, he changed his will right before he died and it had been so recent that our filing records hadn’t rec-recorded it yet. If you can call to set up an appointment, I really need to go over it with you. I’m, I’m sorry for all of this.”

She’d lose all that money. She knew it, and that was why he was so nervous. He had to tell her that she wasn’t getting it. She was going to go back and being broke. All the good fortune of having that money was going to evaporate and she’d never get to know how it felt to be that rich.

“Liz?”

Lizzie looked up to see Sarah looking at her, concern etched on her face. Any signs of the tears from earlier home, leaving only the gory remains of Sarah’s death. It was yet another reminder that her friend was dead, and any tears were shallow to the tragedy she has already endured.

“Yeah, I’m fine.”

“Yeah, you don’t look it.”

Her phone buzzed and she took a quick look at it. It was Roland. She lowered the phone realizing just how late in the morning it really was. It was past ten, she slept in for most the morning. Five minutes ago, that wasn’t a problem, but now with the prospect of finding a new job looming, sleeping in this late felt like such a waste.

What was she going to do? Go back to school? It’d be too late to register for this semester and she hadn’t decided on a new major, having given up on her last one shortly before deciding not to go back.

What the hell!? She thought her life would be getting so much easier, and now she was getting nothing but all these problems. 

“Lizzie, we need to talk.” Elisabeth said. Then a crash came from the other room and Lizzie washed to see what was going on.

Lizzie’s apartment was not that large and similar to most she guessed. There was the front door that opened into a split between the nook that was the kitchen and the open area that most would use for a living room. The little space between she had guessed would be a dining area, and the hallway then lead back to the two bedrooms and the tiny bathroom. It was just like nearly any other apartments she had ever seen, and she looked forward to one day not living there. 

Though with her currently not having a paycheck and no incoming in the near future, it was a bit above what she could afford. Even working, it had been tough for her and Sarah to be able to afford it. 

She hurried into the living room to find Chuck and the stranger standing nose to nose squaring odd again, but the picture that was on the floor broken was on the other side of the room. It had been a picture of her and Roland that has been setting on the corner shelf between the curbside find of a couch and the lazy boy that had been a goodwill special. Sarah was standing near the picture looking down at it in horror.

“What’s going on here?” Lizzie scanned the room. Sarah looked at her apologetically but the other two didn’t turn away from one another.

“Just don’t like being told what I can and can’t do.” The large man said, then sat in the Lazy-boy.

“I get that.”

“Lizzie, something weirds going on.” Elisabeth said, moving to stand next to Sarah. Chuck continued to glare.

“I know I know you two from somewhere. And that ain’t good.” The stranger said to Chuck then point to Elisabeth.

“Really? You do?” Elisabeth said, the shock evident. 

“Let’s start simple. What’s your name?” 

“I told you last night.”

“Yeah well, middle of the night. I just remember you were fighting with Chuck and another picture got broken. So yeah, I wasn’t really focused, or really even awake.”

“Names Josh.”

“Okay Josh, and you know your dead right?”

“Yeah. Just because I blew my brains out doesn’t mean I don’t have any.”

“Nice. Really funny.” Chuck said.

“Give’em a break. It’s not like you were much better when you first got here. Until he came you were Mr. Grumps.” Lizzie turned back to Josh sitting in the chair. “Now the big question, do you know how you got here?”

“Nope. I shot myself in the morning after my wife went off to work and woke up here last night.”

“Really? So you didn’t show up here right after you died?”

“Nope. Not even sure if it’s the same day. What day is it?”

“Lizzie, something else is going on.”

“What?” Lizzie asked, turning slowly, lingering her gaze on Josh.”

“Broken pictures” Sarah said.

“Yeah all our frames are getting ruined. I’m going to have to go to the dollar store later and buy some more.”

“I’m not talking about that.” Sarah went to the next picture on the shelf and then with an intense look of concentration, she reached out and pushed it. “Remember when I first came back and I couldn’t interact with anything. Well, we can’t grab anything as far as I know, but look at this.”

“I know I recognize you two.” Josh grumbled as Lizzie watched Sarah push the picture frame until it fell from the shelf and crashed to the floor.

“Sorry.”

Lizzie’s phone rang, the chirping sound making her jump. Lizzie didn’t look to see who it was, she clicked “answer” as she brought it up.

“Hello?”

“Ms. Rogers.”

“Yes?”

“Hello, I know I’ve called a few times this morning, but I really need you to come to my office. I’ll be able to meet you any time, I’ll reschedule whatever I must, but it really is rather urgent.” The lawyer sounded frazzled. What could be this important? 

“Is everything okay?” She felt the dread creeping up into her voice.

“Yes, Just there’s a new will we just found with some new details we need to go over.”

She remembered the text she had gotten earlier and pulls the phone away from her face so that she could swipe and see it.

“How about we leave at 2?” Roland’s text read.

“I can get there in half an hour.”

She could have Roland pick her up from the office? Maybe she’d get lunch while she waited for him after meeting with the lawyer. That was if she still had any money. 

Damn! She couldn’t believe she had allowed herself to get talked into going with him. Eddie, I hope you know how much I love you to put up with his cheating ass.

“I got it!” Josh exclaims, and he stands quickly. “It’s you two! Your the idiots that pulled out in front of my truck! You fucking idiots ruined my life, I’m going to kill you, you son-of-“ and with that Josh was leaping across the coffee table which was surprising with his large mass, and slammed into Chuck who had stood there frozen with shock. They both fell to the floor, everything on the table clattering to the ground, remotes, books, and magazines flung off without acknowledgement of their existence. 

“Fuck this, I’m out.” Lizzie said, grabbing her keys and purse, then storming out the front door.

Dead Friends: Chapter 11

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 the direction it came from to see two dead men, entangled and fighting each other. One she recognized. The other was a complete stranger to her.

Chuck was underneath, but the new guy was on top and looking like he was pinning Chuck down. Chuck was flailing back and forth, fighting. The two of them were kicking out, thrashing the bed, Sarah’s dresser and her dirty clothes hamper and the furniture was moving as they did so. 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 weeks 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.

“Stop it!” 

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. Half the bottom row of teeth were 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 hear? 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 your doing in my bedroom?” You would think Sarah had found them going through her underwear drawer and had pulled out one of her panties with how indignant she was.

He just glowered at Chuck. If they were dogs they’d be growling at each other, both with their macho ego’s 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 after 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.