5 Stars for “Caught in the Web”

The latest review for “Caught in the Web”… I truly love her enthusiasm.

“OMG I just don’t even know where to start!! This book Scared Me and Creeped Me Out and Kept Me Wanting More!! I did not read book one so I was not sure if I was going to be okay. Well I WAS!! Just when you thought there could not be another spin on the Zombie Genre Jason Davis Does It!! I am left with SERIOUS ARACHNOPHOBIA after reading this book. Imagine being quarantined in a town and not knowing it. Then you have spider eggs that are hatching around you caring a virus that will turn you. You are sitting in a bar that you think is safe trying to figure things out. Will you make it? Will the Spiders get you. Is the Military you friend or foe. After reading this book every time a see a spider web I will be doing a double look forsure. The narrator of this book did a great job. I will have to get first book!! Yet this book was Creeping Spectacular” – An Amazon review

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Thank You,

` Jason

Dead Friends: Chapter 19

“I think I’m losing my mind. They’re always there, or they were. So much, death… and these things keep happening. I don’t know how much more I can take.” Lizzie said, holding back the fresh wave of tears that lingered on the horizon. If it wasn’t for the hot cup warming her cold hands, she would probably have slipped back into the balling mess Roland had helped off that sidewalk.

It wasn’t much. They were only at the late night coffee shop near the hotel they were about to check into. Since she didn’t let him call the cops on the bum he had chased off, something he still felt was a mistake, she had allowed him to lead her there.

Her hands still shook when they weren’t clutching the hot cop. The tea still steamed though they had been talking for a few minutes. She didn’t know why she should trust him enough to tell him everything, but she had.

This was the guy who cheated on her. That anger still flowed hot and heavy inside her, but he was also the guy she had shared and spent so much time with. Talking to him was easy, she had started telling him some of the story and then all of it just rolled off her tongue.

His hand rested gently on her wrist and she looked up from the steam of the cup to meet his eyes.

“It going to be okay. We’ll get through this. You said they were always with you, but they’re not now?”

“Not since I put on this.” She pulled the talisman out from under her shirt. In the dim light of the coffee shop it had a menacing quality to it as the lights overhead seemed to flow around it bathing it in shadow. Roland reached for it but then pulled his hand back. She could see the hesitation. He was unsureness of what to think or do. His hand rested back on hers.

“Okay. We’ll get through this.”

She wanted to ask about Natalie and where she was in his plans on helping her. Instead she bit back the words and let the anger ebb out of her.

“I’m worried about Jessica. I just have this feeling that it’s after her right now. It’s just a gut feeling, but-”

“Do you even know what ‘it’ is?”

“No, but I’m sure it has something to do with my uncle.”

“Sounds like it.”

Damn he was taking this better than she had, though she did suppose she’d had more information to tell him, more for him to go on when all of this started happening to her. She had the pieces thrown at her and now he could see the whole puzzle. At least as much of the puzzle she already knew.

“I don’t know. It seems like it’s killing my friends or anyone who has anything to do with me. Jessica’s my next closest friend. I don’t know what I’d do if I lost her.”

“Liz, we’ll get through this.” He said to her. Behind them the door jingled and a blast of cool night air brushed against them raising the hairs on her arm. She turned to see two college aged girls coming. They were giggling, talking about someone named Michael. One was dressed nicer than the other and Liz guessed she had just finished what had to have been a bad date if they were together and the girl was not with the boy.

They looked happy. She had been like them once. The weight on her chest made her doubt she would ever be like that again. After all, her uncle had lived alone in the woods for the last eighteen years. He had hidden himself away from everyone he knew or loved.

“I think that might be why he stopped talking to everyone?”

“Who?”

“My uncle. I mean, he just cut himself off, hid himself alone in that cabin. My dad never knew why, he thought it had something to do with a big fight they had and the loss of my aunt. What if there was all this going on?”

“Well, how long was he out there?”

“Eighteen years I think. It started after I was born but long enough that I don’t remember any of it.”

“That’s a long time to be out there alone.”

“What if he had to be? What If it was the only way people would stop dying?”

“But he made you that talisman thingy.”

“Yeah, but it sounded like in the letter that it doesn’t work for too long. I don’t know how any of this works.”

Roland let out a long breath, looking at their hands for a long minute before looking back into her eyes. When he did, she saw the hint of a tear, tucked away on the edge just ready to slip away down his cheek.

“It’ll be okay. Okay. You hear me, it’ll all be okay.” He said it solemnly and she could feel the amount of will he put into his words, like repeating them would somehow make them all true.

“I know.” She looked at her tea, the steam having gone and the lukewarm cup still untouched on the table. “I gotta use the bathroom, then maybe we can get out of here?”

“Sure.”

She rose from the table, only bumping the edge a little, which was better than she thought she’d do. She was always being such a clutch and knocking into tables while standing was pretty much a given for her. She was happy when she didn’t knock over a drink or cause one to spill. It was a win for her and right now she needed as many wins as she could manage.

She found the bathroom in the corner of the small coffee shop, down a narrow dark hallway. The woman’s bathroom was at the end just before the steel door marked “Exit” and right below it a sign proclaiming “Keep Door Closed, Alarm Will Sound.”

The bathroom was just like others she’d been in. It was a large chain and while she hadn’t been all over the country, the ones in Wisconsin seemed to all follow the same layout. She was quick to pee, and felt comfortable doing so in the large clean room.

It was a large room. Larger than it needed to be and larger than bathrooms in other coffee shops, retail stores and restaurants. It offered more privacy as only one person could be in the room at a time. It gave her plenty of space.

She washed her hands and looked in the mirror. The room no longer felt so large. In fact, it was crowded.

They were all there, behind her. Josh, Elisabeth, Chuck, and Sarah all stood behind her and they looked angry. The hatred that burned in Sarah’s eyes was foreign as Lizzie had never seen anything like it. Her eyes, all their eyes were black, and they all bared their teeth in snarls. Nothing of the friendly camaraderie they had shared the past weeks was there. They all looked so angry and all of it was turned on to her.

She turned to look at them directly but they weren’t there. She couldn’t see them without seeing their reflections in the mirror.

She didn’t have time to think anything more of it as she felt something wrap around her and then she was spun around. Her head was slammed against the mirror and she tried to blink away the sudden tears that formed.

“Look at us!” An echo of voices all of them yelling in concert at her. She could hear them as it vibrated through her skull, the sound loud enough to push through any thoughts.

“I…I thought you were gone.”

“Where would we go?” Elisabeth’s voice asked.

The force that had pushed her against the mirror released her and she pulled back to see that it had been Sarah’s hand that had her.

“Yeah, whatever that thing is, it doesn’t release us.” Josh said. Strangely enough he was to the back of the group and looked at her with less hostility than the rest of them. In fact, was he… he looked like he felt sad for her, or was that guilt?

“You sent us to hell.” Sarah snarled at her and then thrusted Lizzie’s head back into the mirror. It slammed with an audible crack and she was sure she would find shards of glass wedges in her skin and hair. She tried to close her eyes to protect them, but the pressure on the back of her head let up as Sarah quickly reached around to hold up her eyelids.

“Oh, no! Keep those peepers open. You wouldn’t want to make me have to cut those off would you?” Sarah said as she leaned in close to Lizzie’s ear. She got really close, looking her in the eye though the mirror, she whispered, “Look at me. See what you did. You did this to us. I should have known it was about you. It is always about you. You did this.”

Sarah did look different. Her skin was much more pale than it had been, which made the red lips vibrant, almost glowing as though they were covered in blood. Her eyes had blood dripping down and joined by blood that dropped from her hair. Parts of her hair were clumped together were red liquid of life still drenched it.

If Lizzie didn’t know any better, she would have thought Sarah had just died and was still in that pool of blood back in her uncle’s kitchen. Well, her kitchen now, but it didn’t matter. Her friend, dead friend, mattered. Before Lizzie had put on the talisman, each of her dead companions had looked better. She wouldn’t say their dead conditions were healing, but they had faded, the image of death not as strong around them. Sarah had almost looked like she had before they had entered the cabin.

Now death permeated from them, their stench filling her nostrils when before she had never been able to smell them. They were… more real, but how when she couldn’t even seen them if not looking through the mirror.

“Say something bitch.” Sarah snapped at her as she slammed Lizzie back into the mirror. This time it was hard enough that darkness swam around her on a river of stars. She felt her body go limp and she crashed to the floor.

Someone knocked on the door.

“Are you alright in there?” A woman’s voice called out from the other side of the door. Lizzie wanted to respond to her. She could hear the woman, but it sounded like they were in a tunnel and she was far on the other side. When she opened her mouth to yell, her air was cut of. Something hard was wrapped around her throat.

She tried to open her eyes, but some kind of fabric was wedged against her face. It smelled like dirt and decay. She didn’t want to imagine what it was, but it kept light from evolving in the world around her.

She tried again to call out but she opened her mouth in vain as she felt something forced into it. She couldn’t keep away the horrific thought of the old man’s penis, the one who had killed Sarah. She remembered the maggot that fell on her, and gagged at the fear that it had now somehow been forced into her. No..he wasn’t there with them, but Chuck and Josh were.

“Miss, I’m going to get the manager. If your having a seizure, don’t worry as we will be calling 911. Are you sure your not okay?”

“Oh no, you’re definitely not okay. How stupid does this bitch have to be? ‘Are you sure your not okay?’ Sarah hissed into her ear. “Like if you are having a seizure, can you please take it somewhere else to die.”

On the last word, Lizzie felt her head being lifted and then slammed back to the floor.

“Sarah.-“ she tried to gasp out the name around whatever had been forced into her mouth. It pulled the cloth further in and she spasmaticly shook against being restrained. Her body shook more vehemently without her having any control. She felt like a blind passenger in her own body as it continued to writhe around on the floor and she couldn’t stop herself or see what was happening around her.

There was the cloth and she felt it touching the back of her throat. She couldn’t breathe, that was enough feeling.

“Your going to die. I’m going to kill you. You sent us to that place. You put us there and you know what?”

“Miss?” A new voice spoke from the other side of the door, the concern evident in his soft spoken tone. Strangers outside the door who were worried about her while her best friend was trying to pound her head through the tile.

“We know why we’re here. Yes, we know.”

Lizzie heard keys jingling on the other side of the door as the pressure on top of her intensified.

“Lizzie!” Roland called out from the other side. “We’re coming in okay?”

Cold struck against her ear in an arctic blast as Sarah hissed the words, “We’re here because of you. You killed us.”

The door to the hall swung open and the pressure on Lizzie disappeared as well as the gagging sensation down her throat. Whatever had been in her mouth and on top of her was gone. She was left only the after affects. Small tremors ran through her as she gasped in mouthfuls of air.

She felt arms around her and saw a shape forming above her as the darkness faded.

“Sir, I don’t think you should be lifting her up like that.” The barista, probably the manager said from behind him. She could feel the smile creasing her lips and she wasn’t sure why but God it felt so good to be held in his arms.

“Lizzie, are you okay?”

“Cindy, call an ambulance.” The manager said to the scared looking girl who stood behind him.

Lizzie shook her head, though it hurt. Marbles seemed to be rattling around in there as the grey matter didn’t quite feel right. She bared it as she pushed herself up to lie back in her elbows.

“No, I’m fine.” She sad to them. Though she knew she wasn’t, she was not going to another hospital. She had enough of them and had no intention to be going back to one tonight, even if it was only for a couple of hours.

After all, who knew when her friends would return.

Fear the zombie spiders…

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Dead Friends: Chapter 18

Hey Girl.” Came the familiar voice Lizzie had hoped to hear. Immediately she released a breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding. That was, until the next part of the message played. “Leave a message.”

Jessica probably had forgotten that her voicemail introduction was old and tacky. Lizzie had forgotten about it. She hadn’t paid it much attention as she usually texted and when she did call, if no one answered she didn’t pay it any attention whatever the greeting was and just left a message.

For that one heartbeat of a second she had actually allowed herself the chance to take a breath and relax. That was shattered as different ways Jessica might have been killed danced in her head. The shadow man was merciless, Lizzie had learned that when Sarah was killed, but since then, he had continued to take those close to her or having anything to do with her.

That explained Josh. It was strange to think he had only awakened her that morning, having arrived in the middle of the night. So much had happened today that it was easy to forget, but now that she concentrated on it, why was Josh there? She had never met him before, but he had been the one who killed Elisabeth and Chuck. They were connected.

“Jessica. Call me. Please.” She could hear the desperation streaming from her own voice.

What if she’d been hit by a car. Sure, the shadow man had already tried that today, but he could have. It was one of the easier ways to kill someone. Though when she thought about it, there were so many other possibilities. She could imagine the elevator in Jessica’s building, the cable snapping or the doors opening allowing for her to step into an empty shaft. Either way would leave her friend to pummel to her death.

Jessica could be just as easily mugged as she walked to her car. Though admittedly Lizzie would have to highly doubt that was possible. After seeing her in action earlier today, Lizzie wasn’t sure how many muggers it would take to put her down. Just one desperate soul out to devour off the weak wasn’t going to do it. Where had that fighter emerged from? She had never seen Jessica do that before. It had been amazing.

Dennis had said something about some kind of training Jess was doing. Maybe Lizzie should look into it? Why though? Lizzie’s problems all seemed to come from the supernatural so how would throwing a punch help?

Though, if there were multiple attackers…

Lizzie knew lingering on the thought wasn’t helping her as she disconnected the call, but she couldn’t help but picturing her friend lying in her own blood as she was dying. Her keys were in her hand, she was right next to her car. Jessica had almost made it before the three had jumped out at her. The first one she had taken down, but the next two both had knives.

It would have been just like Sarah, but this time Lizzie wasn’t there to watch the light slowly fade from her friend’s eyes.

She started reading through the messages on her phone. The oldest ones were from Jess, all of them worried about her. Lizzie knew Jess would have hated her being out with Roland, and Liz didn’t blame her for it. She was just about to get into the newer messages, the ones from the number she didn’t recognize when her phone rang, that same unfamiliar number calling her.

She nearly dropped the phone, and had to fumble with it to click on accepting the call. Her heart felt like it skipped a beat a she shakily raised it to her ear.

“Hello?”

“Hey Liz, everything going okay?” Jessica asked. Lizzie let out a long breath at hearing her friends voice.

“Yeah, hey who’s number is this?”

“Dennis’s work phone. The idiot left his cell at home but had this. Thank god I remembered your number.” There was a joking tone to her voice as she spoke and it tried to set Lizzie’s mind at ease, but there were a lot of messages still. She was having a hard time reconciling that it was just because she was checking up on her friend. Especially since Jess had texted more times today and had spoke to her more than she had in the entire last month of their friendship. Still, for now, Lizzie wondered if it was best to let it go and just talk to her friend. Maybe she was wrong. Maybe her gut was wrong.

“That explains it. So what’s up?”

“Well, you tell me. Is Roland being a bastard?”

“He’s being civil.” Her mind raced to the kiss they had just shared, her memory clinging to his smell, his taste. He tasted of peppermints, like the candy he always kept with him, and the essence of pineapple she knew came from the deodorant that he used.

“He’s not being an ass. He’s still not claiming he never slept with that Natalie is he?”

“It hasn’t come up. Hey, so what’s wrong with your cell?”

“Battery’s dead. Been busy today, forgot to charge it. Then Dennis whisked me away for some camping trip getaway. God only knows where we are right now. He ran in to get some ice for the cooler and I wanted to give you a call. I’ve been worried about you.”

“I’m fine.”

“You didn’t look fine, and what was that with that woman? You went pale just by her talking to you.”

“I was just spooked, but come on, Ms. Bruce Lee.”

“I told you, I’ve been taking self defense classes.”

“Yeah, well that was pretty impressive.”

“He shouldn’t have been pushing her around.” Lizzie noticed the chance in Jess’s voice. A sadness had creeped into her tone and Lizzie wondered if something was hidden there in her past. Sarah, she had grown up with, but Jess was a newer friend. There was still much Lizzie didn’t know about her.

“Okay, I gotta go. He’s taking me up to some cabin his parents have on timeshare or whatever.”

“Thought you said you were going camping.”

“We’re in the woods and there’s no internet. I don’t care if we’re in a cabin or a tent, it’s all camping to me.”

Lizzie barely stifled the giggle as her friend said her goodbyes and the phone disconnected. Jessica was okay. She was alive and Lizzie had been worrying for nothing.

Maybe she was being crazy or had been crazy and was now pulling herself out of it. All of this silliness with some shadowy figure and a dead man who killed her best friend. She didn’t know what the hell happened, she should just admit that to herself.

“Hey miss, you got a light?” Lizzie heard from behind her, and instinctively her neck hair rose. She realized just how alone it was on the street and for the first time wondered how long Roland had been away. He should be back by now, where the hell is he?

She turned to look at the owner of the voice. It had been raspy, near whisper and impossible to know if it had been a man or woman.

When she first looked back, her heart skipped. It was him. He had found her. Hundreds of miles away and here he was. The shadow man was there, his face obscured by darkness.

But the image of the shadow man faded as another man standing tall and just barely able to be seen in the dim light. He wasn’t even close to her and she could smell his breath, the alcohol emanating from him like he was a distillery. His large coat hid his slender frame, but did nothing to conceal his gaunt dirt covered face.

The man was imposing enough, but as he bent over to lower himself to her, the streetlight caught his eyes. Lizzie could just barely see it, but she had already known. She knew that if the sun shone bright, she would see those red rings around his irises. The shadow man was there after all, even if she couldn’t see him.

“Come on, give me a light.” He said as he reached out for her. She had seen him coming, fearing it, and was quick to push herself forward and twisting the spin while rising up from the bench. She moved just in time, his hand only brushing against the back of her sweater leaving traces of dirt from his fingers.

His hands were covered in it and she couldn’t help but remember what the sheriff had said about the old man. A dead man had killed her friend. Was this guy dead too? He wreaked enough to call it in question but she didn’t have time to think about it now as he followed up reaching for her by lunging over the bench.

“What the hell.” She quickly stepped back. He came down hard to the cement and he slammed his fist into the pavement in frustration. She wasn’t waiting for his next move as she dashed around to behind the bench where the man had just been. A cackling escaped from him and he twisted himself up to look at her.

“What’s a matter little girl. Don’t want to wet the noodle?” His face now covered in blood that was running from his nose. He didn’t pay it any attention and continued to howl louder with his laughter as he pulled himself forward.

His legs came down from the bench, limp behind him and she would have expected him to stand up and come at her again. He was aggressive in his attack, continuing to come after her, not allowing her to catch her breath.

Just run away, she screamed internally to herself, but she didn’t. She got away from him so far, she just had to keep out of reach. Then what? Eventually he would catch her.

Jessica wouldn’t run away. She had stood up to it earlier today. She had fought against people, taken down that man. She had really kicked some ass. So come on Lizzie, are you going to run away for the rest of her life. Hell no!

She started to plan her attack. He was going to get up and lung back over the bench and she would grab his arm, pull him off balance and then slam her fist into face knocking him out. That’s right, it seemed simple enough. She just had to do it once he came at her.

Wait, don’t you hurt yourself more if you ball your fist the wrong way? She thought she’d heard that somewhere.

It didn’t matter as she never got the chance to test it. The guy didn’t stand. Instead he quickly crawled under the bench and grabbed her legs. She had just seen that he was under the bench and hadn’t registered the change fast enough. Her mind had still been on formulating the plan of him coming over.

He caught her off guard and by the time it clicked and her mental gears started moving, he was close. She only had time to take a step back but then he had her, grabbing the leg nearest him. She was still trying to pull it away when he lurched forward and wrapped his arms around her, pulling his weight into her leg and throwing her off balance.

She fell back, twisting as she did so to work her way free. It seemed impossible, his grip tight on her. She would have questioned his strength but It didn’t matter. She’d been through this before and she recognized the sensation of having the shadow man nearby. She could almost imagine his sing song of a chant and feel his damp breath. He was there, it was him possessing the man, and once again he had her.

The cement was hard and she crashed into it without any way of catching herself. Her air escaped her lungs even as she fought to keep it. The lungs that betrayed her felt pained and were angry with her as they tried to pull in on themselves. Her whole body hated her. It recognized the pain and knew it was her fault. She had the chance to get away and she hadn’t.

As she fought to pull air into her recovering lungs, she could feels his hands moving up her legs. He would grab higher and higher then pull his body a few inches at a time.

“Tik-a-tat, tik-a-tat, tik-a-tat” in that old raspy voice kept screaming though her mind.

Stars danced around her. She was still having a hard time but she was now able to gasp in short wisps of air. Her vision was getting cloudy and she felt her eyes watering.

His hand left her leg and she felt it come down on her waist, reaching and grabbing the gap between her pants and the flesh hidden beneath. She tried to wiggle away but his grip was firm on her jeans. She shook harder, coughing with the exertion as she was finally pulling in air.

“Come here honey, light my fire.” The voice rasped, coughing spastically as it spoke.

She kicked out with her legs, and reached with her arms trying to pull herself away.

“Help! Get away from me! Someone help me.” She screamed finally finding her voice now that she had air. Her throat burned with the effort.

“No one.” He hissed, “No one to hear you.” She felt him slither over her legs, like a snake as he was working his way up. Her legs were trapped, her efforts to kick him away useless. Instead she fought to twist herself away. Maybe she could somehow push him off of her so she could get up, but it was useless.

“Get off me!” She stopped slamming her fists down and twisted again, reaching down and pushing the man down. He was so much stronger than her, but she fought with everything she had.

Her arms gave out and she tried again to twist in a way to pull herself free. His hands let go and she found herself able to move. She landed on her chest and something crunched against her. It bit into her breast, but she couldn’t stop to think about it. She had to…

His arm reach up and grabbed part of her shirt. His nails were long and dug into her flesh even through the fabric of her sweater.

Why had she thought she could fight him. She should have just run away. He never would have caught her. She wouldn’t be under him now, and none of this would be happening. Why did this always happen to her?

He was going to rape her. As sure as she knew she was going to die tonight, and that it would be by his hands, she knew he was going to violate her first.

And she had no way of stopping him…

Fresh tears rolled down her cheek and she let her arms fall to the side. It was going to happen wether she fought him or not. What did it matter? It was all over.

“What the hell! Get off of her!” She heard he familiar voice but it sounded like it was miles away at the end of a very long tunnel. She couldn’t concentrate on it, barely hearing the words but not grasping the meaning of what was being said.

Around here the world was blurry and she could feel the darkness closing in, surrounding her and pulling her into unconsciousness. She didn’t care. The coolness of the sidewalk beneath her was comforting and so inviting. Maybe they could all just leave her there and let her become a statue.

She felt the weight on top of her rip away and she couldn’t help but release a giggle. Floating man going away, she thought, floating man returning to the shadows light as a feather. Another tear rolled down her cheek. She felt it as it slid down its path.

There was shuffling around her, but it was a world away, why should any of that concern her. She heard more shouting and knew now who was yelling. It was Roland but why was he at the end of the tunnel. He should be here with her. Why had they been so far apart?

Her head hurt as she tried to think of the reason, but nothing came.

“Lizzie! Lizzie, are you okay? Do I need to get an ambulance?” He was getting closer until she finally opened her eyes. She had slipped off, not realizing she had closed them, but now her eyes wide open, she saw him hovering over her.

He looked so concerned. Was that really for her?

“Hey big boy. Where have you been?” She said and the words sounded strange to her. Then she realized slowly what had just happened to her.

The tears flooded out from her as reality crashed into her like a freight train. She could stop it but didn’t feel like she had to. Roland understood and pulled her up and into his chest. She reached out and pulled him closer, clinging to him so he wouldn’t disappear on her again. Never again, he needed to always be with her. She needed him.

“It’s okay. The bad man is gone away. I chased him.” He said to her gently.

But he was wrong and she knew it. The bad man hadn’t gone away, just the vessel it possessed.

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 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.

Dead Friends: Chapter 9

I want to take a minute and thank everyone for the massive amount of support on Thursday. Chapter 8 was one of the most viewed posts on my blog and that while this excites me, it also terrifies me to post Chapter 9.

Thank you…

Just to remind everyone, this is a first draft and I am posting this for Beta Read purposes, so if you have any suggestions or comments, please do not hesitate.

*****

“Oh my God! Liz, you okay?”

Lizzie turned and looked up, having to shield her eyes from the sun that the short woman only barely blocked. She had recognized the voice when she heard it calling out but even now she wasn’t sure she could believe Jessica had been there. Though it did make sense as Jess was just as much one of Sarah’s friends. 

”Here, let me help you up. Did you hit your head when you fell? I’m so sorry I haven’t been by to check in on you. Dennis and I were out of town, but we hurried back as soon as we heard. Why didn’t you call us to tell us. Patty was the one who called. I don’t even know how she heard.” Jessica said as she was pulling Lizzie up. Jessica was known for speaking like that. When she was excited, she would release a torrent of words that often had everyone around her struggling to keep up and no one could get a word in. 

Not that Lizzie had anything she wanted to say. Her mind was still reeling from the gravestone. It had really said to ‘beware the dead.’ Why would it say that? How could her uncle have known.

Lizzie looked at the three dead things that were gathered around her. Elisabeth and Sarah looked concerned but Chuck was glaring again. She was to beware them, why? What could they do? They were dead. They were annoying but they couldn’t touch her or anything else solid. Why did she need to beware?

“Hello? Earth to Lizzie? Did you hit your head? I can-“

“I’m fine. Did you talk to Sarah’s parents? How are they doing?”

“Well, not good. I really didn’t get a chance to talk to them much. I saw you walking off and wanted to catch up.”

“Thanks.”

“Yeah, no problem. Dennis stayed over there. Why didn’t you talk to them? They’re like your second family.”

“They blame me.”

“You’re kidding? Why?”

“Because she fucking got their daughter killed you dumbass.” Chuck screamed in her ear. Lizzie winched, not realizing he had rushed to catch up to them as they were walking back to Sarah’s grave. Jessica hadn’t noticed the brutally deformed man right next to her. Lizzie could barely keep from looking at him. It seemed the more he was there the angrier he became. He blamed her. She hadn’t caused his death, but that didn’t matter. He was there, and he had died when she had not.

“I lived,” Lizzie said, lowering her eyes as she couldn’t keep from staring into his hate. 

“Oh, girl,” and before Lizzie could protest, she was pulled into the shorter woman and had to fight to keep herself from falling farther forward into her. “It’s not your fault. You gotta know that don’t ya. It’s not your fault.”

“Sure.”
“Oh no, your not getting away from me that easily. I’m not letting you go until you say it.”

“I’m okay.”

“Say it.”

“I’m okay.”

“You know that’s not what I mean.”

“Come on, admit to it. You killed us.” Chuck whispered into her ear.

****

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****

“Chuck!” Elisabeth yelled and Lizzie looked up to see that she was working with Sarah to pull him away from Jessica. 

“Liz,” Jessica released her from the hug to hold her out at arms length, studying her. Lizzie was sure her friend could see the tears, both not the that had fallen the ones that were threatening on the horizon. 

“Say it with me. Its…not…your…fault.” She waited each time, watching and making sure Lizzie repeated back to her. “Good.”

It brought more tears, and somehow, even though the larger woman was shorter than her, Lizzie found herself burying her face into Jessica’s shoulder.

“It’s going to be okay.” Sarah was saying behind her.

“We’re here for you,” Now it was Elisabeth near her as well.

“You’re all pathetic.” She could hear the disdain in Chuck’s voice. She wasn’t sure if she preferred him not to be talking to her. The silence had been filled with his hatred but at least he had stayed quiet. She wasn’t sure if this new development was for the better. Maybe he was beginning to cope with what had happened to them.

“Come on, I don’t know who’s all still around, but Dennis will be waiting for us at the car. I know you probably don’t want to go back to the house, so…I don’t know. How have you been? You able to sleep? You know you could stay with us for awhile. It’d be like it used to be when we were roommates.”

It had only been four months since Jessica had moved in with Dennis, but she made this sound like it had been a time long ago and that staying with her would be some trip down nostalgia lane. It wasn’t that long ago, and they hadn’t stopped hanging out together. They had just gone shoe shopping two weeks ago and Lizzie had found herself some really nice flats that she’d been wearing. Jessica had talked about Dennis the whole time, and Sarah had kept trying to bring up Roland, knowing that Lizzie had just separated. Sarah was hungry for all the juicy details and was hoping Jess would help her get her friend to spill the beans.

They had laughed and talked and had spent the whole day together. Why couldn’t things just return to that? That one moment in time, possible the last one that she had been such completely lost in her friends and happiness. She hadn’t been worrying about school and if she was going to change majors again, it would be her third major in two years, and she hadn’t been worried about pleasing anyone else. She had just enjoyed being with people she cared about and was glad to be alive. She had been happy that her friends were alive and were there with her.

“I’m not sure. I don’t want to trouble you and Dennis.”

“Liz, it’s no trouble. You know that.”

“I know.”

“Do you really want to sleep in that apartment alone. With what happened?”

She wouldn’t be alone. She had all her dead hanger-ons who didn’t go away. She would never be alone. She had Chuck to scream all night while Sarah and Elisabeth fought with him to shut up. Lizzie had her crying and of course, there was all the nightmares when she could get to sleep. The shadow man that followed her inside the dreamworld and then lingered into her waking life.

So Lizzie was never alone. They would never allow it. She would always have someone there to make her life miserable. If she took a powder, Sarah or Elisabeth would be there with her. Chuck would be there and he would torture her, watch her even when taking a shower. He had tried that morning, but Sarah prevented it. Eventually she’d get tired of stopping him.

“I’ll be fine.”

“No, you won’t. You can either sleep at our place or I’m staying there. You’re not getting rid of me.”

“I’m fine. I said I was fine.”

“Hey, I’m only trying to help and be here for you.”

“But you act like I need someone to save me, like I can’t handle this or do things on my own. Your not my mother, Dennis isn’t my father and I don’t need to be babied.”

They were getting closer to the cars and Lizzie could see Dennis was giving Sarah’s mom a hug before she got in the car. She didn’t know if they could hear them, but with how Lizzie couldn’t control herself with how loud she was getting, she feared the worse. As the car drove off and Dennis looked at them with a pained look, Lizzie was pretty sure she was right. They’d heard it. She didn’t know how much but they did.

Dennis walked toward them. He was Jessica’s matching set. They were both larger, but shorter and if you only looked at body dimensions, looked like they could be brother and sister. However where as Jessica had dark hair, his was a brilliant red. He kept a well manicured beard that somehow brought out his smile rather than hid it in the hair. As he approached, she saw the smile, but could tell it was for her benefit, while not genuine to how he felt. There was a deep sadness to his eyes as they wore lines at the corners.

Before saying anything, he stepped to Lizzie and wrapped his arms around her in a hug. “We’re here for you.”

As Lizzie pulled back from him, she couldn’t suppress the slight smile and the fresh wave of tears. “Thank you.”

“So, where we off to?” He looked at them both. He was trying so hard not to act upset, and it was odd, but Lizzie felt herself relaxing as he hid his own grief from them.

“What did she say?” Jessica asked, nodding to the car that was leaving the driveway at the edge of the cemetery.

“That she would be okay, she loves us, but that all of us may not be welcomed at their house for drinks. She’s worried it would cause undo drama.”

“That woman was like a second mother to Liz and now their blaming her like she killed her. That’s not right.”

“Yeah, it’s bullshit, but it’ll take awhile. They just need to deal with it in their own way.”

“Hey, I’m right here.” Lizzie said, a little frustrated with them taking like she wasn’t there.

“Oh there you are, thought we’d lost ya.” Dennis said with his smirk, his sarcasm heavy on his tongue and she couldn’t stop herself from giggling and smacking him on the arm.

“So, whose up for lunch?” Dennis said as he stumbled back, playing the part of the injured man as he rubbed where she had hit.

“Don’t know. Haven’t really thought about food much the last couple of days.” Lizzie looked over her shoulder. The others followed, the disfigured trio that walked behind them. Lizzie had no way of telling them, her two living friends about the dead’s ones. How every time she tried to eat, they were there and she found her appetite slip away.

“We don’t need food. We need Belts.” Jessica said with a giggle, pushing Lizzie softly towards their car.

“You just think ice cream is the solution to all.” Dennis laughed.

“And you agree. Remember when we took your dad there. I thought his eyes were going to explode out of his head when he saw the size of the cone. It was bigger than his head.”

Lizzie allowed herself to drift back as they started to tease each other. Her car wasn’t parked too far away, but she’d have to leave them soon to walk to it. She wasn’t sure she was ready to do that. Not yet.

She figured she’d follow them there. She didn’t like the idea of leaving her car in the cemetery and she knew where Belt’s Soft Serve was. 

The last time she followed someone, they ended up dead. She saw the crash, watching as the truck plowed into the car, the sound of crushing metal and breaking glass shouting through her memories.

“So, you just going to follow us there?” Jessica asked “I mean you could ride with us, it’s up to you. Dennis has to move his trombone out from the passenger seat, don’t ask why he brought it, I’m not really sure and he just laughs when I ask him.”

The car. The crashing. The screeching metal.

“I can make it work. I don’t really want to drive myself right now.”

Well, sure. Climb in.” Dennis said with a shrug.

****

“Are you sure we shouldn’t go somewhere with, you know,” Dennis playfully added, “actual food.”

They were along the highway and halfway to Belts but as Lizzie sat in the back seat, she was beginning to sense that while Jessica had suggested it, she wasn’t really in the mood for a massive ice cream cone.

“I’m fine with whatever. I’m not really all that hungry.”

She watched as they shared a glance back and forth. She knew they were talking in ways she couldn’t see. Part of it was probably eye contact, but they were also no doubt, texting each other back and forth even while Dennis was driving. Lizzie noticed that his cell phone was not mounted on the vent magnetic holder where he normally kept it. They were talking, scheming and it had something to do with her.

“Hey, how’s this. We go back to our place and grill up some brats. Dennis can go to the meat market and I can soak up some wood chips while he’s gone. It’ll give us a chance to girl talk, and he can do whatever he needs to do.”

Yep, they were planning on something. They were manipulating her, but did it really matter? They were in a car, and there were no dead people in there with her. It was such a relief that the only other occupants of the back seat was a dinged up old trombone that Dennis played when he performed with his jazz band. It was heaven and she hadn’t thought about just how nice it would be to not have them there. 

“Sure.”

“It’ll be okay.” Dennis said, looking at her through the rearview. “We’re here for you.”

They’re there for her. Everyone was there for her, at least, that was what they said. She wanted to ask them, just how much they would be there for her if they knew she had been talking to the dead for the last week.

“Hey Dennis?” Dennis had turned back to watching the road but turned to look at her, nodding for her to continue. “You have a buddy who gives lessons in self defense right?”

“Kinda,” he turned back to watch the road as they neared a stop. He turned on the signal and she saw that they were taking a right turn. When they stopped he looked back at her. “Ben teaches Karate at a dojo over on Wildwood drive. It’s not really a self defense class, but, well…”

She nods to him and he makes his turn.

“So you want to learn Karate?” Jessica asks. She plays with the word Karate, stretches it out, toying with each syllable making it sound like an eighties school girl. Lizzie winces, already making fun of the idea to herself, let alone hearing it from her friend.

“I don’t know. It was just a thought.”

“Well, Ben’s a good guy. He doesn’t own or run the place, but the guy who does is supposed to be some world renowned champion I guess. I think the first class is free, so you can check it out.”

“Look, Liz, I shouldn’t kid. I know you’ve been through some shit.” Jessica said. Lizzie didn’t know what she looked like, but Jessica had stopped joking with her and now looked concerned. “If you want, I’ll take a class or two with you. Check it out.”

“I’ll be fine. It was just a thought.”

“Okay, well the offer stands.”

“Thanks.”

Dead Friends: Chapter 8

It should’ve been raining. Funerals should always be cold and miserable. They should be drab affairs and the weather should reflect that. Otherwise it just felt wrong, that the emotions that were being felt were hollow in the sun.

Lizzie felt that way. Something had twisted inside her and now she was a shell. There had to be a living person somewhere deep inside, but she didn’t recognize it. That person was no longer home in her. The ghost that remained was unrecognizable.

The outside world was no better. When she had finally returned to her apartment in the city, it had felt foreign, the objects inside no longer having any meaning to what was left of her life. The moving shapes, cars and busses no longer gave her that sense of security as she watched them drive by and imagined them crashing into cars her friends were driving. Each touch made her jump, the coffee shop’s hissing of froth sounded like screams. All of it was strange and she had never before felt so alone. She now saw the world for the darkness that existed in the shadows while they danced around her, waiting for their chance to take her.

She wanted to join them. Already, she’d lost three friends in the span of a week, why couldn’t she have been with them? Everyone around her seemed to be dying and here they left her to survive in this world.

No, they hadn’t left her. Maybe it would be easier if they had, but they were all three with her now as an ever present reminder that they were dead and she was not.

She looked at the priest who was reciting some prayer. Around her, many had their heads bows, shedding tears for Sarah. Next to the priest stood Sarah’s mom, an arm around her from Sarah’s dad. They had both been like second parents to Lizzie while growing up and now they barely acknowledged her.

They blame you. She didn’t know why, and it wasn’t fair. She had called them shortly after returning to the apartment and they had come over to get some of Sarah’s things. When they had arrived, Sarah’s mom had gone into her room while her dad stayed with Lizzie. He’d tried to talk to her, but wouldn’t look her in the eye. Joann, Sarah’s mom would, but there was hate there, and neither of them pretended to be polite. They came, took what they wanted, and left, John barely mentioning anything about the funeral until they were out the door. Even then, it was clear they didn’t want her there.

She came anyway, and they had yet to say anything to her, openly avoiding getting near her. She had to talk to them though, make them understand that none of this was her fault.

“And now we lay this blessed soul to rest. She was taken too soon, but are comforted with knowing that she has joined you Lord, up in the gentle pastors of your heavenly grace.”

The priest was finishing his prayer, and Lizzie felt the hand in her chest tighten. Soon they would ask for people to come up there and speak. Sarah’s parents were sure to say something, and Lizzie had been dreading that they would openly blame her. The accusing finger would point at her and they would cry out, “Murderer!” 

“I can’t believe Rick came.” Sarah said from behind Lizzie. 

“Who’s Rick?” Elisabeth said, standing next to her. The side of her face was crushed in, and when she spoke it was hard for her to say it without a lispt, adding a ‘th’ sound. Who’s came out as Who’sth. Next to Elisabeth was Chuck. Since he died, he hadn’t said much to Lizzie or to any of them. He mostly glared at them, blaming them for his death. He would sit and mope when Lizzie went anywhere to eat and at night he would scream out the window trying to get someone to wake him up from his nightmare.

“He’s my old boyfriend. I dumped him six months ago, but he never took the hint and has been stalking me. I thought he was going to go psycho on me and they’d find me sliced up out in the woods somewhere. Go figure.”

Lizzie fought against the tears. They wanted to burst from her, but she bit down hard on her lip. She was not about to cry. Not now, not with all the people surrounding her. She felt the wetness touching the corner of her eyes, but she was sure as hell not about to give in. 

Why did she fight it? She lost her friend. Sarah had died right in front of her. She had every damned reason to be balling her eyes out. It was logical. Yeah, but was it logical for her best friend who was dead to be standing there at her own funeral, making jokes about boys she’d dated. Lizzie had a hard time keeping it all together just because she lost her friend. Having her ghost still there was driving her crazy. They were all three always there. They stayed with her, going wherever she went. She had to find a way to get rid of them.

And then there was the tickety-tac man. Her shadow man still came to her, though he was often a thing that tortured her nightmares. She wasn’t sure if he was real anymore or just something that was a part of her dreams. She thought she had seen him out in the woods, but he might have just been the first crack in her sanity.

“Thank you all for coming. There’s a gathering at the house. Most of you are welcome to stop by and offer your condolences.” Sarah’s dad was saying. As he did, he looked directly at Lizzie and she knew who the ‘most’ being welcome referred to and she wasn’t one of them. It was written on his face.

How could she explain it to them? She had a flower basket in her car. She figured after the memorial, she would give it to them, offer her words and wrap her arms around them. The Jones had been like family to her. She had grown up there just as much as her own home and with Sarah vice versa.

And now they hated her.

“Um, I don’t like how my dad keeps giving you the stink-eye. Maybe we shouldn’t have come?” Sarah said, looking as her dad finished his remarks. For a brief moment Lizzie thought he was going to come at her, but he turned away, taking his wife in his arms as they walked towards the line of cars parked along the narrow service road.

“I don’t know about Lizzie, but I remember you were saying how much you thought it would be cool to see your own funeral.” Elisabeth said, fighting to talk through the lisp.

“Hey, this isn’t easy for me being dead.”

“You’re not the only one. Hello.” Chuck made a sound behind Elisabeth as they both stared at the other dead woman. “At least you get to go to your funeral. I doubt Lizzie will go to ours and we don’t even know when it is.”

It wasn’t easy to ignore her dead followers. They were always there now, no one else able to see them and always fraying at the edge of what Lizzie believed was her sanity.

As the progression of mourners left to their cars parked along the path, Lizzie turned to go the other way. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to see the others. She did, even though she knew they didn’t want to see her. There were at least a few she would have like to talk to, Jess especially, but Lizzie’s parents were buried nearby and she wanted to say hello. It’d been awhile since she had visited them. Being there amongst the dead that stayed buried, she realized that it had been longer than she had ever intended.

It took her a few missed attempts at finding their grave stone, but she finally found it. The large slab of marble was more than they should have had on the grave, and she hadn’t thought about it before as he never came to the funeral but it had to have been bought by her uncle.

She wondered just how much he had been in her life without her ever knowing it. What did he even know about her? Why did he leave most of his money to her, and not split it evenly with her brother. It was a raw deal that just because her brother was disabled, he’d get less. Did her uncle think he wouldn’t need it, or did he just not care?

Though it didn’t matter now. She looked down at the beautiful tombstone, the nice plot that had her parents next to each other as it topped a hill. It was elegant, and of course had their names and lifespans etched on the front. Below it was stated simply, “Loved by son and daughter.”

She didn’t stop the tears this time as they rolled down her face, looking at the graves.

“Whose this?”

“Oh, Lizzie…” 

Elisabeth and Sarah came up behind her, and she could feel them standing there without turning. She often tried not to look at them anymore. They were all bloody messes. Sarah, she understood, but Chuck and Elisabeth had both just shown up hours after their deaths. Lizzie had just finished talking to the EMTs and the police and had finally given the okay to leave. She was driving down the road, Sarah hanging out in the passenger seat, riding shotgun like she had so often done while alive, when Elisabeth and Chuck both just showed up in the back seat. 

****

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****

They had been as surprised as she had been.

They were just there, both of them screaming and causing Lizzie to drive off the road, barely able to keep control of the car.

“I’m sure they’re in heaven. They won’t be stuck down her like whatever we are.” Sarah said, putting her arm around Lizzies shoulder. She wasn’t sure if she really felt it, but thought there was a chill to where the dead friend touched her. They had already discovered that the dead couldn’t walk through objects for some reason, but if Lizzie tried to close a door on them and keep them from following her, they were just appear next to her. She had no control over it and according to them, neither did they.

Though, since they were probably figments of her imagination and she was slowing driving down the crazy train on a short trip to hell, did it really have to make any logical sense about what the dead could and could not do? She didn’t think so. Soon they would be the only ones she talked to as they locked her away in some white room with padded walls. The day was coming, she just didn’t know how much longer until it did.

Lizzie sat down. It wasn’t planned and was more of a fall then a chosen action of sitting, but the earth was soft and she landed without hurting herself too much. If she wasn’t sore from being chased by a murderer who the cops say was already dead, she might not have hurt at all from the fall. As it was, the bruises still hadn’t faded completely and caused her to wince.

Behind her, she heard the two dead girls whispering. She could barely hear more than snippets of what they were saying.

“parents…killed…” was enough for her to know that Sarah was filling Elisabeth in on the whole parents being killed in a car wreck much like her own. Lizzie was sure that Elisabeth was noting the similarities as well, because it was true, death was all around Lizzie. It was like a black cloud that hung over her, following her wherever she went. 

Maybe that was why she stayed away from her brother so much? She knew it wasn’t true, but she had no better explanation for it. It wasn’t his fault he was sick, but just because he was, didn’t mean she always had to be around. He had doctors and caregivers who took care of him, she wasn’t needed. Something more she told herself to keep him away.

But who was she really kidding?

She crawled across the ground and sat on her parents graves, leaning back against them. The tears continued, the sobs coming in waves as she allowed herself to think of more things she had done wrong in her life, more people she felt responsible for ruining their lives. You know, when you want to, you can make yourself responsible for anything when you try hard enough, and she was trying incredibly hard to make herself the destroyer of the universe.

Lizzie had stopped paying attention to her dead friends, so she didn’t see when Chuck had been walking around the graves. She hadn’t seen when he had bent down on the back side of her parents graves, and then had stood up to motion the rest of them over. They left her alone to cry there as they went around, and she cried even harder as now she even chasing away her dead friends. Everyone was leaving her and it was all her part.

“Liz, you should see this.”

Lizzie ignored them, wiping away one set of tears only to feel that another wave, this one accompanying a headache was coming.

“Who would have done that?” Elisabeth was asking.

“I don’t know but they really scratched the hell out of it.”

This is marble. They’d have to have some serious tools to etch that in” Chuck said.

“Really?”

“I mean, I’m not an expert, but that’s hard rock. Have you ever taken a knife to anything solid? It might scratch it, but nothing like how deep that is.”

“So your saying someone came out here with power tools?”

“No, just someone put a lot of work into it, I’m surprised no one noticed it or hadn’t said anything.”

Lizzie glanced up as Sarah came around from behind her, having just saw what the other two had been talking about. She lowered herself to Lizzie, her eyes sorrowful. Lizzie forced herself to hold back the next round of tears, trying to wipe and hide them away now that someone had noticed her.

“I think you should see this.”

“What is it?” She tried to say, unsure of what her friend actually heard. Sarah nodded though, and acted as she understood. That’s what life long friendship was, being able to know what someone meant, even if the words came out unclear.

“You should see it.”

“Okay.”

It took her a little bit of effort to get up. The soft earth made her limbs unsteady, and her soreness fought against her. She wasn’t sure of her legs and had to use the solid tombstone to help her stand. Even then her knees wobbled and more than once she saw Sarah reach out to try and help her only to pull her hands back.

Lizzie understood why. While her dead friends weren’t substantial enough to move objects, there was something else entirely that happened when they touched one another. Sarah had reached out for her once before and they had both had a sudden sickness overtake them, their stomachs threatening to relieve themselves and their heads exploding in pain. Lizzie wasn’t exactly sure what it meant or what it was, but they had learned that they weren’t meant to touch.

So Sarah could only watch as Lizzie struggled to get strength back in her legs as she eased her way to what they were looking at.

On the back of the tombstone was etched deep in the marble the words, “I’m Sorry Johnny Boy.” and underneath, probably was meant to be a signature, the initials of her uncle. He had at some point, come to visit her parents and had felt the need to forcefully etch in the stone his apology. What was he sorry for? Lizzie would never know.

Lizzies knees gave out, her legs collapsing under her and she barely missed the headstone as she fell to the ground.

“Lizzie!” She heard from a familiar voice, but not from the dead friends around her. This was one she hadn’t heard without the hiss of a cell static in over a week, and she couldn’t help but wonder how she was hearing it.

Did it matter. She had just fallen, she was on the ground, bound down to this marble altar of her parents death.

“Lizzie!” the voice called again.

“Ah shit, It’s Jess. I love her and all, but she really does have the worst timing.”

“Who’s Jess.” Elisabeth asked, looking from Sarah to Chuck and then back.

“A friend of ours. She was supposed to be out there with us. If she had, maybe I’d still be alive, though I’m not bitter or anything.” By her tone, it was hard to notice that Sarah was indeed still bitter and had she been able to touch the woman who was quickly approaching, she would probably try choke her.

Lizzie didn’t look up as they talked. She had noticed something on the marble. It was something else scratched there, but this wasn’t as deep and hidden lower on the base where the grass nearly covered it. She eased closer and pushed aside the blades of grass.

Her uncle had etched this without the care or the tools and somehow she had known that it had been there just for her. She did’t know how she knew, but could see him. She watched as he had tossed aside his etching tools, took a long pull from some bottle. He was wavering back and forth so he must have been drunk as he pulled out the screwdriver and dropped down to the ground, lying there just as she was. He reached out and painstakingly scratched the stone to read, “Beware the dead” and below it, “stay in the house.”