Dead Friends: Chapter 22

The first thing Lizzie felt when she woke up was an immense pain in her temple and that sense of being pulled out of some other world. The one she was now in still was rich in haze from the fog of slumber and remnants were still fresh in her thoughts from the one she left behind.

Had it been real? Had any of that just happened? It had been so real. It felt more like memories than dream fragments, but if that was the case why had she been Jessica. She had known her thoughts, her past, things that Jessica had never told her about herself. About her friend. She couldn’t have made all that up, could she? She was unsure, but it unsettled her, because if it was real, then her friend was dead.

The rock formed in her stomach. She had wanted to warn her earlier. She had tried to warn Jessica that something was coming after her. She had known they were next, but maybe it was because of that premonition that she had dreamed about it.

The dream had been so real. Too real. She still felt the bone deep cold inside her, and as she opened her eyes and exhaled a puff of mist formed from her lips. Lips that had just hours before been kissed by Roland. How could she have slept with him  after everything that has happened between the two of them. She could never have been that stupid, but yet she had.

The heart wants what the heart wants.

“But honey, that hadn’t been your heart talking, that had been something else. That was you pussy talking and it was hungry for the ‘D’.” A voice said to her in her head. She recognized it as a voice from long ago, though who it belonged to, she couldn’t recall. It was a voice from out of time floating in from some forgotten past.

As she tried to focus on it, more of the dream faded away yet the cold remained. It was very cold, too cold even. A shiver ran through her and that shouldn’t be right. She shouldn’t be shivering from a dream, should she?

Something tapped into her back and she had to remember that she was still in the hotel room. He was there too, asleep behind her in the bed.

How could she have been so stupid?

She wanted desperately to get out of there. She didn’t know how long she had been asleep, but the little of it she had was enough to clear her mind. God! What had she been thinking?

Didn’t matter. The deed was done and tomorrow he would wake up and remind her of it, maybe even try for a repeat as if everything was forgotten and forgiven. Men.

She wished she had driven herself. Then she could sneak out into the night and disappear, letting the miles between them build until maybe this would become another ungodly nightmare.

First she needed to call Jessica, make sure she was okay. It was the middle of the night, the outside light filtering through the hotels curtains confirmed that suspicion, and she would probably wake her friend.

I just need to make sure she’s okay.

But you know she’s not.

I don’t know that, just the dream had been so real.

The conversation played out in her mind and she continued to lie there in indecision. She should wake up Roland and tell him about it. He would calm her down, tell her she was being silly, but hey, here’s my cell phone if you want to call her. He’d do all those things, as he was a good guy who cared for her. So why did he also have to be such a lying cheating bastard?

Last night she had believed all his bullshit. Why couldn’t she believe him now? Because she had come to her senses, that’s why. What had she been thinking?

She could feel him shift in the bed behind her and let out a soft moan.

He probably sensed that she was awake and was waking up too. He had always been good about waking up with her whenever she couldn’t sleep. He was usually a heavy sleeper, but the moment she had a bad dream, he was up and had her in his arms. When her parents died, he had slept over a lot, and there were many of these nights when she would find herself crying on his chest.

She didn’t want him knowing she was awake. Damn. Maybe if she was still and stayed on her side, he wouldn’t know, but she wanted to call Jess. Damn. What if she fell back to sleep waiting for him to fall back to sleep. Damn, damn, damn.

She pulled the blankets tighter around her. It was so cold in the room. They must had forgotten to turn on the heat when they had come in. Considering how they had been with each other, she wasn’t surprised. They had been generating their own heat.

Now the room was an ice box. She could use the temperature of the room as a refrigerator, their bottled water would be nicely chilled for drinking where it sat on the little table across the room. The temp had must of dropped down much lower than forecasted if the room was this cold. She hadn’t brought enough clothes.

Roland moaned louder. Then he moaned even louder. This wasn’t him waking up.

Then he screamed and she turned over to see that she had gone from dreaming one nightmare to be living in another.

“tik-a-too, tik-a-ted, there’s a dead man in your bed.” The hideous voice cackled. She could see the dark shape that was sitting on Roland. It was hovering over him but watching her and smiling at her. Even in the dimly lit room, and his obscured form, she saw the bright whites of a chilling smile as he laughed at her. He was so close. Too close, she couldn’t do anything, but get away. Immediately she jumped out of the bed and twisted to never take her eyes on him. She didn’t stop backing away until she hit the wall, then she pressed herself against it as hard as she could. She would have melted into it if she could find away.

Run. She should just run away, get herself out of there and make her escape, but it had Roland. It had turned away from her, ignoring her because for now it had what it wanted.

Roland. She looked at him, and she could see that the shadow thing had one of its hands deep into Roland’s chest. It hadn’t broken the skin, it was like the shadow man was only part way into this world and because of that, his hand didn’t have any substance. He was was in Roland’s chest, but it had gone through the skin, not breaking it.

That wasn’t true, as Lizzie watched Roland shake violently, the shadow man laughing as he squeezed inside. The shadow was killing him. It was suffocating him from the inside or squeezing his heart. She didn’t know what, but it didn’t matter. This was how it really enjoyed taking lives.

She wasn’t sure how she knew, but as soon as the thought occurred to her, she was certain she was right. It liked death, and took it in any way that it could. When Sarah had been killed, it had no way of killing her directly. Same way with Josh and Elisabeth, it couldn’t touch them directly. She didn’t know why, and there was much of it that didn’t make sense. There must be some set of rules this shadow had to play by, and killing directly was a no-no. It used surrogates and manipulation to take most the lives, so it was less accustomed to the joy of taking life within its own dark grasp.

So what had changed the rules? Why was it there now, killing Roland? Was it getting stronger? She vaguely recalled something Josh and Sarah had been arguing about. There had been many things, but something Sarah had wanted Lizzie to notice.

There had been the picture. Last night, oh God had it really just been last night that Josh had appeared to them? It had and this had easily become one of the longest days in human history or at least she’d ever had because it seemed like so much shit just kept rolling her way.

But the picture. It fell. The two fighting had been able to move it and the picture fell and then it broke. How had she not noticed that before?

She thought back to the hospital room and how Sarah by herself hadn’t been able to move anything no matter how hard she tried. Oh, and then there was the touching each other. They had both made each other sick trying to do it, but at the coffee shop Sarah had no issues with choking her.

You still don’t know if Sarah was even there. It hadn’t been like before. That could have been just you. You know your losing your mind, right?

She wished she could silence her own thoughts, especially with some of the newer thought voices that kept giving her their opinions.

It had been Sarah and she had been choking her. They were getting stronger. He was getting stronger. She was feeding it somehow.

It was all the people around her that was doing it. They kept dying. It fed off the death. It wanted her friends to die, her loved ones. It was killing them, all of them, and was going to keep doing it until she stopped it.

If she could stop it. Her uncle hadn’t been able to.

Her uncle hadn’t been able too. How did she know he had fought it. Because it all made sense. He had hidden himself back in the woods, away from everyone, cutting himself off from the outside world because anyone he cared about was killed.

She couldn’t think about it right now but it all was rushing at her. This thing had killed her parents. It killed her aunt. It had been after all of them and when her uncle couldn’t handle it anymore, he had killed himself and now it was killing everyone she loved.

Tears rolled down her cheek but she paid them no attention. Instead, she looked around the room for something, anything she could use. She heard Roland’s wheezing breath, and knew she had to be quick.

But why even try. Her uncle had years to fight this thing and it had never done any good. How are you going to stop it?

She didn’t know and the thought voice was becoming increasingly annoying. She wished it would just shut up. Shut up and let her think, dammit!

In the dim light she could see Roland, his face was turning grey, dark lines stretching along his cheeks and bulging from around his eyes. She feared those were his veins. His blood was being replaced by the shadows darkness and now his veins were visible through his skin by their black hue.

She wasn’t sure what possessed her to throw it, but she had unplugged the coffee maker by ripping it from the desk. The cable struck her and she grabbed it, quickly wrapping it around the little gadget and them flung it across the room. She didn’t wait to see the thing react as she grabbed more from the desk. She used the tray the coffee maker had been on, a local phone book, and a folder that must have contained local delivery options or the TV guide directory. It didn’t matter because if she could lift it, she had thrown it. She didn’t stop until she tried to lift the large lamp at the end of the desk only to find that it was mounted to the desk. She was pulling at it, trying to shake it back and forth, wrestling it free when she heard the laugh coming from behind her.

She couldn’t get the lamp free and she had nothing else to throw. Slumping her shoulders she turned to look back to the bed wrestling with another idea, one that was crazy and not like her to even think it. Maybe if she ran at the thing, jumped at it, even wrestled with it, it would release its death grip on Roland.

She stopped when she saw the thing was looking at her. It’s eyes burned red with some internal flame, and they burned into her. His smile was wide, and somehow the light that flickered from his eyes never touched his teeth, as they were white to the point that they seemed to glow and they were sharp, each tooth ending in a narrow point.

“Hello.” It said, speaking to her for the first time without that sing-song cadence. Now it was fixated on her, and she was hypnotized as the unseen lips moved, only noticeable for how they blocked the glow of its teeth when it spoke.

“Get away from him.” She said. She could hear the tears in her voice but was surprised at the anger. Where had that come from? At first she wasn’t sure but as she stood there, clenching and unclenching her fists, remembering what this thing has taken from her, her friends that it has killed. She knew the anger, and she embraced it. She wanted to be done with allowing this creature to come into her life and steal everywhere cared for from her.

“Why should I? What is he to you? A lover? A friend? You care about him that much?” The voice grated on her nerves. It was rough, a gravely voice that echoed in her ears as though many voices tried to speak as one.

Lizzie took at deep breath and let it out through her mouth. Her fists unclenched and she shook out her hands before she clenched them again. She could feel her nails digging in, the uneven edges from how she chewed at them threatening to break her skin.

“He’s nobody to me.” She tried to sound convincing. Yesterday she wasn’t sure if she would even have stopped the shadow thing from taking Roland, though she likes to think that deep down she was a good person. Even a good person wouldn’t let a lying, cheating son-of-a-bitch to die when she could stop it.

Today, she found that she still did care about him. Her feelings were still there and that is why she had hated him so much. Because under all that anger she did love him.

She couldn’t tell this thing that. It had some kind of connection to her. It killed those close to her. So she had to find that anger and hate she had for Roland if she was ever going to save him.

She had to find a way to kill the shadow man.

It had been watching her as she stood there and the longer she didn’t say anything more, a sound grew from him. It wasn’t until it developed into a sound she recognized that she realized it was laughing at her.

“You sleep with him. He fucks you, and you say he is nobody to you.” And as it says that, Roland writhes in agony below it.

“Fuck you.” She says to him, the anger now boiling up inside her. She had noticed something. She had just caught the slight glint of metal on the floor and had taken a moment to realize just what it was. The keys to the car had fallen to the floor, probably having dropped out of Roland’s pockets as she had pulled his pants off of him.

“Those you wish about and those you love

From the wings of an morning dove

All those in which you cherish

Will slowly die in agony and perish

They will be mine these dreary few

And once they are gone I will come for you.”

She hadn’t waited for him to finish. She didn’t want to hear any more of his creepy words. Each once made her skin tingle and her back tense. She tuned him out the best she could as she made her plan. It wasn’t a good one, and she knew it wouldn’t work, but it was her doing some thing. She was so tired of not doing anything. She had to try something to stop him.

She rushed forward, grabbing the keys as she moved. Her arm rose high, she had her sites set, aimed for where she wanted to strike while fumbling in her hand to have one key out between her fingers. She was unsure of herself, having never been a fighter, but did all she could to put everything she had when she brought her hand down.

It struck just below the eyes. Or it would have, had the shadow man been anything more than shadow. Her hand slipped through him, and then she was slipping through him, her momentum carrying her into him and landing on top of Roland.

This had been a mistake. She had realized it the moment she had made contact, but as she was flung over the bed, she realized just how much of a mistake it had been.

Her skin had turned to near ice as he was just so cold. She couldn’t breathe. Her breath was frozen in her lungs. All of her was frozen. She was trapped and even worse, she was in his essence and there she could see… something.

She didn’t know what it was. Around her there was so much darkness. It was an ether. She knew she wasn’t on earth. It was an ‘other’ place, one where there was no light to cast the shadows. Shadows were not made, they were things, and hid other things.

She could feel that hate that emanated from that place, from all the creatures that surrounded her there. She couldn’t see them, only feel them, sensing that they were reaching out for her. They wanted her, to take her, torture her how they have been torture. She was a creature of the light and they hated her for it.

How did she know that?

Because she was inside of him. He was from this place and he felt that way towards her. But that didn’t make sense. If he hated her, all of them so much, then why not just kill her. Why kill all of her friends.

Because the shadow man, thing didn’t hate her, it hated man. She was a person, one who lived in night and day. The shadow man, wanted all light to be perished from the world.

She was the lock that kept them at bay. She didn’t know how that worked.

Now she was there in the dark place. The things were moving around her. They had noticed her. She could feel them moving towards her. A wave of fear ran through her but it wasn’t her fear. The shadow man was afraid of these things. It was afraid… of them. It didn’t want it to get her.

She was not sure what to make of that and she didn’t have the time to find out as she found herself ripped out of him, back in her own world and being hurled across the hotel room. She had the briefest of sensations of no control, the weightless as she flew, and then the pain. She hit the wall, and it forced the air out of her lungs. Then she fell to the floor and everything hurt. Her insides felt like they had been squished, her arms and legs were sore. She wasn’t sure if she broke anything. It felt like if she hadn’t then she had definitely sprained something, everything.

Across the room, cutting through the cold and dark was a blood curdling scream that was quickly cut short.

The room grew deathly still. The only thing Lizzie heard was the repetitive sound of her breathing. Even the hum from the electronics in the room was silent. The darkness felt out of time. She was all alone. She feared what she would find when she stood and looked on the bed.

She pulled herself up. Each movement took a concerted effort as she fought against the pain.

When she stood, she turned and saw Roland on the bed, the shadow man was gone and he wasn’t breathing. His skin was ash grey and she knew he wasn’t coming back. She was alone in the room with her dead ex-boyfriend. A man she had made many public threats against his life and bodily harm.

She was quick putting on her clothes, finding her phone and wallet before grabbing the car keys and getting out of there.

Outside, the world was dark, the street lights having burned out in the last half hour. She worked her way through the dark the best she could, got in Roland’s car, and drove away. She knew she should call the police. There would be plenty of questions and they would wonder why she just left. She wasn’t sure if she had any answers for them.

She was empty. Empty of answers, empty of emotions, empty of everything. She was a shell, and even the tears weren’t coming.

She made her way to the interstate. Within a half hour she was speeding down the road, on her way to somewhere unknown.

END OF PART 2

Dead Friends: Chapter 21

The wind had turned cold. There had been a chill earlier, but it hadn’t bothered her so when she left, she hadn’t grabbed her jacket from the counter. It wasn’t winter yet, and the nights had been mild. She was a big girl, she’d grown up in Wisconsin and had lived there all her life, she could handle a little October chill. No one was going to tell her different and even though there was no one around, she would not give in to wearing a jacket this early in the season.

And it hadn’t been that cold when she left. Come on Jess, your tougher than this, she thought as she tripped over another root. She’d been walking through the woods for a while now, stumbling through the dark forest trying to find her damned boyfriend. Dennis had come out there earlier and at this point in her search for him she was sure she was going to kill him if she ever did find him.

Damn! Another root she hadn’t seen, and another stumble. She caught herself, she always had been graced with amazing balance but after the years of boxing and martial arts training, her balance had only improved. Now she was not only a well toned fighting machine that people often overlooked due to her smaller stature, but she was also as graceful as a butterfly on a spring morning. Dance like a butterfly, sting like a bee, she has always loved that and admired the man who had once said it.

She scanned her flashlight around her. She was still on the path that on which Dennis had left. He had told her it was the path to the lake though she thought they were much closer to the lake than this. She’d been walking for twenty minutes and still not even a trace of it.

Had he lied to her? If so, his ass was grass when she got her hands on him.

She had just left hanging out with Lizzie earlier when Dennis had called and said he had made arrangements for them to go to his Dad’s cabin for the weekend. They’d never been up there and Lizzie had never heard of his dad owning a cabin, which she had thought was strange for how long they’ve been together. She would have thought he’d of said something in all that time. He knew how much she loved rustic cabins. They brought back some of her best memories, allowing her to slip away into memories of grandpa and fishing trips as a little girl.

He knew that. She had told him stories about it.

Then when he picked her up, he had explained that his dad had just bought the cabin. He hadn’t discussed it with any of them, even his mom. So now both his parents were fighting, the big D word, divorce, has been thrown around a few times though Jessica couldn’t imagine it coming to that. Those two were such an amazing couple who normally did everything together.

This trip had been as much as a romantic getaway for them as it was an escape from his parents fighting. Though Jessica didn’t know how much his dad paid for it, she thought that whenever his mom did come to give it a chance, she would like it.

The cabin was clean, much cleaner than she expected after hearing the story of his dad buying it on a whim. She had assumed his dad had gotten it especially cheap which lead her to believe it would have been a small shack covered in dust and filled with animal bones. She had expected to walk into a horror film, much like Lizzie had, and was surprised when she had found a well cleaned, nicely furnished rustic cabin home out in the woods.

Dennis had immediately put their bags in the upper bedroom and then had gone outside to start up the wood stove. Okay, maybe it was a charcoal grill… she hadn’t looked it over too closely but knew he had to work to get the fire started and once it warmed up, he had thrown on steaks he had brought with him.

He had done it up, that was sure. He had cooked steaks on the grill, lit the fireplace in the main room of the cabin, and then somehow, he had placed and lit half a dozen candles throughout so that when he brought in dinner, they had cozy firelight, that romantic flicker washing over them as they ate.

If there wasn’t the air hanging over them about his parents fighting, she would have thought he was going to propose to her. He had already asked her to marry him once before, but that had been a shamefully bad attempt and had gone terribly. She knew he felt bad about that and wondered if he was going to do it again now that he had gone all out and created this wonderful setting.

She felt a tingle inside her. No, that tingle was on her arm. She felt something something dancing along the skin, and found herself back in the woods, ripped out of her memory from earlier to look at her arm, shaking it and quickly stepping away from where she had been.

She flashed the flashlight in that direction and couldn’t see anything and she still felt that tingling. She looked, it was getting closer to her body, moving up her arm. She moved the light beam to her arm and…

There was nothing there. She ran her hand along her fingers along her arm, accidentally flashing to light into her own eyes, but couldn’t feel anything where she had felt the tingle. There was nothing there.

Damn she was really starting to hate he woods. What have ever allowed her to think she would like it out there.

This wasn’t anything like when she had gone camping with her parents as a kid. Those places had woods but it was like a controlled wooded area. Small patches of trees easy to walk through and you never got the sense that you were getting lost. She had no clue, wait, she really didn’t know which was she was going. She wasn’t sure which way she had been coming down the path. Both ways looked the same. It was all the same and it was so damned dark out there.

On their drive up she had marveled at how beautiful the moon had been. It had been large in the sky and so bright she was sure that if Dennis had turned off his lights, they’d be able to find their way in that dark brightness.

Yeah, well, where the hell is that moon now, because she couldn’t see a thing. The trees reached so high and all of them joined together to blot out any chance of her seeing the sky above her.

She was lost. She should call out, yell, and maybe Dennis could hear her. She didn’t need to let him know she was freaking out. She was out there looking for him, why not call out his name.

“Dennis!” She yelled, not quite at the top of her lungs, not yet, but she still had a booming voice and in the silence of the woods around her, it was loud to her own ears. “Dennis!”

Why had he even left the damned cabin? He had set the scene, it was perfect, and then he stood up. She thought he was going to come around the table and get down on one knee. They had been sharing a moment, just looking deeply into on another’s eyes.

Then he had stood up, said he needed to take a walk down to the lake and that he’d be right back and that was it. A half hour later and he still hadn’t returned. It had gotten dark and he had left without a flashlight. Jessica didn’t know what to do, afraid that of she left to look for him, he would return to find her the one that has gone missing.

She had started looking through drawers in the kitchen not even realizing she was doing it. She just needed to do something while she waited. It was when she found the flashlight that it occurred to her that she had been searching for it.

What was up with him? This wasn’t like him and it made those knots forming in her stomach twist to think about what it meant. What if he hadn’t brought her up there to propose again? What if he brought her up there to break it off? Could she have done something wrong? Something that might have upset him? She couldn’t think of anything. Nothing. They had been happy, or so she thought.

But he had walked away from her. No real explanation, he just got up and left.

What the hell!? The path ended abruptly to thorn bushes. She hadn’t been paying attention and walked right into them, and they were tearing into her flesh. As she pulled herself back, she could see the scrapes on her hands as well as something else. There was something white and stringy. It stretched out from the bushes and was all over her arms, clinging to her sweater and hands.

It took her far longer than it should have to recognize the strands of the spider web. It probably had something to do with all the shifting black things that had kept her from fully comprehending what she had stepped into.

“Oh God, what the fuck.” She exclaimed as she took another step back, stumbling as she did. Damn another root, they’re frickin’ everywhere, she thought as she bit back another curse.

She lifted her foot higher and took another step backwards, this time slow so as to not put all her weight when she wasn’t sure of the ground. Her arms still had so much of the white crap and she kept shaking them, trying to get it off her. Those couldn’t be spiders, she had to keep telling herself that, but she could feel the tickling sensation moving across her arms. Then she felt them getting under her shirt. They were getting everywhere.

Her foot came down on something raised but it was also soft. She shifted her balance, glad she had kept her calm and had moved slowly. It was easy as she felt the dancing devils getting everywhere.

She turned as she moved and shined the flashlight down, glad she hadn’t dropped it.

Dennis was on the ground. A shape just behind it looked like a person hovering over him. If Jessica had continued back she would have fallen over the person. The person was looking down, close to Dennis as though she was kissing on his chest and neck. She was moving viciously and it almost looked like they were making out if it wasn’t for how still Dennis lied there, his eyes open and lifeless.

Then the face looked up at her, blood dripping from her mouth and Jessica recognized her though it wasn’t easy. The woman’s face was mangled, her skull looking like it had been crushed, one eye having exploded out of its socket and had dripped, now dried on her cheek. Her teeth were white beneath the blood splatter and caught in a haunting smile as she spoke.

“Hey Jess, missed me?” Sarah said, her voice on the verge of a cackling laugh as she spoke.

“Sarah..” The name escaped her own lips, though Jessica didn’t know this alien weak sound.

In the woods behind Sarah, others emerged, all mangled, blood dripping from wounds. None of these people she recognized, and she found herself looking back at what was her former friend as she stood up from where she had been devouring Jess’s fiancé.

Jessica wanted to back away and run. She could feel the tingle all over her body, it was electricity in the air and sent sparks to every part of her telling her to run. The dead were there for her and she needed to escape.

Spiders. That was made herself tingle. Come one Jess, they’re covering your body, you were trying to shake them off when you stumbled upon the dead.

She shown the light back to the bushes behind her, but they were gone.  Behind her was a wide open clearing, inside of which stood the shadow of a man. She flashed the light to where she saw the shadow, but the light went through him. She had to blink to wonder if she actually saw it, but then a twig snapped and it brought her spinning back to face the oncoming horror.

Jess, if you want to run, now you can. You saw where the path went now. Through the clearing the path went on. You can get out of here, escape.

She looked down at her fiancé, the mangled mess of his neck was exposed, his trachea stretched out to the side. She could see now that his eyes were gone, their sockets rough from where someone must have fought to scoop them out.

They had done this. Sarah had done this. Sarah.

Inside her the flame burned and she knew she wasn’t going to run. She knew it from the moment she had seen Dennis on the ground. She wasn’t a runner. She was a fighter.

As Sarah came into range, Jessica took a brief step back and then launched forward, using her weight and all her training to bring the blow perfect to slam into her jaw. It connected and with a satisfying crunch, she thought it t drove Sarah’s face back. Then she realized to late that her fist had broken through Sarah’s jaw, sinking through the brittle bone into her face. It through Jessica’s balance was off and she found herself falling forward.

Within a heart beat she could feel hands on her. Sarah twisted around, and as Jessica fell, she could feel the woman falling with her. Jessica fought to soften her landing but she could feel Sarah’s hands as they pulled at her. She was trapped, all of them were around her and she knew it, soon they would all be tearing into her.

She briefly wondered how Sarah would be munching on her with her mouth now a crunched, smashes in pulp of bone and dead flesh. As she hit ground, she twisted herself and realized her hand was still in Sarah’s face. The resistance of having her hand stuck prevented her from being able to turn with the fall, allowing the blunt force of the drop slam into her shoulder. The air left her. She winced in pain no matter how hard she tried to push it away and stay focused on getting out of there.

She rolled naturally from the fall, but her hand held fast. She could feel something soft and wet suctioning on it, like a muscle around her hand was contracting. She tried to pull away but the feeling intensified, nearly crushing her fingers together.

Jess turned to look, not being able to see to well and not sure where she had dropped the flashlight. When she did, even in the dark like, she saw the shape, what was left of Sarah’s face around Jessica’s hand. What had been her mouth, had gone inward when she had been hit but was was left of it was now around Jessica’s hand and it was like she was trying to maw on it, using the fractured pieces of her jaw to bite down with teeth that were no longer there.

“Ugh,” escaped her and she pulled harder on her hand. As she did, she was the spiders that had been crawling on her moving along her arm and up her legs. They danced in her hair and along her skin. She wanted to brush them away, but already Sarah was reaching out, frantically clawing at her, pulling at her clothes.

Then there the other dead people. They had surrounded her and now we’re dropping down to their knees reaching out their own hands at her. She didn’t know when but she had somehow become a victim in some zombie film as the dead surrounded her, grunted and reached to tear at her flesh. When had zombies become real? Had she missed the email on that one?

“Get the fuck off me you mother fucking fuckers!” She wasn’t just talking about the spiders or zombie things, she was talking about all of it. She kicked out whole twisting. She was thrashing, trying to keep any of them from getting a good grip on her. When she thought she had worked herself into having room to move, she quickly reached down to push herself up.

She was hoping to check the closest zombie and get him or her out of Jessica’s way as she ran back to the cabin. She was stopped when she reached down and felt her hand slip in a puddle of something wet and sticky under her.

Blood.

Dennis’s Blood

Don’t think about it, don’t think about it, don’t think about it.

She didn’t have time to think about it, just work with it. Maybe it was why these things were having a hard time grabbing hold of her. Now that she realized just how much of it had spread on the ground around her, she noticed how much she was covered in it.

They had also fallen in it. His blood was what keeping her alive as their hands were just as slick as hers. Just she was a fighter and used to reacting quickly, and to using her weight, her body as a weapon. Even in the dark she had balance and her inner perception. As she moved she looked inside to find that center and pushed in to find that calm that came to her when the outer rage burned.

She found her balance, twisted and turned, spun as she stood so they couldn’t grab her and then she was up standing. There was a large man on his knees in front of her. She didn’t even slow her momentum as she shifted her weight, accounting for the slippery ground and brought her knee up to connect with his face. It found its home and his head rocked back and the force of the blow propelled him out of her way.

Then she was running and found herself past him. She was on the path, she knew it was the right one and if she continued to run she would find herself back at the cabin, safe and able to call for help. All she had to do was keep running. The flashlight was gone, but the moon had re-emerged. The path was lit in the moonlight bright enough for her to see and she knew if she went back, she wouldn’t trip on a single root.

Yet she stopped in the path and turned back around to face the dead.

Jessica was not a runner. She hadn’t run since she was a child and had runaway that first time. That time when he had hurt her mom. She had run them, and her mom had been put into the hospital. Jessica had ran, and ran, and ran until she found a place to run to.

She had only been a teenager when she had found the gym, the small one that was almost hidden in its neighborhood. It was an old building and looked like the gym had been there for a long time thought Jessica hadn’t remembered ever seeing it before.

She had stepped into the building crying, unsure of why she was going in. She hadn’t ever been in any gym other than the one at her school and that was for P.E. and cheerleading practice.

Inside wreaked of sweat, old and new, and while the building seemed abandoned on the outside, inside was a bustle of activity. Upon walking in the door she attacked with the noise of clattering weights as they crashed down, and the loud thump from the back of the room as people dropped down barbells. To her left was a line of treadmills currently being used by a couple of old woman as they walked, focused on some far destination as though they would ever get there.

She didn’t know what to do, she hadn’t know why she had gone in there. She just stood there in the doorway unsure of what to do. She just kept watching in her mind as her dad struck her mom, throwing her against the wall.

“Can I help you?”

She blinked herself out of her trance and turned to see an older man stand behind the counter. He wasn’t old, old, but she’d guess he was easily over 50. A woman who came in behind her and walked past, tossed down a card on the counter as she addressed the man as “Stone.”

“Hey Rachel,” Stone said to the passerby, still keeping his eyes on this crying teenager who had just appeared from outside. “You competing in Strongman this weekend?”

“Not sure. Might have to work.”

“Okay, just let me know and I’ll need your entry fee by Friday.”

Jessica watched as the woman strode across the gym to where there stood a boxing ring in the back corner. A man already stood in the ring stretching. Without pausing the woman tossed her gym bag aside and climbed into the ring.

“You ready to get your ass kicked?” She asked.

The man in head gear and boxing gloves nodded. She gave him a clap on the back and then jumped down to where her bag had landed and started taking out her own boxing equipment.

“Hey kid! Can I help you.”

With a sniff and a wipe at drying tears, Jessica turned from the spectacle in the back could rise to look at the man.

“Do you teach people how to fight?”

“We do. We offer classes. Boxing, Tai Kwan Do, other forms of self defense. You should have your parents come sign you up.”

“What if it’s my dad I need to defend myself from?”

She saw something cross the man’s face, a cracking of stone she thought as the man had looked as hard as nails. Then he looked down to study the floor and then up to look outside the window. He looked anywhere expect to look back at the kid crying before him.

Jessica knew when she wasn’t wanted. It came from growing up and knowing that you were never wanted around. Stone might have felt this way but was being better than her dad would have been. He would have flat out yelled at her, telling her to get her lazy, ugly ass out of there.

She went to leave. Stone called out to her before she could do more than set her hand on the door.

“Are you a runner or a fighter?”

Jessica turned back to look at him.

“I don’t want him hitting her.”

“Are you a runner or a fighter?”

“I don’t know.” Her tears returned.

“Go out that door and your a runner. You’ll what, runaway in a year or so, end up on the streets. Maybe end up in foster care when they find you if your lucky. If your not lucky, you’ll actually get away, maybe make it to some big city and end up doing what to survive? Have you thought about that.”

Her hand dropped away from the door. She felt sick to her stomach. He couldn’t be right, could he? She wasn’t going to abandon her mom, was she?

She turned back to him, finding a resolve forming inside her that she never knew was there.

“I’m a fighter.”

“Are you sure, because it looks like you ran here.”

“He hurts my mom. I want him to stop.”

“Then call the police.” Stone locked eyes with her and Jessica steps closer to his counter.

“Cops don’t care. They’ve come and never do anything.”

“I can call them. I’ve got friends.”

Jessica looked past him as Rachel was climbs back into the ring. She was in full fighting gear now and she had a dangerous air around her. She was electrified with a grace and moved with a confidence.

“There’s other ways to fight.”

“Yeah, Yeah, there are.” Stone looked back to the ring. “Wait until she’s done with her lesson then talk to her. Tell her I’ll pay for your lessons.”

“What do you mean.”

“I mean your going to become a fighter.”

And she had. Years of boxing, followed by various forms of kickboxing and karate turned her into on hell of a fighter.

It took time but eventually her dad stopped hitting her mom.

She was a fighter. She had made that decision. She didn’t run away. She wasn’t going to run now. If she ran to the cabin what would happen. Dennis was dead, killed by these dead things. If she let them go, who else would die by their hands. What if they didn’t follow her. They could go to town or one of the other neighboring communities. What if they got into these residential areas and went on a feeding frenzy. How would she live with herself if other people died and she would have been able to stop it.

She stood on the path and watched as the dead things worked themselves to where they were standing. Jessica wasn’t sure what they were, if they were zombies or ghouls or whatever the correct term was. She knew they could be fast. They had been lashing at her, viciously grabbing at her before.

She had to be faster. They had to be stopped. They killed Dennis, they could kill others. She changed that, repeating it in her head. Then she came at them.

The big one was closest. She struck him first with a round house kick that was time to keep her moving. Her foot had connected with his already broken face and it crumpled more of his skull. The momentum of the blow sent him into a nearby tree with a satisfying ‘crack.’

Two more had been behind him. These two were smaller and looked like they had been much younger when they died. These two seemed different from Sarah and the larger man. They weren’t moving fast to get to her and they looked more at each other than at her. Their hands held each other’s, had these two been lovers?

Jessica wasn’t going to waste time thinking about it. They were dead, their feelings didn’t matter. They were killers and she was going to put them down.

Her fist flew forward, her weight behind the blow as it slammed into his face. He staggered back and like expected, the girl had reached out for her. Jessica grabbed it and twisted, launching the girl over back and sending her to the ground. Jessica followed it up with a kick down, slamming the girl hard In the chest. Jessica didn’t hold back as she would with a living opponent and brought down her weight and she heard the satisfying crunch as ribs broke.

Then she spun around in time to see that the man, and Sarah were both coming for her. Sarah’s face was a mess, nearly unrecognizable, but Jessica knew those eyes, though the fury in them was foreign.

In most fights, Jessica would have considered the man to be the bigger threat and have attacked him while blocking Sarah. Something screamed to her that if she did that, she was dead. The man had no life left in there we eyes, this wasn’t a fight of passion with him, but Sarah was a beast who had gone rabid. Turning away from her would be a costly mistake.

Her adrenaline was flowing. She could see herself as she moved, and it made her think of an action movie. She wasn’t quiet like Jackie Chan and now fights were always so choreographed with chairs and ladders all around him so he could use them as weapons. No, this was more bare knuckle. This was a classic Van Damme film. She was a master, a brawler, and she saw it all as she was on the attack for her remaining opponents.

Jessica approached them almost with a strut of confidence, and when Sarah reached forward, Jessica grabbed it. She pulled and used the force to twist and spin into the man. The blow knocked him off his feet and freed Jessica to continue to spin and driving a powerful blow again into Sarah’s already weakened head. There was more crunching as the blow connected and the center of Sarah’s face crushed inward.

If she had been in a action film before, she had just crossed over into the absurd, cheesiness of a bad horror film. One of those films that went over the top with the gore, because as she hit Sarah her fist sunk deeper into her face than Jessica thought it should. Her fist going until she felt the thickness of the back of Sarah’s skull.

What had been Sarah’s brain, the grey matter that had made her a walking corpse was all over Jessica’s hand and it was like a jello mold around her fist. It suctioned around her hand as she tried to pull it back, sucking at it. Sarah wasn’t fighting her and re, her body had gone limp, but the head wouldn’t release her. As the body fell to the ground, Jessica was trapped and going with it. She fell, and only had a moment to realize she was going to land next to next to Dennis.

They were going to get married. She had come out there to find her fiancé because he had been asking so weird, but they were supposed to be planning the best day of their lives few together. There was still a lot to do, they hadn’t even been able to lock down a date yet, but she still could see it in her mind.

It was going to be in the church she had gone to while growing up. It was a beautiful church that loomed grandly in her memories. The cathedral rose high, the bell tower rising higher and ringing those wedding bells announcing that it was her day. Their day really as they were joining their lives together.

She would have a purple dress, having already decided that she would never be satisfied with traditional white. Tradition was for those who invited her family, a mother and a father. Her mother would be there, she would be giving Jessica away, but her father…

He would never be allowed within a hundred feet of the ceremony. Jessica had the restraining order, and had taught him more than once what happened when he broke it. He broke it, she broke bones. Not just one, but multiple. She enjoyed hearing him scream.

So no father to ruin the day, It was going to be filled with only things that would make her happy. Dennis. He made her happiest of all, and as her mother walked her down the aisle, he would be there, standing in front of Father Abraham. He would be in a suit, his friends behind him, his older brother standing as his best man behind him. Tony, the brother, would have the rings hidden away, his irresponsible self actually doing something right this time.

She would walk the aisle and once next to him, he would take her hand, and hold that hand until they were married. She would never let him go.

And as she fell, she thought of him, how she loved him, and was never going to let him go. Not in her heart.

She landed hard, no hands available to steady or catch herself. Her balance was off by her hand being stuck so she had no way to prepare, to tuck and roll with the motion. No, all of her weight and the momentum of her punch came down on her and she crashed into the unforgiving earth with the air expelling in a rush from her lungs.

The thing that was Sarah somehow landed on top of her and she immediately felt hands pulling at her. She knew it wouldn’t be long before the things around her pulled themselves close and were biting in to her, and really, what did it matter anymore.

She was looking into the dead eyes of Dennis as he was less than a foot away from her. Those dead eyes that killed her soul and twisted the knife buried in her chest. She wanted tears to flow but the cold had already dried them away.

She felt the stabbing pain as teeth ripped into her leg. Then more as something landed on top of her and tore a chunk out of her back. More hands grabbed at her, they were pulling in all different directions. If she wanted, she could turn over, or try to, she wasn’t sure she could actually do it, and use her hands to fight at them as they made their way onto her. She had done it once, she could probably do it again.

But she didn’t. Instead, she reached out her hand, extending to where Dennis was. His was covered in blood as was hers. Still hers slipped into his like they were meant to always be holding each other.

Blood was filling her lungs. The pain was shooting through her thoughts making everything around her impossible to focus on, but she fought it. As she gasped, wheezing towards her last breath, she coughed out “I love you.”

His hand slipped out of hers. She felt it but had to blink away the tears to see why. The pain had dulled as the world grew colder. Through her blurry vision, she watched as Dennis was moving. He was a shape coming towards her.

She couldn’t help herself, but she smiled as she coughed up another lung full of blood.

“Den-“ she couldn’t get it out as her chest spasmed. It didn’t matter. She used her outstretched arm to pull herself towards him though she could see he was nearly to her. She thought maybe they they would get their one last kiss. She hadn’t realized just how much to yearned to feel those lips again.

His lips neared her own and she could see the blood splattering his own lips. He had a large toothy smile, and she tried to force herself to return it through the pain. His mouth opened wide, and she had a brief second to mentally question why he was opening his mouth so wide when he was going to miss her and why did it look like his mouth was full of spiders.

Then his mouth closed over her own, and her scream was cut short as he bit off her own lips. The little bit that has remained of her mind, that had stayed focused on Dennis was ripped away as insanity took her moments before the eternal night.

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Dead Friends: Chapter 20

Anthropopophobia is the fear of people. Often times it is a social fear or something thought of as an intense shyness. It can manifest itself in being afraid of meeting new people, or even looking them in the eye. It can be an intense awkwardness around a group. There are many ways that people can experience this intense fear.

Lizzie had always been timid, but she was okay with being around people. Parties were her thing, and she’d be there right with her posse, Jessica and Sarah. They were their own clic as none of the fraternities would have them as a group, and they were too much their own sisters to leave one another. So they were their own force to be reckoned with.

Though, when she was alone, she never went up to people. Jessica and Sarah, they were the ones to be the life of the party and when they weren’t around, Lizzie found a corner and watched the world pass her by. Some guys would come up to her, but they would often get bored, not able to pull her from her shell. Then with a sip of their beer, they would make their way to other game who would show more interest. Thankfully Sarah and Jessica would not let her stay alone for too long. When she got in her corner, at parties or in life, one of them would always find her and pull her back into the world around them.

But she had never been afraid of people around her, she just didn’t know what to say. Whenever someone tried talking to her without her friends, her mind would just go blank. It was like, she tried to find something to talk about, and the only thing in the mental file of words that would shake its way out would be, “Hello.” After that, there was just nothing there. It was like the looking at her phone and suddenly it was empty, no contacts, no apps, just nothing.

So when the crowd had swarmed in around her, so many people asking her if she was alright, the anvil hit her like a hammer blow. She couldn’t breathe, her eyes were dry, but tears tried to flood them anyway, Her skin crawled with the sensation that things were crawling all over her, and the slightest touch made her jump. Her eyes tried to look everywhere at once and that just made the feeling of the world twisting around her even worse.

“I need to get out of here.” She heard herself gasping, but didn’t recognize her voice. It sounded strangled and alien to her own ears.

“We should call an ambulance.”

“What’s wrong with her?”

“She looks like she’s on drugs.”

“I have a cousin who does heroin, she looks like that sometimes.

“What’s wrong with her?”

“We really should call someone. We can’t have people collapsing in our bathrooms and not-“

The voices just kept assaulting her. The lights were too bright. Everything was too much.

What was this, why was this happening to her? Why were these things always happening to her?

The weight intensified on her chest, her breathing coming out in shorter gasps. She thought she was going to collapse again, there on the floor as she tried to make her way to the door.

A voice spoke to her softly in her ear. It broke through the noise, tearing through the cacophony and releasing some of the pain in her chest. A different kind of tear, that of relief, escaped her as she heard it.

“It’s going to be okay. Just breathe. I’ve got you. It’s all going to be okay. Let’s just get out of here.” Roland said and now she did collapse. She fell into his arms and let him guide her to the exit.

****

Outside, the cool night air struck her like a physical blow, a hammer that slammed into her and forcing away the fog of what had just happened. Her strength returned and before they had reached the end of the block, she could walk on her own, though she found herself staying in the warmth of his arms.

“We still have that hotel room we paid for. I didn’t want to bring it up earlier, but I don’t think we should be driving back this late.” He said. She felt his words rumble through him, the vibration a comfort to her, continuing to calm her frayed nerves.

“Sure.”

“Yeah?”

She pulled her head away long enough that he looked down at her and they were locked into each other’s eyes. It had been so long since she had lost herself in those eyes. They were the ocean on a clear day, and she could always sink into them when he did this.

Then she pulled his head down to meet hers and her aching lips found his. They kissed, and as she felt the warmth flood through her, emanating from her, she kissed him harder.

From there she didn’t remember getting to the hotel room, the memories lost in a haze of continual lustful kisses. She needed him. He was warmth, and he was her comfort. She needed to wrap herself up in him, and allow him to get inside her. She desired to feel every part of him and for them to become one.

They were in the room. He had his arms around her and pulled her into him. She kissed him again while running her hands under his shirt, down his back. She let her finger nails drag on his skin, knowing how it drove him wild. The reaction was immediate, the lump in his pants expanding. She ran her fingers gently over it, and could feel the rock hard member itching to bust loose from its constraints.

She ran her fingers along his member, following the curvature. Roland tensed against her touch and she looked into his eyes to see them closed, himself lost in a moan of pleasure. It brought a smile to her and awoke a hunger deep inside.

How long had it been since she’d felt him? Too long.

Thoughts of death, the crowd at the coffee shop, all of it faded as she gave in to the desire. Her hands shook with anticipation. She needed him. She needed this.

She carefully eased the zipper down, being careful not do damage the cream filled candy inside. She was a child that craved the sugar rush, and wanted to suck on the hardness until the creamy goodness filled her, it’s warmth burning away the cold inside her.

His member was free, and she eased it out. Then she broke free from their latest kiss, another entanglement of tongues and lowered herself to her knees. He was shaking with excitement, and she had the brief worry she was going to give him a heart attack if she waited to long. He wanted and needed her just as badly as she needed him.

She took him in, tasting the sweat of excitement that trickled from him. The moment she wrapped her lips around it, his body shuddered. She continued, playing with his shaft, running her tongue up and down the different parts, many times lingering on the enlarged head and eye. Then she would take it all in again and viciously stroke with her hands while taking him in and out. He let out another moan, this one much deeper and she could feel his legs shake.

She had to wonder if it had been as long for him as it had been for her? But then what about Natalie. No, she wasn’t going to think about-

“Ah!” He let out a small gasp and she knew she had allowed herself to get distracted. Her teeth… He tried to pull away just a little from her, but she wasn’t going to let him get away that easily. She needed this too badly.

As he was still unsteady, she pushed on him, and he fell back, the bed waiting for him. He thumped down on it, and was already back pedaling to the head, his smile growing as he watched her climb him.

That’s it, those pants are coming off. She reached forward and undid the button and then the belt. Then she viciously tore at pulling off the blue jeans, shaking them back and forth like a dog playing with a toy until they came free. The pants flew across the room as she focused on the next target, his boxer shorts.

It didn’t take long and then she was again working on his shaft, stroking it, sucking on it, sending waves of passion through Roland as he arched his back. He was lost to the passion, concern for her lost in the moment.

Then with one last flick of her tongue across the eye of his member she looked up and him. Then like a stalking cat, purring as she moved she swayed back and forth and she worked her way up the bed. She kept her body low, letting the small swell of her breast rub across his already excited erection. Small kisses ran along his stomach and then to his erect nipples. She took a short moment to suck on each on, giving each a little nibble before moving to his chest and then finally her lips high enough to reach his own.

“Are you sure.” He gasped breaking away from her kiss. His body trembling with excitement and anticipation. His eyes were questioning and it fought with every other part of his body that demanded he have her then and now.

She nodded at him, the hunger in her eyes, demanding that she have him. Every other thought of the last few weeks were gone from her mind and all she was focused on was this moment.

“Then I think your overdressed.”

The corner of her mouth went up as she pulled back until she was sitting on his exposed member, though she made an effort not to put all her weight down. Then she rocked back and forth, gently gyrating as she crossed her arms and pulled her shirt over her head.

The totem hung there between her now exposed breasts and she tried to ignore it as she reached behind her, thrusting out her breasts as she undid the clasps of her bra. As soon as they were released, his hands immediately had them, kneading them, and rubbing her nipples and the flesh beneath. She inhaled deeply, waves of her own pleasure flooding her senses and what had she been thinking about before? His fingers flicked at her nipple and then she felt his fingers rubbing them between. Her breath caught and her back arched.

Something had been happening over the course of the last few weeks, but as she felt his hands and the moisture between her legs intensifying. It was there, nagging at her but she didn’t even have to try to push it out of her mind.

She quickly reached down to fumble with the button on her pants. It released and another pair of hands assisted her in getting the zipper down. Then in a move that was well practiced, she moved herself off of him, pushing down her pants as she did and then kicking them off as she now lied there on the bed. As she had done her part, Roland had done his, moving with her, first out of her way and then guiding on top of her. It was like a dance that had been performed, each working in time with the other and moving in a rhythm. They moved in time to a music of their own making, and they were well rehearsed to make these actions look like a well choreographed sequence.

The dance ended and he was on top of her, now his mouth on her breasts, his tongue sending new sensations of pleasure while his fingers searched below. Then they found their target and she couldn’t restrain the gasp of pleasure that escaped her. He worked magic, both hands and tongue creating their own orchestra of ecstasy.

Then his hands pulled away and his lips found hers. A second later and he found his way inside of her. The rest of the night fell away. She needed this, oh God how she needed this.

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Dead Friends: Chapter 19

“You sent us to Hell!” Sarah yelled.

“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.

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Dead Friends: Chapter 16

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

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

“I don’t know. I just didn’t.”

“And you couldn’t take someone else?”

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

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

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

Get your mind off of it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What the hell is that?” Josh asked.

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

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

What the hell?

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

“Earth to Liz. Lizzie anyone home?”

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

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

“Yeah.”

“Really? So what do you say?”

“About what?”

“You weren’t listening.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I told you-“

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

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

“But who were you going to take?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now she had no one.

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

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

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

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

“Huh?”

“What’s your favorite Ed Sheeran song?”

“I like all of them.”

“Sure, but you gotta have a favorite.”

“I do.”

“What is it?”

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

“Really?”

“Yeah, why?”

“Just not sure I know that one.”

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

“Please, please stop.”

“Hey now, I can sing,” she said.

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

“Fine, like you can do any better.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Really? Why is that your favorite?”

“Because.”

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

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

“How can I not love the A-Team?”

“You’re stalling.”

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

“Yeah, you do.”

“Why?”

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

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

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

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

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

“That’s not what the song is about.”

“What do you mean?”

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

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

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

“There’s also a movie.”

“So?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

****

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Dead Friends: Chapter 15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Sorry about that?”

“About what?”

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

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

“Who’s we?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Got plans.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It isn’t a date.”

“He’s picking you up?”

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

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

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

“So go by yourself or hell, take me.”

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

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

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

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

“Your Eddie huh.”

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

“You are a dreamer.”

Lizzie threw a carrot at her.

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

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

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

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

Ugh.

“So tell me how is this a good idea.”

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

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

“You dumb bitch!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, at least he wasn’t dead.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

****

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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.

****

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Dead Friends: Chapter 12

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 Or 10.3?

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 10 pt. 2

It took Lizzie longer than it should have to realize that she was waking up from the nightmare. The world around her still shook and the laughter, his laughter, followed her even when she opened  her eyes and saw she was back in her own bedroom.

Had all that only been a dream? It had been so real… But no, it hadn’t. She hadn’t felt the pain when she hit the wall. She should have realized that. Damn dream logic.

“Lizzie, wake up!” Sarah was yelling at her and the shaking? It was Sarah and Elisabeth somehow, Lizzie wasn’t sure just quite how they were doing it, shaking her bed.

They hadn’t been able to move things before, how were they doing this? She didn’t have time to think about it too much as she saw their worried faces as they were looking down at her. They were scared, but they were dead. What could scare them? 

“What?” She said. Her voice was little more than a whisper, her throat dry and raspy as she was still not fully awake.

The laughing wasn’t going away, but it changed. It didn’t sound like it had in her dream. It wasn’t that growing cackle that had shook the room, but it was a deep raucous sound that was exploding out of the other room. It was coming from Sarah’s room.

Lizzie’s face went pale and she turned to her best friend, then to Elisabeth.

“Where’s Chuck?”

They both turned to the open door. Across the hallway was Sarah’s old room, the door wide open.

She hadn’t stayed at Jessica and Dennis’. They had been kind enough to offer and had pushed saying that they had plenty of room for her, but she still said no. She understood their concern. They didn’t want her sleeping alone, not there in that apartment she had once shared with Sarah. What they didn’t realize was that she still shared the apartment with her.

The first night she had slept in the apartment she had done just like she had always had. When she had gone to bed, she had made sure all the doors were locked and the inside doors were all closed.

It had driven her three guests nuts. Well, one dead roommate and two guests. The apartment had been Sarah’s too, and when she’d been woken up around two a.m. because they were all bored, she had been reminded of that. It seems that dead people don’t sleep, and without friends to torment, they get bored.

Since then she’d gotten in the habit of keeping open all the doors in the apartment and the television on. That is, all the doors but her own. Not her room. Her door always stayed closed. Last night had been the exception.

Coming home after the funeral and being with Jessica and Dennis had left her in an awful state and she couldn’t stand to be alone. Lizzie and Elisabeth had been happy to stay with her and it had almost felt like a slumber party until she, mid-party, crashed.

That had left her leaving all the doors open, even her bedroom’s. Oh no, that meant that Chuck could have been in there watching her sleep at anytime. Who knows what he might have tried to check out.

She knew this was a childish thought. It wasn’t like guys hadn’t seen her naked, though never when she hadn’t wanted them to. Him checking her out while she was sleeping was not cool.

She looked at Sarah who was still looking at the other room, scared. What could spook a dead woman? She was already dead.

“Sarah? What is it?”

Sarah slowly turned to look at her, her remaining eye wide. “He’s in there,” she whispered.

“Who, Chuck? What’s he doing in your-“ Lizzie was going to say room, but before she could say this blunder she saw that Sarah was already shaking her head.

Lizzie looked back to the open door. If it wasn’t Chuck, then who was in that room?

She couldn’t stop it. The memories of that naked man as the maggot slid from his scrotum to land on her chin twisted her stomach. The laugh wasn’t right. She was pretty sure of that, but could she be certain? She remembered the penis lurking over her and later looking into Sarah’s eyes, but other than that most of that day had become a hazy blur. Could she say for sure that wasn’t his laugh? She didn’t think she could.

But how could he have found her? The police had said he had been dead. It couldn’t be him.

He could find me. He had already been dead when he attacked Sarah and I, so what was possible didn’t make sense anymore…

Yet she was surrounded by dead people. They were becoming a part of her everyday life. She was beginning to think that the dead just don’t stay dead anymore.

No. that had definitely not been his laugh. It had stopped of course, the other room now eerily quite. The whole apartment was. The two people hovering over her weren’t making a sound. All of them were watching that open door and the other room.

“What’s going on? Sarah?” Lizzie tried to whisper as quietly as she could.

“Some guy showed up. He went in there.”

“Should I call 911?” As soon as she said it, she realized just how stupid the question was but it was too late, the words had already escaped her. To her surprise, Sarah shook her head.

“I think he’s dead.”

“If not, he’s got a terminal case of missing-the-back-of-your-head disease.” Elisabeth whispered and Lizzie had to struggle to take her eyes off the woman. Of course if it was another dead person now joining her undead entourage they would be able to see how the person died. All of them had the tell tale signs like gory tattoos, each identifying their deaths. They were the bleeding but not bleeding wounds, as blood sometimes seemed to trickle but no messes were ever found beneath these walking corpses that followed her.

“Who’s dead?” Lizzie whispered as she tossed away the tangled covers and pushed herself out of bed.

“No clue.” Sarah said as she looked over at Elisabeth who shard her ignorance and was shaking her head.

Who the hell was in the other bedroom? She didn’t want to go in there, but she had to find out. Besides, they couldn’t hurt her, right? Both her and the dead person would get intensely sick so it wasn’t even possible.

The wood panel floor was cold to her bare feet as she stepped into the hallway. The air in the apartment had a chill as well and she wondered what it was like outside? Had the temperature finally dropped? Should she be turning on the furnace. The little fog of her breath escaping as she breathed made her think it was time.

Behind her, Elisabeth and Sarah both hung back in her room. Of course the two dead people were hanging back afraid. After all, what did Lizzie have to lose? Only her life, so you know, no big deal.

She gave them both dirty looks before turning back and taking another step towards the room.

A crash came from inside the room and Lizzie quickly was beginning to realize that everything she had thought she had known or had learned about the dead was wrong.

Fearing the worse, she took the last step and entered the room.