Eleven

Reading time ~4 minutes

Prompt for this post on r/writingprompts

You know, being dead doesn’t totally suck. You’d think it might be a bummer, but honestly, it’s more of a relief. I mean, what’s the worst that can happen once you’ve already died?

At first it was a surprise. It wasn’t like all those movies where a guy wanders around for months wondering why his wife is ignoring him and the dog doesn’t want to play anymore. I was well aware that I was no longer alive, thanks. It just took a little bit of time to adjust to being permanently in spectator mode. One day you’re walking to work, crossing the same street you’ve crossed a million times, and you turn to look at the cute girl on the opposite sidewalk before your path intersects hers. You only notice the truck for a split second, and then you’re no longer an active participant in that whole “life” thing.

Sure, I was a bit angry at first. Resentful of all the things I never got to do, and all the time I had wasted not doing them. I took a lot of it out in the ones still in the game. You hear about “hauntings” and all that nonsense, but that’s not really what the vast majority of us are about. Once you unload that baggage you tend to reach a pretty zen state. I mean, it’s eternity after all. You can only hold onto things for so long.

Before I settled down, I had actually developed a pretty good routine. I was focused on the two people I blamed for my untimely expiration: the truck driver, and the girl. I know, it’s silly, but I had just recently died; how about a little empathy? My mornings were devoted to haunting the girl, and my evenings belonged to the driver. I’d do things like rearrange her kitchen, close doors down the hall when she was alone, drive her cat into a spontaneous frenzy. Just your typical taunt-haunt.

But the driver, he got my vindictive side. I nearly drove that poor man insane. I’d show up at the foot of his bed in the middle of the night, only to disappear once he looked away to turn on the light. I’d use the malleability of time to bring gallons of animal blood into rooms and slop it all over the place before he walked in, scrubbing it clean in what seemed like an instant to him. A few times, in some of my more regrettable incidents, I even impersonated his long-dead wife, luring him into dark corners only to shock him with a gruesome vision, or just whispering to him in the night, making him question his own reality.

It became such a problem for him that he looked into ways to banish ghosts and break curses. That’s where he heard the idea about the salt. Apparently, according to an Internet forum populated with some very sad individuals, the dead were incapable of crossing a line of salt. Ridiculous, I know. Might as well have been onion powder or nutmeg. What the hell does pouring a bunch of spices on your floor have to do with me? But he bought it wholesale. He was getting desperate. I hadn’t let the poor bastard sleep in a full two weeks at this point.

So he set up shop in his kitchen, a circle of salt around him in his chair with a shotgun and his iPad. It was that image, the poor old man whose only sin against me was to be behind the wheel of a behemoth that I blindly stepped in front of, now a broken and lonely shell of himself, on the verge of tears and quivering in a wooden chair, that finally hit me. What the hell was I doing? I was wasting the precious little time this man had, even though I’d been so upset about wasting my own. So, yeah, I decided to give him a win for once instead. I put on my ugliest demon face and I came at him all slobbering and growling, right up to that salt line, where I put on my proudest performance. I hissed and shrieked and pawed at it like it was a ring of fire. That gave him the courage he needed to finally pull the trigger. I slowed time relative to myself, and carted a whole pile of dead animal guts from the butcher shop acrosss town right to where I’d been standing. Once I let time get back to normal, the shotgun blast splattered them across every surface in the kitchen. It was disgusting, and it would take him a week to clean it up after that, but the triumphant and relived smile on his blood-soaked face that night made it plain that he’d have no qualms with how it turned out.

I’m sure he went back to that forum eventually and told them all what a hero he was, and how the tip about the salt saved his life and his sanity. And I’m sure it won’t be the last time someone is convinced that the only thing us dead folks are terrified of is something that the entire ocean is made from. But, hey, I’ve learned to be content, and let things be what they are. That’s just the way death goes.

Thirty-Four

A change can be hard to detect sometimes.
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Thirty-Three

A failure can be an opportunity in a way.

Thirty-Two

A man is convinced to do something he's not interested in.