Let me tell you how I died.
It was 2:00 a.m. I’d just locked up the J-Bar after kicking Nick Deane out for the night. He stumbled off around the corner, and I went the other way, away from the yellow streetlights that make everything in Bethel Hill look jaundiced.
Yes, I know some big words. Even though I used to be a jock.
The bar, as you might know if you’re from around here, is at the edge of town. And my house—well, Dad’s house—is the big farmhouse that people always want to take a picture of if they’re not from around here. I can’t count the number of times we’ve caught kids sneaking around because they think our house is haunted.
I guess it is now, in a way. I mean, there’s a dead person living there. Or… deading there?
Semantics. (Another big word.) Not important right now.
I left the bar and took the shortcut across the field. It was chilly out, but that’s October in Kansas for you. In fact, the guys at the bar had been talking about the upcoming homecoming game. As if I wanted to relive those years. And the same questions they always ask:
“Why didn’t you go pro?”
“Didn’t you have a dozen offers from colleges?”
“Why are you still here?”
The field was dark, duh, it being two in the morning. Not like it’s lit or anything. But I know that place better than the back of my hand considering I never really look at my hands. There are a few trees, but it’s mostly open, and the grass was long and yellow because Bethel Hill only has Steve Marsh to do all the landscaping and that field is not a priority.
So I crossed the field and came to Goatman Lane. I could see the house, or at least the lights that Dad always leaves on for me. The house looks almost nice at night when you can’t see all the flaking paint and the rot that’s starting in the porch posts.
Goatman Lane, if you don’t know it, comes barreling out of the local woods to the west and then slices past Bethel Hill just north of town. Past us, it heads off into the wild Midwestern yonder. It’s not a big road and was only paved some four or five years ago. Not being a major thoroughfare, there isn’t much traffic, and certainly not at that hour. Usually. So I’ll admit I didn’t stop and look both ways. I just crossed.
Well, I tried to.
Headlights flashed on to my left, and like a stupid deer, I froze. I remember thinking, Where did they come from? I hadn’t seen or heard a car until just that moment, and considering the quiet, I definitely would have heard something. Unless… they’d been parked and waiting.
Had they been?
I still don’t know. But I’m trying to find out.
Hold on. I’m getting ahead of myself.
Okay, so I’m maybe two or three steps into Goatman Lane, and these headlights pop on and… That’s all I remember. Because the next thing I know, I’m waking up in the field.
So where’s the dead part? you ask.
I opened my eyes. I remember the ground being really uncomfortable, a stone digging into my spine. My neck was kinked at a bad angle, too. The tall grass was itchy. Overall, just not a great experience.
The sky was the pearly gray-white of early morning. “Shit,” I said and sat up. I felt bruised all over, not unlike after taking several hits during a football game.
Still no dead, I hear you saying.
Patience, grasshopper. I’m getting there.
I had a leather jacket on, and under that my usual flannel shirt and undershirt, because October. When I sat up, my jacket was open. That’s normal; I don’t typically zip it. My flannel shirt was open, too, which was a little less normal; I was pretty sure I’d buttoned it before leaving work. And my undershirt was not at all normal—it was ripped open down the front. Or cut, rather, in a nice, straight line. But I didn’t notice that until later.
Instead, all my attention was focused on my actual chest, which was red and livid and stitched in a big Y.
I’m not too proud to admit I whimpered when I saw it. My hand hovered over the ugly mess, almost touching but not quite. I couldn’t bring myself to do it.
And it hurt like a bitch.
Okay, I thought, okay, if I’m awake and it hurts, that means I’m alive at least.
Hahahaha. No. As it turns out, I am mobile and my nerves can send me information. My brain still works. But I have no pulse, and I don’t breathe. And if I don’t get regular infusions of embalming fluid, I stink like you would not believe.
I don’t like the word “zombie.” It has such negative connotations. I’m just your average living dead guy.