/ short story

Dead people

A short story. This one is about the young fella who can see dead people. And the consequences that brings...

A new person.

Bill was fairly sure he was new. And he looked especially angry. Some of the new guys were angry because the didn’t understand why they had to die, or they felt it wasn’t their fault.

Others were just amazed that they were caught in some place other than what they had prayed for all their lives. He’d even had people ask him if he worked for Jesus. Bill chuckled at the memory.

He looked around at the park he knew so well. His mum and dad bought him here so many times he’d lost count. The gently undulating hills, and the tree-lined footpaths were illuminated by a weak evening sunlight, making it like a surreal world.

Especially with all the dead people watching him.

The new guy had been following him and watching him for the last couple of days. Bill knew he would approach soon, they always did. But not like in some shit Hollywood movie, most of them were confused and scared. Most of them knew that they would eventually burn away like the embers of a log fire.

They spoke to him because he could see them and they were lonely and frightened, not to ask if he could take a message to a loved one.

Sometimes they were really pissed off.

Those ones would get in his face, demanding to know how to get back. Bill just told them there was no “back”. Usually they ranted and raved for a while, and then broke down in tears. He usually didn’t see them after that.

New guy was different.

He didn’t look upset of scared. He looked angry, but Bill sensed he looked like that when he was alive too. Most of the time Bill didn’t want to be bothered with them, but new guy intrigued him.

So he had gone to the park to make it easy for an approach. For some reason, they felt safer in the mixture of wide open spaces and secluded spots the park had to offer.

He watched him now. He was tall, with black hair, and a deep scar down one side of his face. He wore outdoor clothes, the type favoured by hikers and mountaineers. He seemed to favour grey and black as his colour. Bill noticed that his face, while not bearded, was lined with several days growth - a bit odd for a dead person.

He still stood by the trunk of one of the tall trees at the entrance of the park. Bill really wanted him to approach, but new guy still made no move. In the end, Bill decided to make the first move.

“Hey! You! By the entrance there, come over here, I want to talk to you.”

He glanced around to make sure no other living person was in earshot. New guy turned at looked at him. His eyes looked almost black from the distance and angle of light. Bill waved and beckoned him over. New guy took a look around, and then slowly walked over.

“You’re taking a risk aren’t you?”

Bill noticed his voice was deep and gravelly sounding.

“Well, you obviously want to talk to me so I thought I’d make the first move.”

“You don’t normally.”

“True, but you seem… different to the others.”

New guy smiled, but it didn’t reach his eyes, “what? Not as dead as the others you mean?”

Bill shrugged. “Yeah, something like that I suppose.”

“So, what do you want?”

Bill snorted and let out a laugh. “What do I want? It’s more like what do you want isn’t it? I’m the one that's still alive.”

“Maybe, but you called me over.”

Bill laughed, and then quickly glanced around again to make sure no other living person had entered the park. “Yeah, good one, whats your name?”

“My name? It’s Ed Black. Pleasure to meet you.”

Bill saw the smile again, but it still didn’t make it to his deep, dark eyes.

“So what did you do to arrive here?”

“I got unlucky, like everyone…”

He stopped because an elderly gentleman had entered the park walking his dog. Bill watched him shuffle along until he reached the crossroad of footpaths. Then, when he looked up and saw Bill, he chose the other path and shuffled along, head down, and collar up against the chill of the autumnal evening.

“…Like everyone else around here.” Ed finished his sentence.

“Yeah? No details then? Most of you lot can’t wait to tell me how it happened…”

“Why? It won’t change anything will it?”

Bill considered that for a moment, and then nodded. “Yeah, you’re right about that. It won’t change anything.”

He thought for a moment about why he had called Ed over. It might set a precedent withe the others. Well, he could handle that he decided.

“I called you over because you seem different to the others.”

“Oh, I am different, that’s true. Still just a dead person though.” He smiled again, and this time it did reach his eyes for a brief moment. “How long have you been able to see dead people, Bill?”

“All my life. How did…”

“Everyone knows your name around here. That shouldn’t be a surprise to you. Tough break. Maybe you should think about how you can make it work for you.”

Bill watched as he dug a hand into an inside pocket, pause and then remove it again. It was a gesture he’d seen many times before.

“You used to smoke didn’t you?”

“I did, yeah. Still, no harm giving up, cigarettes can kill you.”

They both laughed at the joke, and then Bill cut his laughter off. The elderly dog walker was on his way back out of the park. They both waited until he’d gone.

“What did you mean, I should think about how I can make it work for me?” Bill asked.

Ed rolled his shoulders in the way someone does when trying to relieve tension.

“I can show you if you’d like. You’ll have to do the work obviously. But I can show you how to make yourself a tidy profit from your ability.”

Bill thought about for a while. He'd known this one was different. He didn't know how he'd known. He just did.

"Okay Ed Black. I'm all ears…"

Ed spoke to him for several minutes, outlining how he could learn things about the living, by finding out from their dead relatives. He explained how, even if the living person didn't buy it, he could scare them half to death - with his knowledge of the dead.

When Ed finished speaking, Bill pondered it for a while. There was a question, a big question.

"What do you get out of it then Ed? I mean, I can see how I could basically screw people for money. But what do you get?"

Ed smiled, one of those ones that didn't make it to his eyes. "There are a couple of people I'd like to test my theory on."

Bill laughed. "Ah, yes, I see…"

He glanced at his watch. "Right, I'd better be off. See you later."

Ed gave him a look. It wasn't particularly pleasant Bill noticed.

"Whats up? You look a bit… pissed off."

Ed waved a hand. "Nah, you go then. I thought you might stick around. But it turns out you are like the other ones…"

"What other ones?"

"The other seers. You know, unfortunates who can see us."

Billy nodded. "Ah, okay. Well, see you around then…"

He set off down the path heading for the main road. a steady rain had begun to fall, and light was fading fast. He walked with his hands jammed deep in his pockets.

Ed Black had unsettled him. They weren't usually that outgoing. He was strange as well. There was something…

He'd stepped out into the road without realising. He saw the driver of the white van's face in pure panic as he tried to stop his speeding vehicle.

Too late though.

The impact spun Bill into the air, and then dumped him onto the tarmac with a sound like a bag of broken things hitting something hard. The broken bones would mend. The impact of his head on the tarmac would break his skull though.

Bill saw the smiling face of Ed Black. He was standing just inside the park gates.

No, he wasn't smiling.

He was laughing.

Then everything went dark.