Dead Man Talking

Colin didn’t mind that he was dead so much as the fact that he’d been killed by his unloving wife of twenty-three years.  To add insult to injury the bitch was now living the high life in what had been their suburban semi in Fairmilehead on the outskirts of Edinburgh.

She had laced his dinner with arsenic night after night for weeks and smiled at him over the dinner table as he’d eaten every last poisoned mouthful.  Tending him devotedly as he’d vomited his guts up, she had patted his hand when the pain got so bad he’d begged her to kill him and put an end to it.  Eventually she had relented and, picking up one of the over-stuffed pillows she liked so much, had lowered it gently onto his face with an odd little smile he didn’t recall having ever seen before.

He had tried not to fight of course, but found that his wasted body’s instinct to survive was still strong.  He began to struggle, to signal to her that he’d changed his mind, that she didn’t have to carry out her grisly promise to the man she loved.  But she only bore down harder with a strength he hadn’t known she possessed.  The last sound he heard before he died was his wife’s voice:

“I hope you go to hell you fat bastard.  It’s more than you deserve after what you’ve done.”

That was strange, because he hadn’t been fat at the end.  On the contrary the weeks and months of illness had rendered him skeletal, skin hanging in folds around his wasted frame like a flesh suit that had outgrown its wearer.

Well, she had got her wish.  Except he didn’t think he was in hell.  No, it looked very much like he was still here in the home sweet home they’d shared together for over two decades.  He had tried to leave, but found he couldn’t get further than the gate at the end of the garden.  This was unfortunate as he subsequently discovered that he had also fallen victim to the oldest cliché in the book: she had been having an affaire with his so-called best friend Cliff Morgan, the man he’d played golf with at the Swanston Golf Club twice a month for almost as long as he’d been married to Mary.

Well, as he had been fond of saying when he was alive, this was indeed a pretty pickle.  The first time Cliff had come round, he’d tried to get through to him, screaming himself hoarse to make his friend understand what Mary had done.  It was only when Cliff put one hand on Mary’s breast, while unbuttoning his trousers with the other that he realised the full horror of his predicament.  What was he to do?

It was only now that he wondered what Mary had meant when she’d referred to something he’d done.  He couldn’t for the life or even death of him fathom that one out.  He also wasn’t sure what had upset him the most: Mary’s betrayal or Cliff’s.  To his surprise, on balance it was his friend’s behaviour that had disturbed him the most.  She had killed him to be sure and he wasn’t about to forget that; but it was Cliff’s defection that had cut him to the quick.

Tonight the traitorous love-birds were having a romantic dinner for two: scented candles, roses, and the big dining table set as though it was a fancy restaurant.  She of course was done up like a dog’s dinner in a pink evening dress that was far too tight and revealing in all the wrong places for her frumpy body.  He had done that hideous Bobbie Charlton comb-over that Colin and Mary had used to laugh about behind his back.  Well, she wasn’t laughing now, the two-faced cow, as she slid her stocking-clad foot up and down Cliff’s pinstriped leg and gazed adoringly into his eyes.

Maybe this was hell.  Doomed to imprisonment in his own house watching his killer and his best friend canoodle with not a thing he could do about it.

Or at least that’s what he’d thought.  Just the other day (although time was fluid in this state so he couldn’t really be sure) he’d met another occupant of the house that could see, hear and understand him perfectly.  She said she’d died in the house when she was young and she certainly didn’t look older than sixteen.  She told him she used to watch over him when he’d been alive to which he retorted that she had obviously not done a very good job given recent events.  She huffed for a few hours and only came round after he’d apologised profusely.  Some assiduous flattery and ego massaging later (of which he was rather proud of given he’d never had to do it before), she revealed that yes, there was a way to intervene in the physical world after all.  It was tricky and dangerous, even for ghosts such as they, but it could be done.

It would be done, he thought grimly.  If it was the last thing he ever did, it would be done.  After he’d learned how, he felt sure the why and when would look after themselves.

Dead Head

The thing in the hall slithered closer to the living room door and I pulled the covers over my head trying to blot out the noise and pretend everything was all right.

Muffled noise insinuated itself into my cloth sanctuary; a voice perhaps, or maybe the scrape of claws on the floorboards. I listened intently: nothing that I could make sense of. Maybe it had gone away. Something hit my shoulder with a painful thud and I ignored that too, burrowing deeper into the nest I’d made on the couch. The room was freezing, despite the fact that my central heating had been cranked up to tropical.

A child’s giggle next to my ear almost cracked my resolve, but good things never came of that, so I huddled harder, willing whatever it was to go away. I should never have done that ouja session when I was pissed last night. I had done some stupid things in my life but this, this made moronic a state I could only aspire to with no hope of actually achieving. I risked peeking out and saw it was snowing outside, lending the darkened room a faint luminescence. A concentrated yet flickering spot of darkness appeared in the middle of the room and the hackles went up on the back of my neck. Another giggle devoid of humour hung in the arctic air and I could see my breath streaming from me in plumes as though trying to escape.

“Rose,” it whispered, echoes reverberating round the room as though we were in a vast cave rather than a small tenement flat in Edinburgh. How it knew my name, I’d no idea. The sound of someone walking through the room, feet striking the floor boards hard assaulted my ears, but there was no one there. No one apart from me and the spirit and whatever it had brought with it. I could make out the faint gleam of my mobile in the gloom and if I’d had someone to call, I would’ve.

“Rosieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee,” a child’s voice sing-songed. The duvet was pulled off me with sharp tug and I shivered in the pre-doom gloom from nerves or hangover, I didn’t know any more.

Stairway to Hell

The young man with the greasy brown hair scratched absent-mindedly at a pustule on his nose, and began to play the first faltering notes of Oasis’s Wonderwall.  A Goth with dyed black hair and eyeliner at the back of the shop eyeing a Gibson 335 groaned audibly at such a rude arousal from his latest Cramps fantasy, in which he’d been setting about Poison Ivy with it to her wildly enthusiastic delight, and hissed to his chubby girlfriend:

“Oasis?  What the fuck?”

“Just be grateful it’s not Hughey Lewis and the News like last week,” she replied angrily, having more than an inkling his attention was as ever, not where it should be.

They were in Gerry’s Guitar Shop and the pimply youth had been annoying all and sundry with his weekly violation of the best guitar in the shop: the black and white Fender Stratocaster, American vintage no less and rumoured to have been played by Hendrix himself.  The fact that the rumour had been started by Gerry didn’t detract from its mystique.

The pimpled one looked up and smiled at Mel, the pissed off employee who had drawn the short straw and been charged with making sure the dork didn’t actually do any real damage.  The problem was he kept threatening to buy it insisting to anyone who would listen that he was coming into some ‘big money’.

“Twat,” thought Mel fingering his nose-ring absent-mindedly.  He had a hot date tonight with the voluptuous Kelly from Greg’s the Bakers two doors down.

“She’s not voluptuous you fuck-wit,” Kev, one of the other Saturday assistants had said, “she’s fat.  What do you expect from a chick who works in a fucking bakers, eh?  Wait ‘til she’s twenty-two, you’ll be needing a winch and pulley system to get her in and out of that heap of shit car of yours.”

“My name’s Keith,” said the pimpled poseur, “you might have heard of me or my band, Head In The Sand?  H I T S, gettit?  No?  Well you will one day mate.  You will one day.  Now what’s that Led Zep tune everyone used to play about, like, ninety years ago or something?”

“What?” said Mel, feeling the first twinge of unease.  There was something he’d been told about, told not to forget and godammit  if he’d gone and done exactly that.

“You know, Led Zepplin dinosaurs of rock and all that.  I’m more into the Zappmeister than the Zep myself, but I just wish I could remember what the damn song was-”

“Stairway to Heaven,” said a fresh faced young girl no one in Gerry’s had seen before as she sashayed past in cloud of perfume.

“That’s the one!  Now how does it go again…” at that moment Gerry himself came out from the back room, a concerned frown on his perma-tanned face and Mel remembered with a start what he’d been told on no account to forget.

But it was too late.  Keith started to play the first notes even managing to get them right for a change and that was going to prove the biggest mistake of his life, although he didn’t know that.  Not then.