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Cranky Dead by A. Lee Martinez

Cranky Dead

One

Kerchack saw dead people before it was cool to see dead people. He saw them all over the place, but it wasn't anything like that stupid movie. The dead weren't spooky. More annoying than anything else, but not any more than the living.

There were a lot of restless spirits in Rockwood. Something about the place kept a substantial population of the departed from moving on. As a boy, he'd assumed that the dead were everywhere, but he realized this wasn't true after taking his first trip outside town when he was ten. There were hardly any spirits across the county line. He didn't know why. Something just kept the dead in Rockwood, and that was just the way it was. Might've always been that way.

He wouldn't have been surprised to discover that the entire town was built on a Native American burial ground or an old forgotten spaceship had crashed a few thousand years ago and now lay under their feet, emitting strange fifth-dimensional radiation. He always meant to do some checking but never gotten around to it. In the end, Kerchack didn't mind the dead, and he even counted a few among his friends, family, and coworkers.

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Cranky Dead

Clark had been Kerchack's partner in the Thunderdome Comic Shop enterprise from the beginning. His death two years ago hadn't changed that.

The chubby specter in the Green Lantern costume sighed. "Oh, come on. You're tellin' me that you think Batman could beat Superman? For real?"

Kerchack absently thumbed through a comic without reading it, just to give his hands something to do.

"The guy with no superpowers who runs around Gotham dressed like a bat," said Clark, "versus The Man of Steel. Invulnerable. Superstrong. Flies. Heat vision."

Kerchack nodded. "Mmm hmm."

Clark brushed his long hair from his eyes. Ghosts were like that, Kerchack had realized long ago, still burdened with the things they dealt with while living. Clark had it even worse, having died while at a costume party. He didn't really have the physique for tights, and now he was stuck with them for eternity. He was also always sweaty and out of breath. Stupid for a ghost to have asthma, thought Kerchack. He even pointed out that it all must be in Clark's head. Even read him the definition for "psychosomatic" out of the dictionary. Didn't make a difference.

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