Hey, everyone. In case you didn’t know, Nanowrimo is a thing where people try to write a 50,000 word novel in a month. I just finished a project and thought I’d play around with it. So here’s my beginning. I doubt I’ll finish it in that time because I have a few other obligations this month, including Windycon in Chicago, where I will be the Author Guest of Honor (so you should probably check that out).
Anyway, here it is. Hope you enjoy it.
The bad news was that I was dead.
The worse news was that I wasn’t quite dead enough.
They had a room in the county morgue where they kept not-quite-dead people. It wasn’t much. Just a couple of chairs and a rack of old magazines. I flipped through a five year old copy of People without reading it and waited. I’d hoped being dead meant my waiting days were over.
A man in a suit entered. He had the demeanor of a person in charge, but not in a bludgeoning manner. He was calm, like a guy who had seen it all and knew how to deal with it. You only had to be smart enough to listen to him.
“Hello, Mr. Harker,” The Specialist said. “Having an interesting day, I see.”
He sat in the chair beside me.
“You’re aware you died?”
“So they tell me. I woke up in a drawer.”
I hadn’t believed them at first. Until I noticed the stillness. A living body makes a lot of noise. Squishing. Gurgling. Whooshing. Thumping. All that was gone now. You don’t notice a heartbeat. It’s always there. Until it isn’t. It’s disquieting when it’s gone.
“I understand how strange this must be for you, but rest assured, there are protocols in place to help with your transition.”
“Great,” I said. “So am I a zombie?”
“Zombie is a pejorative term,” he replied. “Also, it’s not even accurate. The original word comes from Haitian voodoo, and means a person stripped of their free will to act as a slave. Popular culture would have you believe any dead person walking around is a zombie, but that’s an oversimplification. And let’s not even get into the craving for human flesh cliche.”
“I’m not going to eat people then?”
“Not unless you want to. Do you want to?”
I didn’t want to eat anything. Eating was something living things did to keep on going. I wasn’t alive.
“What am I?”
“You’re a revenant, a formerly living person returned to a semblance of life through sheer willpower.”
That didn’t sound like me.
“Can you tell me why you’re here?” he asked.
“I thought you were here to tell me that.”
“No, I mean, can you tell me what you want to do. Right now.”
I thought about it for a few moments. I didn’t have a goddamn clue what I wanted to do.
“I don’t know.”
He nodded. “Interesting.”
He said it with pity, like commenting on a three-legged dog hopping around.
“There’s nothing on your mind?” he asked again.
“Is that bad?” I asked.
“No. Unusual, but not necessarily bad. Revenants usually have a singular focus on whatever compelled them to return from the grave. It’s what drives them, often to an all-consuming obsession.”
I searched my soul (assuming I still had one) for that thing that compelled me. I dug deep into the depths of myself, and I came up empty.
“I wouldn’t worry, Mr. Harker,” he said. “These things sort themselves out. According to the coroner’s report, you were found in your room, victim of an apparent overdose of sleeping pills and alcohol. Your death was ruled a suicide, but now that we know this isn’t true, we’ll look into it.”
“How do you know it isn’t true?” I asked.
“Revenants and suicide don’t mix. A pathological will to live is what defines a revenant. So perhaps it is a desire to see your murderer brought to justice that returned you to life.”
“I doubt it,” I said.
“Just the same, do you have any suspects in mind?”
“I know who killed me,” I said.
“Terrific. Give us a name and we’ll see what we can do about it.”
I stared at my pallid hands holding the magazine that I’d been flipping through without purpose. The cold, dead fingers of a cold, dead man.
They didn’t believe me at first. Nobody who killed themselves came back as a revenant. People who had sacrificed their lives in pursuit of a goal and those who had died by their own reckless endangerment, sure, that was always possible. But in order to come back from the dead the way I had, you had to want to live.
I’d never wanted to live.
I hadn’t always wanted to die, but passion for life, I’d never had that. Blame it on my childhood or bad brain chemistry or what have you, but even as a kid, I’d viewed life as something to be endured. I’d walked the line between apathy and depression for as long as I could remember, and depression had finally won out.
And now I was back. Back to that thing I’d never liked that much to begin with. The peace of the grave was out of my reach, and when I asked if there was a way to get it, the city’s specialist said the only known method was to achieve the goal that had brought me back.
I didn’t have one of those.
“What about a bullet to the head?” I asked.
He shook his head.
“Fire? Decapitation? Stake through the heart?”
“There has to be a way,” I said.
“Only two. Achieve that goal that brought you back. Or lose your will to live.”
“I don’t have a will to live.”
“Apparently. It’s a conundrum.”
“So I’m alive. Alive-ish. Forever.”
“Forever is a long time,” he said. “But it’s theoretically possible.”
It was the final cruel joke of a universe that had always been fucking with me, and I laughed. Genuinely amused. Maybe for the first time in my whole life and whatever this was.