chuck wendig prompt – song lyrics prompt
…”Don’t you ever tame your demons, but always keep’em on a leash” … HOZIER, ARSONIST’S LULLABY
Cold. Someone slaps me. It’s wet, hard. And freezing. My arms and legs hurt. Can’t move. Getting dark.
“Wake up, rat. You won’t duck justice!” Barking. Far away a dog barks. “WAKE THE FUCK UP! Don’t you dare to die! 911- Hello? Yes. Send an ambulance, fast. Corinth 1507. There’s been a fire. Yes, male, Caucasian, shot several times. I don’t know… Yeah… I’m starting CPR.”
“What’s gotten into you?”
Wet. Licking my face. “Ugh.” Warm. Dog. “Go away.” I need to go to work. I’m up. I think I’m late. Where’s the sheet? It’s freezing.
A hot shower, that’s all I need. And bacon. Sizzling, hot, juicy bacon and scrambled eggs on toast and fresh coffee. I swallow glass. It hurts. My throat, my mouth.
I cover my face.
It’s still dark. Haven’t heard the alarm clock yet. Even got time. Let me sleep in, five more minutes.
Smells like smoke.
“Good boy! You found another one.” A man speaks. I know that voice. “Who’s a good boy?” Something smells bad. Rotten eggs or something, what a stench! “Yes, you are!” It’s awful!
“Sinner!” The voice is in my ear. Bright and hot and steady. My eyes are open. White sky. Everything’s sharp. My vision is focused. Breath forms little vapor clouds. I’m somewhere in the woods. Trees, I’m surrounded by them. How did I get here? There is a river; I can hear it gurgle nearby. I smell the winter and the snow. I smell smoke.
Clouds. I raise a hand to poke at them, but they hang just above the firs. Out of reach. But my fingers dig into warm fur. White and a little bit see through. I can’t tell how. An animal of some kind looms above me. It melts into the sky.
“Get up!” The voice is strong.
More powerful than anything I know.
It stings and burns under my skin; it pulls and pushes. My limbs move on their own like I’m a puppet, and the words are my strings. There is no more cold, to my surprise, I get up. Still lightheaded, but I sit then stand. Even though my weak legs tremble, they obey the voice. I breathe and feel better. “That was weird,” I tell no one in particular.
I have been at home. Just some minutes ago, porch and wet concrete. And I – I think I have been shot. How is this possible?
“You’re new here, I can tell.” I turn around. Behind me stands an elderly man, with a clipboard in his hands. His grey beard and hair are braided. His long black leather coat brushes the snow. “You smell like a new car.” He looks me up and down and frowns. “That’ll change soon. Name?” He asks casually.
“Uhm, Eric. My name’s Eric.” I answer. He’s so familiar. “Where am I?” I’ve seen him somewhere before. I know it. “How did I get here?”
The man shrugs and scratches his ear. “Guess, like everybody else.” He produces a bright yellow pencil and starts scribbling. “Look around. You tell me.” The old man looks around, and I follow his gaze.
“I’m somewhere in the woods. There is a creek bending around some big boulders and a lot of fir trees and fern under snow cover.” I stretch out my arm to point at the waterbed, and I note, that I wear a black and yellow parka. Whose clothes do I wear? “What do I wear?” He tugs at his derby hat and writes something down.
“You’re welcome.” He pulls out a wooden pipe and lights it with a match.
What a funny thing to say… I even have hiking boots. Am I hiking? Then it hits me. “Where’s the dog?”
“What dog?” The man asks. It starts snowing big fluffy featherlike flakes. The man looks up and furrows his brows. “I don’t think so.” The snowing stops as if his words put an end to it.
“I heard barking.” I can’t see the dog, not even dog tracks in the snow, only the man’s. “I had my hands in its fur… Can you tell me where I am, old man?”
With a sigh, he puts the clipboard and the pencil away. His coat closes and buttons up by itself. Wow, weird. He shakes his head, and some flakes roll off the brim of his hat. His grave look makes me hold my breath. “Look, you poor sod. I know the transition scrambles your brain. But man, get a grip!” I don’t understand. “I’ll spell it out. Just once.” I’m all ears. “You’re dead.”
“I’m – WHAT?”
“SHUT IT!” His voice booms like a thunderclap. My boots crunch in the snow, as I shuffle back. “You’re dead. And this is your hell.” I swallow. This can’t be. I can’t feel my head.”That makes me your keeper, your punisher.” This mustn’t be.
“But…” The man raises his long bony index to shush me. My lips glue together. He looks a lot thinner than before, emaciated, skeletal even. His coat hangs on him, like a rag on a hook. His beard moves in the gusts of wind. The fir trees squeal and creak. His silhouette bleeds out the black of his coat into the surrounding. His eyes are dark red hollows.
He’s Death, I realize.