Too abrupt? I'm working on that, subtlety has never come easy to me. Let me backtrack a bit.
It began on a cold spring night. I was unaccustomed to the frigid temperature that late in the season. Up north they may call it spring, but as someone who grew up on the Gulf Coast, I thought of it more as a different season called "less-winter". Maybe it was because of the weather, or the violent storms that had plagued us that year, but I suddenly found myself the victim of a head cold.
At first I tried to ignore it. I had work the next day and didn't have the time to be sick. With a kiss to my beloved I went to sleep early. Determined not to get her sick I decided to reside that night in the guest bedroom. Outside the wind howled and screamed through the trees. The limbs and branches swaying back and forth played eery shadows across the room. My only company as I lay there was our cat Mr. Theopholous. He couldn't be bothered about my sneezing or my tired eyes which drifted in and out of consciousness. He was too concerned with tuning his voice. Any other night I might have thrown him out. On that occasion however, I was far too out of it to notice anything.
I suppose it might be a bit sudden to write something like "and then I died." Well don't worry, that's not how I write. The next morning I awoke, feeling miles better than I had. Quick stretches to get the blood flowing and then off to get ready for work. I did my best not to wake the missus, darting around like a ninja to get my clothes and hat. It's a bit silly, but I love my hats. Other men collect fancy cars; some, beautiful women. I collected hats. In particular bowlers and fedoras. Never truly felt dressed without one.
Outside the sun was doing its best to tackle the cold morning air. I applauded its effort as I shrugged my brown overcoat up higher. A few minutes later the carpool drove up and I climbed aboard. In the front seat Jerry and Dick were going back and forth about their new phones. I tried making conversation with Tom who sat beside me in the back, but he just ignored me and stared out his window. I couldn't blame him. He's never really been a morning person.
On the radio the morning show was talking about some new flu going around. It was apparently pretty bad. Another one of those ones where the CDC and WHO were throwing around terms like "Global Pandemic" and assorted other fear grabbers. I gathered that this new strain was pretty nasty. People were urged to wash their hands, stay home if they felt sick, and all the other usual lines I'd grown accustomed to hearing after the bird flu and swine flu outbreaks.
At this point I will break in to tell you that in fact I was dead. I thought it might be too sudden earlier, but I felt you should know. This isn't some Bruce Willis twist going on here. As soon as we pulled up to the office I knew. There wasn't a moment where I stuck my hand through the door handle or anything like that. I just knew, without question that I was a ghost or spirit or whatever you want to call it. Maybe there's some delay when you die. A few moments before your spirit realizes it's no longer attached to the body. Once I understood that fact I suddenly found myself being transported back to the house.
Don't ask me why knowing I was dead bound myself to my home. I think it's kinda like those Bugs Bunny cartoons where the hunter runs off a cliff but doesn't fall until he looks down. That was me. I was the hunter, only looking down meant I was dead.
May-that's my wife-didn't notice right away. I think she must have forgotten that I was in the other room. When she awoke she went through her normal routine as if I was off at work. A shower, followed by time spent primping and doing things that men would never think to do. Eventually she made her way down the stairs to the kitchen where last night's dishes were stacked and waiting. She looked at them for a moment before shrugging and walking over to the computer. I smiled at that. She and I were both that way. Not exactly slobs, but certainly procrastinators when it came to house work. A half finished fence in the yard could testify to that.
May worked from home doing all kinds of things I couldn't possibly comprehend. All kinds of technical programming. I'm a nuts and bolts kind of guy. Too many buttons and I get confused. I watched her working for a bit. After awhile I got up walked around the house. I suppose it's a bit selfish but I was anxious for her to find my body. Waiting around was just boring. I pondered whether a ghost could take a nap. I mean after all the expression is "I'll sleep when I'm dead". But I figured in the long run it was best if I waited till after she found me. I wasn't sure I could comfort her in any way, but if I could, I wanted to be there for her.
The day dragged on for me. When May took a lunch break she ate quietly and quickly. So much of our enjoyment with food comes from sharing it with others doesn't it? Otherwise it's reduced to a utilitarian task. Food goes in, body keeps moving. Body stops moving, there's no need for food. At least I didn't feel hungry. Course, I had just learned that I was dead.
As evening approached, my beloved began looking at the clock. It wasn't unheard of for me to work late, but it was unusual for me not call. She texted me something quick about picking up milk, to see if I would respond. Upstairs, my cell left on vibrate, buzzed away in the top drawer of my dresser. I watched her glancing from the phone to the clock. I knew what she was doing. She was trying to figure out how long to let me go before calling to check up. Paranoia vs concern. It's a game I've played before when she's had flat tires or been out of cell range. It always ends up being nothing but a lot of unwarranted worry. Only this time it wouldn't be nothing.
I remember after my cousin died in an accident I started having panic attacks. Nervous superstitions developed in me that stayed with me well into adulthood. I wondered if May would have to deal with that now.
As the clock informed my wife that it was 8 pm, she finally gave in and called the office. I assume on the other end of the line, someone was telling her that I never arrived that morning. May was silent but the color draining from her face spoke volumes. She began dialing my cell, still assuming that I had left the house. After no response she donned her coat and shoes. Just as she was about to tear out into the night, we heard it. A thumping from upstairs.
Sudden understanding filled my May. I had been sick, I had gone to sleep in the guest room to protect her from my cold. Jokes we had passed back and forth about my defending her honor from germs. More thumps echoed from upstairs. May began to make her way up, hands gliding against the polished wood banister. A feeling of dread washed over me. I tried to tell her to stay down where she was, but she couldn't hear me. I blinked and suddenly found myself in the room even before May got there.
I looked on in horror. Poor Mr. Theopholous had been stuck in there with me. Blood was spread across the whole room like ghastly red paint. Bits of fur stuck to the walls and dresser, and worst of all, an unimaginable horror dripping down the front of my shirt. That is to say, my corpse's shirt. My dead, yet somehow animated body was stumbling about, moaning. It was a million nightmares I'd had as a kid. Every bloody and gory movie I'd watched and cheered through, in front of me. It was my own private zombie, and I was stuck haunting it.
The gentle knock at the door from may roused the attention of my body. We turned, calling out to May. he beckoning to her, I screaming to stay away. But it was no use. In she came. Not knowing what was going on she rushed over to my body. I tried desperately to stop me from eating her, but horribly, the flesh was willing where the spirit was weak. In just a few moments my beloved was strewn about with the cat. All I could do was look on at the monster I was. Every memory of May and our life together inside of me, outside of me.
I sat down on the bed as the travesty continued. I didn't want to watch. Couldn't watch anymore. Enough that I had seen her die by my own hands. The grotesque cavalcade was more than I could endure. With broken heart I near as cried as I could. Apparently spirits don't have tears. We can feel the same pain, but with no release.
I suppose stories like this happened all around the world. That pandemic they'd talked of on the radio was the beginning of a plague unlike any the world had ever seen. I didn't care though. the rest of the world could go to hell. After what I'd seen the only thing that mattered to me was my wife, who I found, a day later. I don't know if you could call it a happy ending, what with how things went down. But she and I were reunited in the next life. She doesn't hold me accountable for what my body did, even though I still feel guilty about it. But that's the kind of gal May is. Her husband eats her, and she just rolls with it.
My body didn't go on to eat anyone else thankfully. The whole rising from the dead was more of a 24 hour thing. After which my body promptly dropped dead again. Free of having to haunt myself, May and I have begun traveling. We've met many other spirits and watched as the world has struggled to fight its end. I have faith that it'll pull through. It's like in that old Longfellow poem, 'the world belongs to those who come the last.' Set backs like this, have always plagued mankind. But it's not so bad. Not when you have someone to haunt the world with.