The Girl Death Couldn’t Kill: A Mystery (Part 2)

The Girl Death Couldn’t Kill: A Mystery (Part 2)

[Recap: When we last left Death, he had been teleported back in time by Time in his pursuit of a girl he was unsuccessful in killing. You can read Part 1 here.]

“Look, ‘Bert, can I call you ‘Bert? Look ‘Bert, I am so sorry you died for a few hours there.” Death was sitting on the side of Albert Einstein’s bed where the genius had passed quietly in the night a few hours earlier. He held Einstein’s hand in his as a consolatory gesture. “You feel okay now? ‘Bert? ‘Berty!” Death snapped his fingers in the scientist’s face. “Wake up, man!”

“I am avake,” Albert said as he turned his head to stare Death in the face. “I have heard ov people talk about a light vhen they die. But I dreamt I vas the light. As you know, a photon does not experience time. It vas beautiful.”

“Jesus, he’s gonna start in with the special relativity in a minute,” Death muttered under his breath. “’Bert! Look, I don’t have a lot of time to explain but I accidently killed you last night. My bad. You’re not supposed to die for another few months, though personally I think you’d rather go the way I took you out last night than the aortic rupture you’re going to suffer in April. But, whatever.”

“But I vill go when I vant to go and no sooner,” Albert insisted. “How did this happen anyvay? I though God does not play dice.”

“Yeah,” Death drawled, “It’s a little more complicated than that but now that you’re safe and sound, I’ve got some other things to do. Enjoy the next few months, kid. Okay now, vortex, go!” Death expected Time to whisk him away asap but he remained in Einstein’s company. “Okay, vortex, go!” Nothing. Frick; he knew Time was going to get him back. Death put his head in his hands. Order was going to be pissed.

“Iv there something I can help vith?” Albert asked. “I vould not think the Angel of Death could ever be so troubled as he iv upon my bedside.”

“Oh, I’m no angel, ‘Bert. I’ve screwed up and Time is paying me back. That’s what this is, he…she…they’re making me late on purpose. I had it coming. It’s my own fault, really. Dammit, all I ever was to do my job.” Death’s head rocked back and forth as if he were sobbing, impossible though that be. It’s why Death had chosen to become embodied all those years ago; you can’t be a drama queen without a body. Death sometimes wondered if Life knew this about him.

“Being late iv all a matter of perspective, of course,” Einstein elucidated. “Surely you vill get vhere you are going on time. Perhaps you already vhere you need to be.”

Death looked up from his dramatic overture. “Whaddya mean, ‘Bert? I need to find someone very in particular in 1968, before they get to George Harrison and tell him to write While My Guitar Gently Weeps. I’m not sure of the significance of the song but the song is so great it could only have been inspired by another force of nature.”

“Vell, I do not know who George Havirson iv or who you are looking vor. Maybe I can help you vith vhen you are looking vor them,” Einstein offered. Death just tilted his head, clearly out of his element. “Iv Death not ever-present?” Albert continued. “Death is everyvhere all the time. Vherever and vhenever you need to be, you are already there. You just need to concentrate on vhat you vere doing in the area vhere you need to be at the right time and you vill be there. That iv because you already are there.”

Death bolted to his feet and shot a pointed finger at the physicist. “You, sir, are a damned genius! The history books sure as hell got that one right. Okay now,” Death shook himself out and touched his fingertips to his head, “It’s astounding. Time is fleeting. Madness takes its toll.”

“Ja, ja,” Einstein urged, “Now jump to the left, step to the right, then vith your hands on your hips, bring your knees in tight.”

Death felt like he was turning into jelly. “I think it’s working, ‘Bert!” The inconsistency throughout Death’s body became more consistent and thorough. “Who knew this damned body was holding me back? Yeah, it’s actually working. Let’s do the time warp again. Let’s do the time…”

Instantaneously, Death was gone.

Albert Einstein laid back down in bed and punched a dent into his pillow. “If I vasn’t frustrated trying to figure out the universe before, now it iv worse.”

“Hold it right there, missy!”

In the middle of George Harrison’s recording studio, Death threw himself between a three-foot tall, four-year old girl with curly golden locks and the glue that held The Beatles together as if he were trying to stop a fistfight. Having successfully separated the little girl and George, Death shoved the little girl back for good measure.

George’s head popped out from behind Death to query the youngster. “Is this the bloke you were talking about? He’s sort of animated for being the personification of death. He looks dehydrated, too.”

Death’s head spun all the way around. “Interesting thing about death, George – there’s a certain lack of water in your life when you die.” Death’s head completed its revolution and set his marbled eyes on the little girl. She looked up at Death unblinking and her nose scrunched up.

“Yeah, this is the guy. Told you he’d get the year wrong and be late.” The young girl looked away, pretending George’s sitar was more interesting than the personification of death.

“Late? Late for what? I’m always on time. Listen kid, I’m not here to stop you from inspiring George to write While My Guitar Gently Weeps. I’m just here to make sure you don’t slip away before you tell me what in blue blazes is going on.” Death reached down and grabbed the girl by the arm and shoved her towards George. “Get it over with, inspire him so we can get on with our business.” Death air-quoted the word ‘inspire’ though he claimed to despise anyone who used air-quotation marks.

“Oh, are ya going to commission me a new song idea, little girl?” George asked.

“New song idea?” Death intoned. “What song did you get him to write already?”

Taxman,” George answered, “Two years ago she commissioned me to write a song about this fellow who collects taxes and…”

“I know the song!” Death threw his hands in the air. He grabbed the little girl by the arm again and yanked her back towards him. “Why are you commissioning songs, especially about taxes?” Death’s head flopped back. “Oh, dear god. That’s why I couldn’t kill you; the threat of you looming over people’s heads forces you into existence. How the heck did you wind up in a lake?”

The little girl, her command of English excellent for her age, pulled herself towards George while unable to break away from Death. “George, write a song about the world’s unrealized potential for love using your guitar as a metaphor. This one’s on the house.” George’s lips turned down while he nodded, contemplating the idea.

“Death and I have to go have a talk, George. Maybe see you later. Ta!” The little girl snapped her fingers and Death found himself beside the youngster in front of the IRS building on Constitution Avenue in Washington, D.C. It was the middle of the day, birds were chirping, and people walked by and through them oblivious to their presence.

Death may be a little slow on the uptake sometimes but he wasn’t stupid. “If you’re Taxes, you little brat, what happened to the dodgy old guy? There can’t be two of you running around. People wouldn’t stand for it. Order wouldn’t stand for it because it would probably make people prefer death.”

The little girl waved an arm at the despised building. “You’re right about that, Death, people wouldn’t stand for that. The can barely stand taxes as it is. So I asked Order for a favor; I asked her to be reborn.”

“You can ask Order for favors?” Death pondered. “Wait, what? How did you talk Order into being reborn and why?”

The little girl put her arms behind her back and slung her head low. “Because no one loves me, Death.”

“If you haven’t noticed, I’m not high on people’s top ten lists,” Death gestured towards himself.

The girl’s cherub chin raised. “Maybe you’re not loved, Death, but you’re respected.  And if you’re not respect, you’re feared. And that’s just it; you’re well regarded regardless of the context. And, you do your job well and able to go home and sleep soundly at night. Me? I’m universally loathed. I’m a burden. The only people I can get to pay their taxes without a litany of swear words are people who produce an unusually consistent and high amount of dopamine and serotonin in their bodies.”

“So what’s this?” Death questioned waving his hands up and down Taxes’ embodiment, “A makeover? You think people are going to be more willing to pay their taxes if a little girl whispers in their ear?”

The little girl turned towards the IRS building and brought praying hands to her lips. “I do. Commissioning George Harrison to write Taxman was an experiment. No one but a complete asshole can hate a Beatles song. So the song wound up a minor hit even though it was about someone people hate dealing with. It’s not going to be easy but in time I’ll change people’s minds about paying taxes. I mean, if Christians can turn the fertility god Pan into the devil, I can change peoples’ perception of taxes. I want people to at least understand the necessity of taxes.”

“Eh, Life and Death are necessary. I thought your existence was contingent upon Life,” Death said.

“And your existence isn’t? Death is only necessary because of Life and of those two things only Death is certain. Of course, the only other thing that is certain is Taxes,” the little girl explained. “I’m not primary like yourself, but I am necessary. Order gets it; he understands the necessity of taxes. Without taxes there’d be more chaos. And you know Order hates Chaos. That guy’s like a bull in a china shop.”

“That’s what I said!” Death enjoined. “But wait, how are taxes necessary in preventing chaos?”

Taxes turned her head towards Death. “Think of all the things taxes pay for. Infrastructure, police and firefighters, education, parks, libraries, social and health programs, science research. The list is long.”

“You left out the military,” Death noted sourly.

“I didn’t want to bring up all the overtime you work,” Taxes answered solemnly. “But all the other things I mentioned contribute to order. They minimize chaos. Even in funding the military, it’s not like war is happening all the time. The standing armies taxes pay for actually keep people from fighting too much.”

“Hmm,” Death sounded. “I never considered you a force of nature before but you make a good point. Your intentions seem to be honorable at any rate.”

“They are!” Taxes slumped with insistence. “Sure, some people corrupt what I stand for. Sure, my nature practically invites corruption. And I can’t help the universe’s tendency towards chaos. But dammit, man, we’ve got to try!”

Death patted the girl on both shoulders and got her to stand up straight. He looked around worried that a force of nature might be seen suffering a moment of weakness having forgotten no one can see them. “C’mon, c’mon, pull yourself together. You’re falling apart like the U.S. tax code. If you’re going to pull this off you’re going to need to toughen up. I’ll…I’ll even help if I can.”

“You will?” Taxes asked with a glint of water in her eyes.

“Yeah, sure,” Death answered while shaking his head ‘no.’ He wanted to say no – it’s what people expected of Death – but even he wanted to be seen as the good guy. He capitulated. “Sure, whatever you need.”

“That’s great!” Taxes jumped up and clapped “‘Cause I need a place to stay. I hear you’ve got a really nice house. And you’ve got a butler, too.”

Instant regret, not nearly as good as the worst instant coffee Death thought. “What’s wrong with your place?” Death probed cautiously.

“Oh, it’s just that it’s really big and gaudy, covered in gold leaf and studded with diamonds. I had to sell it as part of the makeover. Order insisted and I guess I see his point.”

“Okay, okay,” Death relented. “But this does not mean we’re a team. And there’s going to be some ground rules. The butler is actually useless so you have to swear you’re going to help keep Life and her dirty hippie feet out of the house. And no parties; I’ve seen what U.S. Republican senators do when they get together for a convention. And if you need a tool, just ask. I’ve got a toolbox. Don’t go spending a hundred-thousand dollars on a wrench. If you want to do this makeover right, you’ve got to be responsible.”

Death led Taxes down the street, still talking, still spouting rules. As she followed, Taxes thought about how she was in the lake because she asked a priest to wash away her sins, but the priest had a hard time getting the stink off and nearly drowned her. She rolled her eyes behind Death’s back, karma playing itself out to maintain balance, and thus order, in the universe.

 

All Rights Reserved © November 2018 John J Vinacci

The Girl Death Couldn’t Kill: A Mystery (Part 1)

The Girl Death Couldn’t Kill: A Mystery (Part 1)

“Death, my lord, we have a problem,” a rigidly upright butler moaned as he set foot into the library.

Death, his desiccated feet propped up an oak desk, looked up from a section of the newspaper. He mentally rolled his eyes at the servant but physically they kind of just stayed in place. “Ugh, what is it Lloyd?” Death shook his head and put it back in the obitu…horoscopes.

“It’s about one of your appointments this morning, sir. The young girl you killed before breakfast? She’s alive.” The butler held a silver tray with nothing on it, possibly holding the prop out of habit. It’s not like Death really needed anything.

I don’t have breakfast in the morning, Lloyd. You have breakfast in the morning. And what are you talking about? The kiss of Death is final and absolute. Now go pretend to fix me a drink.”

Death honestly didn’t know why he had a butler. Maybe to tell Death some breaking news that wasn’t in the paper? That was absurd. All news was dead on arrival and therefore redundant. Maybe the butler was there to annoy him what with the need for balance in the universe. No, Death couldn’t simply enjoy the day lounging about until his appointment; his zen always marred sooner or later by some annoyance. This is how the universe worked, though. Even Death had no power over The Rules.

“I’m afraid it is true, sir. The young girl did not drown. I double-checked with the tenants upstairs; they’re not expecting her arrival, ever it seems.” The staunch servant turned on his heels and exited the room as coolly as he had entered.

Death raised his head and his voice after the butler. “That’s not possible because that would mean there are two Lifes out there and there already is one.” Death wasn’t sure the butler heard him so he stood up and slapped his paper on the desk. “I mean, that would tilt things out of balance and that’s against The Rules!” As usual Death found himself talking to himself and normally he was fine with this. He wasn’t like Misery at all. The situation at hand probably meant an investigation, though, which probably meant interrogating people. This made Death…

Perturbed – he was beyond being annoyed now – Death quickly drew a drawer open. The drawer and its contents spilled onto the floor, a gun popping off a round when it hit the floor. The bullet chipped one of Death’s ribs, reminding the force of nature to once again consider abandoning embodiment. Like a butler, he didn’t need a body, it was force of habit perhaps or maybe it was simply comfortable, like your favorite pair of pajamas. Or maybe there was another reason.

Death riffled through the contents on the floor, running a boney hand over a vile of poison, a miniature noose (for fairies), a frayed brake line, and an Adele CD among other things. Ah, there is was, an old-school college-ruled marble notebook. He lifted it off the ground, fruitlessly tried to blow the dust off of it, then wiped the cover with his digits. The Rules was neatly written in black sharpie on the cover. Death rifled through some blank pages until he came upon some very precise handwriting.

The Rules, it read. 1 –Life is miraculous, temporary, and precious. 2 – Death is final and absolute. 3 – The twain shall live in harmony and The Rules followed else there be Chaos. Signed, Order. That’s all there was to it, really, or so Death thought. It seemed someone didn’t get the memo or was deliberately flouting the rules for some unknown reason. No, why would anyone try to invite Chaos into the universe? The guy was like a bull in a china shop. On the contrary, with Death around, there were things you could count on happening – like death – even if you were afraid of it. Yes, even if you were afraid you could still count on Death. And Death loved being a guy you could count on one hundred percent. Who else could boast that kind stat?

As Death picked up the handle of an old black rotary phone – they were reliable – there came the warped and waning sound of the doorbell. He put down the receiver when he heard his butler answer the door in his stoic way, only for the butler’s monotone voice to be pierced by the blistering ray of Life’s vocal chords.

“No, no, no,” Death said with rising concern. He ran out of the library, pointing his finger down the hall at his butler, “Make sure she keeps her shoes on!” But it was too late. Life was already prancing around the foyer, her soiled feet darting about the white shag carpet.

“C’mon, silly,” Life skipped, “You know I never wear shoes.” Golden butterflies flitted through her strawberry red hair as she pirouetted around Death as he groaned.

“I was just about to give you a call, Life,” Death spoke. “Or at least leave you a message – you know how you’re always out doing stuff,” he added on the sly. “What brings you over?” he asked, chicking his fingertips together as he watched his carpet turn rustic.

Life stopped for a moment – which for her meant hopping in place – and stared Death in the eyes. “Do you know anything about this little girl who appeared this morning out of nowhere? I didn’t breathe life into her so naturally that caught my attention. I had my cousin Joy keep an eye on her while I made my rounds and she said you kissed her in the lake but she didn’t die.”

“That appears to be true,” Death acknowledged. “So if you don’t know anything about this and I don’t know anything about this, what the heck is going on? Order can’t be behind this. Do you think this is the work of Chaos? Nooo, we’ve been doing our job, right? Everything should be in balance. Chaos isn’t allowed out unless we screw up. Wait, did you screw up, Life? ”

“You should try to kill her again,” Life pirouetted again. Death was shocked by the pronouncement though you could never read his expressions correctly. Life blew a kiss at the butler whom they both knew to be indifferent.

“You did screw up, didn’t you? I mean, otherwise why would you say such a thing?” Death wasn’t even talking to Life so much as thinking aloud.

“Wasn’t me, babe,” Life pipped. “She’s not one of mine so I figure if you can’t kill her, she must be a new force of nature. But I’m going to leave you to figure it out. I’ve got more appointments to get to. Ta!” The butler opened the door and Life balleted her way down the driveway leaving some of the vibrant flower petals of her dress in her wake.

“Oh, it’s okay. I’ll take care of it,” Death called out after her, “It’s not like I have a mineshaft to collapse in forty-five minutes.” Life was incapable of lying so it had to be true that she had no hand in the recent turn of events. “A new force of nature?” Death rubbed his chin in contemplation. “Shoot. What else do I have going on today…butler?” Death never could remember the butler’s name. Maybe it was ‘Butler.’

Butler spoke up. “After the mineshaft you have a few old ages between 2pm and 3pm, a murder-suicide at 3:05, a bloody revolution in Central America at 3:15, a deadly tourist fail at 3:35, and of course your daily school shooting. Then you have a break until 4:30pm. Sir.”

“That just might give me enough time to track this girl down and try again. Then we’ll see what’s up!” Death had faith in his abilities. After all, he’d never failed before, so why would he now? But what if he did fail? Did this mean he was getting old, senile, maybe facing retirement? That was never in the contract; the position was for the extent of the universe’s existence, wasn’t it? Then again, there was no contract with Order, there was just the notebook with The Rules in it. Everything else was implied.

On his walk back to the library, Death reached for the few strands of hair left on his head. He grasped something resembling a few stands of hay but stopped short of pulling them out. “How far out of balance will things get while this girl is roaming around in the meantime? Should I try to get to her before doing the mineshaft? But if I miss the mineshaft, Chaos is going to show up. Dammit! Maybe I can do the mineshaft early.” Death strongly considered this; like so many other things appointment times were implied, were they not? “No, no,” Death stammered. “Let’s just wait and see how this plays out. No sense of bucking order when I don’t know what the consequences will be.” Death let go of his hair and tried to breathe deeply into his crusty lungs. It was a useless thing to do, physically speaking, but Life had once taught him during World War II that it could prevent panic attacks. God, that war was a lot of work and had been overwhelming at times.

“Do something useful for a change, Butler, and track that girl down,” Death ordered. “I’m going to be on her like flies on a corpse as soon as the school shooting’s over.”

“Where is she?!” the immortal bursting through his own front door needed to know. “I’ve got twenty minutes!”

Although Death had startled him, making him drop the silver platter he’d been carrying, the butler was otherwise unflappable, stoic as ever. “She’s in 1773, sir. December 16th, 1773 to be exact, m’lord.”

Death leaned a hand on the butler’s shoulder not so much out of exhaustion or for dramatic effect as out of confusion. “That doesn’t even make sense, man. Life and I aren’t allowed to time travel. What’s done is done. How is this girl time traveling and why? How am I supposed to get to 1773 in twenty minutes? Frick!” Death suddenly smacked the butler on the cheek making the servant’s eyes flare momentarily. “Are you joshing me?”

The butler rubbed his reddened cheek. “I am not ‘joshing’ you, as they say, sir. She’s in 1773 and will be there another ten minutes before she leaves for 1966 to visit George Harrison and inspire him to write a song.”

“How the hell do you know all this, Butler? Where are you getting your intel?” Death inquired. But no sooner he asked than he realized the answer. “Time. You’ve been talking to Time. Aw, geez.”

Death and Time didn’t exactly get along, not since Albert Einstein proved that time was relative – As Time itself always insisted – and Death manipulated his Kill List to take out Einstein a few months early. At the…time…Death felt this could disturb the order of things but rationalized that since time is relative, blah blah blah, what difference did a few months make? Of course, Death had gotten terribly drunk to work up the courage to actually do the deed as he wasn’t sure how it would affect the universe. Strangely, nothing of consequence happened, or at least nothing Death knew of. Since then, he’d been afraid Time was going to rat him out to Order but Time never had. Maybe Death’s own time had come, he considered. Death cast his dried marble eyes down a red carpeted hall towards a particularly large and meticulously carved grandfather clock and started a death march.

“Some things being relative,” Death started, “I don’t know when and if I’ll be back. If I’m not back in twenty, well, tell Life she doesn’t owe me that fiver for the asteroid that took out the dinosaurs. Even though I told her – I told her – it was clearly going to hit the earth; had the trajectory and all the math worked out. God, she’s so optimistic and naïve sometimes.”

And with that Death bumped his forehead into the clock, knocking him back and down onto his boney rear end. “Right,” Death muttered as he got up and eased the grandfather clock aside to reveal a passageway. The moment he crossed the threshold between dimensions, he was sucked into a violent red vortex.

“Death! If I did not foresee it I would not believe you are here now.” Time sat on a throne of small and large clocks whose hands moved both forward and backwards. He? She? Death was never sure. Time had one of those terribly ambiguous faces when wrapped in their finest Italian threads, rendered any pronoun impossible. Death never it was relevant anyway; he’d always been more spooked by Time’s little clocklike eyes than Time’s ambiguity.

Surrounding the pair in this dimension, the air itself was an infinite number of chattering film strips whipping to and fro, some playing quickly, some crawling along at a snail’s pace. Some strips appeared to wrap back upon themselves. “Ah, Mobius,” Death pointed and quipped trying to soften Time up.

“What do you want, Death?” Time asked sharply. Compared to Time, Death fancied himself lighthearted, even happy-go-lucky on occasion provided all the day’s work was done and done right. But Time was always all business and that hadn’t seemed to change. Considering everything Time had to keep track of, Death figured he’d better not waste Time’s time.

“So, you know normally I’d never intrude on your turf, right? I mean, not without a good reason. But there’s this girl, you see, who I tried to kill…”

“I know the child of which you speak. Are you concerned that I am involved?” Time leaned forward then eased back upon the throne again. “I have no reason to usurp my young brother, Order. I have nothing to do with this…matter.”

Did Time just stutter? It seemed to Death that Time had. Death had never seen this before, at least not up until the time of their falling out. Death pointed a finger at Time.

“You know something.”

Time’s head reared back before snapping back forward. “Yes, I know something! And I’ll be damned if I tell you what it is.”

“Whoa, take a chill pill, Time,” Death lowered his finger.

“Your vernacular is literally thirty years ago, Death. Get with the times,” Time fired back.

Death waved his palms down. “Okay, okay, though you of all people should remember that time’s irrelevant. I mean, that’s your schtick, right? But let’s focus on having a civil conversation here. Look, I know you’re still upset about the whole Albert Einstein thing but Chaos is knocking at Order’s door with that girl running around. I know Chaos doesn’t bother you but he’s a real dick to everyone else. Tell me what you know and, uh, ya know, I’ll do something for you. Mi casa es su casa.”

“That doesn’t even make sense, Death,” Time rolled the second hands in their eyes. “But since you’re being so cordial at the moment, I would rather enjoy taking you up on that offer.”

“Great!” Death clapped. He bopped forward with a little bit of relief. “You know, we used to be friends. See how easy it is to work things out?”

“It is easy to work things out, Death, provided you hold up your end of the bargain first.”

“I’m listening,” Death held his hand to his ear. “Go ahead. Lay it on me.”

“I’m going to send you back in time to resurrect Albert Einstein. Then you will leave him alone until he’s supposed to die.”

“Oh, oo, hmmm. I don’t know about that,” Death backed off. “Death is final, you know. It’s in Order’s rules. I mean, yeah, you could tell Order what I did and he’d probably be pretty upset with me, but bringing back the dead? Who knows what havoc that might wreck. It could be psychologically damaging, too, making the poor guy die twice? Would you like to perhaps, I dunno, ask for some other favor?”

“For Pete’s sake, Order wrote The Rules when the universe was barely a few seconds old. Ask him about The Rules now and he’d probably say he wishes he’d given it more thought. My request stands. I am sending you back in time to resurrect Albert Einstein. After you fulfil your end of the deal I will send you to intercept the girl before she whispers in George Harrison’s ear.” Time raised a hand high above.

“But you haven’t told me anything about the girl,” Death protested.

“I will tell you this, Death. There are some things as certain as life and death. Some things are equally undeniable. And how people think about these things is not up to me. Now be gone, Death, be gone from my realm!”

“But I’ve got a drive-by in fifteen…” Death’s voice trailed off as he was sucked up into a swirling pool of light and vanished.

To Be Continued

All Rights Reserved (c) November 2018 John J Vinacci

Self Obituary

Self Obituary

[I’ve heard it said it’s a good idea to write your own obituary to 1) Figure out exactly what you want to accomplish in life and 2) So that someone else doesn’t sugarcoat the real you. Okay, I made up number two but this is indeed what I want said about me when I die; the unvarnished truth.]

This weekend, John J. Vinacci went to finally get some goddamn sleep. He passed after robbing a series of banks and GOP coffers, giving all the money to the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Amnesty International, and driving off a cliff after being pursued by police.

He was born and raised in New York City – not by wolves as he often claimed – the son of an electrician and a natural multitasker, meaning, a woman. He is almost the youngest of four children but took pride in being his mother’s easiest birth and quietest baby back when they didn’t know to watch out for the quiet ones. Eventually moving to Long Guyland, John attended William Floyd High school whose rallying cry was “We is the champions.” It is amazing that John turned out to be a writer, among other things.

Soon after turning 18, John joined the army knowing that he’d do that someday and wanted to get it over with. It was in the army that he met people from all walks of life and learned that no matter where a person came from they were probably batshit crazy. With some of these batshit crazy people, John guarded warheads (hence the extra pinkie), drank beer, and even formed a garage band that practiced in an attic. John served a total of six years in military service between active duty and the National Guard, mostly out of his deep love for red tape.

John eventually married in his late 30’s, figuring his widowed wife was the least crazy woman he could find that would still be with him. Together they raised two permanent four year olds, meaning cats, Niles aka Crackhead and the immortal Knucklehead who refuses to die no matter how sick he gets. It was also around this time that John attended college at Portland State University as a Philosophy major who excelled at saying exactly the wrong thing at exactly the wrong time until the skill was perfected.

After completing his degree, John and his wife and their two fascist cats moved to Hawaii where John became a post-secondary teacher to students coming out of the nation’s worst high schools. As a teacher, John demonstrated incalculable patience as he taught students how to think and in some cases what not to believe. (This is to say that because a Youtube video asserts that 60 foot human giants used to roam the earth didn’t make such an assertion true.) Ironically, John was diagnosed with mental illness, which in American society apparently means equating reality with actual reality, and decided to go out with a bang instead of waiting to die at home. He is survived by his wife and two cats, his BC Rich guitar, his comic collection, and a collection of writings that have little to do with any previously mentioned reality.

His memorial service will feature a screening of The Matrix – always take the red pill – and a Tekken video game tournament. Music will be provided by the lesser-known 80’s hair-metal band Y&T. After the service his ashes will be spread wherever they are most likely to make people sneeze.

 

All Rights Reserved © November 2018 John J Vinacci

Gravediggers

Gravediggers

Underneath the starry sky

The naked branches of autumn invite us

To dig! We the living we dig

 

Now the ground is hard but a shovel is steel

We lift up the earth and turn like a wheel

We dig! We the living we dig

 

We dig for the dead a home all their own

A home they can rest in for some time alone

In silent repose to turn into bones

Breaking stones! We dig for the gone

 

Years will pass until the time come

To dig up the graves the dead rest here on

We dig! We the living we dig

 

We dig to let the zombies run loose

One night a year to get on their groove

And they don’t care who they consume

The good news? We dig for you too.

 

All Rights Reserved (c) October 2018 John J Vinacci

Perpetual

Perpetual

Time, there is nothing but time

 

My name is death

She brings forth life

All things are born

Until everything dies

Out of the darkness

There will be light

But something’s forever

Somethings you can’t fight

 

Time, there is nothing but time

Time, there is nothing but time

 

My kiss is surrender

But her breath’s alive

I’m piercing nocturnal

Into a future that’s bright

We cannot help it

We’re intertwined

In a clock that’s omniscient

And imminently decided

 

Time, there is nothing but time

Time, there is nothing but time

Time, there is nothing but time

 

I am the end

But she will survive

All things must balance

There is nothing outside

Despite my persistence

Her hope aside

The machine is our master

In which we appear to collide

 

Time, there is nothing but time

Time, there is nothing but time

Time, there is nothing but time

Time, there is nothing but time

 

All Rights Reserved (c) October 2018 John J Vinacci

First Bite

First Bite

“The physiology of zombies is impossible, that’s all I’m saying,” Isolde insisted. Her eyes roamed the decaying city, the sun at one o’clock.

“This whole goddamn situation is impossible,” Anouk groaned back with a snarl.

Anouk peeked around the back end of a burned out Telsa sedan clenching an old-school, analog toothbrush – the kind that made you move your hand back-and-forth in order to scrub the plague off your teeth. What a goddam hassle she always thought about the process, especially whenever her long, black, sweat-tangled hair got in her mouth when she brushed. What the holy hell were people’s teeth like before laser toothbrushes? Anouk didn’t know.

“Got two of ‘em,” Anouk grunted towards Isolde who was crouched behind the car’s front tire. “The one coming around your side is limping; shouldn’t be too fast for you but that’s not an excuse to take your sweet ass time.” Isolde dribble a bit of spit onto the pavement and tucked her own toothbrush away.

“Phhtpt,” Isolde sounded. “Physiologically, zombies are dead. Their blood isn’t circulating and they don’t breathe. They’re not getting any oxygen to their cells so how could they be making the body’s energy molecule that’s required for muscle contraction and cellular respiration? It just doesn’t make any sense.” Anouk was patting her on the shoulder indicating that they should get ready but Isolde was still lost in thought.

“And nothing in classical pop culture has prepared us for this,” Isolde continued. “Zombies like this don’t exist anywhere in fiction or mythology. Don’t get bit or you turn instantly? We didn’t see that coming. Worse, for a while we had no idea what we had to do in order to deal with them, which doesn’t make sense either. But I guess there’s some things you just can’t make up.”

A grizzled veteran of World War One – they lost all their historical records and had to start counting over again – Anouk grabbed a fistful of Isolde’s tattered shirt and pulled the young medic towards her scarred face.

“Listen to me, kid, shit’s about to get really real now. When you spring into action, you can’t give ‘em a chance. They sense you coming and they’ll be gone right quick and we won’t be able to catch up. They’re gonna struggle too; they’re strong…”

“They shouldn’t be,” Isolde’s brows worried.

“Yeah, well, they are. They’re gonna try to bite you if you don’t hang on long enough and you know what that means,” Anouk shoved the youngster away. “Now get ready. Remember, you gotta hold that shit for a good fifteen seconds. A nice deep bite and hold it! It’s gonna be tough. It’s gonna be the absolute worst goddamn thing you’ve ever tasted. But you gotta hold on. You ready or not?”

Isolde patted the cooler by her side. It was filled with IV’s their friends and enemies were going to need.

“Soon as they come ‘round. Here they come,” Anouk breathed. “Go!”

Anouk tackled the zombie coming around the car’s rear end from the side, knocking it to the ground as she sank her teeth into the zombie’s spare tire. The monster’s flesh was bitter and sour, gooey yet chunky, and penetrated into the tongue. It was a taste that lingered for days so fiercely that you needed someone back at camp trained in PTSD to deal with grunts like Anouk and Isolde when they returned from the field, if they returned from the field. Anouk reached up and pulled the creature’s hair back so she wouldn’t get bit. She wanted to gag but she held on.

Isolde spun around the front of the car and smacked her forehead against the zombie’s. Everyone’s got to go into the field at least once, the twenty-something remembered as she fell back. This was their camp’s rule and it was especially true for the medics since a successful attack meant the dead would need medical assistance right away when they returned to life after a human bite, dehydration being the biggest concern.

Young, light, and lithe, Isolde tucked her chin to her chest before hitting the pavement flat. She avoided a concussion and lost her breath for merely a split second. It really was really real now Isolde knew as she spun around on her back like a breakdancer. (She’d seen videos but their audio was always missing. Was breakdancing a form of field training? She never liked that assumption and preferred to think people used to do it for fun.) The medic grabbed the zombie by the ankle as it was already up and turning to run away. With the fiercest grip she could muster, she dragged herself toward the monstrosity and sank her teeth into the thing’s calf.

Oh! Oh my god! That…is…never tasted anything…so bad. Hold. Hold on fired across her brain. The zombie squealed something unholy before it reached down, lifted Isolde upside down like she weighed nothing and gnashed her buttocks. Isolde spit out a chunk of the zombie’s calf muscle to let loose her own unholy exclamation. She knew she hadn’t bitten it long enough to turn it but time wasn’t a factor for the zombie’s bite.

“Anouk! I’m bit! I’m going to turn, I’m going to…”

Well fuck all to shit Anouk thought as she timed out her own bite. The zombie she was latched onto collapsed as was always the case when they re-turned, allowing Anouk to let go. She jumped towards Isolde while the zombie that bit her turned and broke into a 40mph sprint. Gotta let it go now she figured as she fell on her knees by Isolde’s side, rotten blood flowing from her mouth. As the veteran heard that familiar growl common to the dead, she wondered if the taste wouldn’t be so bad since Isolde had turned only seconds ago. Anouk snapped down at the waist and bit Isolde on the ass for the sake of consistency, limiting the noob’s injuries.

“Nopeph, shtil taysh like shiff,” Anouk muttered as she held down the flailing medic. A few seconds later Isolde went limp. Anouk rolled the kid over and slapped her hard across the face. “Now I ain’t wanna eat shit for a week now, ya dumb…” Anouk was going to say something highly inappropriate for those trying to rebuild a civil civilization. She leaned her head back and yelled ‘fuck’ as loud as she could.

“What happened?” Isolde asked groggily. The youngster stirred, reached back and felt her buttocks, and felt the warmth of her own blood. “Did I get bit? It really hurts.”

“Oh, kid, you have no fucking idea,” Anouk jawed. The veteran hoped Isolde hadn’t been keeping track of her swearing; she had no credits left to give up to the community’s swear jar. Anouk engaged her quads and pulled Isolde up along with her. “See to our new friend over here,” she pointed to the former zombie lying unconscious nearby. “At least we got one of ‘em.”

“Oh god, did mine get away? Did I bite that thing for nothing?” Isolde ran her tongue around her mouth. “Oh, oh fuck. Oh fuck. Is that going to go away?”

“In a few days,” Anouk answered. “But the memory is forever,” she smiled before going straight-lipped.

Isolde limped over to her medical supplies and retrieved two IV bags. She popped some syringes and fed a needle into each arm of the newly human. Judging by the relatively mild state of exposure to the elements of the former zombie, Anouk figured this man would be conscious and walking within 30 minutes. Good; she was tired, bitter in more than one sense, and didn’t feel like doing jack shit else today.

“I wish we’d gotten the other one,” Isolde fretted as she watched over the man.

“Don’t you worry, kid, you owe me two bites. Gonna be fun seeing you pay your dues.” Anouk looked around garbage-strewn city. You couldn’t see it but there, hiding in the shadows were plenty of opportunities.

 

All Rights Reserved © October 2018 John J Vinacci