Opening my eyes is an effort that is monumental in effort, as they seem stuck in place as if glued. The finally snap open, peeling off of my eyes with an audible noise too slick to describe. My hands are folded over my chest, and a white sheet is over my body. Peering down at my body, I knock my head into a low wooden ceiling, perhaps six inches from my head. Moving my arms to the side and shifting my aching legs results in similar bumps and scrapes, revealing that I’m trapped in some kind of wooden case. I open my mouth to scream, but feel it tighten as I wheeze, my mouth dry and raspy.
I lie still, thinking of my last memories, trying to remember how I got here. I remember the hospital, and going into surgery… and now I’m here, trapped in a pine box in the darkness. Wait, it’s pitch black in here! How is it I can see? I look down at my feet, frowning at the sight of the brown loafers that I always hated encapsulating my feet.
Jennifer knows I hate these shoes, why would she let someone put them on me? I think to myself, cursing my wife for her deceitful dressing. I wonder where she is… she would normally be bothering a doctor about my condition, getting a nurse to allow me stronger pain killers.
Turning my head, I pause as I see a crack in the wood, with some earth pouring in near my neck, worms writhing in the moist dirt.
That’s disconcerting… I think to myself, slowly beginning to panic. I try and calm myself down when I realize I’m not breathing heavily, that my heart isn’t pounding. My heart is silent within my chest, my lungs deflated. I take a deep breath and hold it, to see when I would need another breathe. I sit for what must be three minutes before I let the air out of my lungs.
I don’t need to breathe, and I don’t have a heartbeat. I’m obviously underground and I’m dressed in my Sunday best in a pine box.
“I’ve been buried…” I rasp, my voice scratchy and raw, but surprisingly not painful. “Those sons of bitches buried me and left me to rot! And in my least favorite shoes!”
I stop complaining when I hear a low moan coming from the earth to my left, which is answered by a groan coming from my right. I can hear the distant sounds, muffled cracks of wood, as someone breaks out of their casket and begins digging. The resounding cracks echo from all around, making me wonder if I should do the same.
No point in just staying here… but if I go up top I might get shot or something. I think to myself, considering my options. But if I go up top, I can ditch these loafers and get some real shoes.
Having decided my course of action, I reach over and grab hold of the broken wood, pulling on it hard. The wood peels like a banana, allowing more earth to spill into my casket. After I peel enough rotted wood (how long have I been down here?) away from the casket, I roll onto my stomach and begin digging up. The soil is moist, and easy to move, like swimming through pudding. I hear others digging around me, and all I can do is join them in their guttural moans as I dirty my hands and threadbare suit as I swim through the muck up towards the grass roots.
My right hand breaches the surface, just as a young girl screams. I flinch back, not prepared for someone to scream so suddenly. Pulling my upper body up through the wet grass, I blink my eyes a few times to allow the mud clods to fall away, before taking in the sight of the world around me.
I’m buried in a conventional graveyard, with a rather elaborate tombstone that is now playing host as a seat to a young tough, dressed in studded leather and chains, who is staring at me as if I’d, well, as if I’d risen from the dead. His eyes are wide, and fall to an old book in his lap.
“Tommy, undo it! Send him back into the ground!” A girl shrieks, just as several more mottled grey-green arms burst through the earth. “Oh god, did you raise the whole graveyard?”
“I don’t know Samantha, I just read the incantation. It’s your book, how come you don’t know!” The seated man asks, pulling his legs up and out of reach. I sigh and work my other arm out of the damp soil, pushing my mud caked form out so that I can search for some new shoes. Looking at the feet of this strange young man, I note he has some spiffy looking black boots.
Wonder if he’s my size?
I hear the plaintive moans around us as more like me rise from the ground, hands reaching for the heavens as we welcome the freedom from our wooden cells. I shakily rise to my legs, wincing as the joints creak and the muscles stretch. Apparently death hasn’t made my legs any better than they were in life… real shocker there.
One woman, a gaunt thing buried in a ruined bridal dress and veil, rushes forward, arms outstretched as she tackles the man off of my headstone. I hear the girl shriek once more as the moans grow progressively louder. I take a few experimental steps and look over my headstone, shocked to see the dead woman tearing strips of flesh away from the young man’s face, his left eye now deflated and bloody. His head rolls to and fro, as if his neck has been broken.
The girl, a cute young thing with red hair and a sleeveless white tank top, turns to move away from the act of cannibalism before us, only to bump into three other walking dead that all reach for her. She turns and runs, barreling into me, forcing me to reach out to steady myself on her so I don’t fall.
“Let go!” She screams, shaking her arms about violently.
“I will once you calm down!” I hiss, catching her attention. She calms down, despite the surrounding horde closing in on us.
“You can talk?”
“Of course, can’t you?” I smile, before looking at my fellow cadavers. “If you would all be so kind as to leave this lady alone, I would appreciate it.”
To my surprise, they turn and begin shuffling towards the entrance of the graveyard, moaning pitifully about their existence. I let go of the young girl and stare at her, waiting for her to say something.
“Y-you’re not going to eat me are you?” She asks, looking at me carefully.
“I’m actually a vegetarian. Or was. My name is Harold Marshall, Professor of Ancient Languages at New York State. Or at least I was, I imagine they’ve replaced me by now. Tell me, what year is it?”
“2017,” the girl replies, running her hands over her arms uncertainly.
“Really? My goodness, I went in for surgery over thirty years ago… I guess I didn’t make it.”
“Surgery for what?” She asks, looking at the hunched oiver woman still eating her friend ferally.
“I had a brain tumor in the frontal cortex, they were going to remove it. Guess I died before they could.” I reach up and run a hand along my head. I can feel the stitched flesh where they had cut into me, the stitching worn and crusty with mold. I would probably need someone to sew me up a bit better, maybe with something that lasts longer than thread, if I intend to make a run for it. As it stands the upper right side of my face is about to slide off the bone and hang limply like low hanging fruit.
I look back at the young girl, and I can tell she’s afraid. I don’t blame her.
“Was he your boyfriend?” I ask, trying to sound sorry.
She shrugs. “We’d gone on a few dates, this being one of them. I guess you could say we were dating, but there really wasn’t any chemistry between us. Still, to be eaten…”
“In her defense she looks like she hasn’t had a meal in years, and he was in a graveyard at night casting spells from an old book. That just sounds bad on basic principle.”
“Well when you put it like that…” She says, a small smile gracing her lips nervously, her eyes darting to the woman feasting on the man and me.
I kick off my loafers and place my foot up on my headstone, pulling off the mildew infested sock before repeating the process with the other foot. She looks at me as if I’m crazy. I smile and nod at the dead man being eaten.
“I want his shoes. I hate these loafers; they slip off my feet too easily.” I explain, walking around the headstone and grabbing a leg, hoisting it up to begin undoing a heavy heeled boot that went up to mid-calf. I look at the girl. “What kind of man wears boots like this? Was he a biker?”
“No, he was just a Goth kid.” She replies, somewhat airily as if this is all a dream.
“Goth? What’s that?” I ask, untying the laces to the boots and pulling down the zipper on the side.
“Goth is a, I don’t know, style that some kids dress up as. You know, to show their darker side.”
“Right… whatever.” I say, pulling off the first boot and unrolling the sock with it. The woman growls and tugs the body closer to her, sinking her teeth into his neck. I get the other boot and sock off in relative silence, save for the rasping groan of the woman as she noisily chews her meal before she abruptly stops and stands up, meat falling from her lips. She turns and growls at the girl, launching herself at her and grabbing her by the throat, dropping them both to the ground.
I don’t seem to care. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m dead now, or maybe it’s the fact that I’m watching her boyfriends (?) eyes blink open, his arms moving to bring him up from the ground, that leaves me distracted from her current plight. He stands up, bare feet sinking into the mud, and rushes over to join the woman in wrestling the girl to the ground, where both of them begin to sink their teeth into her delicate frame, hungrily gnawing down to the bone as blood washes into the mud, creating a brackish paste that seems to stain everything it touches.
Sitting there, pulling on my new boots after settling my socks just below my knees, I smile as I lace them up nice and tight, before pulling the zipper up to keep them presentable. I have to tear the pant legs of my dress pants to allow the boots the room that they need, but my body is now protected somewhat from the elements. I toss the brown loafers over the grave at the leather-clad zombie, watching them bounce off his head as he rears back with several strands of meat dangling from his maw.
“No more loafers… a whole new life in a whole new world, but at least I don’t have loafers.”