2014 is almost over and before I delve into a review of my first year as a blogger – next week or so – I thought I’d continue my latest short story. So without further ado, here’s part two of “We don’t talk anymore” where we learn more about the talking dead and Fitch’s family. (for the record, I haven’t thought this through at all – I haven’t even decided Fitch’s gender yet)
We Don’t Talk Anymore – Part 2
Some people, when they don’t know what to do next, they say “I have to make some calls,” but instead go to the toilet to cry their heart out. When I say “I have to make some calls,” I mean it. Although I don’t use a phone, but that’s none of anybody’s business.
After the more than disgusting events in the morgue, I went to my office to think and, well, make some calls. Although I should probably say “office”, because that room was obviously a recently emptied former broom closet: no window, no desk, and it smelled even worse than Rost. They didn’t expect (want?) me to stay for long, and honestly, I wasn’t planning to, either.
As I closed the door behind me, I found the semi-darkness with the faint light of the single bulb hanging from the ceiling quite calming. My ears got used to the silence and then discovered that the room was probably also home to a family of cockroaches. I guess we all have to share our space with something.
I sat down on the creaking wooden construction that was supposed to be a chair and concentrated on the case. The dead no longer talked. I giggled. Not so many decades ago, the idea alone would have seemed ridiculous to anyone in their right mind. But not today. The dead were more alive than we would have liked at times, and not all of them restricted their activities to talking. Some researchers argued that we should return to the “olden days” when the dead were dead and six feet below (or wherever), but most people on the street didn’t agree with them. Sure, it was quite annoying to think that Auntie Marilyn wouldn’t stop gossiping about her neighbors even after she had finally succumbed to that lung cancer of hers, but not all dead were that bad. Sometimes it could be nice to sit down with your grandparents for a little chat. Until you discovered that they were racists or homophobes or religious fanatics.
Okay, frankly, talking dead sucked massively, but nobody wanted to admit it because – well, that would have meant wishing for someone else’s death. And even in our society that wasn’t good manners.
The other thing was that the talking dead had attracted other – folks. Beings that hadn’t existed in the world before. Or rather, hadn’t bothered telling anyone about their existence. But now that the dead didn’t shut up on their own, their services were needed. The dead could shut their mouths if they wanted to, but they needed someone to tell them to.
I still wasn’t sure whether grandma had done us a service when she had revealed that she could talk to the dead – as in “make the dead listen and do as she says”. I must have been four or five years old when she told the reporters her story. I don’t remember much except that our phone didn’t stop ringing for the rest of the month and that we could suddenly afford a new TV set.
It was all quite funny until my 12th birthday when grandma gave me a ring with a red stone. I said thank you even though I wasn’t interested in her jewelry. I even put it on to make her smile. I shouldn’t have, because in that exact second, something woke up inside me. Grandma’s abilities had skipped a generation. Not my father, but I had inherited the ability to talk to the not-really-dead. Caroline thought that was awesome and took me to the graveyard so she could talk to her mother. Unfortunately this recently deceased was less interested in Caroline’s latest boyfriend and more in her brain. And so I shot my first zombie and lost my first best friend.
It got even more complicated as the years went by and at some point I decided that I shouldn’t work as a freelancer and joined the police forces. Which made matters even more complicated.
And now the dead had decided not to talk to anyone anymore. Which could be good. “But is it just us?”
“Seriously? You don’t call in ages and that’s the first thing you want to know?!” Mom was upset. Rightly so, I guess. I could see the anger in her eyes. Although she was probably acting. Ever since she had found out that I don’t need a phone to call her and that I can even see her during my calls, she put even more emphasis in everything she said and did during those conversations.
“Sorry. How are you?”
“Can’t you think of an even more meaningless question?”
“Do you want me to make conversation with you? Or is that just your passive-aggressive way of saying ‘You don’t call often enough’?” I rolled my eyes and was as usual glad that mom couldn’t see me.
“Both, actually. So you’re in New York now? When did that happen? Last time we spoke you were in Boston.”
I coughed. I had been in Seattle and Philly before, obviously I hadn’t told her that. But I don’t tell her everything anyway. “Well, you know… I get transferred a lot. I go where I’m needed.”
“Ah. Remember to drop by Aunt Benz’s house. She hasn’t seen you in years. I’m sure she’d be delighted to have you for tea.”
“I’ll see what I can do…” Last time I had seen Aunt Benz (whose actual name was Margaret Attenburgh, but we kids were more interested in her shiny red car), she had been really sick, so there was a good chance that she was now dead – and hopefully not eager to have me for tea. My brain isn’t as tasty as you may think.
“So where are you staying? There are tons of letters every day and I really think you should open them yourself. I’m not a post office.”
“Are we talking about Ben’s letters? I told you, just throw them away.”
“But he’s such a nice chap! He came over for coffee last week, asked how you were. He’s working for an investment company now. Did you know his parents have a house in the Hamptons?”
It was always the same. Ben had a crush on me. No matter how often I told him that I wasn’t interested (“Maybe not today!”) or with someone else (“Maybe it won’t last forever!”) or moving (“I can move too!”) or annoyed (“You mean delighted!”) or sick (“I will care for you!”) or just fed up with his pathetic whining and pretending that he was something he was clearly not, he just wouldn’t give up. Partly because mom made him think that he still had a shot at me. Sometimes I think he put a jinx on her – which would make him slightly interesting, so clearly that couldn’t be what had happened. These days, he was sending a letter every day to tell me how he was doing. I wasn’t the least bit interested, which also explained why I never gave mom my address. Those letters should see the fire, not another mailbox.
“I know about the house, and I’m not interested.”
“Is that Em you’re talking to?” It was Chloe, my younger sister, who had just walked into the living room where mom was sitting on the couch talking to me. Within a second, she appeared in ultra-crisp high definition next to the slightly pixelated image of mom. That’s just the thing with telepathic communication: the image is only good if both sides know what they’re doing. And Chloe knew more than a thing or two. “Hey Em, what’s up?”
“Hi Chloe. Sorry, just a business call. Are the dead still talking?”
“What kind of weird question is that? Of course they are.”
“You sure? They don’t talk here anymore.”
“New York. Just had a Jane Doe in the morgue and she was as silent as – well, she was more silent than anything I’ve come across in the past.”
“That’s weird. I haven’t been to the cemetery in a while, but I can check now and call you back, if that’s okay?”
“Perfect. Don’t know what I would do without you.”
“Probably spend more money you don’t have. Okay, see you later!” That’s what I like about Chloe. She doesn’t mind that I don’t want to waste my time talking about my life or hers. When I say business, she understands business and behaves accordingly.
“You won’t hang up on me, will y—“ Mom’s indignant face became a blur and then vanished. I exhaled slowly. Why did my family have to be so complicated? No, wait, why did my mom have to be so complicated? Chloe thought that she was just jealous of our abilities, but I suspected that there was much more to it.
(to be continued. Maybe)