Doing Dead Man's Time
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by Matthew L. Schoonover
Description: From the author who brought you the supernatural thrillers of The Arbiter series and the impossible mysteries of The Tornado Man series comes a new tale of supernatural suspense. Phil Talbot is in the here-after, awaiting judgment. He is given the opportunity to come back to the mortal plane and fix the one mistake that changed his supernatural fate. But there are two conditions: he isn''t to know what that mistake is, and he is not allowed to come back as himself. To add to this, the ''other side'' gets a hand in helping to decide his fate. If you think living''s hard, try DOING DEAD MAN''S TIME.
eBook Publisher: ebooksonthe.net/ebooksonthe.net, 2011 ebook
eBookwise Release Date: June 2011
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [316 KB]
Reading time: 201-281 min.
In the here-after
"Yes Gabriel, I understand you've been waiting to see me?"
"Only a millennia, Father. It's about Purgatory ..."
"It's kind of hard to purge sins outside of time, Father. I mean, one minute and one year tend to blend together after a while. And it is getting kind of crowded over there."
"So let me get this straight, Gabriel: you want to take a few souls out of Purgatory and send them back to earth...to what?"
"You're reading my mind again, Lord. To speed up the purging process of their repentance. You did say no unclean thing shall enter your--"
"Yes, yes, I know, I know (everything)...but by themselves?"
"We can put in some guidelines...and we'll have to have some kind of guide to keep them on track."
"My Guardian Angels are pretty busy right now. And then there's him. Ever since Job, he insists on being a part of these earthly decisions."
"Actually, Sir, I've already passed him a teaser through one of his subordinates. He likes the idea, especially the part about a guide."
"I'm sure he does. Free will you know. Any soul sent back to earth can still fall. But what does that have to do with the guide?"
"He's agreed to provide someone."
"Interesting. But you know the rule, Gabriel: One soul, one body."
"I've given that a lot of thought, Father, and I think I've come up with something...a loop-hole of sorts."
"I'm intrigued. Tell me more."
"Strictly speaking, there's nothing that says we can't have one body...two souls...it's the same, uh, trick that Legion pulled--
"Yes, sir. Here's what I have in mind..."
"Very well, Gabriel, I'll allow you a test case. You may have one soul."
* * * *
In the Here and Now
A flash of blue on the back of Talbot's eyeballs, a sudden and intense pain in his chest as if every rib had been violently crushed, heart and other organs pureed in a gasp of agony too quick and complete to allow description or detail--then inflated in an agonizing process of the experience in reverse -- and then a feeling of calm and inner peace.
At first he attributed the melange of sensations to some kind of shock to his system, like coming out of a long, dark tunnel into a suddenly fierce, bright day and stopping to blink his eyes and adjust himself to his new surroundings. It was something like that but more; a renewed sense of the knowledge that eyes were for seeing--that he had indeed forgotten about eyes or eyesight.
Talbot was waking up.
It was more than the fierce blinding light of suddenly being awake, the sudden attack of disorientation and confusion. He was becoming more and more aware of a vague and undefined sense of departure, of something leaving him. Like soft music in the back of his mind that he didn't even realize he was listening to until it was gone; unaware of humming a catchy tune and slowly, casually becoming aware of it, and then unable to repeat even a single note simply because of that awareness. And no matter how hard he tried to bring it back, to duplicate it, he could not.
He was actually hearing the tune in his head (not really a tune at all), aware of it as it faded. His eyes were closed and he was leaning slightly forward in a relaxed position as water ran down his naked body in soft, warm rivulets. The water was hot to a comfortable degree and the body was lax to the point of being limp. Talbot realized that he was still mostly asleep.
Slowly the tune faded to be replaced by the sounds of water spraying from the nozzle, hitting and splashing off body and tiles. When he was sure that the last vestige of that tranquility was gone and that he was completely unable to hum even a single note of that forgotten tune (no feeling of regret or loss when it was gone, just a sense that it was no longer here--that once he had been tranquil and now he is, strangely and inexplicably, not) he opened his eyes.
Steam so thick Talbot thought it was on the wrong side of his eyeballs. Everything inside the shower stall was concealed by it. The opaque glass of the shower door hid everything outside.
He turned off the shower.
Opening the shower door slowly, he peeked out into the bathroom. It was a hotel room. He could tell just by looking but he could not determine the period in time. From the fixtures and decorations it could be any high-class hotel any time between the late sixties and the mid-nineties. He realized he was 'cataloguing', a bad habit he'd always had, and laughed nervously. "You mean where, not when," he told himself. He was surprised by the sound of his own voice. It sounded like the voice of a stranger.
He grabbed a towel off the towel rack and wrapped himself in it. He noticed the large mirror over the sink, a steam covered silhouette staring back at him. He approached the mirror, wiped it off and took a good look.
He was a tall, well tanned, Caucasian with brown eyes and long, jet black hair. He was clean-shaven--apparently he'd shaved before going into the shower--and all and all, not bad looking. There was a scar on his forehead, an old scar, pink and faded. He pulled his hair back with a hand. The scar ran from under the hairline to just above the right eye.
"Rakish," he thought.
He still felt disoriented although he couldn't have said why. He saw everything as if for the first time. And yet somehow it all looked familiar. The face in the mirror seemed like someone not himself, as if he was looking at a familiar stranger.
Then he noticed the earring. A small diamond on a sliver base in his right ear. This last caught him by surprise and he felt a momentary dizziness.
He took a deep breath, closed his eyes and put his hands over his ears. His eyes moved under the lids as he repeated to himself, "Left, right, left, right," until he was sure which ear the ring was in. With a sigh he exhaled the breath and opened his eyes. As the disorientation began to leave him he saw that the ring, despite the mirror image, was actually in his left ear.
As he studied that face, the sense of familiarity grew stronger. And with that familiarity came a sense of something else: A feeling he couldn't identify, something alien, a sense of...of what?
A sense of hatred?
The door to the bathroom opened. A brunette walked in, brushing her hair. She had clean limbs, clear eyes and a half smile on her face. She was dressed in a slip and bra. Talbot felt his breath catch in his throat. She was beautiful.
She stopped halfway to the mirror when she saw him standing there. He could not decipher the look on her face. He felt his body tense.
She poked the hair brush accusingly at him. "You better hurry up, Sleepy-head. You know you're not supposed to be here. My brother will be here soon to pick me up and you know how he feels about you."
Talbot stared in slack-jawed surprise. Part of his mind told him that they'd only recently met--
-- while another part of his mind seemed to be fighting to bring up memories old and dear, memories of laughter and games, fights and friendships and differences of opinions, of long walks and long talks.
"Susie? Is that you?"
She laughed and it was music to his ears. "Of course it's me, Silly. Who else would put up with you?" She frowned as a thought occurred to her. Then it was gone and she was smiling again.
Something about a funeral, Talbot remembered. He'd seen her at a funeral. But whose?
Her own? That didn't make sense. It had to be someone else. He could almost see the coffin, the crowd, the family. It was all fuzzy, all except Susie, crying her eyes out. She was younger then. They all were. (Who were they?) He remembered wanting to put his arms around her, to comfort her, knowing that he could not.
A gasp came to his lips, so abruptly that Susie asked, "What?"
"Nothing," he said.
But it wasn't nothing. He'd just remembered being sad at the funeral because he couldn't comfort dear, sweet Susie...dear sweet sister Susie.