Waking Up Dead, By Margo Bond Collins

Chapter 1

(published with permission)

When I died, I expected to go to heaven.

Okay. Maybe hell. It’s not like I was perfect or anything. But I was sort of hoping for heaven.

Instead, I went to Alabama.

Yeah. I know. It’s weird.

I died in Dallas. I was killed, actually. I’ll spare you the gruesome details. I don’t like to remember them myself. Some jerk with a knife–and probably a Bad-Mommy complex. Believe me, if I knew where he was, I’d go haunt his ass.

At any rate, by the time death came, I was ready for it–ready to stop hurting, ready to let go. I didn’t even fight it.

And then I woke up dead in Alabama. Talk about pissed off.

You know, even reincarnation would have been fine with me–I could have started over, clean slate and all that. Human, cow, bug. Whatever. But no. I ended up haunting someplace I’d never even been.

That’s not the way it’s supposed to work, right? Ghosts are supposed to be the tortured spirits of those who cannot let go of their earthly existence. If they could be convinced to follow the light, they’d leave behind said earthly existence and quit scaring the bejesus out of the poor folks who run across them. That’s what all those “ghost hunter” shows on television tell us.

Let me tell you something. The living don’t know jack about the dead.

Not this dead chick, anyway.

It took me a while to figure out what had happened, of course. I came to, drifting along a downtown sidewalk in some strange little town. A full moon shone high above me, glinting off the windows of the closed stores. The only noise came from a little pub-like bar down a side street. I didn’t know where I was or how I’d gotten there. What better cure for that than a stiff shot?

Next thing I knew, I was inside the bar. Like I was having those fuges–the blackouts that people with multiple personalities claim to get.

Then I tried to order a drink. “Vodka martini, extra dirty. Lots of olives,” I said when the bartender glanced my way.

The bartender ignored me. I tried again. The bartender walked away.

That’s when I became Callie Taylor, Ghost Cliché.

I leaned over the dark oak bar and yelled after the bartender. “Hey! Down here! I want to order something.” I got kind of a funny feeling in my stomach–like a muscle cramp or something. When I looked down, I realized I was standing in the middle of the bar, drink glasses and all. That concerned me, so I stepped right through it and to the other side.

I won’t bore you with the rest of my moment of epiphany. Suffice to say, I figured out I could do lots of ghostly things–walk through walls, blow out candles just by passing over them, let people feel a chill when they moved through me. (I don’t recommend it; it’s kind of chilly on this side, too. Brrr.) But I can’t do much of the old live-person stuff. I can’t eat. I can’t drink. I can sort of smell food and drink, and that’s nice, but not nearly as nice as eating and drinking was. If I concentrate really hard, I can sometimes make things move just a little bit. Electronic stuff is easiest–I can make anything electric go haywire.  But I couldn’t talk to anyone.

I tried to. I used every ounce of concentration I had to make myself heard. I tried over and over again. I went all over town trying to get someone’s attention.

Sometimes, some poor schmuck caught a glimpse of me. One guy just about peed himself when I showed up in a mirror behind him, and that made me feel bad. So I pretty much quit trying to do that after a while.

And of course I tried to leave. If I had to be a ghost, I at least wanted to see how my family was doing back in Dallas. Find some way to let Mom and Dad and my brother know that I was okay, really.

To be entirely honest, I also kind of wanted to see my own funeral. See who was there. I especially wanted to know if Preston Davis had shown up at my funeral. Preston was a database administrator for a local hospital and had been my on-again-off-again boyfriend for a while. I wanted to know if he cried at my funeral. And how–or if–he introduced himself to my family.

Yeah. Okay. So it’s petty of me. So what? I’d had a rough week. Cut me some slack.         But apparently I couldn’t get to Dallas to check these things out. I couldn’t even go outside of the city limits. I’d hit the edge of town, take one more step, and pop! I’d be right back in the middle of downtown. Don’t get me wrong. Abramsville, Alabama is a lovely little town. Cute little downtown square with an ornate, nineteenth-century courthouse and shops selling knickknacks and jewelry and plaques with clever sayings on them. There’s a college, a couple of bars, some beautiful old houses.

But it’s not my town.

And it gets lonely, being the only ghost in town.

I know, I know. My best bet would have been to find other ghosts to hang out with. I tried it all. I hung out in hospitals, cemeteries, nursing homes, everywhere I could think of that other ghosts might congregate. I was even in the hospital emergency room a couple of times when other people died. All I saw was just a shimmer in the air above them, a wispy movement like light on fog. And then it was gone.

But as far as full-on, hanging-out-in-town ghosts?

Nothing.

This went on for weeks. And in that time, you want to know what I learned about being dead?

It’s boring.

Bo-Ring.

Until, that is, the night I saw some creep chop up Molly McClatchey.


Margo Bond Collins is the author of Waking Up Dead, international bestselling paranormal mystery, Solstice Shadows Publishing, 2013;  and Legally Undead, Vampirarchy Series #1, forthcoming from World Weaver Press in 2014


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Good Morning to Good Night

Good Morning

Hot oil. Early in the morning. Sugar, butter. Sprinkles. Cream. Chocolate drips into the smell of coffee, and I open the windows to let the fragrance out, to lure you in.

I line the trays with jelly-filled, powdered sugared, glazed rings and holes. Custard peaks from golden frosted dough. My sugar white hair is tucked under my sugar white cap, and I mix the dough in a bowl the size of a tub.

The cash register curls out its totals in little blue numbers. Ready for the day, quarters in change wait for my fingers to slide them out and drop them in your hand.

Ring-a-ring

They come. Father and son. One barely sees, bleary eyed in the morning. The other barely talks, but smiles and points from his perch in Daddy’s arms.

“Which kind would you like?” The father says, arms around his boy. Sprinkles. No, maple. No, sprinkles. They take a half dozen. I pour the dad a coffee. He laughs and says “Yes, thank you!” and drinks a sip right away.

One by two, six by ten and a baker’s dozen leave on plates or in paper boxes, my little fried friends. They’ll never go stale or dry. I won’t let them.

I’m not your grandfather. I’m not your dad. I’m not your neighbor. I’m not your lawyer, your dentist now retired. That’s you, there, though. Yes, you, just over there. You’re a teacher, determined in your ways. A musician out the night before. A grandfather yourself. A friend. Your own best lover. You can’t say no. You shouldn’t say no. Eat your salad. Eat your beans. But on Saturday morning, celebrate the day, eat me, eat my cakes, made for your delight.

Good Evening

Old Greeko comes in the window in the late afternoon. He sits with me as I sip my tea. He scavenges my muffin, pecking at the crumbs.

“Why do you come here Greeko?” I say. He hops along the table’s edge and cocks his head. Sunlight glosses the fine black feathers across his breast.

“Caw-aaaww,” he says, leaving his beak ajar.

He hops a few steps and looks out toward the garden.

Jonathan was out fishing. I could see him, in my mind, his boat atop the bay, Jonathan looking down through the cold clear water to the bottom. Little fish swirling near the surface, larger fish coming up to glug them, whole or in pieces. Jonathan, the whale from outside the sea, his fingers his teeth.

We’d eat well for dinner that night.

“Come Greeko,” I say and reach out my forearm. He hops on and up to my shoulder. We walk through the kitchen, and I nudge his talons, lift him to the sill. His legs skip across the long pot of soil and herbs, and I watch him skewer, swallow a worm, fast and whole.

I reach out to the vine to pick a feast. The tomatoes are firm and blood red, and I pluck two that are perfect together. My thumb pierces the third; pulp flows to my wrist. My lips embrace the gaping wound and I suck; seeds and rich red leak at the corners of my mouth. Greeko turns away.

After dinner we would stroll under the moon, our memories our servants, our stomachs our slaves.

Yes, we’d eat well for dinner that night.

Good Night

The spider’s web swelled with midnight dew, and the orb weaver spread her legs. Bugs fingered her sticky candy thread, slick with water, until they could no longer move.

What would she see if she could see in a mirror? With one of her eight eyes and then the next? What would she see by looking down her slim polished leg, before she pulled close her prey?

I curled inward, tucking my head into my knees. One shoe fell and flopped on the ground. My eyes pressed against boney joints, and nails bored into my flesh. My right palm wrapped my shoe, waiting, fearing.

I could feel her hugeness next to me. I could feel her unwrapping me from her web, her teeth sinking in to drain me dry. She would come into my house. I could feel her coming into me. I exploded outward and smashed her with the force of a million enemies, ripping apart her sticky weave, and I smashed her again and again and again until I knew without question she was dead, and I was saved from being eaten.