Shuffled Off – Transmission #2

Received 2010/10/20 02:15:26

Sorry about that, got tired I guess. This is hard work: forming the shapes clearly enough to be translated into letters.

Jin, you called it. The feedback system works well. If I couldn’t see the result of my efforts this just wouldn’t work. Sorry if the prose is a bit rough, it’s just too much to go back and edit it into something prettier.

I can’t think that it matters to you though. I bet there was jumping for joy when you saw the first intelligible bit come in. Did that bottle of champagne finally get opened? Sorry I wasn’t here to witness it.

So where was I? Oh yeah, death by car at the Mickey D’s.

When my dad passed, I got my head shrunk for a while and the shrink, she told me about the five stages of grief. As I recall they are: Denial, Anger, Deals, Depression, and Acceptance. I think that is it, normally I would just look it up, but that’s not going to work right now.

JJ’s Things That Suck About Being Dead (JJTTSABD) #1: Can’t use the net to look stuff up and pretend you are smarter than you really are.

So I think there are stages, similar stages, to dying; at least for me.

Stage 1: Shock, aka Denial, aka wtf just happened?

So watching myself die, the self-absorbed bleating of my killers, the wild ride to Saint Mother of All That is Virginal, watching the heroic efforts to save me—was Stage #1: Shock, and shock is just one variant of the larger (much larger) area of Denial.

There was this weird detachment. It was me, but it wasn’t me. As I watched those doctors and nurses trying to pummel my body back to life, I kept trying to talk to them. I said, “Hey, I’m right here, it’s OK. I’m not really dead.” Shattered hip; broken ribs; lacerated bowels; punctured spleen; blood loss; head trauma; and on and on it went. One at a time they accessed and tried to stabilize my injuries. They got the heart going a few times, but never for very long.

After a while I started getting worried—what if they succeeded? I didn’t want back in that thing, man that would just be hell. So I kept telling them that it was OK, that they should let me go. Eventually they did. The process, though, was gratifying. It was amazing seeing my life cared for to such a degree by a room full of strangers.

At this stage I was attached to my body—I went where it did, just got dragged along. After the heroics were over I was left there for some time, just me and my body. Just me and me.

I don’t remember much of that time, but I developed a little mantra that pulled me through: wtf, wtf, wtf, wtf, wtf… For how long I have no idea. How could this have happened? That might have been crossing tentatively over to Stage 2: Anger. But believe me, it was way more shock than anger. When anger came there was no denying it.

The morgue was next, a cold sterile room where my body was shoved into a drawer. There were three others there with me. I guess you would call them ghosts, but I was still having a hard time with that. All three were wispy floating forms with silver cords leading to a drawer. Two were completely out of it, looking gape jawed and stupid, just wandering around. The third’s name was Jesus.

“Hey fresh meat, what happened to you?” he asked.

I would have jumped out of my skin, if I had skin. I don’t know why, but I just wasn’t expecting that.

“Huh?” I mumbled.

“Oh man, not another bardo-brain,” he said.

“What?”

“What a waste of space. Can’t you bring me someone to talk to?” He looked up as he said this.

“Are you talking to me?”

“Praise be to Guadalupe! Yeah man, I’m talking to you.” With a big smile on his face he added, “My name is Hey-zeus.”

“Hey-zeus, you mean as in Gee-zus?”

“Difference in pronunciation. If you would be so kind, please call me Hey-zeus. Although I am a mighty handsome guy, I don’t want to be confused with the big fellow.” He pointed up.

I am not sure if he was handsome or not: his dancing eyes were brown; his face was plain and kind looking; and he had a big full mustache wiggling above his smile.

“Oh yeah, sure. My name is JJ.” I would have extended my hand, but it wasn’t quite like that. I had a sense of form, but it wasn’t steady, especially regarding limbs. Jesus’s face was clear, but the rest of his body came in and out of… hmmm… focus I guess, depending on what he was doing. I suppose it was the same for mine.

Turns out Jesus had been there a while. He was an illegal and as such his body had not been claimed yet. Jesus was a bounty hunter that had snuck across the border chasing a murderer. He wasn’t like a normal bounty hunter, at least not what I thought normal bounty hunters did; he also tried to “show them the light of the divine Mother Mary” before he turned them in.

Next came, what I have come to know is, a standard ritual among the dead.

“So, how’d you die?” Jesus asked.

“Pinned to the jungle gym at a Mickey D’s by a car full of ripped college kids.”

“Nice! Wow.” He seemed to be impressed.

“How did you die?” I asked. It only seemed polite to reciprocate.

“Ice pick to my left eye,” he answered pointing to it. “I had the perp caught and cuffed, not sure how he came up with the pick.”

There was a period of awkward silence for a while after that. I mean, what do you say? So sorry we’re both dead; what the hell do we do now? I guess I must have started to glaze over.

“Don’t go bardo on me man!” Jesus yelled. “Just keep moving man, and keep talking. That will help you settle in to… well you know.” With that he walked to the other end of the room and right through the doors.

I tried to follow him, but after I got about two feet further I was snapped back all the way into my drawer. I got out of there quick; I didn’t want to be in there with my body.

JJTTSABD #2: Being attached to a dead chunk of rotting meat really sucks.

When I got out, Jesus was back and he just chuckled. “You’ve got to keep practicing. I met a fellow a few days ago that could move independently of his body; he didn’t have the silver cord.”

“Really?”

“Yup, you might see him too. He likes to come down here and mess with the bardo-brains, they’re easy to scare.”

“Bardo-brains?”

“Yeah, those poor suckers,” he pointed at the two others wandering around gape jawed and unaware, “are stuck in their own private hell—can’t get out and move on. Banquo, that’s his name, says he is doing them a service, trying to shock them back to this world. Me, I don’t know, just kinda looks like he is scaring the shit out of them.”

“Banquo? That’s a weird name,” I said.

Jesus shrugged, “Well he’s a strange fellow.”

We talked a lot about everything, and when that got old we would turn to trading insults. I would give him shit about his name, and he would say: “At least I didn’t die at Mickey D’s kiddy land.” I would come back with: “And what kind of bounty hunter were you? Getting ice-picked by some coked-up, handcuffed perp.” He would then call me a redneck, and I would call him a wetback. It was good natured and it was fun. Until it wasn’t, that is. Eventually someone would hit pay-dirt sending one of us close to going bardo and the other would have to pull them out while staying in safe conversational territory.

This is the end of the excerpt.

Shuffled Off: A Ghost's Memoir, Book 1 is available here:

Signed copies are available in the bookstore.

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