Don’t you hate it when you step outside the bar for a smoke break and find a corpse?
It’s the third week of Chuck Wendig’s latest flash fiction challenge. In week 1, the assignment was to write a 200-word opening to what will become a 1,000-word story, then post it for others to pick up the thread from there. I missed week 1, so I didn’t write an opening, but last week, I wrote a second part to Kyra Dune’s “Accidental Apocalypse,” posted below. This week, I’ve got part 3 of a story begun by Ken Crump and continued last week by Mandy Webster, Mandy titled it “A Real Live Corpse,” and that’s hitting the nail on the head. Hitting the corpse on the head. Whichever. Enjoy. (The 3 parts are designated by ^^^^^.)
Karen had never seen a corpse before. Not a real live corpse. The thought made her giggle nervously.
A real “live” corpse? She snickered.
At first she didn’t know it was a corpse. She saw a man slumped against the wall by the door to the bar when she stepped out for a smoke. She glanced disgustedly at him and sat in the Throne to light up. Nathan had put an old spindle chair by the door so the staff could sit to enjoy a smoke. He’d sprayed it gold and proclaimed it a Throne, because smoking in public had become such a royal pain in the ass.
After a few minutes, she threw a pebble at the man slumped by the door. “Hey! You can’t sleep there, asshole,” she shouted. But no response. So Karen flicked her half-finished cigarette into the street and stormed over to stand in front of him.
“This ain’t no outdoor drunk tank,” she snarled. “Get off your ass and get on the road!”
Then she kicked him hard. And that’s when she thought he might be a corpse. She’d kicked more than a few drunks in her time, and none of them felt like this guy.
“Shit,” she said. Her foot registered the man’s condition seconds before her brain did. She jumped back, falling over the Throne and tumbling onto her ass. “Shit, shit, shit.”
Karen’s hands shook. She fumbled for her smokes in her vest pocket and pulled one out. She could hardly get the cigarette to her mouth. So much for sneaking out early, dammit. She struggled with her lighter, but finally the end of the cigarette flared. She inhaled, then blew out. She clutched the lit cigarette between her lips and pulled herself up on the Throne.
Maybe the man wasn’t really dead, just out cold. Karen inched toward him and touched the toe of her boot to his side again. He fell sideways, slipping down the wall at an awkward angle. His body was otherwise stiff and unmoving. How long had he been out here?
Karen considered her options. There was no helping this guy now. If she called for help, she’d be here all night talking to the cops. Then she’d never make it on time. Dane would be pissed. When he told her to be somewhere, she’d better be there when he said. He didn’t much care for her excuses, dead man or no…
“Jeez, don’t smoke. Doncha know those things’ll kill ya deader than a crack on the head with a baseball bat?”
Until that moment, Karen hadn’t known how high she could jump. She also hadn’t known it was possible for a real live corpse to be…well, you know. Alive.
She fell back on her ass again and scuttled backwards like a crab, trying to get as far away as she could from the corpse – yep, that’s what it was, all right, the whole back of its head bashed in like a boiled egg – as it righted itself and leaned back against the wall at a jaunty angle, kind of the way Dane did when he was smoking a joint.
The dead man reached around to the back of his head, wincing as he felt the jagged edges of his broken head. He dipped his finger into the cavity and came up with a finger full of grey goo. He looked at it, then held it out menacingly toward Karen, who was watching from across the alley, frozen in fear.
The dead man laughed, then held his finger up to his mouth, stuck out his tongue, and took a quick taste. He spit it out again.
“Gaah. That’s awful.”
The real live corpse looked at Karen with its real dead eyes.
“Got a beer?”