Thursday, February 4, 2016

Story: "Gnóthaire Bréagach"

Twelve minutes and thirty-seven seconds after beginning his daily jog, Luke Puntum realized he lacked a pulse. This discovery troubled him slightly. Twelve minutes and fifty-two seconds after beginning his daily jog, Luke Puntum was dead. This troubled him immensely. Five days, eleven hours, and forty-two minutes after beginning his daily jog, Luke Puntum woke up.

Darkness crushed him. Once, on a solitary night, he'd wrapped a blanket around his head and sat for hours in pitch-black. But this was a deeper darkness still, the absence of all light. Darkness made manifest in physical form. It sucked the very air from his lungs.

He tried to move, but found arms and legs constricted by his surroundings. That final jog replayed. Now he thrashed harder against his confines. He'd wrapped himself in blankets, like that long-ago night. That was all. Soon he'd get free and see a moonless sky. Despite an excellent imitation of the Bride's coffin punch from Kill Bill Volume 2, he did not get free. It appeared that, despite his denial, he was in a coffin, and the average coffin consisted of sturdier materials than cardboard and chewing gum.

For some incalculable length of time he lay in the darkness, breathing slow and shallow to preserve oxygen. This almost-meditative pattern of inhalation led him to a discovery almost as troubling as the one from five and a half days ago: Modern morticians removed organs and injected chemicals into the blood. How, then, Luke Puntum wondered, could he breathe? For that matter--he scrabbled at his throat--no pulse.

He panicked then, the silent panic of a drowning goldfish--all puffing cheeks, flailing appendages, and psychic screams. Only, a goldfish drowning possesses a certain dignity. Luke Puntum did not.

Eventually, he tired himself out and lay still in the darkness once again. Have you ever been alone at night? Alone in the darkness with an unnatural stillness in the air? Your ears become superbly sensitive, and your imagination overwrought. Your heartbeat becomes the footsteps of a derange murderer approaching, your every breath the rustle of leather demonic skin-on-skin beneath the bed.

Luke Puntum lacked a heartbeat and had ceased to breathe, as it seemed a bit pointless. Which meant every subtle sound--the creak of the settling coffin, the shifting of loose earth six feet above--reverberated upon his psyche like a gong.

Until, dimly, he heard the flinging of great clods of dirt, mumbling voices carrying on some jovial conversation. His heart leaped, or would have, had it not been in a plastic sack in his stomach cavity. Rescue. Someone had heard his screams and pounding.

The conversation grew more distinct with each passing moment: "So I sez to Howard, I sez, Howard, we live in modern times--you can't go calling a black fella that no more--and Howard, he sez--hold on, help me open this, yeh?"

A shower of loose earth rattled down upon Luke as the coffin lid gaped open. He prepared to thank his rescuers. And then, silhouetted against the night sky, he glimpsed the disgusted faces of two dog-apes.

"Aw, this one's still fresh. And he's fulla that formaldehyde junk anyhow."

The coffin lid slammed shut. Luke Puntum screamed.