New Serial Occult Fiction: Wyrdtails (1)
I was dressed, after a fashion, as how I thought the deceased would best recognize me — black t-shirt and blue jeans, scruffy jogging shoes, and a red bandana sticking out of my back pocket. I hadn’t really planned it, though it made sense to me after the fact. I just couldn’t be bothered with climbing into a suit. It felt unnatural and pretentious. The day was difficult enough without putting on the accepted uniform of grief. I was confident most of the people in the chapel considered my attire disrespectful, but I was pretty damn sure the deceased didn’t mind.
There was that word again. I mulled it over and rolled it on my tongue. Deceased. As in no longer with us. It had an improper finality to it, I thought. An improper word for an improper occurrence. An improper, and improbable occurrence of a finality. As these and other thoughts collided during my short walk up the aisle of my discontent, I was bemused by the certainty, as certain as any finality, that I was well on my bloody way to cracking up.
That too made perfect sense, as perfect as the imperfection of my working class affectation. It was, after all, madness that put my oldest and dearest friend within the confines of the coffin before me. Our shared experience surely guaranteed a similar reaction to the events preceding the deceased’s demise. I was unsure of a lot of things. This was most assuredly not one of them. In fact, I was so sure that madness, the very same that had taken root within the cranium of my now departed compatriot, was tilling the fertile soil of my most inner being, that I had resolved to take matters into my own hands, if not in the same manner as the deceased, then in a more proactive, and perhaps, more satisfying fashion.
Staring down at the corpse-in-a-box, I knew it not. Lying there, in state, was an unknown and unwelcome shell, a lifeless doppelganger wearing a poorly constructed mask of the man I had loved in life and loved more now with his passing. We had been all but inseparable for nearly forty years. We met on a playground in grade school, bonding over our mutual affections for Marvel Comics, The Six Million Dollar Man, and the hottest band in the world — KISS. As we grew older, we discovered girls together and double dated. We experimented with drugs and fell into arcane literatures and tumbled down the rabbit hole of esoterica. We dropped out of college together, shared apartments, and worked in the same meaningless and menial jobs that fed our addictions to alcohol, psychedelics, and books.
It was always about the books, more than anything else, and the strange and exotic knowledge that lie hidden within these abstruse treasures. The last place we’d shared, some eight years back, was little more than a hovel. Three rooms, little heat, with a single sink, toilet, what passed as a shower (but was little more than a garden hose in a plastic tub with a drain that was clogged more often than not), and a mini-fridge. No stove. No TV. No beds. We had pallets made up on the floor of the backroom. In the largest room the only furniture was two desks that sat facing each other, with uncomfortable wooden chairs we’d bought for pennies when they were about the business of tearing down the old schoolhouse where we’d first met. We each had a typewriter, of course, because we were, first and foremost, writers — he of strange fictions and me of metaphysics. It was a symbiotic relationship, each of us feeding the other, critiquing one another’s work. We were hard on each other, and that made us, I believe, the notables in our respective fields that we became. I can’t help but remember that ramshackle with a combination of fondness and deep regret.
My first novel, Shadows Over Somerset, written in 2001 and recently rereleased by Seventh Star Press, is currently a mere .99¢ for your Kindle, or, if you prefer, the trade paperback is only $4.48. At Amazon, of course. Strike while the iron is hot.