"The nights grow longer, my life shorter..."
"Stop feeling sorry for yourself."
"I expect you're going to tell me that life's too short to be sad."
"All good things do have to end some time."
We stared at each other over the half-drunk glasses. This was only the second time we had met. Surrounded by seasonal drinkers, we often found it difficult to be heard.
"One can say anything with words."
"Words are not everything."
Suddenly the whole place went deathly quiet, lilke a still from an old film. All the office party-comers stared glassily at each other in stony silence - wondering what life was really all about, discovering that silence was far from golden, since it was black and white, or even grey. Nobody noticed that the two figures in the chimney inglenook had passed away like silky ghosts. They had never been there in the first place, other than the half-full glasses they left behind.
"Words make you think, screens only blink."
"Head's coming up."
The voice was uncertain as it spoke through the sound of perforated waters. The face was indeed half discernible, from the bridge of the nose upwards, so the voice was generated by a broad beard of darkness. Despite needing a better word to describe him than "I", I leaned forward clearer to hear the dithering tongue.
"Body's halfway out, now," it said, poking through red mesh.
So, yes, the near recognisable stubble-roasted face was eventually full revealed, together with the shadow-haired chest, heaving with the effort of the commentary on its own birth throes. It became a man more conscious of the tattered duvet than of his own sweat-riddled body which tested the water of hard reality. The only answer was to raise the voice aloud: the sole recourse, as the first light of a false dawn seeped into the black curtains like blood. A second body moved familiarly beside him and scolded in his ear to go back to sleep - where I impatiently waited in a dream, expecting the rest of the body tentatively to follow the head. It was a pity that part of it was stuck judder-fast upon the raw razor nerve-edge of reality for a split second of eternity, as it leaned menacingly between the shower curtains. And, indeed, the blood is peculiar in the film called PSYCHO. Like blackcurrant juice without even a hint of red. The record on the wind-up gramophone turn-table in Norman Bates' bedroom was the Beethoven Eroica Symphony. One of those old seventy-eight rpm versions. I'm told modern technology has got rid of all the clicks, jumps and back-track noise by digitalising on to compact disc. It's a pity that I've got the same old eyes and the same old ears - yet not the same, really, as when they weren't old. Everything is in black and white in the after-life. I wonder, though. I reckon it depends on the nature of your death, if you can indeed call it your death after you've had it - like a drink ceases to be a drink once you've drunk it. With even half left, it takes more than a windbag to palm it off as anything but a dead glass, fit for dunking in the spinwasher. Neither shaken nor stirred. Clunk-click, belt up for the last icy thermal to Heaven. Words will be everything, there, they say. One day I'll learn to live with someone called "I".
"Perhaps you should have been born a man."
"Me? Why?" She was genuinely interested.
"Well, you do dress like one, don't you? And you've never really hit it off with a..."
"A man of my own?" she asked.
I was on the other side of the riddled sounding-board, disguised as a priest: someone who knew her hot points.
"I was raped... once, you know."
"Yes, you told me before," I replied, "but do you know what rape means?"
"Yes, of course."
"Well, in that case, I'm glad it was only the once."
"Better than twice, certainly... but immeasurably worse than never."
"I understand." But I had even less grasp of such matters than the girl, but her voice sounded certain.
"Shall I tell you about it?"
"If you want to." I yawned - silently. I sensed that a third person was listening. But no matter, in for a penny, in for unlocking the pent pound, as the local saying went.
The story below, written by Weirdmonger (a.k.a. D.F. Lewis), is part of the Weirdmonger Wheel, the collation of over 1500 stories published between 1986 and 1999. D.F. Lewis is a recipient of the Horror Fantasy award and editor of the megazanthus Nemonymous. To read an interview with the author/editor, click here .