BEING DEAD (Chapter 4) Death and Fame

John Aerland limped through his front door with the night’s rain still dripping from his hair.  His face was red with the pain of loss still stinging his eyes.  Slowly he took off his coat and hung it up next to the door.  As it closed he turned and screamed as loud as he could—slipping on a puddle of water and landing on his backside in utter fear of the figure before him.

“What?! It’s me!  It’s me!  John!  It’s just me!”

He could barely see in the darkness, but he knew the voice.  It was Alan and his ghost was surely there to haunt him forever.

The figure reached over and turned on the lights revealing himself fully.  In red flannel pajamas stood Alan Venar; shoveling chips and salsa into his mouth as if he had not eaten in weeks.

“What the hell are you doing?!”  Cried John.

Alan took a moment to chew before speaking, “I’m eating what does it look like I’m doing?”  He sauntered over to the couch and sprawled out comfortably across the pillows.

“You’re dead!  I saw you!  You are dead, Alan!”

Alan smiled, “You saw that, eh?  Fooled even you!”

John was shaken, but an unsettling anger was boiling deep within him.  “Fooled me?!  What have you done?!”

“Didn’t you see?  I killed myself, John.  Completely dead.  Gone.  Nothing left.”

The squish of John’s boots made their way over to Alan on the couch.  “What did you do?!”

“I liked it better when you thought me dead.”

“If you don’t tell me what the hell you’re up to, then you will be!”  He replied with a voracious growl.

Alan wiped his mouth with the sleeve of his shirt and placed the food on the table in front of him.  He laid back and folded his arms behind his head as if to relax and began explaining.  “Well, you see I took your advice, John, and well it didn’t turn out the way we’d hoped.  As I thought the damage was done and there was no hope of being with the one I love.  So I killed myself.”

“You killed yourself?”  Asked John angrily.

“Yes, I killed myself.  But not really, you see.  Perhaps it’s insanity or perhaps a stroke of genius, but it occurred to me that I was no good to anyone alive.  The debt I’ve amassed and the relationships I’ve tarnished are gone to be buried with the coffin bearing my name.”

“Who was that, then?”

“Who was what, when?”

“Who the bloody hell was in that room hanging from your ceiling?!”  Asked John, now beyond frustration.

“Oh that.  You’d best not know.”  Said Alan shaking his head in disgust.

“What have you done, Alan?!”

“I told you already, I killed myself!  Wasn’t the note superb?  I have to say that at least now in death my writing will be appreciated.”  Said Alan with a smirk.  He reached for the chips once more, but John cut him off.

“You!  You—you—how could you do this?!”  John shouted.  “How could you just fake your own demise and then show up in my home unabashedly praising your own handiwork?!”

“You should know the answer to that one, John.  Afterall, I took your advice and you led me to a really crushing defeat.  I mean, I had a hunch it would end this way, but you were the one who convinced me to try.  And now, here I am haunting you accordingly.”

The veins in John’s forehead were pulsing with rage.  “Me?!  You are blaming me?!”  He sat down on the opposite couch facing him.

“I’m just saying, John, if not for you I would have kept my mouth shut and never spoke of the matter.  I would have lived pleasantly knowing that I loved her without her ever having the slightest clue.  But you just had to be a romantic, John.  Ever the romantic.”  Alan grinned and placed his hand on John’s burning cheek—giving it a light tap.

“I’ll kill you.”

Alan’s smile faded.  “S’what?”

“I’ll kill you!”  John yelped as he rose from the couch.

Alan lept onto the cushions and braced himself against the back of the sofa.  “Now, wait a minute—let’s calm down, John!”

“I’LL KILL YOU!”  He roared with his hands out toward Alan’s neck.  He gripped him tightly until they both fell over the back of the couch.  Alan was now on top, but the tight grip of John’s large hands still threatened his neck.

“J-John!  Wait!  L-List—Listen to me!”  Alan stammered.  His face was as red as his pajamas.

“No!  You should be dead!  You should be dead!  I cried for you!  You were dead!”

Alan’s eyes widened, “You c-cried for me?”

John stopped a moment, “Yes!  You were dead!  What else would I have done?!”

“Oh John, you hopeless romantic!  You really do love me!”

John tightened his grip again, “I’ll kill you—you—you evil little man!”

In all the struggling, Alan poked his toes toward John’s sides and began to tickle him into submission.  His arms could not stay up and he writhed and yelled until he dropped his undead friend.

“John—now wait!”  Said Alan as they both rose to their feet panting.  “There’s more to this than I’ve let on!”

“More?!”  Said John.  “You’ve done more than this?!”

“John, my works have been left to you!  All of them!”

Everything was silent and John stared at him puzzled.  “Your works?”

“Yes, John, my works!”

Maniacally John began to laugh.  A deep bellowing laugh that he had never felt before.  Alan watched without amusement.

“You mean your failed writings and your failed artwork?  You left that to me?  Oh thank you, Alan!  As if I didn’t have enough JUNK!”  He said as he continued to laugh and grip his sides in agony.

Alan glared at him offended.  “I knew you hated my work!  I knew it!  Now that I’m dead I suppose you think you can tell me the truth?  Is that it?!”

John did not reply as he tried to catch his breath between laughing fits.

“All of my works were finally completed, John.  And everyone knows that a dead writer is far more prolific and popular than a living one.”  Said Alan with his arms folded.

“You—you think—, “John struggled to breathe.  “—you think that your works are going to sell now that you are dead?  Am I hearing that right?”

“Yes, John.  They will.  And you are the owner; therefore all royalties will be paid directly to you.”

John rested himself against the back of the couch.  “And what if they don’t?”

Alan raised an eyebrow at him.  “They will.  I’ve made sure of it.”

“And what if they do?  I make a bit of cash off of your dying works, and then what?  Why go through all this trouble?  What’s in it for you?”

“The chance to be free, John.  The chance to simply exist without any degree of responsibility.”

He could see the seriousness in Alan’s eyes.  The same as before when he had confessed his love for Meagan.  It was beginning to piss him off.  “And your plan?”

Alan chuckled to himself, “Plan?  I don’t need a plan, John.  I’m dead!  I’ll take what I need from the earnings you receive off of my works and I will simply exist.”

“Where?”

“Where what?”

“Where will you be existing?”

“In my home, of course.”

John was confused.  “But your house will be long gone and filled with some new family within the next few weeks.  Your things auctioned off.”

“You mean your things?”  Said Alan with a smile.

“You left me your house?!”

“Of course I did!  Who else would get it?  Where else would I stay, John?  With you?”  Alan laughed at the thought.

“Alan, I can’t afford your estate!  You couldn’t even afford your estate!”

“Ah, but you will!  With the money you’ll be making you could afford your own estate twice as large!”

John put a hand over his face.  “You’re insane.”

Alan sauntered over to him and placed his arm around his neck.  “Trust me, John.  In just a few weeks you’ll see.  My death will be the greatest thing that has ever happened to the both of us.”

John sighed and glanced over at his smiling compatriot.  “I’m already beginning to think so.”

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