I died last week. Apparently there was a little mix-up with someone else who died last week.
My name is Richard Jacobson, and I died a pretty heroic death. I’m not trying to exaggerate or puff out my chest, I just think once you know my story you’ll agree.
In the middle of the night I woke up to the sounds of a fire a couple blocks away from my apartment. The firefighters hadn’t shown up yet, and I overheard worried parents telling others there was a five year old boy still in the building. The fire wasn’t too bad, at least I thought so, and I went in to find the kid. He was trapped in a room barricaded by fallen debris, which I managed to heave out of the way. He ran out, but a burning beam fell and nailed me right in the head, hitting me hard enough to kill me instantly. By the time my body was found, it was so charred that no one could identify me.
On that same night, Cody Walters (isn’t that the worst name?) had the brilliant idea to climb an electrical pole to charge his phone. Surprise, surprise, that didn’t turn out well when he was messing around with the cables, and he was left electrocuted. I don’t agree, but he looked enough like me for his cinged body to be given my name. Cody was declared missing, and I was made famous overnight for Cody’s embarrassing death.
Neither of us had many family members or friends, so no one really cared that we died. People all across the globe commented on social media posts and news articles about how funny Cody’s death was, but they were making fun of my name. I couldn’t stand it, and tried everything I could to fix this mistake. I went back into my old apartment before my things were cleared out (someone should’ve seen how my phone was there, not in Cody’s fried hand) to write emails to publishers, explaining what really happened. The only person who actually responded asked me how I knew, but I couldn’t really tell them I was Richard Jacobson. I’m pretty sure I freaked out a kid on the street who saw a floating sharpie write “RICHARD JACOBSON DIED IN A FIRE” on a rock band advertisement. His mom couldn’t figure out why he was as paralyzed as my dead body. I even wrote a letter to the police department with all the facts and evidence, but I don’t think anyone believed it. Even if they did, the internet wouldn’t have cared.
The land of the dead wasn’t much better. They knew the truth, some of them had watched everything, but they made fun of me, too. I was tormented with every corner I turned, whether it was two friends laughing at an article about Cody under my name, or other dead jerking in a way that looked like electrocution. No matter what I did, my name was a laughing stock. I didn’t get a single moment free from embarrassment for a week.
A couple days ago, I realized something interesting. Of all the dead I’ve run across, I’ve never seen Cody Walters. Surely he would be in on this, right? I asked other dead still on earth, but no one had seen him, or if they did, they didn’t want to tell me. I wasn’t sure why I wanted to meet him. What was I going to do, kill him? Embarrassing my name wasn’t his fault, and I realized I was being fairly silly about this whole ordeal. The headlines were already fading out of the internet, being replaced by the next big, hilarious story. Soon the dead would forget about it, too, and I would finally be able to rest in peace.
But I did find him in my wanderings, on the outskirts of the city in a lovely park. The sun shone through the trees--even though I couldn’t feel it--with the living scattered among the dead. Some were walking their dogs, others pushing strollers or watching their kids on a playground. A couple was enjoying lunch on a blanket in the grass, where Cody kept knocking over the young woman’s water bottle when the breeze came by. Assuming it was the wind, she stood it back up, only to find it rolling on the blanket again a moment later. This continued for some time, but I felt weird just watching. I also didn’t like the idea of interrupting Cody’s game.
I walked to a nearby bench, accidentally kicking a squirrel and scaring the lights out of the little furry body. Why was I even here? It’s not like talking to Cody would make a difference. Before I could stand up and leave, I was spotted.
“Hey!” Cody yelled, jumping over the couple’s picnic and sending their napkins flying. “You’re Richard Jacobson, right?”
“Yeah,” I responded, standing up as he trotted over.
“Man, this whole fiasco is weird,” he said, absentmindedly running his fingers through his thick, light brown hair.
“Yeah,” I said again, not really sure what to say. I straightened my t-shirt and shoved my hands into my jean pockets.
“Hey, man, I just wanted to say that I think it was really cool how you died saving a life. Everyone dies someday, but I wish my death wasn’t so . . . stupid.”
A smile crept across my face as I looked into his dark blue eyes. “Thanks for saying that, I really appreciate it. I-I just wish I wasn’t so childish about this. It’s just a name and a mistake, afterall.”
“Yeah.” We stood in awkward silence for a moment, both of us unsure of what to do next.
“So,” I finally said. “How do you like being dead?”
“Oh, it’s not that bad, once you get used to it. I do miss eating food, though.”
“Me too.” A loud birdsong scattered our attention to the trees. “When do you think you’ll move on?”
“I don’t know, man,” he replied, pulling up his long sleeves over his elbows, probably out of habit. “Probably soon, since there’s not much to do here except walk around and freak people out.”
I chuckled. “Yeah, I’ll probably move on soon, too.” Then an idea was sparked. “But first, there’s something I need to do.”
So I “borrowed” a pen and paper from an elementary school during recess, and wrote down a story of death and a mistake.