Inside a decrepit apartment building in a boring town in a questionably-existent territory sat an old man. He covered what remained of his hair with a dark green flat cap and when attempting to stand upright, his spine declined to cooperate and his head stuck out in front of his chest.
He sat in front of a television playing the travel channel. The oceans of a Hawaiian beach repeatedly swallowed up a few feet of shore before spitting it out again. He had dreamed of sitting there, unemployed and carefree, for as long as he could remember. As his eyelids drifted shut and that faraway world consumed the real one, his phone rang beside him.
“Harold,” As with all amalgamations of mundane experiences and petty dreams, this one had a name. Harold Graves, they called him, ‘they’ being his boss, his pastor, and Tracy from the travel agency.
His boss’s voice buzzed distorted through the phone. On the other side, the faint giggling of (about twelve and all Russian for some reason) women peaked above the static. His boss continued, “I’ve got one last job for you, be here in twenty.”
Harold lingered in front of the screen for a few seconds. Today would be the last day he worked. As he grabbed his coat and flicked the TV off he noticed his face had contorted into an elated grin.
When he arrived he saw a pale man lying on a flat metal board in the middle of the room. A note rested on a table nearby.
Date and time of death: 3:36 PM 11/4/2020
Cause of death: Slipped on banana peel while attending a punk rock concert
Additional details: Harold, there’s a black suit in the closet. Dress him up in that and work your magic to get rid of that blood. Oh, and a word of advice: avoid Honolulu. Too many tourists.
Harold removed the man’s black suit jacket. A foul smell discharged into the air filling the room with the stench of rot. The man’s white undershirt contained a baseball-sized hole blood below his left shoulder. His insides could be seen from his outsides and a pool of blood eminated from this gap. This one is particularly raw Harold thought.
He rolled up his sleeves and grabbed a washcloth to wet in the sink. Harold never intended on being a mortician. In fact, he didn’t even know it was a career until his late twenties. Up until then, he thought the clothes people wore at their funerals were the same ones they died in. He wasn’t quite sure where he got the belief but for that half of his life, nothing had tested it. Marking the second half of his life was the first (and last) test to this belief.
Harold’s father passed away. Upon seeing his deceased body for the first time at his funeral, he placed a finger along his upper lip and squinted down at the old man. He drew his attention away from the corpse and looked around the room as if expecting his father to be hiding amongst the crowd. Once satisfied that this wasn't the case (or at the very least too ashamed to lock eyes with any more teary-eyed funeral-goers while seemingly unphased by the grim reality that lay cross-armed behind him), he returned his gaze to the man in the coffin.
This couldn’t be my father he thought. The last he had heard, his father had gone out to a punk rock concert. The last I heard my father had gone out to a punk rock concert.
Harold stormed out of the funeral hall, convinced his father had been replaced by some wax figurine. He flung the door open so violently a man on the other side stood an inch away from being crushed by it.
“Hey,” He said. He held a cigarette between his middle and pointer finger and nearly dropping it out of panic. “What’s your problem?”
Surprised to hear another person, Harold answered with his problem.
“The last I heard my father went out to punk rock concert,”
“Well why is he wearing a tuxedo?”
As it would turn out, the man with the cigarette dressed Harold’s father. He was the mortician. Fascinated by this, Harold decided to talk to him more. He asked questions upon questions until he had heard enough. The career was not one Harold had knew existed, and now he wished he didn’t. He began walking towards his car when the man told him about his 401k and dental coverage. Harold then decided that this occupation was the perfect fit for him.
Harold turned back towards the body. The blood had soaked through more of the shirt, transforming it from a pristine white into a dark red like the cherries on top of a pina colada. Harold’s mouth watered as he envisioned sipping one on the Hawaiian shore.
Drink some A voice ordered. Harold took a step back. He looked around the room for the source but found none.
Drink some it repeated. Harold’s eyebrows lowered and drew together. The voice seemed to originate from behind his eyes. In the same way his own thoughts formed and presented themselves to him, the voice did as well.
Don’t drink some it said, attempting to persuade him with the use of reverse psychology.
“Well there’s a good idea,” said Harold to the empty room. He looked around again and scratched the back of his neck. After pausing for a moment Harold walked towards colorless man in the center of the room.
Wait no, it sighed mid-statement before finishing. You know that’s not what I meant.
“Well you said it,”
I was being-- The voice paused for a moment unable to find the right word. Nevermind. It said annoyed, Just drink some.
“Why?” By this time, Harold had resigned himself to the fact that he may be going crazy. He shrugged off the thoughts of his impending trip to a psych ward and continued, “What’s so important about me drinking this blood?”
You’ll live forever
“I don’t want to,” Harold only wanted one thing.
Who wouldn’t want that?
Well, what do you want?
“I want to move to Hawaii,” This thing.
Drink the blood. The voice returned to its original request, already tired of Harold.
“How will that help me move to Hawaii?” Harold played with the though of moving to Honolulu. On one hand it had beautiful beaches and vast infrastructure, but on the other, it did seem like a tourist trap.
It just will, It now spoke with long, lengthy, lingering, drawn-out syllables as if gritting its teeth while speaking. Now drink.
“No,” Harold replied as he undid the first button of the corpse’s undershirt.
“And you’re desperate,” Harold scoffed. The strange feeling of losing his mind remained, but he enjoyed the company even it it was all in his head. “Why do you want me to drink it so bad anyway?”
Fine, If you really want to know I’ll tell you
The voice went on to tell Harold about the countless decades it had lived. It reminisced about “the good old days” when mankind hadn’t yet discovered fire and that doing so made life too easy for the kids. It explained to him the vastness and meaninglessness of the universe and in the process reinforced Harold’s existential dread. It was only until prompted by Harold a second time it revealed the importance of drinking blood.
Harold thought this seemed familiar, but he couldn’t place his finger on how. In actuality, this seemed familiar because the man from his father’s funeral had taught him about these creatures. He warned Harold of them and their tricks and educated him on every last detail about them. Harold didn’t mind letting the old man speak, but he felt it not worth his time to listen. About every time this would happen, Harold’s mind would wander to the sandy beaches of Hawaii.
You’ll be a vampire it said.
Harold thought for a moment. It really wouldn’t make him a vampire. It really would kill him and give his life force to the remains in front of him. The vampire nonsense was just something they used to get teens who wore excessive amounts of black and hated their parents more than the average teen to drink it.
Of course he didn’t know this. He thought about moving to Hawaii. He still hadn’t decided on where to go, but he had made up his mind about Honolulu.
“I’ll take the advice,” Harold broke the silence.
Good! Drink some!
“Not that advice,”
Not even in death can one escape mankind’s torment
Harold tore away the carcass’s undershirt and cleaned the blood. He hummed to himself as he worked, drowning out the voice until it admitted defeat and faded into oblivion. He dressed the body in the suit and flicked the light off. As he walked out he rang his boss.
“I’m busy,” Said his boss. Through the speaker of the phone, Harold could hear the snickering of assorted women. He didn’t want to know what busied his boss at that moment, “What’s the problem?”
Harold answered with the problem.
“The last I heard, this man went to a punk rock concert”
“Well why was he wearing a tuxedo?”