This is from my new MS, which I just started yesterday. I woke up in the middle of the night on Sunday, unable to sleep. This story just popped into my warped little head. I figured out the plotting, the climax, the ending--it just needs to be written! I've now commited myself to this tale. Hopefully after you read the excerpt, you won't think I should be commited! All comments welcome...
The whole sordid business of being dead, frankly, embarrassed Edwin. The thought of being worm infested, caked with decaying skin, and laden with putrefied parts, held none of the same morbid appeal for him, like it seemed to hold for the others of his world.
He sat on the floor of the broom closet, trying to catch a stitch of peace and quiet, admittedly hiding from Maggie Rose, a dotty old cadaver, who'd been following him around all week long, singing, hoping to woo him with her feminine wiles, although those parts of her had all but rotted away. In her song, she had replaced the word 'ride' in Jingle Bells, with 'die', thinking herself quite the clever little minx. Edwin nodded his head. "Idiot," he muttered.
He heard a clomping outside the door. With each staggered clomp he heard spongy footsteps scuffling after it, as if to catch whatever the clomping culprit might be. From the floor, he reached for the door handle and took a peek. "Mr. Parker again," he whispered to himself. He pulled up to his feet.
Mr. Parker trundled along the bowing wood floor, trying in vain to catch his teeth. Every time he neared close enough, they'd hop away, goading him with a giddy, "Ha, ha, ha!" with each and every jump.
Edwin stepped out from the closet, coming to Mr. Parker's aid. He caught the teeth under a tattered buckled shoe. He dusted them off on the breast of his velvet coat, for he was a gentleman and that's what gentleman wore, and handed the teeth back to a thankful Mr. Parker.
"Oh, Master Edwin, thank you, lad," said Mr. Parker. "I thought I'd never get them back this time, wily old things." He forced the teeth back into his puckered orifice and smiled.
Edwin wiped his hand on his breeches, not a fan of spittle, be it dead or alive. "Mr. Parker, why do you insist on chasing after those bewitched teeth? They'll only flee your mouth yet again."
Mr. Parker opened his mouth to give a firm answer, but only managed to allow his incisors to make another run for it. With a sucking pop, the whole set leapt from his mouth and back onto the floor. Mr. Parker haplessly scrabbled for them, but off they hopped down a staircase. "Oh, blasted!" he gummed.
Mr. Parker teetered toward the stairs. Edwin stopped him. "Mr. Parker, leave them be. Why do you care to keep them? You're dead. You've no need for them."
The old stiff sighed. "I suppose it boils down to simple vanity, lad, my own mortification, no teeth, the sheer indignity of it."
Edwin chuckled. "Mr. Parker, when was the last time you took a look at yourself in a mirror."
"Why, never," said Mr. Parker. His vacant mouth whistled as he spoke. "Not since before my reckoning. I thought we couldn't see our reflections down here."
"You're getting the dead confused with the undead. They're the ones with no reflections, crafty bloodsuckers. We can see ourselves just fine. Come with me."
Edwin led Mr. Parker down the hallway to a dingy mirror. "Take a look." Mr. Parker beheld himself in the mirror. His jaw fell open, nearly unhinging at the sight. "You see," said Edwin. "You've one eye missing, the other as hideous as a fetid plum. Your face is desiccated bone and shorn skin, your nose, well, that's gone altogether. You're utterly revolting, succinctly disgusting. In this shape, who cares if your teeth run amuck?" Edwin was always one for truth telling, even at the risk of hurt feelings. He had a way about him. He could deliver horrible news in such a way, that the receiver felt more relieved than insulted, comforted to finally accept the truth.
Mr. Parker laughed at his loathsome likeness. "Oh, Edwin, you're right. I'm a festering old corpse. Teeth are the least of my worries." He looked at Edwin in the mirror. "What of you, though? You're certainly a bit unraveled around the edges, cracks here and there, but not too shabby looking for a dead man. What's your secret, lad?"
Edwin jutted out his square chin in the mirror. "I suspect it's my youth. I met my reckoning at twenty-four. They say the younger you pass, the better you'll fare on the outside. How old were you?"
"I was eighty-three, the plague they say. Now that I think about it, I'm surprised there's anything left of me. Most of my counterparts were not so fortunate. I'm lucky for that, I suppose. Wouldn't want to be one of those bodiless spirits, meandering here and there, ignored--no fun in that."
"Yes, not a way in which I'd like to travel. It would be torture, not being able to speak or touch, barely a sputter of light--pure agony."
"There's one now," said Mr. Parker, pointing. A purple spark hovered round their heads for a brief moment, quickly guttering into nothing. Mr. Parker continued to examine Edwin in the mirror, thinking him blessed to only have incurred some minor rips and tears, no absent appendages, no seeping lesions. "Lad, tell me again, I forgot, how did you meet your end?"
Pulling a piece of twine from his waistcoat, Edwin gathered his disheveled hair into a ponytail. "My lover's husband bludgeoned me to death, nasty business that was."
Mr. Parker rubbed his hands together, savoring the memory of female companionship. "Yes, how deliciously scandalous, what a libertine life you must have led."
Edwin patted Mr. Parker on his back. Filth wafted from his coat. "Yes, yes, some life, I daresay. Look where it got me, murdered at twenty-eight. I had a title, you know. If not for my carousing, I'd have sat fat and pretty for the rest of my days."
Mr. Parker nudged him with an elbow. "Most men would give their eyeteeth to be where you've been, if you catch my meaning." Mr. Parker's bobbing eyebrows made his meaning hard to overlook.
"Yes, I see what you're getting at, quite witty." Edwin headed towards the stairs. "If you'll excuse me, Mr. Parker, I've a prior engagement." He bounded down the stairs and out the front door, suddenly needing to be free of the fusty manor's confines. "I must be off. Goodbye for now."