Conversations with Joe

Talking to the dead

I see dead people. It is a refrain in popular culture these days and a bit of side humor used by morticians, pathologists and coroners alike. But I don’t do any of these things-working with the dead that is, but still, I see dead people. What’s more, I talk with them. It didn’t always used to be this way. No siree, I wasn’t born this way and wish to all that’s holy that I didn’t now.

You’re probably wondering why I can now when I couldn’t before. That one’s easy. Like most people who develop this wondrous and oft time’s scary gift, I was in an accident. When I woke up, I could see and speak with dead people. Nothing too original there, as usually it takes some dramatic or near fatal event to create this divine spark. Most times people say that there had to be something there to begin with, you just needed a little rattling. I think it’s all hooey if you ask me. So Why am I telling you all this? Well, it’s because of a man named Joe. The man talks all the time and just won’t shut up let me tell you. But it’s not that he talks incessantly, it’s about what he’s saying. And let me tell you, he’s not the only dead guy saying it. So let me clue you in…

Joe was, well Joe if you know what I mean. He wasn’t anything great or annoying; he didn’t smell bad or even good for that matter and he didn’t part his hair with grease (though I can’t say he combed it at all either). He wasn’t a busy body except for this one subject but other than that he just was-if you know what I mean. Well, when I first met Joe I was sitting at the bus stop after my accident, reeling from the impact and waiting for the medics to arrive. He was deep into his rant about people burning but as I was in too much pain I didn’t take him for anything other than a homeless guy off his rocker. I figured he was speaking about something in his past, until I started being hounded by other people talking about burning people.

See, the story goes that May is the burning month. Fires galore will break out and people will burn. All the dead people are talking about it, they’re just not saying where or how. Typical- at least until this past month when the whispers changed. No, before they were vague, like little mice squeaking that come May it would burn, but now it’s a continuous chant and growing progressively louder. Now not only was May the burning month, but along with it or proceeding it actually was the Burning Man. The Burning Man was coming but no one knew who or in my case what this was. Was some deranged man going to start burning our forests? He wouldn’t be the first but…the ghost weren’t scared of the normal arson hoodlums out there, no, this man brought fear, and if the already dead were afraid, I had to ask myself what should we be?


Always anonymous

Burn hot for me baby. Just a little more, I want to hear you scream. I so love it when you scream. I love the way you explode after a little caressing. You burn so bright for that infinitesimal moment and then you die just a little. But only just a little. So long as there is fuel for you baby, you’ll burn all night long for me won’t you. But I want more, so much more. In truth, you’re screams alone aren’t enough for me any longer. I want the braying screams of a trapped group as they run from moment to moment, seeking escape. I so want that. Burn for me baby, burn.

I was anonymous. I mean, how couldn’t I be, I was not my normal self anymore. It was better for me to be quiet. Speaking up just spooked people. So I became anonymous. Only the ghosts bothered me and I learned I could just tune them out.

Since the accident things have been weird, I would black out and wake up some place new, a place I hadn’t been before and I would feel weird, as though there was someone standing near me but just out of sight, just out of sound. I know that sounds weird but there you have it. I have gone off the deep end and people are naturally drawn in the other direction. Just as well, with Joe hounding me it was getting a little hard to keep under wraps and this speaking to ghost’s thing was playing killer havoc with my love life. Just as well, Annie had been moody lately and wasn’t speaking to me. It was my fault she didn’t have a car anymore. Totaling it probably wasn’t the best thing to be done in a relationship that was rocky to begin with…

I was finding it fun being anonymous within the community. People were polite but stepped around me as though I wasn’t there or they were in too much of a hurry to curse me for being in the way, either way it worked out pretty good. I came and went as I saw fit with little to no harassment and I observed the most amazing things. Just the other day, I was sitting in the park, actually conversing with Joe when I saw these joggers go by. I was pausing to admire when one of the straggles on the back end turned around and went to town on their mound. I guess she just had a really awful itch and couldn’t help herself because one moment she was scratching and then the next gasping in surprise when she caught me looking. Just goes to show I guess…

You people scare me now

Anyways, back to my conversation with Joe, we were sitting in the park that afternoon watching the jogger and getting annoyed at the man behind us in the bushes. I swear he was wanking off, but I really didn’t want to turn around and have my suspicions confirmed so I just ignored the sounds and continued speaking with Joe about how he became who he was. Dead that is-turns out Joe was once a skivvy crook who hung out in warehouses manufacturing and selling-He didn’t go into what and I didn’t ask on account of me not wanting to know. Well, he was in there one day when it all went BOOM! Next thing he knows he is standing on the outside looking in, but wasn’t sure how he had gotten there. When they brought out the bodies and he saw his arm with the gold Rolex being carted out he knew. As for why he didn’t go into the light, well according to Joe, there wasn’t one and all the ghosts hanging out hadn’t seen one either, so they just hung around, listening to other peoples conversations or as Joe liked to do from time to time, looking in on their bath times. Typical Joe.

Well, Joe was sitting next to me that day and I finally said to him “Joe, what is the Burning man? Who is he and why is everyone afraid?” Joe scratched his head and contemplated the answer for a moment, thinking then said “strange thing about fear, there’s never any one thing a person can put their finger on about it, they just knows they afeard, ya know? But sometimes, just sometimes on a very rare occasion you can put your finger on it and see what it is you’re afraid of. This ain’t one of them.” With that he got up and started to pace-Joe was a pacer when he was contemplating something-and then he just stopped-looked in the direction of the Salish Sea and said “let’s go, I want to show you something.”

Next thing I know, I’m standing on a small cliff looking out to sea, but it’s not the normal sea I had come to expect. The waves did not crash so much as beat against the rocks, almost as though it was trying to convey something that wasn’t clear. It was eerie and disturbing though I couldn’t put my finger on it. I remember the sea as blissful and full of spunk, but now, well it almost seemed as though it was the worst of villains in a most onerous play, one where he snuck up on you but once you knew, all the little pieces that had been puzzling you fell into place and the picture was whole. That was how I felt, like a lot of the pieces were there, but it was still missing a few key ones. When I looked up, seeking Joe, I got a surprise, as Joe wasn’t the only one standing there. Hundreds of ghosts where all around, where once just Joe and I had been the only two people there was now a crowd and they weren’t looking out to sea as Joe was doing, no, they were looking at me! “Uh, Joe, what’s going on? And why are all these people looking at me?”



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