Read Pray To Stay Dead Online

Authors: Mason James Cole

Pray To Stay Dead

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PRAY TO STAY DEAD

Mason James Cole

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NEW ORLEANS

2011

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a work of fiction. All characters and events portrayed within are fictitious,

and any resemblance to real people or events is purely coincidental.

Pray to Stay Dead

First printing by Creeping Hemlock Press, February 2011

ISBN-10: 0-9769217-1-5

ISBN-13: 978-0-9769217-1-4

Pray to Stay Dead
copyright © 2010 by Mason James Cole

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book, or portions thereof,

in any form.

Cover artwork by Zach McCain (www.zachmccain.com)
Cover design & book design by Julia Sevin

 

 

A Print Is Dead book
Print Is Dead is a zombie-themed imprint of Creeping Hemlock Press
Editors: R.J. & Julia Sevin
Creeping Hemlock Productions, LLC

 

 

www.printisdead.com

www.creepinghemlock.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This book is lovingly dedicated to George A. Romero,
Tobe Hooper, Jack Ketchum, and Richard Milhous Nixon;
and to those wise few who know the truth:

 

The world ended in 1974.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PRAY TO STAY DEAD

 

 

One

 

Her mother had been dead for three days, but Colleen couldn’t quite get a grip on the idea. It was slick and slippery and it didn’t seem real at all, even as it churned her stomach and wore her down with bureaucratic busywork and morbid decision-making. It was smoke and razor blades: she could not touch it, but it could open her flesh to the bone.


I’m glad she’s dead,” said her brother.

She sneered but said nothing. In truth, Colleen had thought the same thing at several points over the past few days: shortly after someone from the hospital called to inform her that her mother was dead; while she made arrangements with the gaunt-faced funeral home director; while she stared at her mother lying in the casket, waxen and unreal. And again, moments ago, while sitting in the hush of the living room with her brother and waiting for Guy and the others to arrive. She had thought it more times than she knew, but she hadn’t been able to say it. Daniel had no such reservations.

He sat on the edge of the sofa, hands hanging between his knees, head low. Staring at the floor. She didn’t say anything until he looked up at her. His eyes were dry.


How can you say that?” The expected response. It popped out like a cuckoo clock bird. It was bullshit.


Come on,” he said, throwing himself back against the cushions, sandy hair in his eyes. “You haven’t thought it?”


I just think that—”


Of course you have.”


I just—”


And you
are
glad, right?”

Her eyes were dry too. She could cry only so much.

She nodded, but that wasn’t enough for him: “Then say it.”


I don’t think—”


Say it,” he said, whipping his hair from his face with a snap of the neck—a well-practiced move. “She isn’t listening.”

Colleen didn’t bother fighting him on this. Daniel declared himself an atheist three years ago, at the age of fifteen, shortly after he read an interview in which one of his idols—she couldn’t remember if it was Bowie or Lennon—mentioned Nietzsche. The next day, Daniel had returned from the library with a small stack of philosophy texts, and that was it. And he hadn’t let them forget—not even as Dorine Brockenbraugh lay on her deathbed asking for her children to pray with her. A derisive sigh, a roll of the eyes, a flip of the hair, and he was out of the room.


Well?”


What?”

He was still on it.


Okay,” she said, thinking of her mother, not long before her death, sitting on the edge of the hospital bed following another invasive and humiliating round of tests, her brow shining with sweat, her needle-punctured arms dotted with small round band-aids. She’d looked her daughter in the eyes and exhaled once—
whoo
—her cheeks puffing, a marathon runner pausing a few miles from the finish line. The blasted look in her eyes: she was ready for the race to end.


Okay, what?”


I’m glad she’s dead.”


I know you are,” he said, smiling, his teeth a jumble. “But why?”


Why?”


Yeah. Why are you glad she’s dead?”


Because...” Colleen groped around for the right response. All that came to mind, however, all that seemed safe and right to speak, was the canned one, and Daniel knew it. Cuckoo on deck.


Don’t you dare say ‘because she’s in a better place.’ I swear to God if you do I’ll come across this coffee table and give you a fat lip.”


Because she’s in a better place?” She said, half smiling and shrugging.


Yeah.” He shook his head and then whipped his hair into place again. He fished a joint and a lighter out of his shirt pocket and lit up.


Jesus, Dan,
here?
” she said. He filled his lungs and blew smoke toward her. She waved it away. “You’re such a child.”


Yeah, I really am.” He held up his joint. “This right here is why I’m glad. I’m glad because I can sit in my own damned living room and smoke grass if I want to. I’m glad because I don’t ever have to help bathe her and wipe her ass again. I’m glad because I don’t have to listen to her scream because the morphine isn’t doing shit.”

She looked down. He blew more smoke at her. She didn’t bother waving it away. Inhaled a little.


And yeah, I’m glad she’s not in pain anymore. She’s not up in the sky, playing harps and bowling with Moses, but ceasing to exist is better than screaming yourself to sleep and shitting your pants.


Most of all? I’m glad my life starts now. I’m glad that
yours
starts now. You’re
twenty-three,
Colleen. What if she’d lived another three years? Or maybe five? Jesus. Can you imagine that?”


You wouldn’t have hung around.”


But you, see, you think that’s a virtue. You’d have stayed by her side, holding her hand and talking to Jesus, all because she refused to allow anyone but her babies to care for her. And what about us? What if she had lived another five years and if both of us had stayed right here with her? Did she even think about that? Did she think about us, about what that would do to us—what it
was
doing to us? No, she didn’t.”

Colleen remembered the disappointment in her high school advisor’s eyes when she’d told him that she would not be starting college the following year. Her line about no longer having enough money wasn’t entirely true—her mom’s medical bills had taken a bloody chunk out of her college savings, yes, but she’d been awarded a healthy scholarship, and there simply had been no financial reason to postpone college. It was only for one year, she’d assured him and herself and her friends, thinking in the shadows of her head that her mother would surely be gone by then. One year had turned to four, and now she was where she was. Her brother was right. He was an asshole, but he was right.

They sat without speaking for a few minutes. Daniel offered her what was left of his joint. She shook her head. He shrugged, tossed his hair back, and finished it himself, pressing it out on the bottom of his shoe. She watched the ashes fall to the carpet and wondered who would pass the vacuum cleaner. Daniel leaned back and stared at the ceiling. Colleen got up and went into her bedroom, pausing for a moment outside of her mother’s bedroom. The door was closed and she had to beat back the habit to lean in and listen for the rhythmic and labored sound of her mother’s breathing. She made herself grab hold of the slippery idea: there was only silence in there. She walked on.

In her bedroom, she gave her dresser a once-over, making sure she hadn’t forgotten anything, then went into her bathroom and grabbed a few more pads, just in case. She was beginning to cramp up, and she was grateful that their plans for the coming week involved skis and not bathing suits.

She returned to the living room and stuffed the handful of pads deep into her duffel bag, beneath the light blue slip and panties that she probably wouldn’t be modeling for Guy. She sat across from Daniel. His eyes were closed.


You really still believe all of that shit?” He asked, sounding like less of an asshole and more like someone who was genuinely interested in what she thought. “Life after death?”


Sure,” she said, and followed her words with a shrug. “I guess.”

He leaned forward, eyes on her. She saw from the look in his eyes that he wanted to say something, that he was having a hard time holding back. “What?” She asked.


Nothing.” His coiled, about-to-strike energy dissipated, and he sank back against the couch.


Nothing my ass, man. And since when do you not speak your mind.”


I’m tired of the conversation, is all. We’re running in circles, and that’s just a waste of time.” He smiled. “Besides, you’re a smart girl. You know the truth, even if you pretend not to.”


All right, already.”


That mom’s in the ground. That you’ll never see her again.”

Colleen looked away, stared at the front door. Where the hell were the others already?


That dead is dead.”

 

 

 

It was more than he had spoken to her in months, and it was there that the conversation dropped and didn’t get up. A few minutes later Daniel heard the rumble of an engine outside. The doorbell rang, and Colleen hopped up and opened the front door. There Kimberly, Colleen’s best friend since childhood, grabbed Colleen and squeezed.


You okay, Brock?” Kimberly asked, touching Colleen’s cheek. Daniel wasn’t sure he’d ever heard Kim call Colleen by her first name.


Yes,” Colleen said. “I just want to get out of here. Are we all set up?”


Mm-hm! You ready to have a good time?”


I’ve been ready.”


Good.” Shifting into hushed tones, his sister and her best friend stepped from sight. Outside, someone said something. It sounded like Guy.

Daniel shoved himself up from the couch, picked up his bag, and shuffled toward the front. Colleen’s bag was where she left it, either on purpose or accidentally, just inside the door by his mother’s godawful wrought iron umbrella stand. Wishing he were higher, he dropped to his knees and unzipped her bag and rummaged around until he found Colleen’s pads. He pulled them out, chuckled once, and stood up. He tossed the pads behind the couch and, picking up their bags, left the house.

Outside, Colleen was greeting Guy. Adjusting his shoulder strap, Daniel stepped toward Kimberly.


Hey, Kim,” he said, and wanted to punch himself in the nuts. He wondered if he sounded as puppy-dog wistful to Kimberly as he did to himself.

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