by James Ward Kirk:
Lazarus tossed the tissue into the trashcan next to his computer, logged off the website and stood. The naked light bulb glowed the color of grapefruit, the walls neon blue, buzzing like a horsefly. The room’s scent, warm and wet, enveloped him like a woman’s womb. Lazarus lived in a world like yours and mine, but, for him he world was dense and nearly incomprehensible, like a man freshly reborn into heaven or hell.
“You disgust me.”
Mother. Lazarus reached for his bottle of mouth wash; preprogrammed, dehumanized, swishing the taste of her dirt words from his mouth like an abused child sitting in the dark to think. The slamming of his bedroom door turned the room ruby. He walked to the mirror. Dead Girl: I love you, I think, because I know what hate is and you aren’t reflected in Mother’s fish oil eyes or breathe in her exhalations.
Lazarus reflected a beautiful man, a perfect conception in primordial goo. He didn’t understand the monarch butterflies swirling around him, resulting from the whoosh of air after the door’s movement, queasy about their place in his world. The dead girl knows me. She awaits me like the night awaits starlight. Sensory input was like a black hole swallowing universal elements, changing minutely everything emerging the other side.
His grandfather clock struck twelve and his shovel came to mind. He showered, dressed in black and finished with a well-worn but clean black work boots. He combed the tangles from his long midnight hair, and then shoved a digital camera into his black trench coat—images helped him understand, or reassure, his thoughts and motives.
Lazarus worked as a grave robber and earned a decent living. He stashed his cash in his grandfather clock. He was named after his grandfather.
“You are named after the first grave robber,” Grandfather said. “I will teach you.”
Lazarus remained mute, processing his Grandfather’s words, seeing Grandfather’s face as the walrus he learned about in school. Lazarus stood firmly in spinning reality, like a Christian with arms reaching upward in awe of God.
“Stay away from Catholic cemeteries. Protestants are much more likely to bury wealth with their corpses.” He handed Lazarus a shovel. “Roll the sod up.”
Lazarus processed the command like a churning, hungry stomach and then did as told.
After a moment, he began. The dirt smells like sweat.
“See how soft the soil is on fresh graves? Digging is quite easy.”
Lazarus reached the coffin and looked upward at Grandfather and the stars.
Grandfather handed Lazarus a crowbar. “Open the coffin.”
Lazarus cracked the coffin open, hearing an infant’s wail.
“Lift the lid.”
Lazarus lifted. An old woman lay before him, and the sensual touch of velvet comforted him.
“Remove the jewelry. Check the teeth for gold.”
Lazarus did as told. Her mouth looks like the grave and roars of a lion.
Grandfather offered Lazarus a hand up. The dirt smelled like onions now. Lazarus accepted the hand and rose from the grave.
“Now start filling the grave back in with the dirt.
Grandfather handed Lazarus a broom. “Sweep the dirt in the grass over the grave.” He watched Lazarus. “Now unroll the sod.”
Lazarus finished and turned toward Grandfather.
“See, Lazarus? Easy money.” He handed Lazarus five twenty-dollar bills. “It’s time for me to take you back to Mother’s. She needs to pay the electric bill.”
Lazarus nodded. He felt hungry.
Lazarus chose a pair of pear earrings from his cache and put them in his black trench coat.
His mother stopped him at the front door, kissing him lightly on the mouth and then reminded him the electric bill was due. Taj Mahal. Emoting love and horror, he left his mother’s house in his navy blue Ford pickup. He parked it near a fresh grave. For Mother and the dead girl Monarch.
Little boy, you’re a cretin just like my father, and you’re sick. I wish I’d aborted you. Happy Birthday. You’re ten now. Start talking!
“Okay, Mother.” Programed. His sense of existence turned cardinal. Even the Monarch butterflies fluttering in his gift of a hand-held mirror, whispering to him: you are two with the odor of π. He copied the symbol onto his sling, and cried within a smile.
Lazarus enjoyed the cool September air, the slight breeze pushing his mind to Antarctica. I wish I lived there. Just me and penguins. I like their language. Their words taste like tangerines and the ice is green. No Monarchs. No Mother. I wonder if there are dead people in Antarctica.
Lazarus entered the Black Gothic Resurrected on Meridian Street, across from Crown Hill Cemetery. Three sweet brandies, the weighty velvet touch of base, then work. Lazarus took a seat in a corner, to his left a wall, to his back a wall. Lazarus was blind in his left eye. He enjoyed the safety of his position in the empty room and wished he could not see at all. I would be perfect, then. The band, the patrons, the servers, floated and jerked like running shadows. He ordered his first brandy from a fairy, dressed in black, black hair cut close to her head, tiny breasts on a tiny body. He didn’t know what else to say, so she left him, leaving only the symphonic sound of her emerald eyes in her wake. Lazarus licked his lips, enjoying the taste of her absence.
“Have you considered my wish?” the dead girl asked, dressed in gold and black, wearing butterfly earrings. Will you please murder me?
Lazarus reached into his coat pocket and handed her the pearl earrings.
“I know what you are,” she said, dropping the earrings into her purse.
“You are a synesthete.”
“Really,” the dead girl purred. “What is a synesthete?”
“Sometimes what I hear is interpreted through senses other than hearing and sometimes what I hear dissipates and resonates contrarily through various cognitive pathways. The condition is called Synesthesia.” Lazarus glanced at his right hand. His skin glowed green with pride. “It’s like when Alice fell through the rabbit hole, Monarch.”
“I control your mind,” Monarch said, “I have reprogrammed you.” She moved her fingers through her apricot hair. “I’m not like your mother. I’m superior. I will take you to a grander plane of understanding. You know what I want. Do you see?”
The butterflies. What will she do? Lazarus accepted the brandy from the fairy, asked for another, and then downed the pear nectar in one swallow. The music, the chatter of ghosts, the moving dead, the aroma of cigarettes and marijuana, the sweet brandy and the dead girl reached and peaked in orgasm. Lazarus ordered his third brandy, downing the second as quickly as the first. “True,” he said.
“You will take me.
“I will take you.”
“Tonight;” more demand than question.
“What are we waiting for?”
The dead girl laughed. “You want your third brandy.” Monarch combed her fingers through her hair. “I’ll not deny you.”
Lazarus saw a flash of white skin and her bellybutton (searing like a shower) when Monarch moved with her laughter. “I will deny you nothing,” Lazarus said.
The two crossed the street to the cemetery, clouds shrouding the stars, the moon glowing through lifeless like a ghost in the sky, the street as deserted as the cemetery.
Lazarus scaled the fence, careful of the spikes at the top of the iron bars. Leaning down, he offered Monarch a hand up and then helped her down.
Lazarus grasped Monarch’s hand, leading her to a fresh grave. He saw God in a rose garden. Monarch was a butterfly landing softly upon crimson, shedding a graceful but unrealized obsidian tear as she descended.
“I know. It gets colder,” Lazarus said.
“You’re thinking ice. What color?”
Monarch giggled; “Of course.”
“You smell like bleeding grass.”
“Thank you. Are we almost there?”
After a moment, Lazarus said, “here.”
Monarch kicked at the brown dirt with her red boot. “Dig.”
“Do you know you are an artist?”
“I’m making you. You are becoming a great artist.”
“Thank you, Monarch.”
“My pleasure;” The dead girl turned rosy and Lazarus saw the thorns worn on a crown upon her head.
The sod was already rolled, prepared to be readied like a red carpet.
Lazarus removed a spade, a broom, a crowbar, and a six-foot two-by-four piece of oak lumber from the back of his truck and then began digging, the vibration of the shovel in his hand swirling and tasting like a cake being cut. After about four feet, he placed the lumbar over the grave and dropped the crowbar and broom into the grave with him. He did have to climb out. Lazarus, a large man and strong, and practiced, finished the job quickly imaging laughing penguins and black blood oozing from a stab to the liver. He cracked the casket so he could open and retrieve the riches inside.
“I want to be the one opening the casket.”
Lazarus gave Monarch the broom and tire iron, and then used the two-by-four and pulled himself from the grave. He offered both gloved hands to Monarch.
She accepted, and Lazarus lowered her into the grave.
Monarch stood on the casket, then backed up a bit, digging her boots into the soft soil until her feet no longer touched the casket. She looked up at the night sky, the moon hanging low, and then to Lazarus. She smiled, leaned over, her ample ass apparent, and lifted the coffin lid.
Inside the coffin lay a woman in her mid to late eighties. She wore red lipstick, mouth turned upward into a wry smile. Her hair was short and permed and dyed red. She was dressed in a simple black dress and comfortable shoes to match. The veins in her hands were bloated but lacked color, and folded neatly across her bosom. Her nails were painted red. On the finger following the pinkie rested a very large tiara cut diamond wedding ring. Nicely done diamond earrings and a gold chain with a gold cross finished her off. Her left eyelid had opened, exposing an empty socket.
Must and formaldehyde reached Lazarus, exploding into a kaleidoscope of emerald.
Monarch looked up at Lazarus, almond eyes wide, pupils dilated for darkness. “She’s beautiful.”
Lazarus leaned in and thrust the crowbar deep into Monarch’s pale abdomen, withdrew quickly, and watched the black rose bloom. I love you, Dead Girl.
“I made you,” Monarch said, then paused to cough blood, the dark liquid glowing upon her mouth and neck. “I gave you your perfect performance.” She sat down on the dead woman. A whisper of a moan escaped. “You’re perfect now.”
Lazarus slammed the flat part of the spade onto the top of her head. She leaned over, unconscious, bleeding, and then died.
Lazarus breathed in her final breath into his nostrils and emitted a final sigh for Monarch through his mouth. She’s in me now, in my hands. He captured her form with his camera.
Lazarus lowered himself into the grave. He moved Monarch’s body into a cuddle with the corpse, captured her new love with his camera, closed the casket, and then moved back atop the earth.
He moved the dirt, swept the grass, and then unrolled the sod back into place.
The drive home was like riding a Ferris wheel, stopped at the top and he could see the universe grinning at him.
Mother. “Where’re the goddamn goods?”
Lazarus opened his hands, palms empty.
“Goddamn you, Lazarus. Do I have to go with you next time?”
“You’re a true piece of art, Lazarus. We’ll go tomorrow night.”
“Truth.” I’ll not bury her near the dead girl.
Lazarus went to his room and removed his clothing. He stood in front of the mirror and unfolded his white angel wings. He then moved to his computer and connected his camera, loving his art, his higher performance, his image reflecting back from the screen brightly like a star.
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