Halloween Special - The Night I Died Behind The Wheel by Erin Zulkoski

"Oh, shit..."
These were the last words I uttered while still alive on this earth. Probably not the most eloquent thing to say, but what else was I supposed to scream while getting hit head-on by an eighteen wheeler carrying cattle? Even more ironic is the fact that when I hit the semi, cow shit went splattering all over my car and the highway.
So there I was, dead behind the wheel--or what was left of it--of my shit-covered car. Perfect. The driver of the semi only suffered whiplash and a small laceration above his right eyebrow due to hitting his head on his hardcover copy of John Grisham's "The Pelican Brief" that was tucked in the console above the dashboard. Not only am I dead due to this guy hitting me with a fucking semi, he also reads John Grisham.....
He would later tell the police that he saw my car cross the center line into on-coming traffic, and there was no way to avoid hitting me. As I recall, he crossed the line and hit me, but that's a moot point. I'm dead.  I can't exactly defend myself due to the fact my torso is pinned between the dashboard and the drivers seat. Being dead really puts a damper on things.
Emergency crews swarmed the area; firefighters had the Jaws of Life on hand and began cutting the roof off of my car to pry out my remains. I got a small chuckle of satisfaction when an obvious rookie saw my squashed, mangled body contorted around what was once the nice leather interior of my car, turned a fascinating shade of greenish-yellow and immediately turned his head to vomit. It's really a shame I had to die, because that would have been funny as shit to see in person. I bet that video would have gotten millions of hits on YouTube. Oh, well. From the vantage point I currently have, I still got to see a fairly entertaining show.
It took a few hours to gather all my pieces up and place them in body bags for the coroner to take to the county hospital and do an autopsy. Cause of death? Gee....that's a tough one. I guess they want to take samples of me to check for drugs or alcohol as a possible factor of the crash. How about the dick behind the big rig's wheel was too tired to be driving and he drifted into my lane because he fell asleep? Is there a way to test for that on an autopsy? That's the thing about being dead--you suddenly have the clarity to see things for what they really are. Too bad this couldn't have been something I was blessed with while still alive.
Right now, I'm fascinated by the fact that I don't seem to be going anywhere. Sure, my puzzle-pieces body is going to the mourge, but I'm referring to ME. My soul, if you will. Shouldn't I be traveling down some tunnel to the great white lights of Heaven, or being dragged down into Hell by Lucifer himself? No; instead, I'm sitting on the hood of my car and watching all the commotion around me and getting to hear some great tidbits of conversations between people on the scene and the drivers stopped by the road blocks put up to isolate the crash scene.
"Poor fucker...I bet he never even saw that coming."

Fuck you, pal! I saw it all, remember? I screamed "oh, shit!" Dumbass.
"Oh, shit, let me tell you man, she gives the best blow job I've ever and probably will ever have again. And her tits....fuck me, her tits were incredible. I could barely put my hands around 'em, but my dick fit nicely in between them, if you know what I mean!"

Ooh....what's this? No, keep talking. Even a dead guy appreciates incredible tits. Just because I'm dead doesn't mean I can't get hard, which apparently, I can because I got a wicked dead guy boner going on. I can't tell who is telling this story, or where it's coming from; all these are just coming at me like bugs bouncing off a windshield when you're driving. I scan around the people to who I think this "Dear Penthouse" story is coming from, and I spot two fat cops, leaning against the side of their cruiser. Fucking pigs. Your tax dollars are real hard at work here, folks. I hop off the hood of my car and sort of...float over to them and I end up leaned against their car, just like they're doing and both are completely oblivious to me, the recently departed.
Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum keep on their locker room talk, which really wasn't as interesting as I hoped it would be. The tits were the best part of the story. Then they started talking about work and blah blah blah.
Hey, I wonder if I have any other sorts of dead super powers? Can I fly? Or dissolve through walls? I've seen the movie "Ghost," maybe I can enter someone's body and fuck around in there.

After another hour, the scene was pretty well cleaned up of debris and cow crap, and everyone seemed to lose interest, so soon, it was just me standing in the spot where my car once was. A tow truck came by a few minutes ago to take my once intact car to the dump. I'm standing alone.
"Now what?" I ask myself. Really, what can a dead guy do now? I mean, is there protocol I have to follow now? A meeting I have to attend?
"Hi, I'm Mike, and I'm dead among the living."

"Hi, Mike."
Truth be told, I think I'd freak out if I saw another one of "me" walking around right now. Is this really what happens to the dead? We just roam around the living, doing the same shit we used to do when we were alive and no one notices us? That's a crazy thought, but it appears to be a reality now.

I left the scene and began walking down the road.  At first, I was walking on the shoulder, facing on-coming traffic as always instructed to do, but then I realized, "fuck it, I'm dead," so I started walked down the center dotted line instead. It was an oddly liberating feeling walking in the middle of the road and have cars whizzing past me.  The excitement of the moment overcame me and I stopped walking, dropped my arms to my sides and tilted my head back and let loose a primal scream.  Goddamn it, this is thrilling!  I stood still for a moment longer and I was panting heavily, my shoulders heaving up and down.  I felt indestructible, which is a bizarre feeling to have, given the whole not alive thing.

I walked along the road for what seemed like an eternity, until I came upon a truck stop.  I could see the glow of the fluorescent lights before I actually reached the gas station.  Dozens of semis were parked in the parking lots, engines idling and parking lights on.  I felt my stomach clench--I wonder if he was here, the guy that killed me.  I began to feel anxious at the thought of seeing him, of seeing the man that is responsible for me not being alive right now.  I made the decision to haunt him.  I was going to haunt the guy that hit me head on.  And no cheese dick kind of haunting, either.  We're talking scared shitless kind of haunting.  This is going to be good.

I walked between the rows of trucks, my arm outstretched so it grazed the side of each truck I passed.  I came to the truck that was second from the last in the row and suddenly, it felt like my arm had caught fire.  I pulled it away quickly, stunned by the sensation.  I looked down at my hand, half expecting to see it actually aflame or something, but nothing.  The sensation went away the instant I took my hand away, so I reached out and touched the truck again and was jolted by the white hot pain shooting up my arm.  Now, I'm no Sherlock Holmes, but my powers of deduction led me to believe this was the semi that caused my demise.  I examined the front end of the vehicle closer and sure enough, it was slightly damaged and there were traces of dried cow shit stuck to the bumper.  Yes, this is definitely the truck.

I walked passed the gas pumps and to the doors.  I reached to grab the handle to open up the door, but couldn't grasp it, so I just walked right through.  I stopped short of entering and scanned the area.  Gas station portion to my left, diner to my right.  There were five truckers lined up a the counter, each one hunched over whatever was in front of him, each one a little more pathetic looking than the next.  A life on the road is a hard one.  I walked behind the men at the counter and was headed toward a guy sitting in the corner booth.  I know this is my guy.  He's thinking about the accident.

I reach his booth and slide in across from him.

He looks up at me.

This reaction is completely unforeseen and catches me off guard.  My breath catches in my throat.  Did he really see me, or was his looking up exactly as I sat down a coincidence?

"I'm sorry," he says quietly.


"I'm sorry you died.  I'm sorry...so fucking sorry..."

Jesus Christ....he was talking to me.  I stared at the man across from me, dumbfounded.  My jaw was slack, and if breathing mattered at this point, I would have had to remind myself to inhale.  He could fucking see me and he was talking to me.

I try to stammer a reply, but words would not escape my dead lips.  I think I managed a few "uh's" and "um's," but my vernacular failed me.

"I shouldn't have been driving, man.  I know I shouldn't, but I wanted to push through to my next stop, you know?  It wasn't worth it, it wasn't worth you losing your life."

I kept looking at him, studying his face, his rough features.  Dirty blonde hair with strands of grey scattered throughout, sunken eyes, the black bags surrounding them, shallow cheeks peppered with longer than five-o'-clock shadow, thin chapped lips, the bit of dried egg yolk stuck to the corner of his mouth...I was taking him in, trying to dissect him.

He was looking down at his half-empty plate of food, pushing what was left around with a fork that had bent tines.  The sound of metal scraping the melamine dinner plate was deafening. If I were alive, I'm sure I'd have a splitting migraine right now.

"It's ok, pal.  I wouldn't know what to say to the guy that killed me, either.  I just wanted you to know how how shitty I feel about this whole thing."

I opened my mouth to speak and the only words that came out were, "you cansee me?"

He was still studying his plate, but a small chuckle escaped him.

"Yeah, I can see you.  You look good for a dead guy."

Holy shit. This is....this is incredible.  Emotions hit me all at once, from excitement to sheer terror.  He can see me!! And he can see me?! What the fuck is going on?

He looked up at me, staring me in the face.  He shrugged his bony shoulders.  He reached into his lap and pulled up the napkin to wipe his mouth, missing the egg.  He lay the used napkin on his plate and pushed it in front of him.  He continued staring at me with those eyes of his.  I saw the cut above his eyebrow.  It had been stitched and was covered with a butterfly bandage.  Dried blood had soaked through, giving it a dark brown color.  Sensing I was looking at his wound, he reached up and touched it, wincing a bit in pain as he did so.

"This ain't nothin' compared to you, friend," he said.

Yeah.  I'm dead and you've got a boo boo.  Your's will heal in a few days, mine won't.

We sat in silence, each unsure of what to say next.  Curiosity overcame me and I spoke next.

"Seriously, how are you able to see me?  And talk to me?  What the fuck is going on here?  Are you some sort of clarvoyant or something?"

"Nah, the way I figure it, I can see you because you're supposed to haunt me or somethin'.  You know, fuck with the guy that took your life before you was ready to go or some shit like that.  I dunno, man. Sure a hell surprised me, too. I almost shit myself when you came and sat down here."

I laughed in spite of the situation.  I bet I scared him.  Imagine, enjoying your hashbrowns and eggs and then the guy you just creamed with your semi comes sauntering in.  I'd lose my appetite, too.

Erin Zulkoski resides in the prairies of Nebraska with her dog, a Red Heeler named Blue. Yes, she appreciates the irony. Her day job is fixing hearts in a cardiology practice, and at night, she transforms to a writer. Her work can be seen on http://fictionaut.com/users/erin-zulkoski and http://polishsnausage.wordpress.com.


Sue H said...

Interesting concept - hooked me from the beginning and then led me by the nose right through to the last line!
Bravo !

Benjamin Sobieck said...

"Fuck it, I'm dead."

That about sums up the afterlife, yes sir.

Great read.

David Barber said...

This was a really great read, Erin. Well written throughout. I think it would make a great short film.

Thanks for taking me up on my request for Halloween stories.

Erin said...

Thank you all! I'm thrilled you like it, and thank you, David! Always an honor working with you.

Jim Harrington said...

Well done, Erin. It kept my interest throughout.


Sean Patrick Reardon said...

Loved that. Intriguing premise, very well written, and I especially loved the sarcasm that was on display thoughout.

Madam Z said...

I always thought I had a pretty good vocabulary, but right now I can't think of enough complimentary adjectives to describe how fucking awesome this story is! No shit! Write on, Erin, if your ghostly fingers can hold a pen. I want to read more of your haunting stories.

Anonymous said...

Almost a Christmas story, really. Hope, humor and something beyond. Love the laconic tone of the narrator. Enjoyed the hell out of it. Echoing Madam Z: Right(and Write) ON!

G said...

That was a pretty funny story (in a strange way). Good enough read for me to actually click through and comment.

Thomas Pluck said...

I had a lot of fun reading this, Erin! Really well done, playing with our expectations and not knowing where Mr. Dead Guy Boner will go next!

Erin said...

Thank you so much everyone! Wow. Your comments and encouragement made my day.

Harley May said...

This is great, Erin! Love it.

Chris Allinotte said...

Excellent tone and personality - especially from a dead guy!

The sense of humour makes this one rock n' roll just a little bit harder.