The words still rang in his ears every now and then. Words croaking out from the creature’s mouth before it killed them both.
The Blessed must die.
The memory haunted him like a grotesque nightmare. It made him feel cold just thinking about it.
“Looking at anything interesting?”
Greg Jones turned around, finding that Alison was standing next to him, a cigarette between her fingers. She let out a puff of smoke. “Got kinda chilly tonight, didn’t it.”
“Yeah.” He was standing on a hill that overlooked the city. It was part of a park that kids played at now and then when the weather was warm. Mostly, it was filled with joggers, running up and down the dirt paths that led into the denser thickets of trees. There were picnic tables at the far end of the grassy area by the parking lot, a favorite of families in the summertime.
“Like you’d know,” Alison smirked.
Greg gave her a look, taking in the rare occurrence of lipstick and high heels. “You go on a date or something?”
“You know me better than that,” Alison sighed loudly, putting the cigarette back to her lips. “I don’t go on dates. I did go out though. It was awesome.”
“I bet it was. So, how’d you know I was here?”
Alison shrugged. “Not like you have that many places you hang out at. I figured if you weren’t stalking me then you’d be here.”
He smiled a little, shaking his head. “I didn’t realize I was stalking you.” He liked her a lot. She was a sweet girl and he enjoyed teasing her. Best of all, she was his link to the world of the living. More than that, she was his link to the dead too. She could see him and she could hear him, and he had a feeling that eventually, she’d be able to lead him to the answers he was looking for. She was unique in that way. She had something special. He looked away, moving his gaze back to the city below. “So you meet anyone nice?”
“Nah,” Alison replied. “I drank a couple Long Islands and was on my way back. I don’t think I was even there an hour.”
“That’s too bad. You should try and enjoy yourself more. You never go out.”
“Yeah well, maybe I’m just too wrapped up in trying to keep my business afloat.” She sighed. “But you’re right. Sometimes I think you’re the closest thing I have to a real friend.”
“You know what they say, beggars can’t be choosers.”
Greg wondered if he should mention what he had been thinking about that night. He had never really told Alison how he died. She probably assumed he kicked the bucket in a car crash or something. He had thought about telling her the truth numerous times before but always stopped himself from it. Maybe because he thought she wouldn’t believe him. He wasn’t sure. The story was farfetched enough as it was, even for him.
“You look depressed,” Alison noted, taking a drag from her cigarette. “I hope you know that.”
“Yeah, I’m a little depressed.”
He shook his head. “It’s nothing. You wouldn’t understand.”
She frowned. “What’s that supposed to mean? What wouldn’t I understand?”
He didn’t want to talk about it. Even if he did, she wouldn’t believe him. How could she believe him when he could hardly believe it himself? Sometimes he even wondered if he had made the whole thing up. Had lost his mind somewhere along the path of dying and fabricated some fantastic story along the way to make himself feel special. “I was thinking about the night I died,” he replied absently, closing his eyes. Strangling. It’s strangling me. I can’t breathe. It’s killing us. We’re going to die. He opened his eyes. Perhaps he really had made the whole thing up. That’d be nice, wouldn’t it. Just thinking that none of it had been real at all.
“You never did tell me that. How you died,” she commented. “Why’s that, anyway? You embarrassed about it?”
“You caught me,” he smiled. “I got drunk and drowned in my own puke.”
She laughed. “You’re such a bad liar. That’s fine then. Don’t tell me. That’s why I never tell you anything either.”
“I didn’t say I’d never tell you.”
“You implied it.”
“No, I didn’t.” At least she had a good sense of humor. He wanted to ask her now then, while they were still talking about it. It was something he had been meaning to ask for awhile now. “Can you do me a favor?” Greg said, gazing out at the city below them. It was nice. The lights made the city look alive.
“Just do it, all right?”
“Fine, fine,” she said, narrowing her eyes. “What kind of favor is it?”
“It’s nothing bad,” he replied. He felt hesitant to continue. He always did when the subject of how he had died came up. He’d feel uncomfortable and self-conscious about it, thinking she’d accuse him of making it up. “It’s just… before I died… I heard something really… weird. Something said, ‘the Blessed must die.’”
“Then what happened?”
“Nothing. I died.”
“Okay then,” she asked. “Who said it?”
Who? That was a good question, wasn’t it. To be honest, Greg had never been entirely sure exactly what it was that said it. “I don’t know. They just said, “the Blessed must die.”
“The Blessed must die,” she repeated, blowing out another breath of smoke. “That’s weird. What the hell’s that supposed to mean, anyway?” she asked.
“I have no idea. That’s the point. That’s what I’m asking you.”
“It sounds like some kind of pissed off atheist,” she joked. She rolled her eyes when he didn’t reply to it. “That was supposed to be funny. Fine, forget it. So what’s the favor part?”
“You probably think I sound crazy,” he sighed. He knew it didn’t make sense but at least she was listening. He was hoping she’d be able to make some sense out of it. Unfortunately, she didn’t seem to know any more about it than he did.
“Not really. I didn’t think dead people could go crazy.”
“You got a point.” Since going crazy normally involved a brain and brain chemicals and the like, he supposed it wasn’t possible for him to go crazy in the physical sense, though he found that hard to believe at times. “I was just hoping you could tell me what it meant.”
“Sorry, I can’t.”
“Keep it in mind,” he pressed. “If it ever comes up, let me know, all right?” She dealt with so many unusual occurrences, it was bound to come up eventually, wasn’t it? Wasn’t it only a matter of time before she ran into it herself? She had this gift, this ability that few people had, and she was the only one that could help him now. He had to keep faith, that somehow, someday, with Alison’s help, he’d be able to find a clue to his past. There had to be an explanation for his death. That was all there was to it.
“Pinky swear,” she said, lifting her right hand. “If it comes up, you’ll be the first guy I tell.”
“Thanks. That means a lot.”
He felt relieved that she had taken him seriously. Even with a request as strange as his own, she still agreed to help him. He knew that trying to find meaning in a phrase that possibly had no meaning to begin with would sound insane to the majority of the population. But Alison really was different. Apparently, he had underestimated her ability to accept the strange. It must’ve been her history with the undead that made her that way. A history, as she told it, that had hurt her terribly in more ways than one.
The Blessed must die.
It had been the last thing he heard before his death, a death that trapped him on Earth as a wandering soul seeking answers he might never find the answer to. Someday, he wanted to tell her everything. He wanted Alison to know the truth about his past and the real reason he never crossed over to the other side. He wanted her to know everything about him and why he stayed.
He glanced over at her, watching as she grasped at pins and a black rubber band from her hair. She pulled them out, tucking them into her pocket and letting her hair fall down over a slender neck. “I liked you hair up like that,” he said. “You should wear it like that more often.”
She turned to look at him. “I don’t like it up. If I wore it up, it’d be completely for your sake.”
“Then do it for my sake.”
She laughed a little, brushing her hand through the dark, tangled strands. “That’s cute. I’ll think about it.”
He smiled. She always complained about him being her only friend. But it went the other way around too. Lately, she was the only one he really cared about.