She worried at the small patch of smooth, hard skin at the tip of her thumb, sharp nails over burnt skin, the sensation oddly distant. Every few seconds she’d switch to smoothing the first two fingers over the same patch, feeling for differences, for sensation reciprocated. Then scraping and prodding once more. She leaned back with a sigh, wrapping her thumb in the fingers of her other hand to stop the nervous scratching. The skin itself lacked sensation, but the nerves beneath were beginning to buzz from overstimulation. “What do you think, Boss?”

The cat blinked sleepily at her from his perch atop the bookshelf, his opinions his own for the time being. He was doing his best knick-knack impression, a lone tchotchke among dust bunnies of minimalism and neglect, orange fur riotously out of place in the subdued blacks and watery greys of the room. She turned her head to the window, lifting her hand to bite at her thumb, stopping only because she didn’t want to get chapstick on her fingers. The view was uninspiring, weak sunlight sliding over faded brick kept fastidiously free of ivy, the comfort of its familiarity losing out to the need for some prompt, some spark of an idea that might tip the scales in favor of one side or the other.. “I just… I don’t know. It’s not like it’s a big decision. Not really. When you get down and think about it.”

She stood and tried to pace, one foot in front of the other, ten steps to, ten steps fro, but the motion felt out of place in her legs, so she sat back down. Waited. Stood up again and moved to the couch and sat, again. Unattended, her nails returned to the burn on her thumb, scratching, scraping, pulling, ineffectually. The cat leapt down, stalking imperially to the chair she’d vacated and jumping into it, leeching a little warmth from her absence. The cat tucked himself into a loaf, facing her with patient, expectant eyes. She glowered back. “Don’t look at me like that. It’s not. Lots of people make far more important decisions every day. Sometimes several times a day. Before breakfast, even.”

The cat took a deep sighing breath, closing his eyes to nap, and she deflated into herself, drawing her feet up onto the couch and wrapping her arms around her knees. She leaned into the back of the couch, its clean clinical lines offering little in the way of embrace. The doorbell chimed, the muted belling descending carefully into the silence, unnoticed save for a twitched ear on the cat’s behalf. The silence swallowed the noise, stowing it away for safekeeping before the bell chimed again, almost apologetic. With a sigh, she pulled herself up from the couch, each step a layer of self building, one atop the other, from sullen and slouching to self-possessed austerity. Her hands dropped elegantly to her sides, fingers loose and unconcerned.

The cat curled in on himself with a sigh.


A Tale for your Tuesday

Fact:  In the last six months of 2012, no one by the name of Rebbecka Murphy had died.  Publicly anyway.  She’d tried searching just “Re* Murphy”, in case her mother’s inability to spell had dogged her one last time, but that hadn’t turned up anything, either.  She’d even spent most of the night paging through search results for Murphy nationwide in the past six months, on the off chance that Cal had died, too, and the circling, penurious vultures he called children had combined their obituaries.  That had come up empty as well.

She frowned, a terrifying expession that had it had a sound would have been described as stentorian, and which seemed vaguely annoyed at having to settle for simply ‘thunderous.’ The libarian backed away slowly, the words drying on her tongue before she could even form the polite, and probably ineffective request she had practiced for the last several minutes that Rebecka allow the next person in line use the computer.  There were several banks of them – Rebecka had sniffed at the fact that there were more computer desks in the fancy new  library than shelves – but there was just the one that had the minor defect in wiring and ineffable being-ness that allowed the only vaguely corporeal presences of the recently deceased to operate it.

The place was lousy with them, too, slouching and sagging about the place, the mystical improbability of their gothic existence entirely at odds with the heavy-handed Danish Modern aesthetic that the place had been assaulted with.  Concrete and brushed nickel everywhere you looked.  Rebecka shuddered, wondering off-handedly if she’d given money to abet in the perpetration of this particular architectural monument to bland disinterest.  She glanced out the window.  The place hadn’t been named after her.  It seemed a pretty safe bet her conscience could rest easy on that score.

Narrowing her eyes, she stood, walking toward the window with a disinterested wave to the wilting librarian.  She knew that there had to be an obituary before the estate could be dissolved.  She had very carefully written it into the will.  In order for the lawyer – and wasn’t she going to miss that little bedwarmer now that her bones were cold –  to release any funds to the slavering gold-diggers her husband had saddled her with from his first marriage, they had to produce proof that the obituary had been published, exactly as she had written it, in daily newspapers in each of the cities they lived in, at least one of which had to have circulation of over 100,000.  And yet nothing had been published.  Slowly, grimly, she began to smile.  The wretched little ingrates would have none of it, then, and every cent would go to the Titus T Alba Fund for the Preservation of Famous Authorial Typewriter Ribbons and Assassinated Politician’s Spittoons.

She turned, finally deigning to acknowledge the tunnel of white light that had been following her around for several days now, sickly sweet voices cooing gooily after her from the beyond, raddled with the faint windchime-tinkling of celestial static.  “Well, let’s have it then,” she demanded impatiently.  The light seemed to spasm, surprised at having been noticed at all.  She rolled her eyes and shook her head.  “You’ve been hanging about for days.  Haven’t given me a moment’s peace what with your ridiculous lux eternam nonsense.  I can’t go back, so you can’t back out now.  Let’s get this little farce over with.”  Squaring her shoulders, she started marching forward.  The light shrank back a little, not the first being to be daunted by her grim singularity of purpose.  Shuddering for a moment, it pressed itself forward, trembling and trepidatious, and Rebecka Ignatia Alba Murphy marched on through to the afterlife.

*            *            *            *            *            *            *            *             *

[Possibly] To be continued.