Life and death are two sides of the same coin. Either way, it’s rude to get in the way of people trying to make the most of it.
Rebirth Rejected, by Alexander Paul Willging
Word Count: 540
Green mist swirled up around his eyes. It was so very dry here. His throat was burning. He could barely move his limbs. Why did it hurt so much? Being dead wasn’t supposed to hurt.
“Aha!” a deep male voice cried out, somewhere beyond the veil of mist. “It worked! I have usurped the power of the gods!”
That voice was irritating. He could feel it rattle through his bones. Who did this idiot think he was, babbling about gods when all people wanted to do was sleep—?
Wait a minute. That was the first rational thought to pass through Sid’s head. He blinked, scraping his eyelids over very dry eyeballs. When he stared down at his hands, Sid realized that his hands weren’t their usual pink hue. They’d gone gray and cold. Rotten, even.
He was still dead. He was undead. And he had this bastard to blame for it.
A black diamond-tipped staff parted the green mist, giving Sid his first glimpse of the annoying kid. The culprit was tall, lanky, and dark-haired. Like one of the Goth kids that used to hang around the back of the high school gym. He even had on the same tight jeans and striped shirt. The voluminous black robe did little for what was left of his dignity.
“Harken to me, my minion!” The kid pointed his staff at Sid’s face. “I have brought you back from the Netherworld to bear witness! Using the lost art of thanaturgy, I have conquered death itself—”
“Hey, kid.” Sid grabbed the staff out of his hands and snapped it over his leg. “Knock it off.”
The young thanaturge gaped at him. “What?”
“I said, knock it off.” Sid took in his surroundings. Except for the green mist pooling around him, it seemed domestic. Familiar, even. “Did you summon me in your basement? What the hell possessed you to do that?”
“So…” The kid backed away, fumbling for the remnants of his staff. “So you could live again! So that… so that I could show the world what power the Liber Mortis had—”
Sid glared at him. “Really? Then what’s my name?”
The thanaturge blinked. “Uh…”
“Oh, come on!” Sid spread his arms out, not liking the way they creaked into place. “Don’t tell me you just randomly picked a grave to dig up? That’s just inconsiderate! I was at peace, you asshole!”
“But life’s… better than death…”
“You’re young, you wouldn’t understand.” Sid turned and lurched over to the podium near the back. In top of the podium was an ancient book. He squinted at the text, written in faded calligraphy on withered vellum. “Okay, how does this work… talitha koum… hocus pocus…” He tapped his finger against the page. “Here we go. Restituito et dormito, excusa—”
“No!” the kid wailed.
But it was too late. Sid closed his eyes as he felt the spark of life inside him diminish. He was glad. This un-death wasn’t worth it. Not when it meant he couldn’t rest alongside Millie anymore.
The last thought to pass through his mind was to reflect that, while the kid had been stupid, he was still young. He had a lot to learn about life—and death.
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