Dead in Phoenix

Sirens buzzed around him and he was disassociated from everything. Pain lanced through his body and he bolted upright. It was bright, but he didn’t recognize his surroundings. “Where am I?”

“Ah, finally awake I see.”

Luke blinked and let his eyes focus on a blond stranger sitting in a chair near him. “Who are you?” His voice sounded hoarse to his ears.

“Well, let’s start with a question for you: what is the last thing you remember?”

Luke groaned and leaned back on the couch. “Slick streets and seeing a car run a red light. Feels like a dream…”

“Well, I have good news and bad news. Let’s start with the bad - Luke Ward, you’re dead.”

‘Dead? I’m…’ Luke’s face fell - shocked. “What? How? WHO are you?”

The tall blond man stood up and shrugged. “My name is Whitney Fordman. I’m your host - for now - in the afterlife.”

“This has to be a joke.” Luke stood up and sat back down quickly as his legs wouldn’t support him.

“You were killed in a car accident a few days ago. Now you’re in Phoenix. Trust me, I know that dying sucks. I’ve been dead for over a year.”

Luke tried to stand again and managed this time. “How do I know you’re telling the truth?”

Whitney shrugged. “Well, one - you’re in Phoenix. Two, if you sit down and think about it you will remember dying. Trust me it sucks for a few days. You’ll ‘see’ it happen over and over, and it will be vivid. For a solid week I kept feeling my body getting shredded. It was no fun.”

Sirens played in Luke’s head and the screech of brakes sounded in his ears. “That truck ran a red light, I turned and…” Understanding dawned on Luke and he sank back onto the couch. “I’m dead.”

Whitney left the room for a few minutes. When he came back he offered Luke one of the two mugs he was carrying. “There is some good news as well.” Whitney paused for second and then sat down. He reached for a thick book on the coffee table and handed it to Luke. “That is your copy of Rules for the Afterlife. That is the 937th edition and applies to the likes of you and me.”

Luke blinked a few times. “I’m confused; if I’m dead then why am I in Phoenix?”

“Ah, now comes the fun part - the living have no clue how death works.” Whitney chuckled and stood up. “Come on, we're going for a drive. It's easier to explain as we wheel around.” He pulled Luke up and pointed to a closet. “Clothes are in there. Not that you don't have a nice body, because you do, but public nudity is frowned upon.”

Luke looked down and realized that he was naked. That fact didn’t bother him in the least and he walked to the closet, where he found an assortment of clothes that looked as though they could have come from his closet. “Are these mine?”

“Similar to what you used to own.” Whitney joined him at the closet. “This house is paid for, as are the utilities. The afterlife is free from material concerns - for the most part.” He smiled at Luke.

“Please tell me this is a joke," Luke implored. Fordman only continued to smile. Luke dressed quickly and sat down to put on his running shoes. “Okay, dead got that…but, Phoenix?”

Whitney sat down next to Luke. “I asked the same thing and the only answer I got was, ‘You’re young and adaptable. Phoenix is a rapidly growing city. What did ya want - New York?’”

Luke pulled his sunglasses down against the glare of the bright desert sun. “So, why does everything seem just like it did when I was alive? By the way, nice Jeep.”

Whitney turned onto the Interstate 10 and smiled. “The Jeep is good for all kinds of things. Anyway, the Living earn points for Faith, Charity, and the like. If they accumulate enough points by the time they kick off, they go to the Heavenly Gates Mall."

Luke lowered his head and stared at Whitney over the tops of his Oakley shades. "Heavenly Gates--"

"Mall," Fordman repeated with a nod. "That's where the Afterlife is as people describe it -- pearly gates, Choirs of Angels, the whole nine yards, but the exterior has evolved over time to accommodate modern interpretation.” Whitney accelerated down the highway and reached over to pat Luke’s thigh. “Things will get easier, trust me. You died while still underage and that means you get a guide for a while. Me, I died at nineteen and my case worker sucked at sympathy.”

Luke leaned back in his seat and watched the buildings and roads sail by. “I am so confused. I get a guide, but you got a case worker?”

“Yeah. Loki. He's your caseworker, too. He's a former angel. You’ll meet him soon and he’ll explain some of the rules and stuff. And he'll bore you to tears about some guy named Bart.” Whitney turned off the highway and towards downtown. “There are a few things you need to keep in mind... For one thing, angels are snobs and rarely associate with the newly dead or even the unascended dead in general. And avoid at all costs the undead, vampires, zombies, and the like. They hate the regular dead.”

Luke blanched at the mention of undead. “You mean those things really exist?”

“Unfortunately. All kinds of things that the modern world has dismissed exist for real, if in secret. Zombies smell really bad to the our type, and vampires..., well they are just terrifying. We can interact with normal people as though we were alive, but we don’t linger in their thoughts. As Loki told me when he explained it the first time, ‘The Dead are tangible only in person; otherwise they have no form.’"

"You mean... They can see dead people?"

Luke was rather proud of his joke, but Whitney only groaned. "Damn. Now I have to wash Loki's car."


"He bet me you'd come up with that bad joke in under 3 hours. I gave you credit for having more restraint."

"Sorry." Luke got back to the subject. "So we can interact with people -- like people we knew? Family? Friends?"

"You can go see your family, but they won’t recognize you. Something about the veil of Death, Loki can tell you about it. BUT it is forbidden for the living and the dead to have sex. Big no-no. We’ll talk about that later," he promised as they pulled into the parking lot of America West Arena. “For now, we have tickets to tonight’s basketball game. Since we are the recently deceased, we still have all the urges of the living - like sex. We got the double whammy for dying as teenagers.”

Luke climbed out, sputtering. “Wha- Sex? Sex is the last thing on my mind right now!”

“You just think that now because your last girl friend was a self-absorbed airhead -- believe me, I know the type. But wait. The urge will hit you, as will some other things. I once got a strong urge to go horseback riding, but couldn’t find a horse. A beach boy like you might to start to long for the ocean. Who knows? It's different things for different people.”

They were walking toward the arena, but Luke paused. “So, we are like living, but we’re dead?”

“Something like that.” Whitney threw an arm over Luke’s shoulders. “Loki will explain it all, but for now we can watch a game and enjoy. I’ll start showing you how to walk through walls and stuff like that tomorrow.”

Luke stopped and forced Whitney to stop walking as well. Luke turned to face Whitney. “So, we’re ghosts?”

Whitney pulled them out of the pedestrian flow of traffic. “Our ‘bodies’ are in caskets back home, but we exist as well. We have form - it’s all in the book and I still have trouble with it.” Whitney smiled. “Listen, relax enjoy the game and go with it for a bit. When we get back to house, we’ll have a couple of beers and you’ll get it.”

Whitney rocked back in the recliner and started laughing. “So I’m at this bar and its okay because being dead also means you don’t have to worry about being carded.” He smiled at Luke again. “Anyway this guy walks up to me -- fairly recently dead, I think -- and he’s cute, if a little short and I hit on him.”

Luke blanched. “You hit on a guy?”

“We’re dead, sex comes guilt free now and sex with a guy is great. Even in the Afterlife girls want dinner and movie." Whitney patted Luke’s shoulder. “Anyway, he’s cute, but something is wrong with him -- split personality or something. He comes over every so often and we watch a game. You'll get to meet him, soon. If a brown haired guy with a cute smile shows up - let him in. Name's Colin.”

“Okay.” Luke nodded and took a deep swig of his beer. “So…is that it any fun?”

“It has older types, not a lot of the younger set. Ran into Loki there and good God that was a mess. Kept going on and on about how much hotter Phoenix was than Wisconsin, but at least there were people.”

Luke placed his empty beer on the coffee table and sighed. “How come I’m still getting a buzz if I’m dead?”

Whitney laughed and lifted the book up and handed it to Luke. “It’s in there. Human needs, vices, desires, etc will fade with time and with them the effect they have on your new ‘self.’ Loki told me that the Rat Pack was in Vegas bringing the dead in from all over the globe. Hell, even Elvis is there. Vegas is a happening place for everyone.”

“I’d swear I was tripping on some bad acid if I knew I hadn’t touched the stuff since last summer when I ended up naked with half the water-polo team. Wait, that was X, shit! Even dead my memories are for shit.”

“So what happened with the water-polo team?” Whitney raised a finger to stop Luke and got up to get more beer for the both of them. He came back and handed an open bottle to Luke. “Okay, water-polo team, what happened?”

Luke blushed. “We never talked about it, but I remember lots of hugging, kissing, touching of all kinds. By mutual agreement it was the drugs, but I jerked off thinking about that night a few times.”

“Yeah, we had a few nights of boredom in the Corps and a few of us would take care of each other. Nothing like a buddy helping out a friend.” Whitney winked at Luke. “But sex in the Afterlife can be good. That Colin guy has amazing hands.”

“So, are you and he an item?” Luke sipped his beer and smiled. He shifted on the couch and angled his body a bit.

“No, we had fun, but it was nothing special.” Whitney leaned over and ran a hand over Luke’s crotch. “I can tell you’re interested in something.”

“Thought I’d try to hide it, but talking about sex got me in the mood.” Luke shifted again and pressed Whitney’s hand into his groin. “Dude, this…this is amazing.”

“Tell me about it. Sex without guilt is a wonderful thing.” Whitney leaned over and captured Luke’s lips with his. He pressed the kiss until Luke parted his mouth and Whitney’s tongue snaked inside.

Luke spread his legs and pulled Whitney on top of him. “Care to show me some of your moves?”

Whitney smiled and jumped off of Luke. He grabbed one of Luke’s arms and pulled him up. Whitney kissed him again and then pushed him towards the bedroom. “I’ll show you all kinds of things, surfer boy.”

Loki walked around the living room smoking a cigarette. “I can’t believe you already got him into bed. His first night in the Afterlife and you got him into your bed.” Loki turned to Luke. “And you, your reputation is well earned.”

“…Reputation?” Luke sputtered.

“For being a slut. If it had two legs, a decent body, and was even slightly available, you fucked him or her. And don’t think I don’t know that there were as many hims as hers.”

Whitney smiled and headed towards the kitchen. Luke frowned at Loki. “What can I say, I was a horny teenager.”

“And you are now a horny dead teenager. Thanks to you I now owe someone a bet.” Loki turned towards the kitchen and shouted. “Yo, soldier-boy, you have to wash Bart’s car now!”

Whitney ran out of the kitchen and skidded through a wall as he tried to stop. He got up and dusted himself off. “What?! I didn’t make a bet with Bart!”

“I bet Bart that surfer-boy would be able to keep it in his pants for at least the first night in the Afterlife.” Loki smirked and faced Luke again. “But that was too much to ask for apparently.”

Whitney frowned. “That was your bet, not mine!”

“Well, you owed me a car wash and I’m just trading that for Bart’s car wash. As if I’d wash his car this century.” Loki shook his head and sat down next to Luke. “Okay, I have a ton of paperwork for you to fill out and sign. You’ll have to pass a driving test, sign for your debit card, all kinds of things.”

Luke was in shock as Loki kept pulling out stacks of paperwork from a seemingless bottomless attaché case. “I have to sign all of that. That must be at least five feet worth of paper.”

“This is after they invented computers, too. You should feel lucky. Besides, what do you have to do that is so pressing? You’re dead already.” Loki picked up the first stack and dropped it on Luke’s lap. “Okay read this and sign where it is noted. This is the section that deals with the rules and regulations of the Afterlife. The second stack will be your financial agreements. Soldier boy will be your host for at least a year seeing how you’re a minor and will remain so for all eternity.”

“This is insane!” Luke whined.

“Insane? No insane is when your best friend kills you over some stupid plan because he’s sick of Wisconsin. Insane is when God allowed the Mormons to think Utah was the Promised Land. And can you explain Dick Clark? That is insane. I ran into an old friend - a Watcher - who swears on a Seraphim’s wings that Clark has never had any work done.”

Whitney was behind Loki and caught Luke’s attention. He slowly mouthed, “I told you so. He’s nuts.”

The doorbell rang and Whitney said he’d get it. Loki ignored him and continued telling the story of a Seraphim and a Muse who got Homer stoned in order for the Iliad to be written properly. Loki’s voice carried, “I swear that all those Greeks would never have gotten anything accomplished if not for a few renegade angels. God thought Egypt was The place back then. Of course I was in exile then because I listened to Bart.”

Luke moved the stack of papers off his lap and followed after Whitney. Behind him, Loki was droning on and on about how it was all Bart’s fault that he was an Afterlife caseworker now.

“Loki’s here?” a voice from the door asked.

Luke walked up and saw Whitney hugging a guy who fit Colin’s description. “Hi, I’m Luke.”

Whitney smiled. “He’s brand new and has all the paperwork to fill out.” He pulled Luke into a partial hug and whispered in his ear. “Let’s go, Loki won't notice for at least another ten minutes. By then we'll be long gone, doing fun stuff.”

Colin chuckled as Whitney closed the front door and they started walking towards Whitney’s Jeep. “Loki is telling you Afterlife stories isn’t he?” Luke nodded and Colin continued, “Man, don’t worry about the paperwork. I’ve been dead six months and still have all of it except the debit card authorization and the driver’s license authorization. Do they honestly expect dead teenagers to follow the Rules?”

Whitney laughed as he pulled out onto the street. “Yeah, man. Loki is boring and Bart is FULL of himself. Never play Trivial Pursuit with him. Takes four days because he explains every answer.”

Colin nodded from the back seat. “And he cheats. If he gets an answer wrong he claims the game is wrong not him. Oh, Whitney, Alex Whitman is back! Go pick him up and we can play paint ball.”

Whitney sighed. “Okay, but you know I have issues with playing soldier. May not have the scars, but I can remember the real thing.”

“Whatever, stud. You have the new guy to massage your back at nights and make you feel good. Thank goodness Alex is back or I’d be jealous.” Colin leaned forward and tapped Luke’s shoulder. He point to their right. “Over there is the Phoenix entrance to the Heavenly Gates Mall. Not that many Dead in Phoenix so it’s not that big. Loki has his office in there. Never ask him about it because he claims it’s a hole in the wall.”

Whitney gunned it down the road. “Just wait Luke, being Dead can be a blast. Just be glad you aren’t Reaper. That job sucks.”

Colin laughed in the back seat. “And the sex is great. Just wait for the Halloween orgies!”

Luke sputtered for a second. "Orgies?"

Whitney laughed and kept driving. “Count on it. Trust me on this, Luke, my friend. Despite what you may have heard, being Dead is highly underrated.”


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