Let's try something new.

Facebook and Twitter are my venues of choice for doling out personal details and observations about my life, so my blogs have gone to weeds, regretfully neglected. Let's change that.

Below is a short story I wrote some time ago. It's never had an audience. In fact, I've never attempted to sell it to any publisher. You, my dear friends, will be the first to see it. I hope you enjoy it, and I hope you will comment. But most of all, I hope it is the first in a plethora of stories to be posted here.

Enjoy!

p.s. This work is protected by a Creative Commons license. See more info, and the nifty logo, below!

--


Here I sit
by J. Kevin  Tumlinson

Don't mind me. I'm just passing the time.

I never thought it would go on this long. Nearly a year now. In fact, in just two more days it will be one full year. I know, because every night and every morning the news comes on and it has the date and time. It taunts me, sitting there on the bottom of the screen, changing at its own slow, miserable, plodding pace.

I've been sitting in this chair for nearly a year and the damned TV's been going the whole time.

Here I sit, all broken hearted. That's because I am departed.

Funny. I'd laugh, if I could. But laughing requires breathing, and I kicked that habit three-hundred-sixty-three days ago while watching ... what was it? What was I watching? Some crappy rerun, I think. I've probably seen it a thousand times since then. I can't close my eyes.

Three-hundred-sixty-three days ago I died, sitting here watching TV, eating a bowl of cereal that spoiled three-hundred-and-fifty-nine days ago and was completely covered in mold three-hundred-and-forty-four days ago. I'm sure there was a smell. My nose, thankfully, doesn't work any more. I suppose you have to breathe to smell anything.

But I saw it all. I watched it with utter fascination. I took in every detail. Because, frankly, it was better than what was on TV.

Why didn't anyone ever come in to check on me? A year! In the whole of a year, wouldn't someone miss me? Anyone?

Didn't I have friends?

My family ... they wouldn't have come. Oh, I'm sure they've called a few times over the past year. The phone rang often. But they probably assumed I was out, ignoring them or just being irresponsible. I was known for all three.

But no one ever came by. Not one person. Not even someone from the power company or the phone company. I mean, I haven't paid a bill in a year, you'd think someone would notice.

Come to think of it, the phone hasn't rung in quite a while. Maybe it was cut off. And the power ... well, I've heard stories about people who move into a place and the cable and power are still on. Could be I hit the dead-guy lotto and got both.

Some prize. A year of listening to and watching every idiotic moment of television. A year of seeing the world through this one, lousy channel. It wasn't even one of the good ones. I mean, why couldn't I have been watching Fox? Or ABC? Or even NBC? No, I had to be watching some crappy independent channel.

Why couldn't I have had the volume up real loud? Maybe someone would have dropped in then, just to get me to shut it off.

I wonder whatever happened to my mail? What happens when your mailbox is crammed full? Do they take some of it back? Do they stop delivering? It would be nice to know.

"Oh, Joey, you rascal!" a woman's voice screeches from the TV. "Joey vs. Everything," a sitcom I absolutely hated when it was on originally and have since seen a few thousand times in syndication, comes on about six times a day and just ... won't ... shut ... up. Joey, that useless little prick, is constantly getting into situations that are more ridiculous than comical, and always manages to put things back to right just in time for the closing credits. Just once, God please, I'd like to see the little brat get caught in a house fire.

Burn, Joey, burn.

 But he never does. He gets the girl, gets the assignment done, gets to go to Europe, gets to meet his favorite basketball player ... and all the while I get to sit here, eyes rigored open, seeing the little prick get everything that was ever missing in my life.

After "Joey vs. Everything," there's usually a news update before we move into another flurry of crappy, cloying, TV rejects. I live ... excuse me ... I exist for these. Why? Because they're different. Well, not that different. I mean, it's pretty much the same stuff over and over. But the delivery is different. And the clips are usually different. And it's a look at the world outside of my living room.

Living room. Funny.

 The worst is, without a doubt, 2 a.m. That's when this particular channel signs off for the day. They play the national anthem, then a tone that lasts for-friggin'-ever. And then there's silence.

You'd think, with the deluge of canned laughter, crappy music tracks and non-stop chatter I hear throughout each and every day I would actually appreciate the silence. You'd think it would be my chance to relax, to forget about the "troubles" of the day.

I don't sleep. Ever.

In fact, I'm more wide awake now than I ever was in life. I guess without a body to slow me down, without fatigue poisons and free radicals and other things flowing through my bloodstream, my mind is free to be at full tilt all the time. And since I can't move, can't even blink, my mind is always racing.

During the day, the noise and the images on the screen help to distract me. Just like when I was alive, I can pretend to be in another place, to be another person. I can connect with the lives of the characters dancing before me. I can pretend like they're my friends and family.

At 2 a.m. I'm alone.

For a few hours each morning there's nothing on the TV. Nothing but the faint glow of an empty channel. Digital TV, damn it. If it had been the old stuff — the analog signals — at least I'd have some static and noise. I could watch the patterns. I could listen to the hiss. I could pretend to be someone else, somewhere else.

Not me. Not dead.

Dead.

--

Some people refer to 2 a.m. "the witching hour." Some call it "dead time." I go with the latter, for more reasons than you might think. I mean, there's the obvious one ... I am dead, after all. But there's also the metaphorical side. There's nothing on TV. Nothing but dead air. Nothing but a dead channel. And in that moment, I'm experiencing infinity.

Time doesn't pass the same way for you when you're dead. If you were sitting in a darkened room for hours, with nothing but the soft glow of a television for company, you'd be bored. But you'd get through it. You'd shuffle. You'd stretch. You'd hum. You'd do a thousand little things meant to pass the time. Heck, being alive, you'd more than likely turn the TV off and go to bed. Or you'd read. Or you'd just walk out of the room.

When you're dead, you watch. You watch, and you think. And the darkness, pressing in on you from all sides and broken only slightly by the sickening glow of the television, becomes filled with horrors for you.

What if I sit here forever? What if they cancel this channel and this is my reality forever? What if no one comes in here ever again and I sit here in a silent scream forever?

I've replayed every moment of my life. It's not as hard to do as you might think, when there's nothing on TV and you can't move. I can remember almost everything, because remembering is the only thing I have left. But a funny thing happens when you're reliving memories constantly. Even your pleasant memories start to take on the feeling of pettiness and uselessness. What good is it, to have a lifetime of memories, when in the end I'm sitting in the dark?

Am I in hell?

I didn't think I was that bad of a person. I never thought I did anything all that wrong in life. I never killed anyone. Never stole anything of any real consequence. So why? Should I have gone to church more? Should I have given more money away? Should I have slept with fewer women?

Imagine it. Every thing you've ever felt the slightest bit of guilt about, playing through your mind every single night for three-hundred-sixty-three days. Even the things you remembered fondly start to become sins. You start to hate even your most intimate memories. You start to hate the person you were so thoroughly, in fact, that if you weren't already dead you'd kill yourself.

Am I in hell? Where else would I be?

--

Mornings are better. Somewhere around five a.m. I get another tone, another national anthem. Then there's usually an infomercial. For the past few weeks it's been a heavy pitch for "the Abinator." Rock-hard abs, after all, are every dead guy's dream. The hostess of the show wears a skin-tight outfit that would have stirred an erection from me, back in the day. Now, though, I look at her and know she's beautiful, but I can't feel anything else. In fact, I hate her because she's beautiful. I hate her because she's alive and warm and sexy. I hate her because she's smiling at me. I hate her because she's looking directly into the camera and telling me that I, too, can have rock-hard abs.

After the Abinator the morning news comes on. The time and date is there, again making me want to scream. And the anchors come on, smiling. After my infinity of darkness and wretched introspection I can hardly stand the onslaught of liveliness and friendliness. I want them all to die.

They don't. But a whole lot of other people apparently have. There isn't a single day that goes by that the anchors fail to announce some horrific accident, some shooting, some rape, some neglectful action that results in death.

And then they talk about puppies, the weather, celebrities and local politics.

Followed by more death.

 Three-hundred-sixty-four days and there have been at least five deaths reported for every one of them. That's a lot. Shouldn't we be running out of people by now?

I hear a noise. It's familiar, but impossible. From behind me, coming from the front door of my house, there's a knock. Then another.

Several minutes go by and the knock becomes a pounding, followed by some shouting. They shout my name. They ask if I'm home. Then, with a crash, I hear the door splinter and the sounds of people — honest to God people — coming in.

"Holy crap!" one of them says.

"My God," says another.

I'm fascinated by this. If I could smile, I would. If I could do anything ... anything at all ... I would.

The next few hours are filled with a kind of strange cacophony. There's activity everywhere. Police, paramedics, members of the press — there's more activity in my house now than there had ever been when I was alive. If my heart could beat, it'd be all aflutter.

 They put up tape around my living room, and spend the hours talking about me as if I weren't there. Understandable. But I frankly don't care for the things they are saying.

"How does this happen?" one gruff-sounding police detective asked. "Guy like that? How does he kick it and no one knows for ... how long did you say he was here?"

The woman he was talking to was very professional and and put together. She had inspected me closely. It was the closest I'd been to a real human being for a very long time. I wished I could smell her. "As near as we can tell, it's been about a year," she said.

The gruff detective whistled. "A whole friggin' year. No kiddin'. And no one drops by at all. No friends. No family. Guy must have been a real loser."

Hey, I resent that!

 "So what do we do with him now?"

"Well," the woman said, "there's no sign of a crime. I'll have to get him down to county for an autopsy, but I'm thinking this was natural causes. We'll know more later."

The gruff detective stepped close enough for me to see him. He looked at me, then at the TV. "A whole year. And the TV still goin'." He shook his head. "That's just pathetic." And with that, he turned off the TV.

--

Just like that. It was gone. Broad daylight, and the TV was gone. What was on right now? Oh yes, "Private Coast." A soap opera. But today I was supposed to find out if Chastity is pregnant with Pedro's babyThe TV is off!

I suppose you have to have a heartbeat to feel panic or anxiety. I felt nothing. Still, on a purely logical, unemotional level I was freaked out. After all, it had been three-hundred-sixty-four days of non-stop TV. These were my friends and family ... the only comfort I had. What now? A dark and silent grave? Stick me in the ground and let me finish rotting for all eternity? Eternity in silence?

I thought I was in hell before, but at least I had something to watch.




Creative Commons License
"Here I sit" by Kevin Tumlinson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at kevintumlinson.blogspot.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.kevintumlinson.com.


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Kevin Tumlinson is the author of numerous novels, novellas, and non-fiction books, and the host of the Wordslinger Podcast. Try three of his best books for free when you download his starter library at kevintumlinson.com/starterlibrary.
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