Chapter I (A sticky situation)
The day I died was the day my life really turned to shit.
For a while I just lay there, knowing full well I was dead, and pondered the beyond. Eventually a figure drew up to my side, panting.
"Oh Fuck." She said. "Fuck."
I shifted slightly but my body did not.
"You can't just lie there pretending you're still attached you know."
My otherworldly companion seemed to reconsider this.
"This is not my fault!" She wailed, though her tone suggested she thought otherwise. "I was only supposed to watch you for one more day!" Something really seemed to be upsetting her, I wondered if it was my death. There was no pain: she didn't need to worry. The whole process had been quite humane.
A finger prodded me roughly.
"Can't you just, you know, seep back in and start breathing again? You're not supposed to die. I was only looking after you for a week. If you stop breathing I won't..." She trailed off and I thought I heard a sob.
I sat up, opting to leave the dead weight of my fresh corpse behind.
"No!" My companion hissed and her rough hands attempted to push me back down.
"Are you death?" I asked curiously, finding the capacity of speech within my new, ethereal form.
She did not look like death.
"There's no such thing as death." The hideous form before me announced a little distractedly. "I'm Lissanna."
Lissanna was not only unlike anything I had seen before but she was also unlike anything I could even have imagined. She had a set of wings, that was the thing that stood out about her most. Not because she had wings. I'd just died, the concept of angels would have been a satisfying one. The thing with Lissanna was that they were just so... dilapidated. One had definitely been broken at some point and had not been set correctly. I doubted she had the capacity for flight. Half the feathers were missing, broken or just simply filthy.
"Are you an actual angel?" I asked, thoroughly sceptical.
"Don't judge me." She hissed, picking up on my tone. "I wasn't the one stupid enough to walk through the back alleys alone."
"No you just live there." I muttered, insulted. I seemed oddly content with the matter of being dead. I just wasn't so keen on being judged by a flightless angel in hobo gloves.
It quickly became apparent Lissanna had neither heard my words nor cared. She continued to poke ritually at my cadaver with a filthy fingernail.
"Ouch." I murmured half heartedly though it was only a waning sentiment for my old body.
Her sunken eyes widened and the frequency of the jabbing intensified.
"You can feel that?" She asked in a kind of desperate fervour. "What are you doing hanging around! Get back in there if you're still all hooked up."
"I can't feel it." I muttered sullenly, jealous of my own lifeless flesh.
Lissanna's brow furrowed, suddenly dark, and she kicked the body. I felt oddly satisfied. One small hiccup on the breathing/living front and I had developed a vendetta for the form that had housed me for eighteen years. I was such a traitor.
"Stupid piece of shit." She growled and sat back on her haunches. Her head fell into her hands and it was then that I noticed the track lines up her arms. This certainly wasn't right: I'd lived a better life than to deserve this.
"Are you here to guide me to 'The Beyond'?" I asked, wondering if her presence meant I was going to hell.
"The Beyond?" Her head shot up, feathers quivering. She swore again, more colourfully this time. "No!" She shouted and I wandered what the fuss was about. "No, no, no! Don't go beyond! Step AWAY from the light!"
"There's no light." I conceded, feeling thoroughly unloved. "Except for you."
She glowed slightly, I now noticed. In the gloom of our abandoned alleyway, the spot of my final heartbeat, I sat and watched the skeletal form of my angelic guide and thought that, overall, she was a thorough disappointment.
"Ok." Her breathing slowed and she ran a bony hand through her lank hair. "You scared me."
"Sorry." I murmured. She looked like a good scare would kill her. Not that it mattered, being dead wasn't so bad.
"Just don't do it again. This isn't funny you know."
"Ok, sorry again."
"Fine, whatever, stop being sorry and start helping. I'm in some deep shit here."
She wasn't the one that was dead.
"Why are you here?" I asked, opting not to be affronted in light of the fact that being dead wasn't such a big deal.
"I'm your guardian angel."
I considered that for a moment as she stared forlornly at my cooling corpse. It had stopped bleeding. Too little too late I thought bitterly, still hating the thing.
"I don't think you're doing a very good job."
"No shit." She kicked my fleshy counterpart a second time and I debated whether it would count as masochism or self-harm if I joined in. In the end I decided against either. Lissanna was doing a fairly good job and I'd already been pretty roughed up.
"Are guardian angels meant to swear so profusely?" I asked, genuinely curious.
My filthy new friend finally had the good grace to look a little ashamed.
"I'm kinda on probation..." She muttered and then reconsidered. "Well." She said, "it's easier to think of it like 'daddy cut me off'. But this is definitely going to get me kicked out."
"I thought being a guardian angel was, like, really important."
My scruffy angel flushed, not red but glow-in-the-dark yellow.
"It's not really my job." She said. "I was only supposed to be looking after you for a week." She picked at a scab that had developed on one of the needle holes on the inside of her arm.
Lissanna was so precisely skin and bone that I was morbidly fascinated by the act, wondering if I'd get to see angel bone. Or maybe she'd leak some of the glowing liquid that continued to shoot through her body, lighting up the veins buried so shallowly beneath her papery skin.
Leaving off the disgusting habit she sat down, resting her wings against a commercial rubbish bin.
"Well, if we continue my previous metaphor, I promised I'd watch you for a week in return for some of the cash I'm sorely lacking in light of my current 'fiscal' situation." She bashed her head against the metal dustbin, setting off a hollow crash. "I'm so screwed."
"I'm dead." I pointed out. "If it's any consolation."
"Not really." For a second she closed her eyes and then, as some realisation hit her, they rocketed back open again.
Launching herself at me, Lissanna grabbed both of my shoulders in her claw-like hands. I was a little disappointed, I'd thought ghosts went through people.
"Yeah. It's not that bad actually." I shrugged, secretly proud of how calmly I was dealing with the situation.
"No." The angel almost howled. "It is bad. It's awful! You had a guardian angel - you were supposed to do something reallyimportant and I let you die!"
I was really struggling to care. Being dead made things so much simpler.
"They're going to kill me!" Lissanna wailed.
"Being dead's ok."
"Not if you're an angel!" My failed protector released me. She began walking in agitated circles, tugging at her hair and pulling out feathers.
I just stood there, quite happy, until she began to calm down.
"Ok. We've just got to get you living again so you can fulfil your destiny."
"Is that even possible?" I asked.
"No." She degenerated into a dirty, feathery mess once more.
After a further few minutes of her self-indulgent breakdown I gestured to my fresh corpse and, following the implied suggestion, she gave it another hearty kick. I smiled.
"Thanks." She sighed.
"Do it again."
The angel ignored me.
I wasn't sure if it was common to feel such a passionate distaste for one's lifeless body. I certainly had held no qualms with it when it had lived. Whilst my slender, brunette form was in no way special it had brushed up well and had been considerable help when dealing with the opposite sex. My boyfriend had certainly never complained.
The angel was talking.
"We've got to get out of here." She said. "Before anyone notices you're dead."
"Aren't ghosts supposed to have unfinished business?" I asked, a little put out that I'd had no input in my after-death experience.
"You do." Lissanna growled. "We're going to hide your body so no one finds out you're dead until after I'm long gone."
She walked around to the legs of my butchered body and lifted them off the ground. I watched her disdainfully.
"Why should I help you?" It wasn't that I had an issue with saving the disgraceful creature's life, it was just that I really wasn't down with touching the late Flora Shuttle's corpse.
"You think your guardian angel's going to be pleased with you when he finds out how stupidly suicidal you were?"
"You were the one sleeping on the job." I grumbled but walked obediently round to pick my immobile head off the ground.
"Hey!" I exclaimed, delighted, as my ghostly hands went straight through the meat of my shoulders.
Lissanna sighed, frustrated, like I was a small child. I dampened my glee, just a little, and concentrated on becoming solid enough to carry objects. To my dismay I was instantly successful. The concrete exuded a morbidly sticky squelch as the newly concave part of my skull left the ground.
The angel groaned as we half carried, half dragged my literally-dead weight toward the alley entrance.
"I'm not fat." I complained though in actuality I was surprised that her spindly form was even capable of counterbalancing the huge expanse of her wings.
In reply she simply hefted the dead weight of my body's legs into a more secure grip and continued to lug my disgustingly fleshy cadaver toward the distant light of the street.
"You know." I pointed out quite innocently. "We can't really drag a dead body through the streets in broad daylight.
Lissanna stopped, dropping her cargo onto the floor.
In satisfied relief I followed suit and stepped as acceptably far from my previous home as I could.
"You'll just have to wear it."
I dragged my gaze from the sticky mass that had once been my head and stared incredulously at my adoptive, low-life angel.
"Get back in the meat suit and start twitching muscles. It's not like you haven't had enough practice."
I was horrified.
I inspected my oozing brains.
"I'm disgusting." I concluded, finally allowing myself the kick I'd been longing for.
It felt good.
Lissanna was not impressed.
"Get in." She growled, ruffling her feathers.
Reluctantly, I acquiesced.