The People at your Funeral
The first thing you notice is the smell, a chemically treated perfume-like odor that masks an undeniable layer of decay. A hint of fresh flowers adds sweetness to the stench.
You want to gag but can't move; your arms lay next to your prone body; your legs are stretched out like fallen branches. You are snug in your casket with only the delicate melody of some guitar ballad and the occasional rustlings of a parlor employee to keep you company.
And yet somehow you are able to think, and smell, and after some effort, see. How you accomplish this you don't know, for you are able to utilize these senses as good as you ever could in life.
Inevitably, panic starts to worm its way into your psyche. You could give into its grip but resist. You know that it won't help your situation, more than likely only adding to it, and by clinging to this logic you are able to maintain your sanity.
Instead you focus on how you wound up in a coffin, apparently at your funeral. Did you die from disease? An accident? Or perhaps just natural causes? You suppose it doesn't really matter though.
Your thoughts are interrupted by voices. You hear people talking so you concentrate on using your sight, channeling all your efforts to your mind's eye, and eventually you are able to look around the somber, dimly-lit chamber.
You immediately recognize several of the people walking around the viewing room. Your Uncle Archie and Aunt Patricia are talking with your father, who tries his best to maintain his composure. Your cousins Blake and Samantha are chatting with your good friend Grant. They all wear sad faces and talk in low, hushed voices.
"I can't believe he's gone," you hear Samantha say into her hand. Her mascara is smudged from her tears. "We just saw him last month at his birthday party."
"I know, I know," Blake replies quietly. "Too young for a heart attack."
Other people then enter the room. You see friends of the family, coworkers, distant relatives, and long-lost acquaintances. Everyone is there to say goodbye to you. Your heart breaks for them but mostly for yourself. You'll never witness another sunrise or taste chocolate again. You'll never see another Tigers ballgame or watch a good movie again. You feel cheated and want to scream at the top of your lungs but you're denied even this.
Then you notice something that stirs your bloodless heart with a jolt of pure fear. Something so frightening that it nearly shocks your body back to life: Lynette Pulkins.
Your old girlfriend is standing at the back of the room, her beautiful auburn hair still framing her pretty face just like it did those wonderful nights you spent with her.
You watch her intently, the other people fading into irrelevance as she slowly makes her way through the crowd. She's approaching the casket, wearing a cool expression of indifference on her face. You feel excitement stir in your gut but just as quickly dissipate when you remember a disturbing fact, a solitary piece of information that effectively shatters any trace of love that still resides in your heart: Lynette is dead.
This realization stabs you in the heart. If you were still alive you would cry out in pain. If you could you would sob like a baby. If it were possible you would leap out of your casket, rush up to her, and embrace her, begging for her forgiveness.
She comes closer, navigating her way through the mourners, never for an instant taking her lovely, ice-cold eyes off of your prostrate body. She doesn't speak and as she draws nearer you notice that she doesn't blink.
"I'll miss him," you hear Sally Welch say within the crowd.
"Is there lunch after the funeral?" Darrell Billys mumbles to a man you don't know.
"Was he seeing a doctor?" Karl Hillman whispers to one of your coworkers.
No one seems to notice Lynette as she glides through the gathering, never quite touching anybody and never talking. She steps up to the casket and glances to the left and then to the right, studying the large bouquets of flowers perched there.
Then she looks down at you.
Unbridled surges through your body, sending your nightmare into an entirely new realm. You wait for her to speak but the seconds drift into minutes, each a jagged point of a dagger.
Something catches your attention. A thin line, dark and wet, trickles down Lynette's neck just below the left ear.
The same ear you used to blow sweet nothings into.
It pools on her shoulder, filling the natural contours of her collarbone before dripping down her arm. It glistens in the soft yellow glow of the room.
You recognize it as blood.
Then you remember the argument you had with her. You remember how you lost your temper and struck her, knocking her down in the heat of anger.
You remember how you killed her.
The edges of Lynette's mouth tighten, unnervingly stretching into a thin-lipped smile, a grin that speaks volumes. Her pretty mouth opens and the words that slip out into the stagnant air of the funeral parlor chill your dead heart.
"I've been waiting."