Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Back alive again: the resurrection of Peter

It wasn’t much of a day. She wasn’t even sure it was a day at all, since they had really cancelled days quite a long time ago and made everything One. Or was it that they had cancelled Night?

 Which means, you walk around in a half-state, sometimes jokingly known as Twilight. Twilight was the stuff of owls and demons and things that didn’t even really exist any more. But, she thought to herself, do any of us really exist any more?

 They all made it seem as if it were “just her”, and that everyone else was normal. This was all part of the scheme, the huge heartwrenching scheme to take her life away. It was illustrated nearly every day now when she ran into the people she knew.

 They looked dissimilar, but all the same, with a strange hazy quality. Yet they laughed and were jolly in a way they never seemed to be before, as if they had discovered an amazing new Secret.

“Emma. Hi, Emma! Haven’t seen you in a long time!” Gretel was wearing the strangest outfit, bright paisley like she’d never worn, a sort of muumuu, with a straw tote bag.

“Hi, Gretel. I think.”

“Oh, it’s me all right. This is just my New Look.”

It’s hardly a look at all, thought Emma, wondering whatever happened to the Old Look, and what made her change it.

“You look the same,” Gretel said in a flat tone. Looking the same wasn’t quite “it”, she supposed.

“Haven’t gotten my instructions in the mail yet,” Emma said, trying to be ironic.

“Oh, that’s so funny! You’re such a funny person! Well, goodbye then!”

“Wait, Gretel. I need to ask you something.”

 “What is it now?” She was getting testy already.

“You know, Peter. . . “

“Yes, Peter.” They had both known Peter. His sudden death had been a wrench, for both of them she thought, but now she wasn’t so sure.

 “What about Peter?”

“Ever since he passed, you know. . . “

“Passed?” She began to titter. “Was he in school or something?”

“No! Don’t you remember? When he. . .”

 “What, when he went on vacation?”

The ultimate vacation, Emma thought.

“Look, I mean when he died.”




“For God’s sake, Gretel! You know what I’m talking about.”

“Oh, that.” She fumbled around in her straw bag for a minute. “I thought you’d heard about it.”

“Heard what?”

“He’s back alive again.”

Stunned silence. A sick feeling gathered in her stomach.

“Back alive again?”

“Of course. Haven’t you seen him? He’s walking around.”

“How, by remote control?” Her sarcasm seemed to be flying over Greta’s pointed little head.

“Sort of, but it’s better than that. He can go under his own steam by now.”

“But he’s dead!

“Sort of. But not really. You can get renewed now, sort of like a library book. You must know that by now."

She stood there stunned, things whirling around, as Gretel just walked away without even saying goodbye.

She started to comprehend then why everything was different, why she was sort of seeing through some people, mostly really old people, but some of them children. They had a strange sort of translucent quality, but they were still walking around.

And they always seemed happy. Emma thought about Bible study a million years ago, before the Bible was universally banned, and how Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead. She had always wondered if Lazarus really wanted to be raised, his body half-rotted. Would he have a new body, somehow, or walk around  like that forever?

But then that meant she could find Peter!

Peter wasn’t her lover, never had been, but he had been there during the blackest, the most despairing time in her life. He would just show up at Starbucks with his baseball cap and his smile, cheerful as Bugs Bunny. He was in worse shape than she was, but they joked about it, guffawed about how awful life was.

“I heard about a woman who committed suicide. But before she committed suicide she got out the vacuum cleaner and cleaned her whole house top to bottom so it was absolutely spotless. Then she hung herself.” They had both howled with laughter.

Then they just lost touch. Like a sick cat, he had crawled under the house somewhere. She had known he was deteriorating; one conversation they had wasn’t a conversation at all, but a monologue on her part. He’d start to say something, then dry up after a couple of words and look at her in bafflement.

What bothered her was the fact that it didn’t bother him.

She kept sending him emails long after she suspected he had passed (and NOT “in school”!). She couldn’t help it. She’d think she saw him in a crowd. But it wasn’t him. Because the emails didn’t bounce back to her, she assumed they were hitting the target and he was just too busy to reply (knowing full well he had kicked the bucket long ago).

Back alive again. Strange things had been happening lately. She had mentioned her grandfather to a friend of hers, how difficult it had been for him to let go.

“Is he still dead?” the friend asked.

 h, maybe they meant in her mind, in her memory! But somehow she didn’t think so. Death was the only thing more sure than birth. Wasn’t it?

Would she see Peter again? A wild stab of hope made her heart beat faster.

She became aware of how the light went right through people, and began to count them. It was an awful lot. She wondered just what had happened to everyone. Back alive again? Is he still dead? Did you will this, wish it, or did someone impose it on you like poor Lazarus wrapped in his rotten gravecloths?

It was too much to hope for, but in her next turn of mind, when she did not pass Go but began in the middle again, she saw him. She saw a ball cap bouncing up and down the street first, then a smile.

Then they were sitting in Starbucks, but she noticed he was sitting two inches above the chair. He didn’t seem to really drink the coffee, but the eyes were the same.

 They could always be blunt and honest with each other, so Emma waded right into it.

“So, Peter. I hear you’re back alive again.”

“It would seem to be so.”

“How does that happen?”

“I don’t know that, any more than cells know how to multiply or the earth knows how to turn.”

“But is it. . . beyond your will or something?”

"This is a place beyond will."

"Her head was whirling. She hated the idea of not being able to die. Death was one of the things she looked forward to the most.

“Peter, I’m sorry, but it sounds as if you’re a fucking zombie or something. The Undead.”

“Hey, I like that! Undead, but not really alive.”

“Look, Peter, there are only TWO states: dead and alive! Which one are you?”

“No. There is the dream state. There is the hypnotic state. There is the hypnogogic state. There is the catatonic state. There is the trance state. There is the transcendent state. There is the resurrected state. I could go on and on.”

“But those are only in your mind, Peter.”

“Tell me this.” He leaned forward and looked at her with his old intensity, and for one moment she really believed this was Peter. “If I were just a body, I mean lying over there with my heart beating but no consciousness, would that be ‘me’?”

“I don’t. . . “

“So what is it that makes me me?”

“I don’t know, your brain?”

“The brain is just half a pound of juice with some wires running through it. Dissect it, and you see some curls and buds and bulges like normal internal organs. There’s nothing there.

“So where. . . “

“Ah. You’re about to ask me where Consciousness resides.”

“I guess so. Peter, why aren’t you drinking your coffee?”

"I've evolved beyond coffee, I guess." He chuckled to himself.

“You’re not alive. Get away from me! You’re not really Peter. Are you a ghost?”

"Beyond ghost. We've been refined. We don't have to go around haunting old buildings and Civil War battle sites any more."

“But who DOES this? It has to come from somewhere!”

“Haven’t you noticed you don’t have any privacy any more?”

“Oh, Jesus, Peter.”

 “Haven’t you noticed all the electronic jims and jams that everyone seems to carry now?”

“Oh, so you’re saying your Smart Phone turned you into a ghost.”

“Everything is changed, changed utterly.”

“So what if it all just shuts down, the power grid and that?”

“Yes! Smart girl. THAT is what it is all about.”


"Bodies that need no sustenance when the Time comes. That time when the whole ecosystem collapses, gives way in a great Biblical flood and rips apart the rest of the world with an all-consuming fire."

“You’re scaring me.”

 “Haven’t you ever worried about it?"

“Of course. But I never knew that. . . “

“Now we can live under any conditions.”

“BUT YOU AREN’T REALLY ALIVE! You died of AIDS two years ago!”

 “But I’m not really dead.” He grinned, looking as cheerful as when he told me the suicide joke.

“You must be dead, Peter. You MUST be.”

 “No, my good friend.” He lifted his mug and pretended to drink from it. “I’m back alive again.”


  1. Something beyond the zombie apocalypse. A new genre!

  2. This is partly based on truth. I've never known a zombie (though when I looked in the mirror this a.m., I wasn't so sure). I did have a dear friend named Peter who died, and I would or could not accept it (we were out of touch them) that he had died until his daughter emailed me with some beautiful photos of him. The sardonic jokes are true. I miss him awful. This is a summer repeat, as you might have guessed. Since I assume most people only dip into this blog occasionally, I think I can get away with it. I have so many Harold posts, I'll likely dip into THEM, too. I wanted this piece to be like those dreams that you can't wake up from.