Bacon and brewing rich dark coffee fill the late night diner with the sounds and smells of comfort that every insomniac and crack addict recognizes. Heavy white porcelain chimes in the background. Only a gum-cracking, pink haired waitress could make the scene more cliche.
The suit cries out, clutches his chest and falls to the floor. A brief vacuum of sensory perception is followed by the piercing scream of a skeletal woman who jettisons from a dark back booth out into the snowstorm. She will be found frozen to death by the dumpster in the alley in the morning. I know because I can see other people’s futures. Or more accurately, when they no longer have a future.
The waitress rushes over to the man on the floor. He’s dead but she loosens his tie and slaps his creek. He doesn’t respond. The cook comes out of the kitchen, stands over the pair, grease dripping from his spatula. The dishwasher peeks through a crack in the double doors, only one eye and water-logged fingertips visible.
“No cell reception.”
A couple of starving art students OD-ing on caffeine and ketchup packs so they can afford a single pay-as-you-go phone between them add to the manic energy in the room.
“I told you, the blizzard is blocking the satellites.”
“Yeah, yeah. You know everything. So, tell us...what do we do?”
No response from the five live people in the restaurant. Technically, I’m alive too but I am extra long lived so I don’t consider myself among the regularly living. I pull the edges of the hood of my sweatshirt around my face and hunch down further in my seat.
My movement draws the attention of the waitress. Tears roll down her face. Her lower lip trembles. Her eyes lock onto mine. She doesn’t flinch or look away. She sighs.
“You can get his heart pumping again.”
I shake my head.
“He promised to set up a trust for our child but he didn’t sign the papers yet.”
“Our son is ill. I need the money to take care of him.”
I lose the staring contest.
I promised myself I would never do it again but I feel myself weakening under the pressure of her need. Bringing back the dead never went well for anyone. Once a soul leaves its shell, it doesn’t want to go back to the old. It only wants something new. It gets royally pissed off when you try to force it into a used skin.
I close my eyes and cover my face with my hands.
She wasn’t begging. She was tugging on my empathy. I see a small, young boy laying in a white bed, his skin blending with the sheets.
I push my life force towards the dead man. A voice in my head tries to remind me of the danger. I tell it to shut up. I turn cold as the corpse gets warm. He sits up, sucking air.
The waitress cackles and claps her hands. Her skin splits and falls to the floor. The demon fills the room, shattering all of the glass in the building. Shards pierce my skin before I make it under the table.