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How to be Dead I
(A Shopkeeper's Testimony)
by Michael S. Collins

I shall skip straight to 7.42pm. I know the time exactly, for I dropped my watch and broke it. The man, as he entered through the glass doors, would have probably blended into a crowd on any other night. Short trimmed hair, shirt and tie - the archetypal business sort. Unfortunately, tonight, he lacked the necessary blending techniques, mainly because his presumably once white shirt was now crimson red. Only from the front, mind you.

He came right up to the counter, and my initial shock turned to concern.

"Do you need an ambulance?" I asked.

Silence. I didn’t wish the man to collapse onto my floor. I had washed the tiles only half an hour previously!

The man spoke, his words transmitting bitter weariness.

"You would not believe the day I have had."

I confessed that judging by his appearance it must have been quite the traumatic experience. Several details were evident. Firstly, there were two small holes in the chest area of his shirt. The red seemed to originate from these holes. Secondly the red around these holes was particularly dark. I guessed it had coagulated. Thirdly, the man’s shirt was dripping, but the floor remained spotless. Thank heavens for small mercies. Finally, and most pertinently, he stood opposite the glass-fronted drinks cooler. He showed no reflection! I figured then that an ambulance would probably be unable to help him. More through nosiness, than genuine courage, I asked him what troubled him.

"Thanks for asking", he said, " My pulse. Here, can you feel it?"

He offered me his arm. I tried it four times, but with no luck. The man had no pulse. When I told him, he sighed.

"My wife left me today, to move in with our next door neighbour. I became distraught, made a mess, lost my job."

"Bad luck."

"I know. And then as I was moving towards my car, a street type appeared, begging for money."

I sighed, knowing the type well.

"How did you react?"

"I told him to go get a job, and before I could further retort - shame, because I looked forward to spreading the days ails upon him - he pulled out a gun and shot me."

"He shot you?"

"He shot me, in plain daylight. Well, dusk!"

This man was clearly incoherent. Perhaps I was too sane. I stood transfixed in conversation with a cadaver over the state of youth today, reanimated by what means I don’t know, perhaps by sheer luck. I tried to maintain a degree of composure, ignoring the chills on my spine.

"What happened next?"

"I am not sure. Next thing I recall the pain was easing rapidly. I needed to see my wife, and I end up outside this service station. With no pulse."

"Possibly, you’re dead?"

"Dead? Why yes, I think I must be. So what do I do now?"

I had no idea.

"Alas", cried the man, "Maybe the wife will know." He turned to leave, but stopped by the door. "Before I leave I must do this one thing in case it is required. Uhm, boo?"

When I awoke, the man was gone, and I was left with a strong urge to pack up the store and take up accountancy. Or dog walking. Probably a great deal safer!