The third time Will rose from the dead he figured he could make a living from it. All he’d ever wanted was a little respect for a talent, and he did seem to die well.
His first death was his own doing. People called it suicide. They doubted his mental health, laughed at his method. Pills: too girlie, they said. He should have flung himself at a helicopter blade. They were so much more imaginative than Will.
His second death was messier. He was cut. On the train. Two teenagers were slapping an old guy in the face, demanding he suck their dicks. While the other passengers hid behind their romance-novel sex scenes, Will rose up and said Hey! They stabbed him 36 times. Blood ran in rivers. His reviews were better.
It’s hard to keep a job when you die a lot. Will usually stayed dead three, four weeks tops. Like a vacation without pay, he offered, but the HR people never bought it.
So he went freelance. He considered names—“Will Tumble 4 Ya” based on the popular song by Culture Club and “Jesus Inc.” based on the popular savior—but he settled on “Fall Guy Unlimited”. It sounded butch and versatile, had a Buddhist touch.
His phone erupted. Do I get my money back if you survive? Do you offer a discount to charitable organizations who perform human sacrifice? How will you get the money if you’re dead? [snicker] Will didn’t advertise the part about resurrection. He insisted on half up front and half paid to his twin brother, say, Wilhem, who would come round in, say, a month. Business boomed.
Protest gigs mainly. Ever the professional, Will never judged protestors who wouldn’t immolate themselves, strap the suicide belt on themselves, starve themselves. A death was a death. The cause was furthered. And when it came to dying, his talent was undeniably greater. He had a knack for it. He was needed. Death was good.
But then Steve. Will was no stranger to romance. He’d loved and lost enough to know how shocking a post-resurrection relationship could be.
“So, Will, you die . . . for a living?”
“Y-yes?” First date jitters.
“A+ for wordplay, Will.” You couldn’t shock Steve. “I’m thinking Indian for dinner. Get it?”
“Death,” Will said on the way to the restaurant, “doesn’t hurt. It’s an inevitable narrative culminating in a frightful pressure that snaps right before everything goes black. Then there’s an airy calm with birdsong and a woman serving lychees and snake fruit.” That last bit wasn’t true, but Will liked to spin his deaths into fiction; in fact, he was well on his way to crafting the act of dying into art. “To act,” he said, “is to live.”
“So . . . Thai?”
“Yeah . . . fine. I like Thai.”
Steve fell for Will’s wavy self-conscious smile, the perfect crease he put in shirts, and the fact that he didn’t snore—all the wrong things actually—but Steve said I love you a lot, took care of the house when Will was dead, did their taxes year after year, fed serial cats, mowed the lawn. Steve was a miracle. Steve wanted Will to stop dying.
“What if you stay dead? There’s a last time for everything, right? Won’t you reach moksha or something?” Every time Will blew or burnt himself up, Steve harrowed hell.
“Do you think I’m Hindu?”
“The dying, Will. It has to stop.”
“Love me, love my talent,” Will said, throwing things into a suitcase for a death-in-burning-car job—the Witness Protection Program, his best client.
Their go-to argument ensued. Did Will have something to prove? Did Steve think Will was girlie? Did Will think a violent death was manly? Did Steve know what it felt like to be needed? Did Will know what it was like waiting for someone to rise from the dead? Did Steve respect Will? Will was being overly dramatic again. Steve didn’t understand what it meant to have a talent. Will didn’t have time for this fight. He’d be back in three weeks after he re-invented himself—“for the hundredth time,” he said, beaming.
Christopher Allen is a freelance editor, translator and writer living somewhere in Europe. His fiction has appeared in Juked, FRiGG, Indiana Review, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts and others. Allen is the managing editor of SmokeLong Quarterly and as of 2017 a consulting editor for Best Small Fictions. He curates the travel blog I Must Be Off!