I sit in the waiting room of my local health clinic, rehearsing how to explain what’s happened and hoping for an easily achievable solution. The poster on the wall opposite offers: ‘Tips to get the most from your nine minutes.’
Nine minutes. That’s not long to convince a medical professional that I’m mortuus est, yet fully compus mentus.
The people sitting adjacent to me have strained expressions. The stench of my decomposing flesh is intensifying in this confined and over-heated environment. Not to mention the reek from the gases escaping from me at unseemly intervals.
At least my lack of circulation means that no one can see me blushing.
This was the earliest appointment available when I phoned over a week ago. I tried showering this morning, but my skin felt loose and I was concerned a rotting digit might work its way free and wriggle off down the drain after the clumps of hair.
I smoothed foundation over my grey-tinged pallor and attempted applying mascara, but my lashes caught in the brush and drifted on the air like the flies that now can’t get enough of my scent.
I need to explain to the doctor that something went wrong and my body died without my mind disconnecting. Perhaps it’s due the cause of death – knife in toaster. I came round to a stink of singed barbecue, which I soon discovered emanated from me.
So what are the key symptoms of my complaint? Aside from the smell, my body now has an annoying lurching quality – every step is a masterclass in retaining control. And my lungs seem to have collapsed, leaving me with a voice that’s half sigh, half groan.
I won’t bring it up, but if the doctor asks, I’ll be scrupulously truthful – no, I do not crave human flesh or brains. My appetite died with my breath. This undead malarkey is the best diet I’ve encountered – I must be losing pounds by the day, though my stomach’s too bloated to show it.
The poster on the wall warns that further tests may be required, so I’m steeling myself for that. What I really need to be prepared for, though, is to make a decision – whether to accept my new non-life as a walking corpse, whether to struggle back towards pulsing life, should that be possible, or whether to seek a route to the other side, whatever that may entail.
My name is being called. I stand up and shuffle through the door into the doctor’s office. She smiles, politely ignoring the onion and old cheese reek as I settle my uncooperative limbs on the chair.
“What can I help you with today?” she asks, clasping her hands.
‘Well.” I attempt to clear my throat without dislodging anything important. “The thing is, Doc, I died a week ago last Tuesday.”
Judy Darley is a British fiction writer who can't stop writing about the fallibilities of the human mind. Her flash fiction and short stories have been published by magazines and anthologies in the UK, New Zealand, US and Canada, including The Mechanics' Institute Review, Mslexia, Unthology 8 and SmokeLong Quarterly. Her second collection of short fiction, Sky Light Rain, is out now from Valley Press. Her debut, Remember Me To The Bees, was shortlisted for the Edge Hill Prize. She’s the Flash Fiction Editor at Reflex Fiction, and co-judged National Flash Fiction Day UK’s Micro Competition 2020. Find Judy at SkyLightRain.