John woke up gasping for breath on the cold stainless steal surgical table in the morgue, his chest aching as tendon, bone, and sinew stitched itself back together. He rolled off the table and fell to the floor, hitting his side. He clutched his chest, still cracking, slurping, and popping as his body unnaturally healed itself. He was coughing up gunk and spluttering as he tried to get his bearings; first blood, then phlegm, then spit, and then the coughing stopped. He gripped the table with his right hand and used it as a brace so that he could rise to his feet. He ran his fingers through his jet black hair and looked around the personless room. “Where the hell am I this time?” he mumbled to himself. He began searching the room for his clothes and was dismayed to find them cut up in a heap in the garbage. They had likely been cut off of him in a failed attempt to save his life, examined for evidence, and then discarded. There was no evidence, no foul play by any human hands, anyway. As far as John was concerned this had been some cruel joke of God's, or the other gods, or whatever was waiting outside the universe close enough to smell but too far to reach with hands of flesh. John was dying. He had been dying now for a year and a half; not in the traditional sense that one would say they were dying, not in the slow decline towards mortality that most people meant, but more in a rapid succession. It might be more appropriate to say that John had been dying. Every day. For a year and a half. For whatever reason John died at the end of every day for the last 18 months, and then a few hours later would be ripped from the veil and brought back to this mortal plane to do it all again. He couldn't remember anything about being dead. He wasn't sure that his spirit, if he had a spirit, was going anywhere or if it was merely hanging around in a kind of soul sleep waiting to be stuffed back into its fleshy container. John laughed a bit as he thought about it for what must have been the 493rd time. “Soul sleep” he thought, “If only.” John felt as though he hadn't slept since this whole thing started, and in fact the truth was that he needed very little sleep. He scanned the room for something to be able to wear, something to hide his nakedness and escape the morgue into the streets. He found some blood stained scrubs in a laundry hamper and on the back it said “St. Thomas Hospital”. He held the top up and looked at it. “Is this my blood?” He thought “Or someone elses?” In the end he knew it didn't matter. He needed to get out as quickly as possible before someone realized there was a body missing from the morgue. He quickly threw on the scrubs and headed for the stairwell. He passed a broken gurney that was being used as an impromptu shelf to hold supplies and he grabbed a surgeons cap and a mask. He opened the door to the stairs as he tied on the mask and headed up to street level. As he walked up the stairs the still wet blood on the scrub top seeped through and moistened his chest. John tried not to notice or mind. “You'd think someone who's bled as much as me would be used to the feeling of blood” he thought, but it still grossed him out. When he got to the top of the stairs he pushed the old steal door open and walked into a crowded ER. Anxiety hit him as he looked across the sea injured and sick people; he had hoped to get out unnoticed. He calmed his nerves as he reminded himself no one could see his face and no one had seen him dead on the table. He passed through the crowd with a contradictory combination of feeling calm and nervous all at the same time and exited through the sliding glass doors onto the street.
It was cold for a July evening but he removed his scrub top and cap once he'd gotten out of view of the hospital. He figured a bare chest would draw less attention than one covered in blood, doctors clothes or no. He had no watch but he figured it must be around three in the morning, although he would have thought an ER room would be less crowded at that hour. He remembered dying around 11pm and he was never dead for more than three of four hours. He spotted an all night dry cleaner and slipped inside to see if any machines were unattended. There was a man sitting, leaning on two legs of a chair propped up against a washer with a full drying tumbling above him; John was pretty sure he was asleep. He waited near by him until he could hear a slight whistle sound escaping the mans nose every time he exhaled. As quietly as he could John opened the dryer and grabbed the first shirt he found that he thought would fit him. He pulled it over his head as he walked out the door. The owner, or manager, or maybe just a patron, John wasn't sure, saw him just as he was leaving and shouted “Hey!” as he walked out the door. John burst into a sprint and flagged down an oncoming bus which stopped and let him on. As it drove away John remembered that he had no money or ID or anything and gave the bus driver a sheepish look hoping for some mercy. The driver understood what was happening, looked at John's shirt and smirked as he stopped the bus and said, “Sorry, Haole, this is where we say 'aloha'.” John didn't completely understand until he caught a glimpse of the shirt he was wearing in the reflection of the bus window. It was a white T-shirt that, from the graphics and the fading, looked to have been from the early 90's. In big neon pink and green letters it said “Hanging 10 in Hawaii” with a little graphic of a surfer dude. John cringed at his reflection and got off the bus. He looked up to see if he recognized any buildings or landmarks. It was that greyish orange time in the morning, where the city didn't realize it should be asleep and all of the bustling of the people and animals who were still a
wake was washed in the orange light from the street lamps. He didn't recognize anything outright but he remembered whereabouts he died last. He checked the map in the bus shelter near where he was kicked off the bus and figured if he cut through the park 2 blocks north he would be in more familiar territory and could find his way home. Well, “home” is not exactly the term he would use for it. John had to leave his home after he died in a home invasion. He came home late from work one day and found a man sneaking out his broken front door carrying John's TV in his hands. John tried to stop him but the man was armed and ended up shooting John in the face in plain view of all his neighbours; neighbours who were more than a little perturbed to see him walking around again a few days later. To avoid too much hassle he said he was his own cousin and was there to settle his cousin's affairs. He lived for a while on the money he made selling his house but he hadn't been able to get a new place after that due to his lack of income. John had been working at a car plant as a maintenance technician and was killed one day in an accident while trying to fix a frame presser. John mostly lived in an abandoned house in a rough neighborhood. He ate when he could but food was never a worry for him. Even if he starved to death he would only be gone a few hours and then start the cycle again. That's how it worked, sometimes he died in an accident, or because of something stupid he did. Sometimes it was a heart attack or some vicious illness. Occasionally he took his own life out of desperation but stopped when he realized that was not going to fix his situation. John eyed the park he was about to walk into. He could see some shady dealings going on; drug deals, hookers, gang members, the works. He swallowed hard and walked towards the park, muttering under his breath, “please don't get murdered, please don't get murdered, please don't get murdered...” Of all the ways to die, John liked murder the least.
NEXT TIME!: “I'm Invincible When I'm Naked!”