REAL-TIME VIDEO OF DEAD PEOPLE YOU WANT TO HAVE COFFEE WITH: A NOVELLA
(SERIALIZED AND BROKEN UP INTO SECTIONS FOR YOUR READING PLEASURE, AS DENOTED BELOW)
Prologues and Stars:  
Ghostboy Dies in Tragic Mishap:   
Interzone:   
TO BE CONTINUED IN DIAGRAM 5.1
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"We'll do it," I say. My voice is fully Ghostboy, thick in my throat. My right hand is through Wellbutin, my left through Tito. They are unaware of what I am feeling — not inside them, exactly, but something invasive, something liquid.
"We should do it," I say.
"Of course we should."
"At best it's plagiarism," says Wellbutrin.
"If we do it right, he gets to speak again," I say. "If we do it wrong, we get to."
"Listen to the dead girl."
Wellbutrin rubs his pants with the back of his hands. After a minute of this, he stops and looks at me.
"Once," he says. "I'll go on once. Ten minutes."
"The revolution will be televised," Tito says. "Bring a Ouija board."
Wellbutrin laughs. His hand lingers on Tito's sweater.
It is a nice moment, but I'm not finished.
"It will be me," I say. "I'll be Burroughs."
They turn to me.
"She's right," Tito says, letting go of Wellbutrin. "It should be her."
"But I know Burroughs."
"And she knows death. Listen to her voice."
"I know Burroughs."
"And she's an actor."
"But there's no script. It's not acting. It's going on as him. I can do it without infringing."
"And she can sell tickets. She's our hook, our mad barker with Bill for a megaphone."
I watch their exchange. Tito is sucking on Sweet Tarts, drinking a generic cola. Wellbutin is still fidgeting.
"Why do you?" he asks.
I'm not sure what to tell him.
I've been thinking about my parents, how they died, how everyone who talked to me explained the mechanics of the situation. It was industrial sabotage, poison in a few hundred packets of water-soluble aspirin. Somehow, they had headaches on the same day, and their medicine came from the same batch. They were dead before I ate lunch — pizza burgers and fries — at school.
Everyone was kind. They were gentle but insistent. They wanted to make sure that I understood that my parents were never coming back, how it all works. They talked about God if I asked them to, but they didn't have the answers I was looking for.
"I've been asking the dead questions for a long time," I say.
"Our necronaut," says Tito.
"Okay," Wellbutrin says finally. "But keep it simple. Remember, Tito has to type what you say. Keep yourself out of it."
"Make it strange," says Tito.
"Just Burroughs," Wellbutrin says. He smiles at me. "We're not selling T-shirts."
"Nothing wrong with a Marxist fund-raiser."
"Undiluted," says Wellbutrin. "We stay undiluted."
Tito makes way, and I move closer to the box , next to Wellbutrin.
On-screen, an idle chat is happening, names with numbers and underscores. They are arguing about the colors of the house, the empty corners, what furniture would be the most fitting. I place Wellbutrin's dog-eared and frayed books in a pile and let my hands rest on them. They seem surprised when I sink my missing fingers deep into text.
"Nutters and screaming babies," I say and my voice is still mine but it moves nasal, not as resonant as usual. Tito types and keeps with me. Wellbutrin is smiling, I think. I know he is shaking his head but I will not look at him. I keep my fingers in the books, doing my best not to think.
"Scumbags and skaghounds," I say. "Take heed and dust off your good ear, my frisky princes, my bright-eyed litterbugs. Spoons out, my dirty fiends. The movie is about to begin. The plane will land blindfolded. Give me your salty eyeballs, my sweet Rasputins. Turn your eely tentacles to the base of the wall. These are my tin-cup telephones. I will babble and fart.
"Have I told you about the man who taught his asshole to talk. Yes? Too many times? How about the man who played his veins like a mandolin. When he went off the junk, after they scraped his perfectly dumb asshole so that he could shit again, he got fat, so fat that his veins made a terrible noise in all that goddamned blubber. He could flick them and change their flabby pitch. I always thought it sounded like beating a pile of sausage.
"At first, he only took his arm out at parties. It was a murderous sight. Him in the middle of a circle of skag vultures so up on junk they couldn't be sure he wasn't hiding a grand piano. They listened to the wretch, his good veins, and they were sure he was holding on them. He must have some good junk to get his veins so sickly. They ripped him apart.
"Do not think," I say, "Do not think, my dumplings, that because he was clean that he was anything but delicious."
Tito is laughing now but he keeps typing.
"When his friends were done, they let him play Carnegie Hall. On stage with his arm. Flapping and flapping, chord changes, arpeggios. He was a master of the once-junky arm. And let me tell you, there wasn't a goddamn body in the house to hear him. He might as well have used his veins to hang himself. But he won't shut up about it. I got an itch for the south, I say to him, just to change the subject. And he says Bill, let me tell you about the time I played the hall. He talks and goddamn talks.
"And then, when he is tied up in old age, and his friends have shot themselves dead a dozen times, Loaf City remembers a kid who used to play his arm at Carnegie Hall. He only strums his veins for family these days, but all these yappers, all they talk about was how they never heard anything sweeter than the man who put his once-junky blood to music."
My voice is weaker now, but I keep going.
When my voice finally gives out, I settle back into my chair. I am not exhausted or sweaty. It did not feel like possession. I just have a headache, a fuzzy one, like playing chess too long.
I'm no more or no less scared than I was before we started.
Tito and Wellbutrin put their hands on my shoulders but they do not say anything. For a while, we read the chat-room. Vampgirl69 thinks I swore too much and went on too long. Not_dead_yet thought the whole thing was hysterical.
I watch the house.
I am looking for something to have changed. The windows are still dirty. The carpet is still brown, still without footprints.
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