The Cadaver Transporter

📅 Published on April 2, 2022

“The Cadaver Transporter”

Written by Eli Pope
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 10.00/10. From 1 vote.
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Ghost from the Past

“You know Jake…,” there was a brief pause, “…that is your name, isn’t it? Michael didn’t do it…he didn’t kill me,” a female voice spoke softly but with a hoarse tone. A voice that barely broke the sound of the hum of the car’s tires rolling atop the highway underneath. The woman’s words broke the silence that previously seemed to swallow the interior of the transport vehicle Jake was driving. The radio knob hadn’t even been twisted to the on position yet. Jake always spent the first several hours driving in silence clearing his thoughts before he became comfortable enough to let the music wash over what was left in his head. Today, he’d been wrestling mentally with circumstances he’d let himself get drawn into and the possible outcomes from such. Truth be known, he wasn’t certain how long the voice had been audible, but he finally reached to the dash and checked the volume knob on the radio., He believed it must have somehow gotten turned up. These new damned digital electronics. Am I losing it? He questioned himself.

Jake Hobart didn’t immediately look over to the seat next to him, after all, he knew it would be empty, he was alone, unless you count the corpse in the casket behind him under the linen cover. He did eventually glance over to the passenger seat and, yes, it was empty. Oh well, that settles that, he thought as he reached to flick the volume knob back down. He looked at the radio with question when he found the knob already turned to the off position. He knew he’d been drawn from his internal thoughts by the sound of a woman’s voice. This tickled his awareness now significantly. On the one hand, he was technically driving alone, nothing but a body in the back that had been buried for seventeen years before he picked it up. But on the other hand, he wasn’t accustomed to hearing voices speaking to him within an empty SUV, male or female. He glanced into the rearview mirror, scoping the interior briefly before returning his attention and gaze to the road ahead.

He’d been driving without rest for several hours now having left New Braunfels, Texas, southwest of Austin. That was where the body behind him inside the sealed casket had been previously interred. There hadn’t been much there really. Typical Texas town in the middle of nowhere. The trip hauling the cargo would take him through Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia before finally arriving in Charleston, South Carolina to deliver the body of a deceased woman to the morgue. He’d heard another autopsy was ordered to be performed, but that wasn’t any of his concern. His job was to deliver the package safely and without incident. He didn’t really care about anything other than collecting the money at the end of the contract. He’d hoped they would be done quickly and contract him for the return trip. The money was good, and it was easy. Money was what he needed. The time to plan his future was a welcome bonus. He relished the alone time to sort things out.

Jake’s eyes began feeling on the heavy side now, but he knew his drive wasn’t over for the day yet. It wasn’t up to him when or where to stop for breaks or hotels to sleep. He was merely the wheelman, nothing more. Driving the vehicle that held the freshly exhumed casket and body of Kaitlin Cameron, a woman possibly murdered seventeen years ago. The television news had been mentioning a novelist who was now on trial for the murder of another woman who was his current wife. She’d died in a very similar way. Found at the bottom of the stairs in a pool of blood inside their home. Unfortunate for both the women and now the author.

The unmarked GMC’s side windows were tinted dark, and the paint was silver instead of the usual black. The South Carolina D.A. didn’t want the hauling vehicle to look anything like an agent’s vehicle. No government plates either. He didn’t want any attention drawn to it. The decision to exhume and then drive the body all the way back to Charleston for their people to perform the new autopsy had been a controversial decision. Therefore, no breaking the speed limit or maneuvers that might draw scrutiny from anyone. Those were Jake’s given guidelines. It was simple, he was only a hired driver, no unscheduled stops without requesting them from the trailing escort, a plain jane Impala, period. He was merely a pawn for this trip. He was made to feel it too. At dinner stops he would eat alone, usually with the escort team eating at a table near him. He didn’t understand the clandestine nature of the contract, but it didn’t matter, the outcome would be a sizable payoff for just driving a dead body from point A to point B.

Jake, of course, had been watching the news beforehand and seen the headlines in the Charleston area. He was just like everyone else who lived there. Who hadn’t?  It was the hot topic in town again. The preparation for the somewhat famous author’s murder trial had been the top story now for over a year and a half. The murder of his wife, Claire, in the hallway at the foot of the stairwell. Then all the talk about the exhumation of this body, another woman possibly murdered in the same way. This deceased female now behind him and the DA’s plans to re-examine her remains were mentioned six months ago and had been the root of squabbles between the District Attorney and the Defense’s team. Of course, battles between the two over every aspect of the upcoming trial were a regular news event ever since Michael Carrington had been arrested. His thriller crime genre series, The Mike Mulder Chronicles, Murder at the Stairwell, book four of his series of twelve others, was written six years earlier and held some plot circumstances. That fact drew close scrutiny into his possible involvement in his wife’s death. Some of those same similar aspects of his book and the murder in it were also closely matched to Kaitlin Cameron’s death seventeen years earlier. Had he used the same crime twice? And foolish enough to put it in a book?

Jake had settled back into mulling thoughts over in his head and listening to the quiet volume of the radio when again came a low raspy voice of a woman. It cracked in a broken voice, spoken in a tone as if kept silent for years, “Like I was saying, Michael didn’t kill me—Jake—I would know if he had. Now those bastards are going to carve me up again for no valid reason just to try to pin my death on him. He didn’t do it. But at least I’m out, I’m not six feet under cold clay!”

The voice registered differently with Jake than the background music from the radio. It’s funny how the mind can play tricks on a person when they’re tired and under pressure. Jake was both, but he couldn’t let anyone know it. He desperately needed the money from this gig. If the cops who were escorting behind ever caught wind of his present mental state, well, there would be hell to pay, and he couldn’t have that. He had a family counting on him. He never needed cash more than he needed it now. He’d made foolish mistakes. He couldn’t let his family pay for them.

A Conversation of Spirit

“I loved Michael. I know in his own way, he loved me. He didn’t do it, you know—kill me. I know he loved me enough to take on my daughter, Mallory, and raise her as his own after I passed. He’s a good man, not the killer they’re trying to paint him.”

Jake glanced over to the empty passenger seat again. Yep, empty. Why am I thinking about her or hearing her voice? Is this from listening to all the damned news? Was it inside my head this deep? Jake struggled internally. “Get out of my head, lady!” He hollered as he glimpsed back at the covered coffin. “I don’t need this shit, my plate’s already full.”

“You hear me because I need someone to talk to—seventeen years of being silent….”

Jake shook his head as if he could erase the voice he heard. Am I going crazy? He asked himself.

The sound of a woman’s laugh could be heard. “Crazy? Try being cooped up in a box of silence for almost two decades….”

“I’m supposed to believe I’m hearing your voice from the coffin?” Jake laughed hesitantly.

“What other choice do you have? Unless you’d rather think you are truly losing your mind?”

Jake’s thoughts were rattled. So, now I’m supposed to believe I’m talking to a corpse…he guffawed…the driving and lack of sleep must be getting to me….

“Either you are talking to a corpse—or you are asleep and driving,” she giggled.

“So, you can read my thoughts?” Jake asked aloud.

“An old dead lady has more powers than you’d expect, I reckon….” she replied. “Do you mind if I sit up there with you? It’s been lonely in here.”

Jake looked over again to the still empty seat. “Do I have a choice?”

“I’m giving you one, Jake.”

“You’ll have to forgive me ma’am—I’m not used to conversing with someone who’s been dead for seventeen years. I guess I don’t exactly know the proper protocol…I… uh…I guess…I…do have…um…have…a question….”

“No, Jake, I won’t appear in my mummified state—I don’t want you to crash and kill me again—now that I’ve somewhat broken free.”

The interior of the GMC became deathly silent as he attempted to coyly check his rearview mirror to see if the casket was still covered by a sheet. He felt a small bit of relief that maybe she could possibly make herself appear differently than she surely appeared within that damned box.

“Are you expecting to see the lid open, Jake?” There was that light, raspy laugh again. His eyes shot back down to the road ahead.

“Is this satisfactory for your eyes to look at,” she quietly asked?

His eyes slowly turned to the passenger seat, praying he was imagining all of this. As he slowly turned and squinted through have open eyes… the seat was no longer vacant. “Son-of-a-bitch…”  The apparition…or…ghost…or…. well, appears to be alive and normal. Beautiful in many aspects. She looks to be in her late thirties. He rationalized to himself. He quickly looked back to the road.  Jake immediately followed with questions, “Is this…who you were…when…” He cleared his throat. “…when it happened? And can they….”

The female voice giggled quietly, this time sounding less raspy. “No, Jake, your escorts nor anyone else can see me—only you. More of an old dead lady’s magic, I suppose.”

“So, what do I call you? Mrs. Cameron, or…?” Jake asked.

“Oh, Jake—we have a lot of miles to share together…we don’t need to be so formal, do we? Just call me Kaitlin. That’s the name I miss hearing aloud—”

Jake heard sniffles and started to turn to look at the ghost of Kaitlin in the passenger seat, but his radio suddenly went off. It scared the shit out of him, making him jump.

“Come in, Jake—what in hell is going on up there? You’re bouncing between the sideline and centerline like the steel ball hittin’ bumpers in a pinball machine…you need a break? Come back….”

“Uh, yeah…I… I may need to think about getting some coffee and a restroom break, come back….”

Jake turned to Kaitlin. “I’m not sure if I’m falling asleep and daydreaming you and this—or….”

“Oh, I’m here, Jake. I assure you. I’ve been forced to be quiet for a long time and I suddenly feel like a schoolgirl who’s been grounded for months to my room. But now suddenly I’ve been allowed in a room full of ‘chatty Cathy’s…I wanna talk, talk, talk!” Kaitlin looked at Jake as her smile changed to a tear appearing to attempt to peek its wetness from eyes that no longer contained any moisture. “I won’t go back yet…not to that cold and cramped box…” The sound of cries began but then were immediately cut off by her own words, “…It was made with beautiful white satin as if it would be a comfortable place to spend an eternity nestled into… but it isn’t…and I won’t go back…not yet and maybe never. I need to talk; I need to feel real again. I want to experience the softness of a touch…” Her hand began to reach toward the steering wheel where Jake’s hand grasped it tightly.

“I’m not going anywhere, Kaitlin, I’ll be back. It’s just a break and a chance for the escorts to make sure I’m good to drive. Believe it or not, you are a very protected…body—I’ll be back.”

Kaitlin’s hand withdrew before contacting Jake’s. “I’ll be with you, Jake. I’m not going back in the box, not yet. and I’m not letting you out of my presence.”

Jake felt a brief chill. He wasn’t certain if it were from her words or her near touch. But he felt it. “No one will…will see you though…right?”

“No one,” Kaitlin replied.

A Break to Refocus

The GMC took the next exit and turned east towards the truck stop before rolling in and parking up front. Jake had been directed to always park within view of his vehicle and its cargo. The contents were very important to the Charleston, South Carolina DA and couldn’t be tainted in any way. While Jake wasn’t an extraordinary wheelman of any kind, he did listen and follow instruction well. He was dependable. He needed to complete this job and get paid.

Jake sat drinking his large coffee scanning through his phone as the two officers sat at the table directly behind him. Jake looked up from his plate of food and choked, coughing and spitting a bit of his sandwich out onto the table.

Kaitlin smiled as Jake’s eyes widened. Her sudden appearance seemed to have shocked him. “No Jake, they can’t see or hear me! Only you can. It’s okay, I promise. Just don’t verbalize your answers out loud or visually respond to me. Remember—I can hear your thoughts.

Jake felt very uneasy. Feeling as if she were on stage and out in the wide open made him very uncomfortable. He just knew everyone in the diner could see some form of oddity or guilt written across his face. Please, Kaitlin, just make it where I can’t see you. The officers are going to know something is up with me. I can’t afford to be removed from this job. I need the money, Kaitlin.

“I knew something was up with you. What kind of trouble are you in?” She replied.

Jake nodded his head in affirmation but attempted not to mentally explain. We can do this later, he thought internally as an attempt to explain himself. He lifted his cup of coffee and then gulped.

“Would you like a refill?” The waitress asked.

“I asked you not to talk!” Jake snapped out loud before realizing it was the waitress and not Kaitlin talking to him. He looked up. “I’m so sorry, ma’am. It’s been a long day of travel and a… fight with my wife on my phone just minutes ago; I didn’t mean to bark at you.”

She filled his cup and smiled. “It’s okay, sir. I hope your day improves.”

Bill, one of the officers who’d been riding in the escort vehicle, put his arm on the seatback and pulled himself around so he could see Jake after the waitress walked away. “What the fuck was that about? Are you okay?” He asked.

Jake turned slightly and answered, “I’m fine. Just give me a few more minutes to drink my cup of coffee down and I’ll be fine. Small tiff with the wife on the phone. I’ll get back to listening to some country music and be fine.” He laughed. “That fixes everything, you know.”

“Well, hang in there, sport. We’re stopping for the night in Gulfport.” Rick, the other officer, told him. “Just down the road a bit, not too far and we can close this little part of the journey off for the night.”

“Thank you, sir. Sounds perfect. I’m ready to go after a quick stop in the restroom.”

Back on the Road

“Are you still here?” Jake asked as he backed out of the parking space, waiting for his escort to pull in behind him.  There was no immediate answer. He glanced into the rearview mirror toward the casket. I knew the pressure was getting to me…I’m going crazy…talking to dead people…he guffawed. Jake turned onto the highway ramp and tried to explain away the last hour of conversation he’d shared with someone deceased and buried in Texas soil for the last seventeen years. Why did I agree to this, he thought to himself?

“I’d say it was predestined.” Kaitlin spoke and then smiled.

Jake flinched in his seat. “I’m sorry to say, but I was almost hoping you’d decided to stay at the truck stop.”

“I have my limitations, Jake. I don’t know if that is even possible. I may be somewhat tied to the box…like a ball and chain is for a convict. I’m not alive and able to make all of my own choices…there seem to be…limitations….”

“I’m sorry. I’m not used to talking to people who aren’t…here in front of me…in the same relative form of…existence…in the flesh.” Jake’s hands gripped the steering wheel tightly, his forearms clenched with the frustration of his circumstance. “I… I don’t know what the hell…I’m sorry, that was a bit of a rude thing for me to say.”

Kaitlin’s hand moved slowly once more towards Jake’s. He felt the chill become colder the closer her hand moved to his. Will I be able to feel her skin? Will it be solid or a mist? These thoughts raced through his mind as he kept his eyes on the road ahead. He kept watch, though, from the corner of his eye on Kaitlin’s fingers as they drew closer. His heart raced, pounding deeper within and full of resounding booms. He also felt a queazy pulsating inside his stomach. His breaths became quicker, and his hearing seemed more intent to every sound around him. The white lane markers blurred from separate painted stripes into one continuous line as the GMC forged forward at highway speed into the beginning sunset of the evening.

The top of his right hand suddenly became frigid cold, and his first reaction was to pull away quickly as one would after reaching deep into the icy water of an ice chest to grab a chilled and near-frozen beer. He fought that urge to jerk away though.

“Thank you, Jake….”

“Thank you?” Jake questioned.

“Yes, thank you. I appreciate you for talking to me, for letting me touch your hand and not pulling away. You’re the first living human I’ve touched since I died all those years ago. You could never understand what this moment means or feels like. Or what it’s like to be locked in a tight cold and dark, silent box underneath the earthen clay for seventeen years all alone. It may as well have been a thousand. I thought time would stand still forever with me trapped alone. I don’t understand why I didn’t pass to the next life. Maybe there isn’t one, after all?” She squeezed Jake’s hand as tight as she could without her fingers passing through his hand. “Oh my God, the silence I’ve endured….” She sighed. “You’ve been so kind and considerate. I thank you for being so compassionate to my…um…circumstances.”

“I can’t imagine, Kaitlin….”

“No, Jake, you can’t possibly. A thousand years goes by in more than a million. I know that doesn’t make sense; I would have called someone crazy if I were to hear them make such a ludicrous statement before… ‘living’ it myself.” She tried to snicker. “‘Living’ it myself. It sounds like such a silly faux pas, doesn’t it? It’s been anything but living, Jake. I feel like a criminal locked away from humanity for something horrible I’ve done. Only…I haven’t done anything to deserve this punishment I’ve been condemned to. I’m only guilty of possessing a body that gave out on me. An aneurysm. That’s what it was, Jake. It wasn’t Michael. Michael was sweet and caring with me. Me and my daughter.” She began to whimper. “My daughter…Mallory…oh how I long to see what she’s become…what she looks like, her likes and loves…her disappointments and her accomplishments…I’d give anything…” She sniffled. Her cold hand reached over again and grasped Jake’s. “I’d give everything….”

Jake glanced over to see Kaitlin’s sadness spread across her face. He noticed a distinct tiredness in her face and while he tried to understand what she was explaining, there was of course, no way to entirely comprehend her pain and anguish. He did, however, suddenly see a deep beauty within her…soul or self. Whatever one could call her. There was really no way to place a name on the entity that sat in the seat beside him. She was a shell, a beautiful shell of a life that ended without accomplishing the things she should have been allowed to see to their end. Watch her daughter grow into a woman, enjoy a grandchild, one more sunset or sunrise with a new love. He was able to begin feeling her pain and sorrows a little more clearly. She made him realize the importance of his family in this moment. She glanced over and their eyes met briefly before he needed to return his view back to the road in front of them. “Thank you, Kaitlin…” He spoke as his eyes remained straight ahead, never veering his glance as he continued, “…you’ve given me hope and I wish I could return it back to you ten-fold….”

She continued to watch his face, not turning away as he had needed to do. She watched the humanity within his demeanor, knowing she was indeed fortunate at this moment that her wheelman had ended up being Jake. He was an example of a strong virtuous human being, and she began to feel an odd bond. She wasn’t foolish enough to think the undead could bond with the living. But she felt his warmth briefly and it reminded her of the life she’d once been allowed. As she studied his face and body, she noticed his strong jawline. He was handsome. He was surely an outdoorsman, she could sense. Maybe it was his clothing or just a look he held within his eyes, but she felt he was strong in character and probably morality too. She wondered what kind of trouble he could possibly be in.

The radio went off again. Jake hadn’t noticed they were in fact only a few miles from Gulfport. He’d watched the gulf coastline appear and disappear on the passenger side of the vehicle as he drove and conversed with an oddly beautiful dead woman sitting in the passenger seat next to him. He was paying attention to driving without truly paying attention. He was surprised the radio hadn’t gone off sooner from more erratic driving as he reached and picked it up. “This is Jake, go ahead.”

“Jake—Rick here. The Marriott Courtyard is up ahead. We’re checking in there for the night. You got room 110A. Go ahead and check in at the desk, it’s under your name. You’re relieved of duty until eight a.m. tomorrow morning. We’ll meet for breakfast at that time in the restaurant near the lobby before heading out for day two. GMC stays parked in front of your room for the night. No troubles—right?”

“Yes sir, room 110A, eight a.m. in the morning and roger on the no rides, no trouble…out.”

There was brief silence in the cab of the GMC. Jake suddenly felt a bit uncomfortable. What about sleeping arrangements. Again, protocol of sharing a room with a dead woman was unknown. He wondered to himself, I wonder if there are two doubles or just where would Kaitlin….”

There was a giggle that came from the passenger side of the vehicle. Jake turned.

“What’s so funny?” he asked innocently.

“You are, Jake. Remember? I can read your mind! Already worrying about what this old lady has planned for you tonight?”

“Well, yes—you did say you weren’t going back into the box! I supposed that even meant for a night’s rest.”

“No, I’m not going back in there, not even for a night. If you’d like and would feel more comfortable, I could go sleep on the beach?” She was smiling when Jake glanced over to check her expression, which drew a similar smile across his lips.

“I’m not going to put you out on the street, ma’am!”

“Oh, ouch! There’s that formality again I thought we were past.”

“I’m sorry, Kaitlin. It was my shot at humor. I don’t fare too well with that after driving all day, I suppose. He winked at her.”

“You are a handsome man, Jake. Do you have a wife? Kids?”

“I thought you could read my mind?” He quizzed.

“Limitations, Jake. While I can do a lot, I do have those silly damned limitations…I guess there must be some subject matter I’m unable to pry into.”

“So, when are you going to fill me in on just what those limitations consist of?”

His statement drew a giggle from Kaitlin. “Never! I’d rather keep you guessing and on your toes. Besides, what fun would we have between us then?”

As the GMC pulled into the Courtyard, he looked for a parking place close to 110A, knowing Bill’s room would be next to it.

“I’ve got to go in and pick up the room key…don’t wander off, Kaitlin.” He smiled.

“I won’t—if you promise to go for a walk on the beach with an old dead lady….”

Jake winked at her as he shut the vehicle’s door, “You don’t really think I’d miss out on that do you. That’s always been on my bucket list!” He grinned at her. “We’ll scratch that one off together after I get us checked in!”

Bill was getting out of the impala that was parked next to Jake’s GMC. “Miss out on what…bucket list, after I get checked in,” he asked? “You got someone in there with you besides the cadaver or are you talking to it now?” Bill chortled and Rick snickered.

Jake looked over and pulled his cell phone away from his ear, “What’s that, guys? Just talking to the old lady….” He returned the smile.

Bill nodded and Jake snuck a look back to the window of his car and winked at Kaitlin. He then thought to himself, I couldn’t make this crazy shit up. Good Lord, I’m gonna need to see a damned good psychiatrist after this. He heard a woman’s loud laughter within the GMC’s compartment as he headed for the lobby door.

The Beach

The moon wasn’t full but instead held a beautiful crescent shape lazily tipped back to the left. The wind lightly blew through their hair and the calm lap of the waves quietly slapped onto the grainy sandy shore. The atmosphere was calming and relaxing after a full day of driving.

“Kaitlin,” Jake asked in a tone that sounded as if it were leading into a serious question.

“Yes, Jake. And no is the answer to what you want to ask.”

“Kaitlin, let me ask the questions instead of just reading them through your extrasensory perceptions. Please. Remember…meaningful conversation only works when it’s between both of us!”

“Okay, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t do that anyway because I love hearing the sound of your voice.”

“Can you feel the wind blowing through your hair…or the feel of my skin when you touch my hand? Was your answer no to these questions?”

“Jake, I have to count on my memory for such things. Honestly, I can’t even hear your voice like you imagine I do. No, I can’t feel the wind on my face, or sadly the warmth or softness of your skin against what you see as my hand. All of those senses that you enjoy feeling—I have to rely on my memories of how they felt or sounded or even smelled back when I was also living.”

Jake’s face immediately dropped, and he watched the shallow water run over his feet as his bare toes sank into the beach they were walking. “That makes me sad, Kaitlin.” He noticed his footprints left in the soft sand.  He looked over to where Kaitlin was walking beside him and quickly spied that she left no imprints in the sand as her feet merely glided over the granules. He let out a sigh of grief. “It’s so easy for the living to take for granted the things we don’t even take the time to acknowledge. It’s depressing when it’s thrown back in one’s face.”

“It’s okay, Jake. I still get to enjoy being here with you. I’m getting to know someone I wouldn’t have known otherwise.” She reached over again to touch his hand and her coldness encased his soft skin. “And…I’m not lying alone in that satin-lined box beneath the earth’s frozen ground—and I’m thankful for that. I’m grateful that Michael is willing to pay a certain price to enable my temporary escape from that place….”

Jake glimpsed at Kaitlin questioning her statement. “What do you mean, ‘willing to pay a price’?”

“Oh, Jake—I already told you that Michael didn’t kill me…I never said he didn’t kill his wife.”

Suddenly the only sounds Jake could hear was the sound of the ocean and the wind blowing through sea oats along the shallow dunes. His deep breath eventually overtook those sounds temporarily.

“Are you shocked, Jake?”

“That’s like asking if I see the moon overhead. Of course, I do, and yes, I’m shocked.”

“Why, Jake?”

“Are you telling me that Michael killed his wife, but he didn’t kill you, even though the circumstances are almost identical between the two events? The news even states that his book he wrote, practically outlined the murders of the one you say never happened?”

“I don’t know that he killed his wife, Claire—I just know he didn’t kill me. I knew him as an honest and loving man, not a murderer. But I wouldn’t be here if the question of how his wife died wasn’t being brought to light. I’d still be lying entombed in that Godforsaken hell-filled box for the rest of eternity…” She sighed. “…but I’m not. I’ve escaped that place for now, and while not perfect, I’m back in the real-world walking down a beach holding the hand of a man who can see me…hear me…and appreciate me…” Another sigh bellowed out. “…even though I know it will only be a temporary moment in time.” She suddenly turned and drew herself even closer to Jake, clutching onto him and pulling herself tightly nestled in. He shivered instantly. “And I can’t even cry a single Goddamned tear, or feel the heat of your body and soul…” Her body suddenly heaved. “…it’s not fair! I just want my life back. I just want to feel something other than the cold and hollowness of death. I want to experience warmth and love so I can remember what it’s like…before…before…” She made the sound of crying, but tears failed to be shed. “…before I’m forced back into that satin-lined wooden box and buried again deep in the dark, cold Texas clay…forever….” Kaitlin’s head dropped, and she let go of Jake, wilting like a dried flower drifting to the sandy ground. “I know I’ll never get the chance to be let back out after they get their answers. I’ll be forgotten again.” She sniffed.

“Are you okay? I’m sorry, Kaitlin.” He knelt and put his hand on her shoulder and lightly squeezed. He remembered she’d just told him she couldn’t feel such a touch in the way he could. His hand grew colder before he leaned toward her ear and whispered, “Kaitlin, my wish is that you can remember how the light touch and squeeze on your shoulder feels from someone…a man…who is feeling something he didn’t ever expect to experience. If that makes sense.”

Her eyes lifted and even though she’d been crying with desperation, her face was totally dry with no visible evidence of what should be wet-soaked pain. “I appreciate that, Jake. I believe you and if I could, I would love you for it.”

The Room

The two lay together on the bed, lights dim in the room. Jake was much too wired to be able to close his eyes and fall asleep. He tried not to think thoughts like, my God, I’m lying beside a woman who’s been dead for seventeen years and I’m okay with it…

Kaitlin laid quietly near the edge of the bed trying not to be so close as to give Jake a chill. She also fought the urge to listen in on his internal thoughts. She attempted her best to give him space. She made a promise to herself to give him his privacy for the night.

Jake quietly weighed in on his own personal trials he was up against. His life compared to the circumstances of Kaitlin’s. When thinking of what she was facing in her future compared to what he faced, he began to put values in line with where he thought they should be. He was certainly not always a person of nobility in the way he’d conducted his life. He’d done things the best way he could to take care of his family. He’d made mistakes and recently borrowed money to try and parlay it into more, so he could get his family out of debt. The pressure of that mistake was bearing down on him. He had carefully kept his wife and little boy hidden from the type of people he’d dealt with. He knew they’d have no problem of killing him if he didn’t make good on his debt. They had made him aware of that fact. He’d made contingency plans of course. Life insurance in case they did make good on their promises. He’d almost accepted that outcome of dying. At least until he met Kaitlin. Now after seeing her break down from her personal hell, well, he was now scared of what afterlife he’d be dealt. The fear of dying he’d finally led himself to come to terms with, that he could handle. But the cold fabric lined box sunken into the earth for an eternity of silence and hollowness? This was a new mental challenge to overcome. He pictured his wife and little boy. He tried to picture their lives with him and without him. Weighing which would be the best for them. That decision would need to be made soon. Time was not on his side.

* * * * * *

Kaitlin quietly and very softly sat up and looked over at Jake’s face. She witnessed the liquid tears exiting his eyes along with sighs and a look of what she remembered as being fearfulness. The look on her face betrayed the fact she’d broken her personal promise of not intruding in on Jake’s personal and internal thoughts.

Kaitlin’s eyes obviously spoke of the pain she felt for Jake as she became aware of the struggles he was dealing with. She knew one thing after quietly observing Jake’s thoughts and fears of his family’s fate. That one thing was if she were still capable of owning her own heart and enjoying the feelings of such, that heart would be aching from being broken into pieces. The feelings she would be experiencing if capable, would overwhelmingly swallow the emptiness she’d been “living” the last seventeen years.

Jake’s eyes opened slowly, and he found himself staring into Kaitlin’s eyes. They looked differently at each other. Each both having weighed in on the other’s pain. They both looked at each other’s unspoken feelings and shared that imagined pain together in silence.

* * * * * *

Jake woke up early and quietly told Kaitlin he was going to breakfast, and that they would be leaving by eight-thirty a.m. sharp.

“Enjoy your breakfast, Jake.”

As he opened the door to the room he looked back, “I will, I wish you were able to remember how it tasted. I’m sorry. There is now a lot that I am aware of and sorry you are unable to enjoy. I want you to know, if it were possible… in a way that hadn’t been too…um…you know…” He fidgeted a second before continuing, “…I would have enjoyed making love to you last night. I feel that kind of closeness to you now. I know that sounds macabre and bizarre and I really don’t mean it to…I uh, I….”

“Shsssh. I know what you meant, Jake. You’ll never understand just how much that means to me. You’ve been a perfect gentleman and friend…and I wish you and your family the very, very best….” Kaitlin reached up to her neck and touched the gold chain around her neck. The key that had hung around her neck since even before her death. Security. She smiled as the thought flickered past.

“Hey now, you’re talking like we’re saying goodbye! We still have another day or day and a half together, plus the return…I’m sorry.” He shook his head and covered his mouth. “Just be in the GMC by eight-thirty! I don’t wanna leave you here!” He smiled awkwardly as he pulled the door to a close.

Forty-five minutes later, Jake threw his overnight bag into the GMC and climbed in. Not seeing Kaitlin, he called out her name. “Okay, if you wanna play that game…come out whenever you’re ready. I know you’ll use your dead old lady powers to listen in on my thoughts and I’ll surely hear a cackle of laughter pretty soon.” He started the vehicle and began backing out and then checked behind to make sure the escort was behind him as he pulled back onto the highway. “Okay, Kaitlin, I’m gonna turn on the country music radio if you’re not gonna talk this morning. I know last night was weird and I’m sorry. I’ll be more normal today. I promise!” He said as he smiled and reached up to the radio, expecting his passenger seat to again gain a passenger once the music started. But it didn’t.

Leaving Gulfport

As the GMC led the Impala east toward Biloxi, Kaitlin began to feel the pangs of what pain used to feel like. She’d made up her mind she wasn’t ever going back to that damned coffin. It didn’t matter what happened to her if she wasn’t forced to ever be locked away inside the satin-lined casket and sunk deep in Texas clay ever again. The waves began to slowly wash up on the sandy beach. This time as she walked out at the water’s edge, she felt moisture rolling lightly around her ankles. She looked down and watched her toes dig deep into the soft sand before she spun around and looked down the beach she’d just been walking. There were footprints left in the moist sand. She glanced all the way around and to her surprise—there wasn’t a soul to be seen. She smiled and felt her dry lips crack with pain and her cheeks widened with warmth from her grin. Those imprints in the beach were hers. She wasn’t sure what was happening, but she felt the tickle of the strands of her hair blowing across her face from the light breeze. A breeze! She felt it! She continued her walk alongside the beauty of the gulf coast hoping Jake and his family would be okay. She suddenly felt the pain of his absence.

* * * * * *

As a confused Jake pulled into the truck stop and parked for their first scheduled break, he felt a deep sadness. He missed his discussions with Kaitlin, longing to hear her voice. Had he accidently left her back in Gulfport? Or was she inside the sarcophagus in the back, ignoring him for some reason? “No!” Jake cried aloud. He knew she wouldn’t be inside there. “Kaitlin! Come out! Come talk to me, damn it!” He twisted his body around to survey the surroundings of the GMC’s interior. That’s when he saw the flash of white on the floor. He turned back and spied a folded-up piece of paper on the floorboard of Kaitlin’s side of the seat. He leaned forward stretching to grasp it. It felt oddly heavy.

A quick loud series of taps on his window just about scared the crap out of him. He quickly cupped the folded paper as he reached with his left hand and pushed the power window button down. “Yeah? What’s up?”

“I was just about to ask you the same. We don’t have but about fifteen minutes here, so I’d hurry ‘bout your business with the bathroom and drink…you need fuel?”

“Uh, yeah, I’m sure I do. Let me hit the pisser and grab a couple of energy drinks for the road and then I’ll pull over to the pump.”

“Don’t fuck around too long, they want us there early, if possible, Jake.”

“Sure thing, Bill.”

Jake rolled the window up and slid the thick paper into his right pocket as he climbed out of the car. He’d look at it later.

Before he climbed back into the driver’s seat after placing the gas handle back into the pump, Jake scanned the view of the Gulf coast that lay out in front of him. Thoughts of his walk last night with Kaitlin jumbled through his mind before it then traced back to the situation he was facing personally about money and his family. He shook his head and started the engine then pulled slowly out of the gas station and onto the highway. He told himself things would work out, they always did. His life had been that way lately. He’d found his place and he didn’t want to give it up unless he had to. He knew he would if there were no other way, as a last resort. Self-sacrifice would always be an option. He pictured his sweetheart’s blue eyes and the smile on his baby boy’s face. He knew he’d be able to do whatever he had to take care of them.

Jake mashed the gas pedal as they hit the open road. The adrenaline kicking in from the first energy drink he gulped. He glanced over to the empty passenger seat and felt confused. I hadn’t said something that would run her off, had I? He thought to himself. I mean, it had been weird. I’d even told her I’d have made love to her if it had of been possible…. He really wanted to give Kaitlin pleasant memories to carry her through the next…cold, dark eternity she surely faced after returning to New Braunfels. How horrible to be scrutinized under bright lights by strangers devoid of feelings for your previous life. Cameras rolling as they pulled skin back and examined trauma and abrasions on one’s naked body. Then to be put back in a tomb to be sealed again forever in the cold ground afterwards. He would have given her whatever good memories he could have. He knew that. He didn’t understand why she wasn’t still with him if she could be. What had I done to drive her off? He thought.

He suddenly remembered the white paper in his pocket. He leaned back pushing his back deep into the seat. He squeezed his right hand into his jeans pocket and retrieved the folded-up packet. It felt awkward and thick. He pulled his cupped hand out and when it was free, he held it up in front of him. With his knee against the steering wheel, he used both hands to unfold it. A gold chain with something on it dropped down onto the seat between his legs. He continued unfolding the paper until he saw writing on it. It looked like a woman’s penmanship. Frilly and perfect, easy to read. Between watching the road and looking at the paper, he began to read it aloud:

Dearest Jake,

You have no idea what you’ve given an old lady like me. I can’t imagine another man in this world who would be so kind of man like you’ve been to me. You somehow have brought feelings back into an old woman’s heart, given me the ability to feel love the way I once remembered it. You showed me that even after locking me away in the cold silence of a satin-lined hell, deep in the Texas clay, can’t steal those things away from me for an eternity.

I hope you don’t think I abandoned you for any reason of wrongdoing by you. You’ve been nothing but kind and loving to someone that would be hard love in the state of circumstance you found me. I decided last night after watching you sleep that I was never going to go back willingly. I chose to spend being here as long as possible, on the ocean beach we walked together on. It now feels like home to me. I know you have a family that loves you and depends on you. I know now you also have some serious problems of your own. I have the ability to give you the freedom you’ve given me. The key on the chain was something I’d worn around my neck for years, even before my internment. I’m just glad Michael had me buried with it. It’s the key to a large security box at the Bank of Texas in Austin. Box 2801. The password to be allowed inside to access the box is Itrustmichael35. There is more than enough cash to surely solve your financial problems and give your family a new start. Take care of yourself, Jake. And know in a weird macabre way…I fell in love with you. I too would have made love to you if things had been very different. Go love your family like there is no tomorrow, because it’s never promised. Please just visit my gravesite in New Braunfels occasionally…just in case my plan didn’t work, and I’m forced to return. I’d love to hear your voice every now and then. Make it a family vacation. Thank you again for a second shot, I love you sweet, Jake, for eternity.

Rating: 10.00/10. From 1 vote.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by Eli Pope
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Eli Pope

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