A STORY by KEITH BUZZARD

THE SCENE IS DEAD

I was already dead when I got my revenge. When I had finally driven him to hang himself, I reveled in my victory, whispering into his ear as his life was being choked away that even in death he would never escape me. But he did escape me. I didn’t really know what to expect, what would actually happen to his soul after he died. I thought it would be rather poetic that his punishment would be to suffer at the hands of the person he had murdered, but whoever is in charge of where souls go had a different idea, I guess.

I had been murdered by my business partner while I was helping him build his new house. He had always been the more adventurous between us, and it had been an asset in the past, admittedly, but it came along with a vicious temper. Our investment in a new general store proved timely as the small town had begun to bloom. I decided to invest my share of the profits in establishing a telegraph office in the general store, while my partner, declining a risky venture for once, chose to buy a plot of land on the outskirts of town on which to build a house for himself and his young bride, who had just begun to show signs of being with child. We had just finished laying the foundation when an argument had broken out. This was not out of the ordinary and an occurrence familiar to anyone who has had a business partner after a windfall. I had earned back almost my entire investment in record time and my partner decided to vent his frustration on me. Specifically, to vent his frustration through a hole in my skull by bringing down a pickaxe on it with all of his might.

Since we were already in a hole that surpassed the requisite six feet deep, he decided to bury me in the corner of the foundation. As my blood seeped into the ground, I swore that I would do anything to get revenge. I was as surprised as one could be when a voice asked, “Are you sure?” Blinded by my rage, I vehemently confirmed. One could argue that this was an agreement made under the most extreme forms of duress, but I’ve never heard from the voice again, so I’ve never been able to argue my case. I haven’t heard anything from anyone in the over hundred years since I’ve died. Not a sound, not even my own voice. I have no idea if my ex-business partner even heard my final taunt as he choked to death. I’d like to think so.

What no one tells you about revenge, or at least no one understands completely if they are told, is that once you get your revenge, life just kind of... keeps going. Not in the literal sense in my case, but the point is still valid. The house was completed and my ex-business partner had a few happy years before I was finally able to figure out how to tug on his sanity enough for the whole thing to unravel. His wife and child left him due to his dwindling mental state, which I was just giddy about and fueled my efforts quite nicely. And as I previously mentioned, my victory did feel quite sweet. But afterwards, being left alone in the house, which for some reason I can never leave, the victory lost its flavour.

The town grew around the house over the years, but remained empty for some time. I was quite bored, as one can imagine. Then a new family moved in. It was exciting having strangers in the house and I enjoyed watching them for a time. But then it began to feel as if they were rubbing their alive-ness in my face. I could never laugh with them in times of joy, never hold them in times of tears, never console them or be consoled by them. It was infuriating. Here’s the thing about ghosts I’ve come to learn. The living will complain of being haunted by the dead, but they never think about how the living were constantly haunting the dead first.

So I set about getting rid of them, too. And the family after them, and the family after that. So on and so forth. I grew a bit proud of my abilities to scare the living, which seemed to be the only way to interact with them. When all you have is a hammer, you might as well love that hammer. It was quite the versatile hammer, after all. As time passed, new amazing technologies developed. I was seldom bored anymore. There were always new technologies being developed and I enjoyed learning how they worked and using them to psychologically torment my guests. Occasionally, my guests would catch on and bring in a priest, a shaman, some verbose charlatan, or a rather talented plumber and try to get rid of me, but they could no more reach out and grab me than I could reach out and grab them. In the end, only I would remain.

The house had lost its charms and families never really could stay long enough to make any real repairs. The wall paper faded and curled. The pipes began to rust. The window frames pulled away from the walls. The stairs creaked and moaned. The wood began to rot. Based on my knowledge of real estate, it was a real dump. Over the past decade or so, I’d watched the current landlord try and bring in people to rent the house, but no one ever came back. But then they came.

They were the strangest people I had ever seen. They were a small group of young people, but not the type of young person I had any experience with. They were three young men and two young women. They all wore similar clothes, if you could call ratty black t-shirts and tight black trousers with more holes than material clothes. The imagery on their shirts was some of the most grotesque things I had ever seen, and to be honest, as someone who prides themselves on psychological torment, I was quite impressed. The landlord even seemed scared of them; basically threw them the keys through the door and ran away like a scared pup with their tail between their legs.

While most families would decorate the house with pictures of their families, or with family memorabilia, these young people would put up posters of angry looking men and women, holding bizarre looking guitars, skulls, or other macabre imagery. They made no effort to clean away the debris that had accumulated or try to fix anything that had fallen into disrepair. In fact, they seemed to enjoy how dilapidated the house had become and even actively contributed to its decline. They would punch holes into the walls just to make each other laugh. They threw knives at the ceiling and would dance around underneath them, waiting for them to fall. They would put on records and throw themselves bodily at each other, and while I could not hear the records, I could feel the whole house shake when they were played.

And the parties. My god. They would pack dozens and dozens of their friends into the house and basement and try to actively bring the house to collapse with their music. I had learned to read lips early on in my ghostly career and learned that the bands they would bring in for live performances were playing music called punk and metal. Basically, these terms meant that the musicians would scream at the audience and the audience would writhe in appreciation. These bands would set up over where my body was buried and I could literally feel my bones shake under the poured cement. I’m sure that Dionysius himself would have called these parties “a bit much.”

And the worst part is that none of my usual tactics worked on these “punks.” They drank themselves to a stupor almost every single night so my nightly hauntings went unnoticed. I’d make the television show scenes of extreme, visceral violence and they would just laugh and say, “Wow, this acid is some good shit.” I was at a loss. I even made blood pour from the basement walls during one of their musical performances and they just raved about how the band put on a “sick show.” At one point, I had the ice box catch on fire and all they did was drag it out into the back yard. They use it as a fire pit now and sit around it while drinking when the weather is nice.

I honestly don’t know what to do. I could wait them out, I guess. To be fair, they are the most interesting guests I’ve had so far. One of them has spiky green hair, which is kind of neat.

 

Keith Buzzard is a teacher and musician living in Chicago. He can be found on Twitter at @keithjdrazzub. If you are his student or coworker, you never saw this.