My next memory was of opening my eyes to pure darkness. When I was a kid I read a short story about a preacher who went to Hell, and when he got there he discovered the dead didn't have eyelids, so they couldn't close their eyes to block out the horror. Right away I knew I wasn't in Hell, since I couldn't see a thing.

I wriggled experimentally. I was in a small, closed space, which was an intriguing combination of soft and hard. I was lying on something hard, but the sides of my little cage were padded. If this was a hospital room, it was the strangest one ever. And where was everybody? I wriggled some more, then had a brainstorm and sat up. My head banged into something soft/hard, which gave way when I shoved. Then I was sitting up, blinking in the gloom.

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At first I thought I was in a large, industrial kitchen.

Then I realized I was sitting in a coffin. Which had been placed on a large, stainless steel table. Which meant this wasn't a kitchen, this was-

I nearly broke something scrambling out. As it was, I moved too quickly and the coffin and I tumbled off the table and onto the floor. I felt the shock in my knees as I hit and didn't care; in a flash I was on my feet and running.

I burst through the doors and found myself in a large, wood-paneled entryway. It was even gloomier in here; there were no windows that I could see, just rows and rows of coat racks. At the far end of the entry was a tall, wild-eyed blonde dressed in an absurd pink suit. She might have been pretty if she wasn't wearing orange blusher and too much blue eye shadow. Her brownish-rose lipstick was all wrong for her face, too. She was so shockingly pale, just about any makeup would have been wrong for her.

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She wobbled toward me on cheap shoes-Payless, buy one pair get the second at half price-and I saw her hair was actually quite nice: shoulder-length, with a cute flip at the ends and interesting streaky highlights.

Interesting Shade #23 Lush Golden Blonde highlights.

The woman in the awful suit was me. The woman in the cheap shoes was me!

I staggered closer to the mirror, wide-eyed. Yes, it was really me, and yes, I looked this awful. Well, why wouldn't I? I was dead, wasn't I? That silly ass in the Pontiac Aztek had killed me, hadn't he?

I was dead but too dumb to lie down. Dead and walking around inside the funeral home in a cheap suit and fake leather shoes. The funeral must be tomorrow...later today, I amended, looking at the clock. And my jerkweed of a stepmother must have picked out this outfit for me. And...

I slipped one of the shoes off, looked at the inside. Property of Antonia O'Neil Taylor.

The bitch meant to bury me wearing her cast-off shoes! This seemed more of an injustice than being driven into a tree while my cat watched.

My cat! Who was going to look after the little monster? Jessica, probably, or maybe my mother...yes, probably my mother.

My mother.

It occurred to me that I should seek out my grieving friends and family and tell them I had no intentions of being buried. Then sanity returned. I was dead. I'd been zombified or whatever, and needed to finish the job the guy in the Aztek had started. Or maybe this was purgatory, a task set for me, something I had to finish before God opened the gate.

I had the fleeting thought that the doctors in the ER had made a mistake, but shook it off. I remembered, too well, the sound of my skull shattering. If it hadn't killed me, I'd be in an ICU now with more tubes than a chemistry classroom. Not dolled up like a...

...whore wearing cheap castoffs on my...

...feet.

All that aside, I couldn't bear to see anyone looking the way I did.

I walked to the end of the hallway, found the stairwell, and started climbing. The funeral home was three stories high-and what they needed the other two stories for I was not going to think about-which should be high enough, since I planned to go headfirst.

At first I thought the door was locked, but with a good hard shove it obligingly opened with a shriek of metal on metal. I stepped outside.

It was a beautiful spring night-all traces of snow from the storm had melted. The air smelled wet and warm, like fertility. I had the oddest feeling that if I were to scatter seeds on the cement rooftop, they would take hold and grow. A night had never, ever smelled so sweetly, not even the day I moved into my own place.

As I stepped onto the ledge, I ignored the not-inconsiderable twinge of apprehension that raced up my spine. This wasn't my last night on earth. That had been a couple of days ago. There was nothing to feel sad about. I had been a good girl in life, and now I was going to my reward, dammit. I was not going to stumble around like a zombie, scaring the hell out of people and pretending I still had a place in the world.

"God," I said, teetering for balance, "I'm coming to see you now."

I dove off the roof and hit the street below, headfirst, exactly as I had planned. What was not in the plan was the smashing, crunching pain in my head when I hit, how I didn't even lose consciousness, much less see my pal God.

Instead I groaned, clutched my head, then finally stood when the pain abated. Only to get creamed by an early morning garbage truck. I looked up in time to see the horror-struck driver mouthing...

(Jesus Christ, lady, look out!)

...something, then my forehead made brisk contact with the truck's front grille. I slid down it like road kill and hit the street, ass first.

When I stood, brushing dirt from my cheap skirt, the driver slammed the truck in reverse and got the hell out of Dodge. Not that I could blame him. But who ever heard of a hit and run garbage truck?

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