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The Dead Man's Burden

By:Matt Bird

The Dead Man's Burden - A book by Matt Bird
Author:Matt Bird

The Dead Man's BurdenBy Matt BirdCopyright 2011 Matt BirdSmashwords EditionSmashwordsEdition License NotesThis ebook is licensed for yourpersonal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given awayto other people. If you would like to share this book with anotherperson, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. Ifyou’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was notpurchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com andpurchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work ofthis author.Other Ebooks by Matt Bird<U>TheVillainous Dr. Sock</U>*****

 

The Dead Man's BurdenBy Matt BirdCopyright 2011 Matt BirdSmashwords EditionSmashwordsEdition License NotesThis ebook is licensed for yourpersonal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given awayto other people. If you would like to share this book with anotherperson, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. Ifyou’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was notpurchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com andpurchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work ofthis author.Other Ebooks by Matt Bird<U>TheVillainous Dr. Sock</U>*****

 

Chapter 1I’ve spent a lot of time, lately, feeling sorryfor other people.I’m not sure why. I never used to care so much.You wouldn’t blame me if you were in my position, either: I workthe IT desk at a college. I have to deal with whiny assholes all thetime, seldom receiving any thanks or praise for my work. As part ofthe customer service industry, I’ve learned to tune out thefeelings of others and focus on the job.But now...  now I can’t help but care. My heartis bursting with emotion for everyone. What the hell happened?It all started on Tuesday. Some preachy Philosophystudent had dropped his laptop on my support desk, demanding I fixthe thing. Nothing new, that – I have to coax dozens of laptopsback to life every day. Whether I’m successful or not I feel thesame: happy. Happy, because some time has passed, bringing me alittle bit closer to clocking out. Focus on happy thoughtsin-between, like going to the cottage or something.But this was different. I actually cared. I wantedto make this poor guy happy. I wanted to fix his laptop, I reallydid. But no matter what I tried, I couldn’t pry the back panelopen. My fingers could barely grasp my screwdriver, let alone turnthe damn thing. I felt helpless, and very, very sad for the student.So I jumped over the desk and bit him instead. Itseemed the most natural way to make him happy. A big ol’ piece outof his shoulder would fix him right up, I thought, though I onlymanaged to nibble his neck before he pushed me back and ran. Now I’m at home without a job. I don’t reallyfeel like getting a new one, either: that will just distract me frommaking people happy. Happiness is my goal.

 

The Dead Man's BurdenBy Matt BirdCopyright 2011 Matt BirdSmashwords EditionSmashwordsEdition License NotesThis ebook is licensed for yourpersonal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given awayto other people. If you would like to share this book with anotherperson, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. Ifyou’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was notpurchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com andpurchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work ofthis author.Other Ebooks by Matt Bird<U>TheVillainous Dr. Sock</U>*****

 

But how? How can I bring joy to others? How can Ishow them that life doesn’t need to be a constant hustle-bustle,but something to enjoy? How can I prove to the world that it’sdoing the wrong thing by ignoring all that should be embraced?I’m not sure. So I’m stuck at home, thinking,trying to turn on the television. Maybe the news will give me hints.But I can’t seem to hit the buttons properly. This doesn’t botherme, though it is curious. My hands have lost all of their manualdexterity, like I’m trying to change the channel with an oven mittstrapped over my fingers.And christ am I hungry. I’ve rooted through thefridge a dozen times today, lurching out of my seat every ten minutesto find...  something. Anything. The week-old pizza and leftoverhamburger patties aren’t doing it for me today, however, and eachtime I slap the door closed and return to my couch empty-handed.Nothing in my apartment will get rid of the itch tickling the roof ofmy mouth.Then I think of the Philosophy student. Mmm. Hetasted pretty good, even though I only got a sample of his skin.Maybe a little sour. I bet that comes from his pissy attitude. You’dthink a student of the mental arts would learn how to chill out.Feeling distinctly antsy about the unhappy stateof the world, I head for the streets. The door’s a strong opponent,but with enough fumbling I manage to claw it open. This doesn’tfrustrate me, though, as I marvel at the intricacy of my body, andthe effort that goes into even simple tasks. I bet nobody else thinksabout firing synapses or ever-moving muscles. They’re too busyworrying about their wallets.It’s dusk outside. The air is cool against myskin, but not unpleasantly so, so I drop my jacket at the door andwalk into the streets. I don’t bother closing the door, however.Everything in my apartment can be replaced, and I get the feelingthat I don’t need most of it anymore anyway.

 

I won’t be surprised if I come back and findmost of my stuff missing. I live in a poorer part of town, thebuildings all last century in construction and fading quietly intothe sunset. The streets aren’t abominable, but they’re notabsolutely safe, either. Normally I wouldn’t risk wandering aboutwithout a pocketknife, but tonight...  tonight I think I trustpeople. I trust them not to get too crazy.My trust is tested ten minutes later when, as I’mpicking my way through an alley, I’m confronted by some young thug.I’ve seen his type before, even though he’swearing a bandana over his face. Short-cut hair. Wiry, thin musclesunder a white wife-beater. Shaky as hell, the poorly-cut lead pipe inhis hand trembling crazily. He could be the Philosophy student whogot me fired, for all I know. My eyes are hazy, and can’t pick outdetails.“Gimme your money, man. Don’t have to gethurt.” It’s a lame threat. He’s trying to sound gangland, but Ican tell by his accent that he’s at least somewhat educated. “You don’t want to hurt me,” I reply,stretching my hands in supplication. “You’ll get tossed in jail.Your life will go down the tubes. And I don’t have any money togive you.”I turn out my pockets to show him my lack ofwallet, but he doesn’t seem to understand. He backs off, his eyestighter, warier. “What the hell are you saying? What’s wrong withyou?”“Can’t you see?” I insist, tugging the whiteinsides of my jeans as far out as they’ll go. Christ, this is likea cartoon. “I’m broke. You’re wasting your time.”He doesn’t get it. He’s scared now, and notfor the same reason as before. It’s like he doesn’t know what I’msaying, and in his ignorance he’s retreating. He keeps looking downthe alley; I suspect he’ll sprint away if I say anything else.

 

But I don’t want him to leave, not yet. Maybe Ican show him what I’ve discovered, that the world doesn’t have torun on consumer goods. I want to share the dozens of subtleepiphanies I’ve had in the last week, ever since I came down with acold on Monday. It’s funny how colds can completely change yourperception of the world.These revelations don’t come shackled to apulpit, however. There’s only one way to get my message across: Ilurch forward and bite him. Because, god help me, that neck of hislooks really tasty. The itch in my mouth demands that I give it anibble, and my brain insists that it’s all for the best. If I bitehim, he’ll get what I’m saying.Like the young Philosophy student, he screechesand backs away. Unlike the Philosophy student, however, he has a leadpipe. He mashes it against my shoulder, and I hear a bone pop out ofplace. Pain blossoms in my wound, but not nearly as much as I wouldhave expected. I’ve bumped my toe on a doorframe, not dislocated myarm.The young man is running down the alley as I slumpagainst the wall of a warehouse. I could follow him, since he’sleaving a trail of blood, but I suspect that’s unnecessary. Givehim a day or two and he’ll see the light. I doubt he’ll bemugging anyone again tonight, and that should be enough time to leadhim into a better, simpler life.I wish I could have steered him a little better.Maybe mentored the guy. I have spare time. Right now, though, I havea more pressing concern: I can’t seem to get up.My arms and legs feel like jelly, particularly theshoulder the thug attacked. There’s strength in me, I can feel it,though it doesn’t want to reach my extremities. Nobody’s aroundto help me, either, which is no surprise. I only used the alley as ashortcut to get to the park. I always use the alley.Should I, though? Mankind is all about shortcuts.We look for the fast way to get things done. My manager alwaysemphasized that shit: “We want every student satisfied pronto.There’re a lot of the little buggers waiting for repairs, and youneed to be efficient. Go by the checklist and get ‘em in and out.Don’t clog the desk.”

 

I used to believe in that creed. It gave me moretime to think about going to the cottage. Now? Not so much. I should have stuck to the streets. I don’t haveanything else to do right now. The park wasn’t going to disappearlike Cindarella’s pumpkin coach if I didn’t get there in time. Itwould’ve been waiting, and rather than staring at the refuse ofmankind – literally, as my head’s jammed against a garbage bag –I could have watched the birds in the trees lining Main Street.But this isn’t so bad, laying here. Even agarbage bag has its upsides. It’s a pleasant shade of green, forstarters, and though the scent of three-day-old tortellini is waftingout the top it’s still a natural smell. The garbage bag is aself-contained world, one that boils down to the essentials of life.Eat, breathe, sleep, reproduce, survive.I don’t feel like doing any of those thingsright now, except for eating. I’m still clutching a sample of thethug’s neck in my teeth, chewing it happily. It has the samerubbery texture as freshly-baked turkey skin. Mmmm. It’s so important to enjoy the simple things inlife. To not let extraneous shit get in the way of being happy. Andas I lay there, my face pressed to the garbage bag, onlyhalf-heartedly attempting to stand, I decide that I should share thisphilosophy with the world. The park can wait.Chapter 2So how do you share something nobody wants tohear?I’m no great student of history. Most of my timein school was either spent fiddling with computers or hitting ongirls. Whenever History class came lumbering along I ignored theteacher. The past is passed, as they say. Why look to what has beenwhen you should focus on what is, or what’s to come?

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