Dead Man's Handwriting
By Shane Stewart (

They always bury me when they are done with me. I'm not sure why they do that. I have a hard time remembering anything if I'm not writing it down like this. It's almost like my brain has a direct connection to my hand but not to anywhere else. I haven't spoken a real word in a long time. Not since just before I died at least.

I must remind myself to hide this when I am done. They wouldn't like the fact that I keep a journal in here. I'm not supposed to do anything except lie around and wait for them to need me again. Just play dead like a good little soldier.

I wonder if they have any idea how much of my mind is intact? How much of me is still in here? I know I've lost quite a bit over the years-my hearing is so bad my ears must have fallen off, though I'm not sure when that happened. My left elbow is almost nothing but bone now, and they had to replace my left foot with a wooden dummy. They bolted it to the bones and soldered some metal strips to hold it in place. I wonder what that smelled like?

I remember death-or rather, I remember dying. It was a shotgun blast to the chest. Close range. Exceedingly messy. I don't know who shot me-I vaguely remember opening a door and hearing the shotgun go off.

Oddly, I don't remember much about being dead. I know I was dead. I know something happened. But I can't remember any of it. It all seems like a dream. Occasionally I see something that reminds me of that dream, but I don't know why. Last time they needed me, it was a cat. It was small and weak, and it had soft gray fur. I don't think it had eaten for some time. It just lay there on the ground, mewling as I approached it. I picked the cat up carefully, and I started to remember that dream of being dead. But then there was the buzzing in my ear that tells me to keep on target, and I lost it. So, since I knew they could see what I was doing anyway, I ate the cat. I purposefully made a mess of it too, so they would have to clean me up when it was over.

That reminds me. They missed a spot.

The buzzing is the strangest part of all this-well, aside from being dead of course. I've seen it on some of the others-it's some sort of little box that gets bolted to our heads, next to where an ear should be. There's a little wire sticking up from it, and when it buzzes, there's a voice you hear. When I was alive, I'd have called it an evil voice, all low and guttural and domineering. Now, it's just a voice, really.

A very persuasive one.

It reminds me of something. Ooo, I know-a less metallic Darth Vader. With more menace.

Ow. There goes the buzzing again. They'll dig me up soon, then a few of the others. They usually send five of us when they need something done. Sometimes a few of us don't make it back in real good shape, but I guess that can't be helped. One of the others lost an arm on the way to the target. It just fell off. Then we lost another one-she stopped to pick up the arm and eat it, and someone saw her. They hit her with a crude firebomb-gasoline in a bottle with a burning rag. She just sat there, eating the arm and burning to a cinder.

And the guy who lost the arm? He got a replacement off one of the guys we killed that day. It doesn't match very well-the rest of him is older than the arm was. But it works well enough.

Ow. There goes the buzzing again. Sometimes I wonder if the others remember anything. I can't be the only one that remembers dying, or remembers that there is something else after you die. But how do I get through to the others?

Ow. They are really being incessant about this. I wish I could turn this thing off. Maybe then I could remember what being dead was like. Maybe if I check around there will be a switch. I don't want to kill anyone today. I'm not that hungry right now.

Hmm. What's this? It looks like a wire.

And the buzzing stopped. I can't hear the voice anymore.

Won't they be surprised?

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