Across town Jim Watkins finished loading the truck and triple checked the paperwork as it drove off to do its round of deliveries. He’d worked his way up from being a loader at the furniture store to the loading dock manager. He stood by himself while the loading men went for a smoke break or to cool off with a soda from the machine.
Wilbur ambled up the drive toward the loading dock. He took his time. He hoped Jim would have a chance to spot him and thus lessen the shock. But Jim stayed absorbed in his checklist. When Wilbur came up to the edge of the dock, he looked up at Jim. He coughed.
Jim didn’t move.
Wilbur coughed louder.
Jim looked up, but his eye never fell on Wilbur. He turned back to his sheet.
“Jim?” Wilbur asked.
Jim looked up once again, but he didn’t seem to see anyone.
“Jim?” Wilbur said again.
“Who’s there? Who said that?” Jim asked.
Wilbur stepped directly in Jim’s vision. He stared into Jim’s eyes, but Jim’s eyes never focused on him. They looked far out to the road. And that’s when Wilbur knew the attendant was right. He really had died and, like so many lost souls before him, had been cursed to walk the earth for the rest of eternity.
That night Wilbur got hungry. At first he dismissed it as a phantom of the past, his mind, used to the rhythms of life, inserting hunger as a way to make the experience familiar.
He slept through it the first night. Another oddity, sleep. He would have thought that those condemned to walk the earth wouldn’t need sleep. Perhaps that was part of the curse, forever forced to see everything you knew, to feel everything you used to feel and never be able to participate. He carried on like this for three days. By then he could think of nothing but the cavernous hole in his stomach. He saw a convenience store a block ahead. He walked in, grabbed three hot dogs and five tacquitos off the grill, filled up a large cup with soda and walked out. He passed a man in a ski mask on his way out. Shouts erupted from behind him, but he couldn’t do anything, so he walked around the corner and kept walking. The food tasted so good.
A police car pulled up in front of Wilbur. A young officer got out and trained his weapon in Wilbur’s direction. He said, “Freeze!”
Wilbur turned to look behind him then sidestepped to the wall thinking he’d get a front row seat of the showdown between the officer and the man in the ski mask. But when he looked no one was behind him.
The officer said, “Don’t move again or I’ll shoot.”
Wilbur looked back at the officer to see the gun pointed straight at him. “Me?” Wilbur asked. “You can see me?”
To Be Continued…