Bleak Lives

An 9-Part Eerie Mystery

About the author

EPISODE 1: Risen From the Grave

What do you remember?

I remember . . . the blood. The blood and the screams. They . . . they hurt me. Can you make them go away?

They will never go away. You've brought them on yourself. You will have to live with those memories . . . for as long as we have a use for you.

* * *

HE RETURNED TO CONSCIOUSNESS, but at first he didn't realize it. He was surrounded by utter blackness, and he had the claustrophobic feeling he was boxed in on all sides. He tried to move his arms, but they felt very distant, as if they didn't belong to him at all. Sensations did come through his nerves, but they were dim and distorted, as if they traveled through anatomic interference.

Moving his hands in slow motion fashion, he discovered he was hemmed in all on six sides. He lay on a thin mattress of satin. A coffin. I'm inside a coffin. The abrupt realization made him open his mouth to scream, but he couldn't make a sound -- at least not that he could hear. He pummeled his fists and feet against the box that held him prisoner, without noticeable result.

He recalled reading a story by Edgar Allan Poe back in his school days --The Premature Burial. A gentleman with a debilitating fear being buried alive is forced to confront his worst nightmare. . .

But at the end of the story, Poe's character is rescued, Bleak thought. And I won't be . . .

Don't let this happen to me, Bleak tried to say out loud, but he wasn't sure anything was coming out of his mouth.

He wasn't sure how long he hammered his fists against the lid of the coffin. He started to worry about his air supply. He could only hold out for so long before suffocation led him to claw at his own throat.

A conversation came to his mind . . . was it a conversation he had held before being buried, or while he was unconscious? He wasn't sure. If he had dreamed it, it didn't mean anything, did it? He remembered that he had been scared -- even terrified, and he wasn't a man who scared easily. He thought that during the conversation he had been prone, on his face -- groveling. He had been communicating with someone -- or something -- imposing, huge. The second presence was larger than a building, larger than perhaps the world itself.

But he couldn't recall what the two of them had been talking about.

He finally regained a semblance of calm. He ran his hands along the interior of the coffin, or what of it he could reach. The sensations were still fuzzy and indistinct. There was a seam between the sides and the lid, but he couldn't even fit his fingernails in it. What good would that do me anyway?

Finally -- an hour or a day later -- he decided to try something. He had just enough room to roll over, placing his stomach flat on the floor of the coffin and his back against the lid. In this position, he began to bring his knees toward his palms, using the arch of his back to put pressure against the coffin lid. He strained upwards and was surprised that he didn't feel the sweat of exertion breaking out on his forehead.

It's still no good, he thought. There's no way I can break through the hardwood and force my way through the hundreds of pounds of soil on top of me.

The dimly remembered conversation came back to mind. He had been charged with a mission. That much he could now recall. Exactly what was expected of him he could not bring to mind. But there was something he was supposed to do -- and obviously there was no way he could accomplish that mission inside a coffin. I must have been given the strength to get out of here. Otherwise, it was pointless to give me a mission at all.

Unless, of course, the whole thing was only a dream.

It was a toss-up which was going to give first -- the coffin lid or the bones in his limbs. Just when he thought he couldn't push anymore, he heard a stiff crack, and the lid moved up ever so imperceptibly. I shouldn't have been able to do that! I'm not that strong! But I broke the coffin lid!

He persisted in heaving upwards. Particles of dirt began to trickle into the confined space. He could feel the soil spill into his hair, across his clothes. He finally had enough room to push his hands between the halves of the split panel into the ground above him. He scooped handfuls of humus downwards to pile up at his bent knees.

He managed to clear enough space for his head. Then he moved into a squat and shoved his head up into the moist dirt. He moaned deep inside his throat. Clods rubbed his eyelids, smeared his cheeks, tried to force their way into his mouth.

At last his hands broke the surface, and he felt grass blades beneath his palms. He kicked and squirmed, like a worm rising out of the earth. His head emerged, and he discovered it wasn't much lighter than it had been in the coffin. Stars twinkled over his head, glittering like prizes to be won for his exertions. I'm free!

Sitting on the grassy plot, he tried to make out his surroundings. He was in the midst of a vast cemetery. He thought he might recognize it, but he wasn't sure. A grove of trees stood to his right, while a brilliantly-lit city skyline rose to his left. There was a headstone in front of him. He leaned closer to read its inscription. He wanted to laugh at the carved words, the declaration of death he had rendered false.

ROGER McCUTCHEON, stated the words. 1905-1950.

No! That's not right! That's not my name! I'm Bleak -- Edward Bleak! What's going on here! I've never even heard of this Roger McCutcheon!

He looked down at the clothes he was wearing. Dark and grimy, it wasn't something he recognized as his own. But they might have simply picked out something for him while he lay unconscious, inert, as though dead.

Then he brought his hands up to within inches of his face. The starlight was dim, and he turned them over and over.

Although the flesh was caked with earth, he could tell the hands were not his own.

Next episode ... DEAD MAN WALKING

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Bleak Lives is copyright Scott H. Urban. It may not be copied or used for any commercial purpose except for short excerpts used for reviews. (Obviously, you can copy it or print it out if you want to read it!)