Julius felt old.
And without a doubt, it wasn’t that ‘in his head’ shit. He was about to break seventy.
Feeling old also didn’t feel like the proper description of how he felt mentally. Like an old bastard, a town drunk, a city bum picking at scraps in the slums.
Everyday he’d waddle to his favorite bus stop, and simply sit. He would never take a bus, he’d never utter a single word. Occasionally, he’d suspected he might be creating a dent in the metal bench. So, for a change of pace, he’d scuffle around town.
No one bothered an old, senile man with wrinkles as deep as the Mariana Trench.
Maybe it was the way he walked. Old knees creaked, and ankles became bubble wrap whenever he’d peruse the stores. He’d never buy anything. He’d observe. He’d read, he’d move on. Never a trouble in sight. At least for him.
Julius didn’t mind the lifestyle. He was more of a homebody, and more of the type who minded his own business.
The world around him was interesting. It added a little bit of flare to his lonely existence.
It was solemn. Calm. Strangely fulfilling. Every Saturday he’d take a trip to the local laundromat while every couple of days he’d shove some food down his throat.
Julius never minded it. He enjoyed the peace.
Julius huffed his way out of his tiny apartment and scuttled to the bus stop once the sun went down. Bus after bus passed him by, he never waved any of them down, and person after person passed him by as if he was invisible.
Just the way he preferred. They don’t bother him, he doesn’t find the need to bother any of them. He’d learned that lesson well after the first couple of times. It worked easier for everyone, for his mind, for his nerves and anxiety, his misery to touch–Julius’s skin sagged enough from his ventures around town.
A pedestrian tried too hard. He should have waited. A younger Julius might have warned him or stopped the situation entirely. But, again, he’d learned that lesson well. He didn’t need to subject himself to possible harm. He was already on thin ice. He was barely hanging together as he was. Sometimes he’d joke to himself, laugh that a strong gust of wind might rip his skin from him. It might have been an improvement, if Julius was being honest. Better than rot.
However, he enjoyed having all his limbs. May not have all the proper organs, or a healthy flow of blood, but he wouldn’t say he was performing horribly. Seventy was an accomplishment. Even for him.
The guy didn’t watch both sides. He did that lazy little trot everyone does when they think they’re blocking the road. It was close.
Julius didn’t make a sound when the bus, unable to stop in time, ran the random stranger over, full front wheel over torso and all. Gasps followed fast, Julius almost vomited, and the bus screeched to a halt, smearing more red across the road.
Some looked on in awe. Others dumbstruck and stuck contemplating their own existence.
Julius hated that smell that public buses farted out. Was worse than being in the bus. Or under it. He shut his eyes. Squeamish and all that, he’d rather lose an arm than a chunk of stomach.
The ambulance could be heard roaring down a nearby road. Julius was tempted to snicker because he didn’t think they were going to save him. Kind of hard to scoop up greymatter–
Julius gagged, stood, and disappeared in the crowd.
He’d had enough for the day.
Oh, but he stopped. He’d almost forgotten the most important part. He turned, swiveled on his heels, and stuck to his watching. He stood at the front of a crowd. None of them paid him any mind.
The moment was coming. Always took a minute. He hadn’t realized that the first time. Probably missed a few, he thought. Today, though, he wouldn’t let it slip his mind. While it was a normal occurrence now, the first time he’d realized it happened, he thought he’d finally cracked and fallen off the deep end. No, the five people who were in the accident with him, they were the lucky ones. They weren’t cursed with his condition. They were all dead.
Like the man under the ambulance–who stood as if catapulted off the ground. His body stayed silent, crushed under the vehicle, but his spirit, his soul, his ghost, his fragments–as Julius called them–rose off the lingering body like a black mist. He reconstituted, regained his head, all back to normal.
No one paid any attention as the apparition faded into the dark.
Julius nodded him off, showed a thumbs up, mouthing ‘at least you get to go on.’
Not like Julius, who was stuck walking the earth as an immortal walking corpse.
Being dead was, at least, not as bad as being old.
Julius had to move his spot for a bit of time. Closed down for cleanup. The new spot, while not as fancy or luxurious as a public bus stop, had its own sense of charm.
It was in front of a convenience store.
Low and behold, he didn’t need to wait long before the people failed to notice him loitering about. No one paid him any mind.
Julius leaned against a wall, repositioned his socks under his sandals, and returned to his joyous pastime.
He watched the people. The traffic had more variety. Locals, randos, each one Julius filed away. Whenever they’d enter or exit the store, he managed to get close looks.
Observation practice. Julius found it helped his perspective, it helped him live.
The mother and child who entered didn’t even look in his direction.
Sad, Julius thought. The kid was split. Around the waist. His upper body was slanted and slightly off position, but he jumped and skipped just the same. The mother–her legs moved independently from the rest, having been cut off above the knees.
Wasn’t going to end well for either of them.
They were going to get some kind of treat, drive away, then be subjected to a horrific accident that would either maim them for life or outright kill them.
It happened every time.
Every single time. Always, about five minutes after Julius would determine their fate.
Nobody could hide it. Julius could see it all, even as a corpse, he could still deduce the fine points.
A biker guy entered the store. His heart was sitting on top of his head. That usually meant heartattack. Not as flashy or striking. Others were more brutal, gory, sickening. Julius could really go without it beating against his hairline.
He almost gagged.
A group of four walked by, two couples. A knife stuck out of three of their backs while the last one, a roided out teen, had finger knives replacing his fingers.
Another with a pipe through her chest. One who appeared dehydrated, skin like jerky. One with their entire abdomen exposed, definitely an operating table procedure. The worst was when he’d see a baby–
A gunshot rang through the store. The bullet hit the glass window, shattered the pane behind Julius. Still no one paid him attention. Not even the robber who was preoccupied with cleaning out the register and everyone’s pockets. There were more people than Julius had originally thought. Did he miss some? Man, he really was getting older. He noticed a strain in his eyes. As if dead body eyes weren’t bad enough–
But his eyes didn’t lie. Not in the beginning, not when he died and began seeing everyone’s eventual demise. Not when he’d seen a bullet hole in his mother’s chest and five minutes later she was mugged and shot the exact way.
Julius debated with intervening. Twelve people spread about the store. A second gunman entered from the back, pointed his revolver at each person until they dropped to their hands and knees.
The bystanders had red and black holes in their heads. The robbers were riddled with wounds all over their body.
An eventual end for everybody.
The bullet holes flickered. As if they were trying to disappear.
Wait, what? Julius thought. Everyone was going to die.
The wounds seemed to vanish. Then reappear a second later.
Unless–was he actually thinking about intervening?
No, no, no, Julius had this desire ever since he died in the building collapse. The nanosecond he’d left the dust and continued limping his way home, still caked with debris and blood, he’d conjured this strange itch.
To interfere. He thought his way of seeing people turn to spirits was a superpower. One he might be able to use to save people. He denied his true self. Thought himself a bringer of justice.
What could a corpse do who saw dead people?
About as much as a pregnant grandma with hip issues. Julius wasn’t the type. He didn’t have the temperament or the drive. Again, he was content in simply walking. Julius had worked hard to keep everything in check. To only observe. Because no one would treat him the same. Everyone believed him crazy, but Julius believed nothing more than the fact that he was a corpse.
Corpses can’t help people.
Twelve shots went off. Then a volley as the robbers turned on each other.
No one, not even the cops, paid Julius any mind, a bonus of his immortality.
Julius amused himself the next day. Rather than wait for sundown, he took to the streets at midday, something he liked to do every once in a while. It helped his perspective. It, maybe, if he tried, would rid him of his intolerance for blood. It was why he never looked in the mirror. No one needed to see that willingly.
He watched one man walk by with a fork and spoon visibly protruding from a taut throat.
Now, this was a curious one. Julius rose an eyebrow in response–that no one cared to notice–and got riled under his usual stoic disposition.
Will he eat the silverware and choke? Will he be stabbed with those utensils? It made Julius irrationally angry over the man’s stupidity.
It reminded Julius of the one time he killed a guy.
A Thursday, arguably Julius’ least favorite day, and met a store clerk who’d had an axe in his head. It was the first time Julius had encountered another object in his visions of eventual corpses. He tried to grab and yank it out, he couldn’t quite get his fingers around it, and the guy went crazy thinking Julius was trying to mug him.
They tussled, and Julius–thankfully a fresh corpse on that day–managed to get to the axe first.
It went in easier than expected.
But, even in a life Julius thought strange, the weirder seemed to follow him.
The one and only person Julius himself had every killed, and no one remembered.
Julius or the dead guy. It was as if Julius killing the man poofed him out of existence. He’d stayed and watched, found the spirit wandering the streets, yet there was never a manhunt. There was never a news story. Nothing involved with the guy Julius had axed in the head.
Julius fought hard to remember his name.
He couldn’t come up with anything.
And it made him irrationally angry.
Julius remembered that day vividly. Through his rotting brain, he’d grasp at bits and pieces. That day had been special. He circled it on his calendar just so he wouldn’t forget the day he finally went insane.
It was a party in his mind. Thoughts, feelings, sensations, and pain ravaged his dead body that day. It was truly the moment when he’d realized he was bound to be tortured for all eternity. He tried bargaining to a god, begging a wrathful elimination of what remained of Julius.
That day, he went crazy. He broke down.
But not for long. Julius found it rather boring. So he decided to be sane again.
Just like that. Julius continued from that day onward, to walk the earth as an immortal being of decay.
Which, unfortunately, he also found very boring.
The crowd amassed quickly around the convenience store massacre. Police placed tape, and Julius moseyed over to the group of people. None of them noticed as he slipped through the crowd. He found two interesting cases, one of a woman burned from head to toe, the other moving as if submerged in water.
Julius walked away from the crowd. He’d had enough of the noise and blinking police lights. He was missing that peace.
He picked up the pace, just to be safe, as an officer started questioning anyone willing to talk.
Julius froze for a second. His corpse body struggled to come to a complete stop when in a groove.
There was a man. Or, what Julius thought was a man. He was standing straight, arms crossed, a white hoodie pulled fully over to obscure his face.
Since there was no possible way for the man to bother Julius, he simply kept walking. He veered slightly so he could pass by without touching.
Julius got a decent look at him. Lanky, yet built. Still, yet breathing. Definitely not a corpse. All he had to do was find his fate.
Find the mystery man’s cause of–
Julius failed to find it in time when he strolled by. His observation skills were getting rusty. He expected maybe something on the face.
Julius looked back, he wasn’t sure why. It just felt like something he needed to do.
The white-clad man had turned and was staring Julius down.
Julius fully turned, managed to convince himself that he was imagining everything.
But, no, the man was staring at him.
“Can I help you?” Julius said weakly. Been a while since he’d used his vocal cords.
“What’s it like?” the man said. His voice came out like wet gravel.
Julius was taken aback for a moment. This was the first real conversion in a long, long, long time.
“What’s what like?” Julius said.
“Being immortal,” the man said. His arms dropped to his sides. “Seems convenient. I want to test it first.”
“What the fuck you talking about, faggot?” Julius spit. Nothing burned his nerves more than a rude asshole who decided to notice him. He didn’t have the patience for people like him. “Look, I don’t give a fuck who you are, just leave me alone. I’m seventy fucking years–”
The white man drove his entire arm through Julius’ chest.
All the way to the elbow.
Julius barely reacted. While the instantaneous moment had surprised him, it was hard to feel pain when you were–
“That’s why I want to test it,” the man said. “Go ahead, you’re good. Look.” The man revealed a small mirror from his pocket.
Julius managed to turn his rotting neck, to avoid looking at what had become of his body, and caught a glimpse of the man’s hand sticking out Julius’ back. With his heart, arteries still attached, beating between pulsing fingers.
Julius tried to speak, but the man wiggled his arm and lolled his head to stare directly into the mirror.
He didn’t want to look.
But he was compelled.
Seeing an ordinary seventy year old was not what he expected. Nor a smirk that inked its way from below the man’s hood.
There was a bolt of lightning as he spoke,
“Time to cross the River of Styx.”