☰ Jacob's Will (Part One)

“Jacob was a good guy.”
I stalled and wrapped my sweaty hands around the outside corners of the podium.
Tried to get my nerves under control.
“He was my best friend.”
My audience was somber, black clad and teary eyed.
The sun shone down on all of us, but its gentle warmth was ignored. The hole in the ground was distracting, and death's cold fingers reached up from it and threatened to grab us.
In just a few moments, it would swallow up my friend forever.
“We had a lot of good times together.” My voice echoed through the microphone, sounding deeper than it should’ve.
My normal inability to speak in public was numbed by loss. When my voice began to crack, I spat out the last sentences of my speech and thanked the audience for listening.
“I wish we would've had more time. You will be missed, Jay.”
Through my tears, the unnaturally green grass looked like a swirling sea of brightly colored algae.
I looked up once, and it was a mistake. I’d seen her in the crowd and our eyes met, Jacob’s girl.
I nodded respectfully at people as I passed them, but I didn’t stop walking until I was halfway to my car.
Once there, I pulled out my pack of Camels and lit one.
The second drag was better than the first; it didn’t taste like butane from having just been lit anymore. By my third hit, my nerves started to calcify, turn into steel.
High heels clicked behind me and a touch of sweet, unnamed perfume wafted under my nose. It’s funny; I could smell it so clearly, but I’d been stuffed up from crying and couldn’t smell much of anything else.
“Quite a situation your friends got himself in, don’t you think?” I turned to see who was speaking to me, and whose perfume was so appealing.
White-blond hair.
Pink lips in the shape of a heart, gray eyes that dug into my soul. She held out her hand.
I shook it. It was soft and silky just like the way she looked. But looks can be deceiving and I felt a bite attached to her touch. A feeling that told me not to piss her off. Maybe it came from a glint in her eyes, or from a nuanced change in her countenance, too slight to quantify.
“Lander.” I told her my name. “What situation? He’s dead.”
She pulled her hair out of the arms of the wind and held it in place.
“Death is not the end, Mr. Lander——”
“It’s just Lander.” I interrupted.  “And of course it is.”
I hit my cigarette again and said: “Did you know Jacob?”
“I did. He was doing a job for me.”
“What kind of job?”
She smiled but didn’t answer the question. “A car wreck, right? That’s what killed him?”
“Well, I’m sorry for your loss.”
“Yeah.” I blew out smoke. “Me too.”
“Jacob said,” she licked her lips and pulled an envelope out of her black handbag. “If anything ever happened to him, I was to give this envelope to his best friend, Lander.”
I took the envelope out of her hands and perused the words on the front of it.
It was his will.
“What about his parents? His sister? His… girlfriend. Shouldn’t they have this instead of me?”
“Not according to him.” Tess said coolly. She pursed her lips and spoke again. “I have to go now, but I’ll be in town for the next two days, if you need me, you may contact me at this number.” She handed me a business card with a phone number embossed into it.
No name, no ink; just the impression of a ten digit number forced into the paper.
“Okay.” I slipped the card into my pocket along with Jacob’s will. “Thanks.”
She nodded and left me to myself.
I stubbed my cigarette, got into my car and left the funeral without speaking to anyone else.
Misery and loss were both exhausting.

I’d taken off work for his funeral, so when I got home, my apartment was quiet. Most of the building was either at work, or sleeping after work, and all the kids were in school.
It was the perfect time to close my eyes and just get lost in the afternoon.
Hide away for a day.
Allow myself to grieve while I had the time.
I flipped on the lights and was accosted by two large cats. I scratched them on their heads as I locked the door behind me.
“Hey boys.”
They purred and then lost interest quickly.
I found the remote and powered on the television while kicking off my shoes. I tried not to think about Jacob and the last things we’d said to each other.
I had one dress shoe still on when somebody knocked on my front door.
I sighed loudly, and limped to the door.
Looked through the peephole.
Expected to see Jacob, just out of habit. He was always locking himself out.
Expected to see Jacob, then I looked out and saw Jacob.
I jumped back fast. Adrenaline tingled in my veins and I could feel it spread through my body.
Bile rose up from my stomach and I froze.
Dead Jacob knocked again.

My heart thundered, the tips of my fingers warmed.
“Who’s there?” I called through the door.
“It’s Jacob, I left my keys, man, lemme in.”
I looked out the hole again.
Jacob spoke once more. “Come on dude, I have to piss like a racehorse.”
He stepped through the door.
“Just kidding.” He said, a smile on his face. That goofy Jacob smile I was used to seeing everyday since third grade. “I don’t think ghosts can pee.”
If it was Jacob, I could talk to him.
Apologize again.
If it was Jacob, then there was no reason to be afraid.
Ghost or not.
“Jacob?” I could see him clearly, standing in front of me as if he hadn’t just passed through a door. He didn’t look like a ghost or a demon or anything supernatural, he just looked like good ol’ Jacob.
“Yeah, it’s me, I came to talk about my will.”
“Wait, s-so you know you're dead?” I stuttered.
“Yeah, I was there, remember?” He waved a hand through my face and I jumped back. “No. We are not in a time loop. I’m dead, there’s no way you can save me. It’s cool. I’m here about the will.”
Jacob already knew some random sci-fi explanation would be my go-to theory on why all of this was happening.
“You think it’s cool that you're dead?”
“Can’t change that part. I’ve got it on good authority I’m Heaven bound. I wanna go, but I can’t go until you help me with the will. Savvy?”
“Your will? Okay.” I tried to focus.
“Have you read it yet?” he asked.
“No.” I took it out of my coat pocket.
“It basically says that, if I don’t fulfill my contract, then I won’t get to move on, you know, to the afterlife.”
I shrunk, sat down on the couch without really even noticing.
“What I need you to do in the next three days,” Jacob continued. “Is fulfill said contract with the Witch, and I can move on. I can go to Heaven. For realsies Heaven.”
“How can I see even see you right now?” I blurted out.
“How? Who cares? Lander, just help me do this, it really sucks in between.”
I felt a cold chill, the hairs on my ears stood up.
In between?”
“Yeah.” He looked around nervously. “Look, all you need to know is that if you help me with this, I can move on and go somewhere better.” He leaned down and looked me in the eye. “I’m stuck here because of the Witch. Tess. Help me finish what I started, Lander. Then all is forgiven.”
His last words caught my ear well enough.
“Okay, what do I need to do?” I asked.

Part Two

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My novel, Trigram, is in the works, but in the meantime, I'll probably be working on short stories such as the ones on Wicked Shorts. (Wink)

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