“What’re you in for?” murmurs my singed neighbor.
I give him a casual onceover; no skin, missing musculature, ashy spots on his bones.
Embarrassed, he quietly says, “Yeah. House fire; neighbor’s kid got frisky with some kerosene and a box of matches. Whole block went up. Family’s over there.”
He waves at the trio of bodies across from us, all with similar marks to his. One of the parents was admonishing the child; after a moment, it grabs him by the back of the skull, throws him across its desiccated lap, and begins spanking what’s left of his ass.
“Eh, boys will be boys,” I say dismissively over the click-clack of bone on slightly-meatier bone.
My neighbor raises his eyebrows. Well, the little remaining skin on his forehead stretches a bit.
“So…” he trails off. I’m a Wholebody, something you don’t see much of in these parts. I’m used to the questions. A moment passes and takes his apprehension with it. “Drowned? Ah, no, you’d be bloated…” his eyes rove my untainted form for a tell, any sign. “Suffocation? Pills? C’mon man, you’re killing me here.”
I laugh at the unintentional joke and pull my pack of smokes from my jacket. Lighting up, I offer him one; he shakes his head, “Are you supposed to do that here?”
“What’s it gonna do,” I ask, “Kill you deader?”
He begins to reply when he’s interrupted by three blinding flashes of bile-green light; the New Arrivals are here.
With a loud tearing that’s always reminded me of an uprooted shrub, a group appears in the center of the room. Some are screaming, most are looking around with confused faces; all of them are wet.
Standing up, I nod at the tall, bulky figure at the back of the group, “Drowners?”
Ted nods back: “Yep. Cruise ship capsized in the Atlantic. Almost everyone aboard survived,” he nudges a sputtering man’s large pot belly with his boot, “These ones were drunk.”
A small voice at the back of the group counters: “I was sleeping.”
Ted shrugs, stepping over a skinny middle-aged woman in a sundress, “Whatever.”
I join them, kneeling next to a young woman clutching two small, still bodies; she’s crying. I place a hand on her shoulder.
“Why–” her breath hitches, caught in a sob, “–Why didn’t they come back too?”
In a sympathetic tone, I say, “Children usually don’t make it through the Veil. Sorry, hun.”
Unfurling my sack, I snatch up the kids and quickly bag them. Their damp clothes squish between my fingers. Mom screams in shock, clutching at me, but I whip out my pistol and send a round through her gaping mouth. The back of her skull pops like a cherry tomato, showering the wall with blood and brain.
Walking towards the Portal, I flick my cigarette at the young firestarter and turn to my Burner friend with a grin: “I’m just here for decorations; the Halloween stores in my neighborhood suck.”