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Authors: S. S. Michaels

Revival House

BOOK: Revival House
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S. S. Michaels





Omnium Gatherum

Los Angeles



Revival House

Copyright © 2012 S.S. Michaels


All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written permission of the author and publisher.


This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.


First Electronic Edition



This book is dedicated to my beautiful daughters, Sian and Emma, and to all the people who cheered me on along the way, particularly Kate Jonez and Jeremy C. Shipp.






Chapter 1 – Caleb

People always confuse me with Avery Dunning. I guess they think we look alike or something, I don’t know. We used to be best friends, back in college, up north in Pittsburgh. I hired Avery at the Exley & Sons Funeral Parlor after Uncle Sterling died and dumped the place on me. I hired him the day of Sterling’s funeral, in fact, the day he showed up. Soon after that Avery is reanimating my girlfriend and shooting me full of mescaline. Right now he’s holding a hand drill to my head and saying, in order to help others achieve lasting resuscitation we need to expand our own level of consciousness. He thinks I need a ‘third eye.’ I think I need a new employee.

The diamond core drill bit rests on the crown of my half-shaved head, and Avery says, “An increase in blood flow to the brain will help us come up with better answers, more advanced procedures, the key to lasting longevity.” He doesn’t mention the extra hole in my head. Not that he really needs to; that goes without saying.

I can feel the points of the drill bit dimpling my scalp, warm droplets of blood welling up in a three-quarter inch ring. All of the blood will come from those diamond points spinning into the epidermis that covers my skull. It’ll be like slicing a very tender cut of meat with a circular serrated knife. Like a washing machine shredding a crocheted afghan. Penetrating the skull itself will take a little more pressure on the drill. That’s all right. Avery works out.

Drill too deep and you’ll penetrate the dura mater and could wind up dead from infection.

“Caleb. You’re not going to die, for Christ’s sake,” Avery says.

Everything, my reflection in the bathroom mirror, Avery’s greasy face, looks as though I’m looking through a kaleidoscope. I never liked mescaline.

“We’ll be able to help people live longer afterlives. The very word ‘afterlife’ will take on a whole new meaning. People will recover from what used to be fatal accidents. And, bonus: we will be rich beyond our wildest dreams.”

He doesn’t know my dreams, I tell him. But he does.

We can hear Four pounding on the door and crying like a girl. He’s babbling that he called the police and they’ll be here any minute to save me. Or at least that’s what I think he’s saying. It’s hard to tell with all the sobbing and sniffling and Avery’s iPod, balanced on the edge of the tub, blasting out Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Head Like a Hole.’ Fitting, right?

, Four says.
not the one who needs saving.
is the one who needs saving. You know that old saying about a little knowledge being a dangerous thing? That’s true. Avery, with his fancy Ph.D. in neurology, his training at the Safar Center for Resuscitation Research, has a little knowledge; he sure as hell doesn’t know everything. And the little knowledge that he possesses is indeed a very dangerous thing.

The place we’re sitting will be teeming with cops in about five minutes. Mostly guys I’ve known my entire life who won’t believe any of this.

Avery and I hear the bathroom window break behind us. I can’t turn my head to look because I’m strapped into an antique dentist’s chair that Avery found at the dump. My head feels like a floating balloon and I don’t care who broke the window. The tinkling of glass sounds better than Trent Reznor’s screeching over calliope music or whatever it is.

It’s Four, busting out the window with his Batman T-shirt wrapped around his hand. I can see him in the mirror. His screams are even more girlish now, staring at me with the yellow power drill to my head, sitting in front of the mirror, towels and plastic sheeting, held together with duct tape, covering every surface.

None of us would be here if it hadn’t been for Scarlet.

I knew her first, lusted after her first. Then Avery showed up. Avery with his movie-star good looks, his sparkling sense of humor, his vomit-inducing perfect body and teeth. And let us not forget his Ph.D. and life saving and revival skills.

We can hear sirens screaming down Whitaker Street.

We can hear Four screaming and crying through the jagged edges of the broken window.

Sweat and tears pour down my face and soak my Brooks Brothers shirt. I am pissing in my pants thinking about the hole about to be punched into my head. I’d never even had my ear pierced because the thought of self-mutilation made me ill.

“We can revolutionize the whole death experience,” Avery says. “Open your mind and the cash will follow. It’s what you want, isn’t it?” He laughs.

At this moment, I want nothing more than for Avery to be out of my life. We are no longer friends. We haven’t been for quite some time. I am only now realizing it.

“Do it now,” I yell to be heard above Four’s shrieking, the cords in my neck standing out.

The drill makes a whirring sound, drowning out Four’s screams, the sirens, Avery’s moaning, Trent Reznor, my own vomiting. My head strains against the leather belt securing it to the chair’s headrest. Chunks of my lunch drenched in bile and blood run down the front of my shirt and into my lap.

The whirring deepens to a low buzz.

A core of my scalp is ripped free from my head in a clockwise rotation of spinning metal teeth. There is no pain. A sheet of blood cascades into my eyes, coloring my kaleidoscope vision red. I see everything in exact geometric shapes, pieces of a puzzle overlapping, snapping together. I recite the periodic table of elements in my head and scream for Avery to bear down on the drill.

I can feel the jagged metal of the bit scraping my skull. I can’t hear anything above the screaming whine of the drill. I can’t see anything but the color red.

A three-quarter inch circle of bone is punched out of my skull as if by some devilish cookie cutter.

But the diamond teeth don’t stop.

I’m going for the dura mater.

I am sick of Avery’s shit.







Chapter 2 – Caleb

Four nearly gave those corpulent tourists a coronary. That is his business, of course, and he takes the greatest of pleasure in it. ‘Frightainment,’ he calls it, and if he were any better, perhaps my own sagging business would pick up some. Sipping my sweet tea on a bench next to Four’s ‘Extreme Ghost Tours’ podium in City Market, I wonder how on Earth I am going to convince one Mr. Davis that his estranged wife deserves a solid mahogany, champagne velvet-lined, twenty-thousand dollar Montrachet casket in which to spend eternity. Mrs. Davis, you see, accomplished society whore, died of a coronary herself, just two days ago, caused by something other than a ghost tour operator. I believe her particular ailment was brought on by an energetic young curator in a vacant gallery inside the Telfair Academy. They say the 1836 Thomas Cook dining table, unlike Mrs. Davis, was left unscathed. The table, like the Montrachet, is constructed of solid mahogany.

“That’s three more,” Four says, lurching back to his creaking wooden two-foot square platform, wiping the crimson corn syrup from his gray chin. Grainger Mercer IV— known around town as Four— has been my closest friend ever since the day he saved my freshman posterior at the Benedictine College. I was the favorite target of practically every other student at the academy. BC is, of course, the city’s finest private secondary school for boys and all of the men in my family were compelled to attend.

Four does not always dress like an extra from
Dawn of the Dead—
that’s strictly for business purposes; he usually looks much worse. On his rare day off, he trades the tattered, frayed, and stained Confederate soldier’s uniform, suitable for exploring Savannah’s network of underground tunnels, for tattered, frayed, and stained camouflage shorts and comic book character T-shirts, also suitable for exploring said tunnels as well as back alleys, various seedy taverns, and convenience stores. Though I am no psychology expert, despite having been treated for many years, I suspect he may be continuing to experience some type of sartorial rebellion due to having to dress in uniform throughout our days at BC, which is a military school, though very few of its graduates go on to pursue military careers. In Four’s case, perhaps he should have considered such a career path. Discipline has never been his greatest strength. He is, however, a loyal friend who rescued me from daily swirlies, and who continues to bail me out when I get involved in the occasional scrape. He’s like a brother to me, spent most of his free time with me at the parlor when we were teenagers, still does to this day.

“Two tours tonight booked solid, hoo hoo,” Four says. He flicks a cigarette butt toward one of the old malnourished horses hitched in front of the carriage tour booth on the other side of Jefferson Street. Tourists these days, thanks to some ghost hunting television show, come to Savannah in search of spirits and not only the kind one pours from a bottle. They want ghosts. Ghosts from the old slavery days, ghosts of soldiers killed in the Northern Aggression (or ‘Civil’ War, if you insist; in my mind, there was nothing ‘civil’ about it), ghosts from the yellow fever epidemic, and so on. All ghosts, all the time. And our city never fails to disappoint. Savannah has been called ‘the most haunted city in America’ by some.

Used to be people came here to see locations detailed in John Berendt’s scandalous book,
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
(known to locals simply as
the book
, whispered, of course, like the dirtiest of words; if there’s one thing Savannahians don’t care for it is the airing of their dirty laundry in public), but the
fad is fading. People are more excited about the ghosts now, and not just that of poor old Jim Williams, either.

“Hey, don’t look now, Caleb,” Four says, thumping me on the shoulder with the back of his grimy white-gloved hand, “but here comes your girlfriend.” He gestures toward a curvaceous dark figure creeping up the brick-paved Market in our direction. My face gets hot, my stomach flips, sweat beads on my forehead and in my palms.

Oh, she is beauty personified. Her long red highlighted raven hair sets off the pristine alabaster of her heavenly face, the curvature of her generous breast and full hips give her black shroud a most pleasing silhouette, and, ah, her voice... Her voice is that of a mournful angel seeking solace from God himself.

“What’s up, fuckwads,” Scarlet says, dropping her basket of black spray-painted roses on the bench next to me. It balances on the edge of the seat and starts to fall. I try to grab it, but only succeed in knocking the stems out of the vessel. I scramble to the brick walk and pick them up, blood rushing to my chalky cheeks.

Scarlet Lawson is the most beautiful creature that I have ever had the pleasure of feasting my lecherous eyes on. She is my ‘friend’ in the way that beautiful girls are always ‘friends’ with men they find repugnant but whom they take pleasure in stringing along anyway, for sport. I’ve always been painfully awkward around girls. As such, I had naturally assumed the role of Ms. Lawson’s gentlemanly protector over the past two years. I have been less than successful in winning her affections, but I am always a dutiful escort or expert handyman when such things are convenient. It’s better than nothing. Adulthood has not cured me of what I’d assumed was the temporary teenage affliction of dorkiness. If anything, I continue to grow exponentially more ungainly as the years wear on. It causes me a fair amount of distress.

BOOK: Revival House
10.14Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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