Authors: Leonard Kirke
Tags: #alive, #bittersweet, #burger, #burgers, #chemical, #chemicals, #comedy, #dead, #death, #dog, #drama, #fast food, #fox, #funny, #ghosts, #Grim Reaper, #hamburger, #happiness, #humor, #joy, #Kafka, #Kierkegaard, #laugh, #life, #living, #Lynch, #magic, #mystery, #opossum, #philosophy, #possum, #racoon, #sadness, #scare, #scary, #skunk, #spirit, #spirituality, #wonder
Reclining against the back wall of the building, the three
animals continued to bask in the glow of their triumph.
"So now that you've had the chance to eat," the
Raccoon said to the Possum, "are the philosophical questions less of a
"Kind of. I'd still like to have something to do. What
good's keeping ourselves from fading away if we just sit around? Not that I'm
criticizing the time-honored tradition of just sitting around..."
"You mentioned us haunting somebody. Maybe we need to
find someone to haunt."
"I don't want to scare people!" the Skunk chirped.
"I suppose we could haunt people in a non-scary
way," the Raccoon mused, "maybe we could warn people about dangers or
"Maybe..." said the Skunk, as if on the verge of a
breakthrough idea, "maybe we could haunt people on drugs!"
"What?!" asked the Possum, confused.
"Like, say there's this guy, and he's doing a bunch of
drugs. We could haunt him to make him turn his life around. We could find a
tube of lipstick and write "DON'T DO DRUGS!" on his bathroom mirror,
so when he wakes up, he sees the message, and he gets totally freaked out and
stops doing drugs and then he gets a job and gets married and has kids and
grandkids and it's all because of us!"
The Skunk smiled eagerly as the Possum and Raccoon stared at
"Or," said the Possum, "we could just take
all of his drugs and flush them down a toilet or something."
"Oh." The Skunk thought for a moment. "Yeah,
I guess that'd work too. Hey, maybe we don't have to stay ghosts!"
"What do you mean?" asked the Raccoon, curious.
"Maybe we can become angels!"
"I don't follow."
"Well, I remember once when I was young I read
"The Little Mermaid," and in the story the mermaid gets to go to
Heaven when she does enough good deeds! Maybe if we do enough good deeds, we'll
go to Heaven and become angels!"
"Yes, well, "good" and "bad" can be
pretty sticky concepts."
"Say there's a baby," the Raccoon continued,
"and the baby is about to be hit by a car on our left. But there's a
runaway train to our right, about to collide with another train.
We can either move the baby out of the car's
path, or push the lever to put the train on a safe track. We only have time to
"Yeah," interrupted the Possum, "like we're
the experts at avoiding moving vehicles!"
"We'd save the baby!" declared the Skunk with
confidence, "Unless the train has babies on it! Does the train have babies
"The train has four babies but FIVE serial killers
heading for prison," the Raccoon answered.
"Why would there be four babies on the same train as
five serial killers?" asked the Possum.
"Oh, no..." said the Skunk, feeling overwhelmed,
"so many babies to consider!"
"And the baby about to get hit by the car is the son of
an abusive father," continued the Raccoon, "but one of the babies on
the train is the daughter of an absent father and an alcoholic mother, but one
of the other babies is the son of an absent father and a nurse who works really
hard to support her baby."
"I'd let '
the Possum blurted out. The Skunk and Raccoon were aghast.
"Hey, what's the worst that could happen?" he
asked. "They come back as animals, get hit by more cars, and wander around
as ghosts looking for fast food. I've been through it. It isn't that bad."
The Skunk and the Raccoon sat silently contemplating the
Possum's point of view and the logic behind it. Bothered by the silence, the
Possum decided to change the subject.
"So why do you think we're ghosts? Why aren't we
reincarnating? We apparently all used to be human, so what happened? Also, what
was up with that fox...guy...thing...and why do Stubby Burgers keep us from
drifting off into Eternity?"
"Perhaps," said the Raccoon after some thought,
"in life as humans, or even as animals, the food here has some sort of tie
to us. Perhaps it acts as a spiritual bond that keeps us roaming the
"Maybe..." the Skunk thought out loud.
The Skunk was interrupted from her reverie by the arrival of
a large black van. The three animals hid behind a trashcan near the corner of
the building. Two men appeared from the backdoor of the restaurant, and the
driver of the vehicle emerged: the man in the
The two men opened the back of the van and began unloading
large white boxes and garbage bags. The older man wore a tag with the word
"MANAGER" written on it. The younger one was, the animals noted,
obviously an employee.
"How do people eat this stuff?" the Manager
"Beats me," the employee replied, "people
will eat anything, I guess. Did I ever tell you about that guy who stopped
"Like a thousand times..."
The dark, hooded driver exited the van, picked up some of
the unloaded cargo and silently carried it inside, to the freezer in the back.
employee watched him as he went and then
spoke to the Manager.
"So what's that guy's deal? Is he some kind of freak or
"I don't know," the Manager replied, "our
usual guy quit on us a few weeks back and this guy just showed up with a
resume, slammed it down in front of me and left. Didn't even ask for an
interview. Didn't even say a word! Just slammed the resume down on the counter
and was gone. Nobody else applied, though, and I desperately needed a
"I'd have taken the job!"
"But you're FAR too important in your current
"Wow, thanks!" The employee was oblivious to the
sarcasm. "You know, bosses don't say that kind of stuff enough. You're a
"Oh, well. Uh, thanks..." the Manager was
"So what's the guy's name?"
"Yeah, why? You know him or something?"
"No, it's just...he's so creepy. I figured he'd have a
Goth name like Nightshade
"Maybe he just chose Arnold Jenkins because it looked
good on a resume."
"So what other jobs did he do before this? I mean,
besides harvesting souls and drinking the blood of the innocent?"
"Well," said the Manager, thinking back,
"some stuff you'd expect. For a while he was, get this, a gravedigger. He
worked for a funeral home after that but was fired. I called to ask why, just
out of curiosity, and found out it was because he refused to take that stupid
off and everybody thought it was some kind of sick
joke! After that, he worked as an accountant. Not sure how that worked out.
Finally, he went back to school for the Animal Control gig, and then he got
hooked up with us."
"Wow. What a nut!"
"You're telling me. He belongs in a job like
The Manager paused and looked in one of the garbage bags. He
"He's been on a roll tonight! I can't even tell what
this is. I guess it's pre-grinded for our convenience. And I was afraid he'd
lost his creativity! All he gave us earlier was a dog, a skunk, a possum and a
mangled up raccoon. Amateur stuff. This, though...this doesn't even look like a
creature of this earth!"
"Slap enough special sauce on," the employee said
with disgust, "and people will eat anything..."
The three animals, still hiding, began to wretch and vomit
violently. When they finished, they were much more light and transparent than
before. The two men heard the noise.
"What was that?" asked the employee. "Is
there a hobo losing his lunch in the trash over there?"
At that moment, the man in the
emerged from the building once more, apparently hearing the commotion. He began
striding slowly towards the three animals as they stared, frozen in fear. The
Manager and the employee were still unable to see them in their hiding spot,
but it seemed that the man in the
them now. He was heading right for them.
"Let's haul the rest of this inside," muttered the
Manager, "if he finds an animal or something I don't want to see what he
does with it..."
The Manager and the employee grabbed some of the last of the
boxes and bags and headed inside. The man in the
continued, slowly, to walk closer and closer to the three petrified animals.
The Cashier and the customer were investigating a strange
series of falling objects behind the counter. The Dog had just pulled off
several other tricks, knocking various things over and then going back into
As the two men were distracted, the Dog grabbed an entire
tray of Stubby Burgers in his mouth, right off the warming rack, and headed for
the door. However, as he was about to leave, the television mounted in the corner
of the ceiling caught his attention and he paused. An impeccably dressed news
anchor had mentioned
. He listened to her
"And in a bit of bad news for you fast food junkies out
there, beloved chain
is under fire at
present under allegations that a preservative being used in their products may
be harmful. Dr. Edmund Rosenthal of the
Medical Research Institute has discovered the substance, once marketed as an
anti-aging drug, present in nearly all
The chemical, known popularly as "
was removed from the market when it was discovered that the effects of the
substance were strikingly similar to those of chemicals used in embalming
fluid. While it did retard the aging process, it also caused a massive loss of
nerve function and cell growth. It should be noted that when on the market,
was sold as a topically applied cream rather
than a drug intended for ingestion. No studies have been done on an ingestible
derivative of the chemical compound, but the team currently examining the
suspected use of the drug as a food preservative say that the effects on
consumers' health could be devastating.
Dr. Rosenthal has shared his findings with the FDA, and the
Surgeon General is expected to make a statement this afternoon. Sources close
to the Surgeon General claim that an unprecedented move is likely: the order
for the immediate shutdown of all
restaurants. More on this story as it develops."
The Dog's eyes widened in surprise, but, hearing the two men
returning from his last distraction, he dismissed his concerns and went back
out the door.
The Dog approached the other animals, still hiding behind
the trash cans, with the tray clutched in his jaws. Hidden from his view around
the corner, the man in the
was approaching the
three animals. The Dog placed the tray on the ground and greeted them
"Hey! I got a haul this time! Enough for everybody!
More than enough! Also, you'll never believe what I saw on the news just now,
might get shut down today! We got this stuff just
in time! So, are you ready to eat?"
The other three animals remained frozen in terror, staring
at the approaching hooded figure.
. You okay?" The Dog
"Run." The Raccoon's voice was dull and monotone.
"RUN AWAY NOW!"
The three animals bolted towards the edge of the forest.
They were careful to stay near it without setting foot back inside it again.
The hooded man appeared from around the corner. Upon seeing him, the Dog let
out a frightened yell and ran after his friends.
The animals were hiding behind a portable toilet booth, part
of a small park near the forest's edge. Light was creeping slowly into the sky
above them. The morning air was cold and jagged; it felt like tiny icicles were
stabbing into their throats. As their breath became steam, it appeared as if it
was an extension of their increasingly vapory bodies. All four were exhausted,
terrified and winded.
"How..." the Dog was panting, "how did
The other three exchanged worried glances.
"We have some bad news, dude," said the Possum.
"Don't tell him!" pleaded the Skunk. "He
doesn't need to know!"
"About them getting shut down?" asked the Dog.
"Shut down?!" the Raccoon asked, surprised,
"We didn't hear about that!"
"Yeah, because of some dangerous preservative in the
food. It shouldn't hurt us, though. I mean, we're ghosts. How could that affect
us? We're already dead! So...wait." He paused. "If you didn't know
about that, then what's the problem?"
"Dude." The Possum was, for the first time that
night, finding it difficult to speak.
"The Stubby Burgers. They were...us."
"That guy, the hood guy. He works for them. He's not a
civil servant. He brings
and they use it to make Stubby Burgers. We've been
The Dog, for a moment, simply stared in stunned silence.
Then, without warning, he vomited uncontrollably, and when he was finished, he
too, was much lighter than he'd been before.
"I'm sorry..." the Skunk spoke sadly, "it's
just...so...horrible. I mean, eating OUR OWN BODIES...it doesn't get much more
"A preservative, you said?" The Raccoon was asking
the Dog, but his tone sounded more like he was speaking to himself. The Possum
attempted to distract the Dog from the nauseating truth.
"The hood guy's real name is Arnold Jenkins. Can you
The Dog didn't reply. He still looked quite ill. The Skunk
put a paw around his neck, concerned. The Raccoon continued to stare off into
space, apparently trying to work his mind through some problem. The Possum
simply looked at the others, crestfallen.
"So the age old question returns, " he said,
"what do we do now?"
Without warning, the man in the hood appeared behind them,
brandishing a net. The four once again rose to flee, but the Dog struggled to
move, still weak. The Skunk turned back and tried to help him move forward.
"We have to go!"
Before she could prod him further, the net captured her. The
Possum and Raccoon, on the edge of the forest's outermost trees, turned around
"Not again!" shouted the Possum.
The Dog, as before, sprang into action, suddenly filled with
renewed energy. He wrenched the net away from the hooded man and then untangled
it from around the Skunk. She ran off. As she ran, the Dog didn't move.
Instead, he stood still, facing the dark figure.
"You've already got our bodies!" the Dog shouted,
trembling, "What more do you want with us?!"
The hooded, faceless figure stared at the Dog silently.
"What are you doing?!" screamed the Raccoon,
having stopped a short distance away.
"Think about it!" the Dog shouted back,
"We're going to fade out anyway unless we eat these
burgers, and I'm not taking another bite of them! Tonight was a pain. I died.
My favorite fast food place was ruined for me tonight. I'm not spending my last
moments of earthly existence running away from some prick in a
, some moron named Arnold Jenkins! I call bull! What
can he do to us?"
"Run!" squeaked the Skunk, meekly, "We have
to run away!"
The hooded figure continued to stare, unmoving and faceless,
not making a sound.
"Nothing to say, huh?" taunted the Dog, "Not a
word! You know why? Because you've got
All you can do is scare us! But we're fading anyway! So do what you want. I'm
not scared anymore. There's nothing you can do to hurt me. All you can do is
try to ruin my chance to enjoy the time I have left, and
I AM NOT GOING TO LET YOU DO THAT
For a few more moments, the hooded figure remained
motionless. Then, to everyone's surprise, he slowly began walking away.
The Skunk, Raccoon and Possum were flabbergasted. The Dog,
however, had a look of satisfaction on his face as the hooded figure retreated
from them. He smiled.
"Man," blurted out the Possum, "this night
just gets more and more anticlimactic. That's all we had to do? Tell him to go
"It was just a lack of logic on our part," said
the Raccoon, "really, I should've thought of this sooner. What CAN anyone
do to us? We're bound to either remain ghosts or fade away. How could he give
us anything to worry about?"
"So what now?" asked the Skunk. "We just let
ourselves fade away?"
"That's what I'm going to do," said the Dog.
The other three looked at him, horrified.
"You can't just give up!" the Skunk protested.
"I'm NOT eating another Stubby Burger. That meat could
be any one of us. We were eating ourselves. It's sick."
"Yeah, it was gross," said the Possum, "but
we have to keep ourselves from fading!"
"We don't have to do anything. That's what I figured
out. It's up to us, each of us. We can each choose what we want to do."
"The forest!" the Skunk yelled, "The fox said
we could stay in the forest!"
"I'm not doing that either. I want to see what happens
when I fade. The forest might be safe, but it's a prison. I think staying in
there would make us lose ourselves. He said if we chose to enter again, we
wouldn't be able to leave. If we fade, we don't know what will happen. We might
cease to exist. We might be reborn. We might go somewhere else, Heaven or Hell
or someplace nobody on Earth has ever even dreamed of. You can stay in the
forest if you want to. You can even go eat more of those burgers if you want.
But I'm moving on. The more you try to hold on to what you have, the more
you'll lose. You'll lose what you didn't even know you had."
He turned to the Skunk. "You were half-right, I can't
just give up. But going back for more burgers, or staying in the forest, that'd
be giving up. That's just staying afraid."
The other three animals looked at him in disbelief, all of
them at a loss for words. Then, the Skunk spoke, with an uncharacteristic
gravity in her voice.
"Nobody answered us when we prayed. Not God, anyway.
There might not be anyone waiting for us if we let ourselves go."
"Nobody answered us...here," said the Dog,
"that's what I know for sure. I don't know anything about what happens if
we let go. I want to find out. I'm letting go. If you want to stay with me,
have a seat. If not, the forest is right over there. That is, unless you want
to eat more
The Dog sat down and several moments passed. The other three
continued to exchange confused, worried looks. Finally, the Raccoon sat down
next to the Dog. The Possum and the Skunk look at him, surprised.
"He makes sense," the Raccoon explained,
"it's the most logical thing I've heard all night."
The Possum then sat down next to the Raccoon. The Skunk eyed
all of them with suspicion, thinking that perhaps they'd all lost their minds.
However, she, too, finally resolved to stay. The four of them sat in a row,
looking at the moon as the night drained from the sky and the stars faded from
view. Time passed in silence as they gazed out at the horizon, where the sun
was slowly rising. Finally, the Raccoon broke the silence.
"I've been thinking...so it was a dangerous
preservative in the food at
them shut down, was it?"
"Yeah," answered the Dog, "
"Yeah! That was it! Why? How did you know?"
"I think I remember...something about being human. I
must've worked in the chemical industry or something. I've heard of that. I
think I used to know about it."
"Huh," mused the Dog, "
"Hmm. If we used to be humans, and then we were
animals, and now we're just ghosts, that means that direct memories don't carry
over from one body to the next. Only ghosts retain some memories, presumably,
and even then, not very clear memories."
The Raccoon paused, deep in thought.
"Humans have learned a lot. Science has made some real
progress, so much is known and so much is improved. Yet there's so much we
don't know. There are whole aspects of reality, whole planes of existence that
humans know nothing about, even if they experience them. Like the one we exist
in now, for instance."
"What's your point?" asked the Possum.
"Oh, just thinking out loud. It makes you wonder how
the choices we make affect the universe, and ourselves, in ways that science
just can't measure. At least...not yet. Ways we might never understand. For
every new drug, every cure, there's that warning: may cause side effects."
"I hate those drug commercials," mused the Skunk,
not entirely on-topic.
"I've been wondering too..." the Possum chimed in,
"what do you think that ghost food was? Why was it there?"
"Who knows?" said the Dog.
"Maybe it was just regular food," continued the
Possum, "the fox said that
unique. Maybe while it preserves ghosts, regular food increases the speed at
which they fade away."
"It's not what goes in the mouth," said the Skunk
absent-mindedly, "it's what comes out..."
"The more we ran away from that hood guy," said
the Dog, "the more he pursued us. Maybe the more you eat regular food, the
more you fade away, because it's not meant for ghosts to eat Earth food."
"That sounds plausible," said the Possum, "I
guess. I wonder what was up with that fox guy, and that forest. It was all
surreal and creepy."
"He said that the forest had a thousand eyes," the
Raccoon recalled, "he faded in and out of it himself, and he claimed that
it was all connected. Perhaps if one joins the forest, it...absorbs you. You
become part of the Earth, but you lose yourself in the process. He certainly didn't
have much of a personality, even if he was pretty knowledgeable."
"Do you think he was an answer to our prayer,"
asked the Skunk, "or do you think it was just a coincidence?"
No one answered. Instead, they all looked off once more into
the distance. They had all become so transparent that they were barely visible
"I hope we get to meet God once we fade away,"
said the Skunk, "or somebody nice."
"Me too," said the Dog, "me too."
"There's no way to know," said the Raccoon,
"but you have to accept these things."
"You have to choose to face the unknown," added
the Dog, "that's what I think. Otherwise, you're just stuck in...I don't
"You know what?" asked the Possum.
"What?" asked the Dog.
"As gross as it was...you guys were delicious."
All four of them began laughing, and the tension that had
been building up, if only for a moment, melted away.
"It had some low moments," said the Skunk after
the laughter had quieted, "but after all that it really wasn't a bad last
night on Earth. I'm still glad we spent it together."
All of them nodded. Now only their outlines remained
"It looks like we're going," observed the Raccoon,
trying to suppress the fear in his voice.
"If I don't see any of you again," said the Dog,
"I want to say...thanks. For everything."
"Yeah," said the Skunk, "thanks for saving me
from Arnold Jenkins."
"Thanks for not leaving me behind after I jumped out of
my corpse and scared you," said the Possum.
"You're all very welcome," said the Raccoon.
The other three stared at him.
The outlines of the animals were themselves now nearly
invisible. Their voices had faded with it, and were nearly inaudible, with only
a slight echo into the park land surrounding them. The sun rose over the
horizon. The morning, at last, had broken.
"Oh!" exclaimed the Dog, "You know
"What?" asked the Skunk.
"Mario's Pizza!" The Possum was incredulous, as if
he'd just had a eureka moment.
"It's only like a mile away," the Dog continued,
"and it's open all night! THAT'S where we should have gone for our last
"I love Mario's Pizza!" gushed the Raccoon.
"Darn. Why didn't we think of that?"
"Yeah," agreed the Skunk, "then we could've
eaten something we all enjoy, and we could've got meatless so there'd be no chance
of accidentally eating our own corpses."
"Well crap!" blurted out the Possum, "Isn't
that always the way it goes?"
"It's just one of those days..." mused the
"I guess." The Dog's voice was nearly gone, fading
into silence along with his body. The other animals could barely hear him. The
sounds of the morning birds singing in the trees around them became distant.
"Who knows? Maybe they'll serve it wherever we end up