The Sixth Day-gone

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Free Verse

“Sci Fi’ish short story, and all around weird shit fiction…”

The Sixth Day-gone 


‘Twas the 12th of November, 

The season for giving thanks and my favorite time of the year. Don’t know why, I don’t have a family, few real friends, I guess I’m kind of a loner, but a happy loner. I’m thinking all of this as I awake with a slight grin on my face, the alarm clock blaring, and I haven’t even reached for it yet-  As I turn off the screeching clock, I sit up and smile thinking, Damn, this day is starting off weird. But I feel happy and kinda content, unusual but I’ll take it, off to the shower.


I’m out the door by 7:15 heading toward the bus stop, I know, I know, a guy born and raised in Southern California that doesn’t drive, oy vey, yes my friends animals like me still exist, a California spirit with New York sensibilities, I have trains, buses and Uber so what do I need the headache of a car for? As I hop on the bus, I realize  I’m still smiling, just unconsciously grinning from ear to ear. That’s when I started to get nervous and checked my pulse, hell, last time I smiled this much I was 8.


I’m just an ordinary guy, kinda. With an extraordinary job, kinda. Actually, I’m just a near middle aged nerd, an introverted caveman type that loves his computer more than most anyone he knows. I’m happy, I think, and consider myself well adjusted because I do 12 things every year to keep my workaholism in check. Things like helping serve Thanksgiving dinner at the local mission, wow! It’s coming up soon, just a couple more weeks until my favorite holiday. Other than those 12 things I do every year, the only other thing I do is work, 6 days a week, 12+ hours a day. When I’m not at work and not asleep, I’m still working on something for work. I know, I’m a little out there. 


My name is Dr. Jacob Verner and I’m a Thanatologist. Thanatology is the scientific study of death. Yeah you heard me right, Death, as in dead and gone, or so you would think. I'm like an investigator searching for clues before, during and after death, and the resulting losses brought about. I investigate the forensic aspects and bodily changes that accompany death in the postmortem period, and the psychological and social issues relating to death as well. I have a very generous grant from Carnegie Mellon to study how long the brain can function after legal death. It seems that length of time has grown among the world's leading scientists in our field over the last decade. Wow, this has turned a little heavy. I'm really not trying to bore you while telling my story, but you need to know my background to understand it.


We used to think that after death, you had 5 or 10 minutes before brain cells died from  a lack of oxygen, but we no longer believe that’s correct. You may have hours, if not days, before the brain and some other organs in the body are irreversibly damaged. Over the last six years I've been working on a theory of mine, that after death, life in your mind may continue on for a certain amount of hours or days even, without interruption as if the mind doesn’t realize its body is dead. We’ve had some amazingly odd but fascinating results in lab rats with intermittent brain activity beyond two days after death. Eventually, whatever life force in the brain that’s keeping it active, must die at some point. I wondered what happens then; does whatever life the mind is living just start to fade, or does it just black out like a toy with the last of its batteries drained. 

This is the mad-hatter stuff that keeps me up at night, obsessing over things I can only theorize about, and will never know, at least never know in life. It would be great though, if someone living their life in their mind after their death could somehow get a message to me, I’d really appreciate it, but I’m just being silly, tricks are for kids.


I get to the office, still smiling by the way, and I’m happy to see a paper published by a colleague of mine in Denmark. The results of which registered brain activity of 4 dead cats as long as six days before all electrical function ceased. To be completely honest, there was a little shock mixed in with my amazement. Thinking about the implications of what this could mean, why would the brain have functioned for so long after death, what reason could there be, and if the brain has the ability to function, could the soul of a man still stay with the body until the brain is truly dead. It leads me to a myriad of questions, and few answers. I spent the whole rest of the day pondering these questions in my mind, working on a couple of other related theories, and feeling amazed at this odd sense of wellbeing, previously uncommon to me.


I headed home that evening and stopped off at my favorite Chinese restaurant, Fu Hong’s, close to my house to grab some din din. I called Danny before I left the office and put in my order. Danny's a great guy, first gen American born, now owner of his family's restaurant in this neighborhood for over 25 years. I walk in and Danny says, “what’s up Jake” and we throw each other a fist bump. He looks at me and says, hey you look different, you’re glowing, you’re not pregnant are you? I crack up, and ball up my fist like I'm going to pop him one. I’m like, dude just give me my Chow Mein and hold the jokes, and don’t forget the hot mustard.


I get home, walk through the door and realize, I’m whistling some old catchy tune, I didn’t even know what it was. But hell, I can’t whistle, never could, I used to try all the time when I was a kid, but never quite got the hang of it. Now I’m a regular Yankee Doodle Dandy. I’m starting to wonder if Danny wasn’t right, maybe I am pregnant. 

There I go, smiling again, and here comes Chow. My beautiful pet Chow, I named Chow. Don’t judge me… Chow is the best dog in the world, and loves me more than anyone I know. Chow and I had a great dinner, and no, Chow didn’t get any of the Chow Mein, Chow has his own food, called Dog Chow, lol, I’m in such a silly mood, I just can’t get over myself. Honestly, silly isn’t really my style, at least not until recently.


I opened my eyes and felt kinda confused. I'm sitting up in the bed, eyes open, not laying down when I awake, the alarm is blaring again and it reads 6:35am, so I’ve been sitting here listening to this racket for as much as 5 minutes now. I’m really feeling like there’s an issue going on with me, but I can’t put my finger on it, and to make matters worse, or better, I don’t know. I feel good, no, great! Even better than yesterday, and I’m not that guy, I’m normally the gloomy sort, not the guy that just naturally feels a sense of wellbeing and happiness, but like I said, I’ll take it, off to the shower. After Chow and I chow down on breakfast, I’m headed to the bus stop. I wave good morning to my next door neighbor Ruth, my wonderful elderly neighbor that takes Chow out for walks when I’m working.


I get to the office and my secretary says, Peter from Denmark is on line 2, I head to my office and sit down and punch 2. “Hey Peter, how are you?” After our initial pleasantries Peter says, “I got good news and I’ve got not so good news, which do you want first?” I say, “Hit me with the good stuff first Pete.” Well, the good news is we’ve validated the results of the brain activity in the experiment with the cats. The bad news is, one of the cats had highly unusual spikes of activity in the 4th and 5th day, spikes similar to what we would see in a human having a nightmare. We’re not sure if this could impede the validity of the experiment. I’ve emailed you the research for you to take a look at, I hope you can help us make sense of it. Thanks Pete, I’ll take a look at it and get back to you. I hung up feeling a little confused, spikes in brain activity in a dead cat, and on the 4th and 5th day. 


All the brain activity we’ve validated thus far has been extremely low and very steady, as in a human sleeping, but you can barely tell they’re alive, wow, spikes what could that mean? I downloaded Peter’s results and spent the rest of the day studying them, paying great attention to the spikes in that one cat. By the end of the day I had written an 8 page theory on the possible causes of the spikes, I shot the email to Peter on my way out the door. He’s going to think I’ve been reading too many Steven King novels when he reads it. But I truly think this lends credibility to my theory, and in the mind of the cats there was no stoppage after death, the mind carried on with its day as normal, and as the mind got closer to the end of its lifeforce, it began to intermittently glitch, until the last of its lifeforce was gone, then and only then, was the cat truly dead.


I headed to Fu Hong’s to pick up dinner. I know I know, I’m a creature of habit. I do this 4 or 5 times a week and sometimes on the weekend, Danny thinks I’m half Chinese. I do mix it up a bit, once and awhile I hit the Italian joint around the corner, the pizza is to die for, Delizioso! I reach home and before I could settle in, Chow is barking and running in circles, like he’s telling me he needs to go out and do his business. Strange but okay, I’ve been walking Chow everyday after dinner for the last 5 years, so this was new. When we get back in, I plate up some chow for chow and I, just as we start to dig in, I see the red light flashing on the base for my landline. I check the messages and there’s one from Johnny, my neighbor Ruth’s son. He said his mom had a fall today and badly bruised her hip. Thankfully it wasn’t broken, she’s at St. John’s Hospital and doing well, but would be out of action for quite a while. Ruth had made him call me and let me know. I felt so sad for her, she’s such a nice old lady, and I’ve known her for over twenty years. She always reminds me of my Gram. 


I wrote a note for myself to order some flowers and call her tomorrow, then stuck it on the fridge. Chow and I finished our meal and played for a while in the backyard. Bedtime rolled around and I got ready to hit the hay, with dreams of dead cats on my mind. I’m in bed and just about to doze off, when I hear the creak of my front door opening, I jump up in a fright and rush to the front, shock and relief hit me when I see my big sister Vanessa walking through the door. She says, “What’s up knucklehead, did I wake you?” I smile and give her a big hug, saying, haven’t you heard of a doorbell? Why use the doorbell when I’ve got a key, she said, holding up a key. Well, courtesy for one, need I go on? And what are you doing in town anyway, and how come you didn’t call. I could have been entertaining… That brought such a big rouse of laughter she almost choked. Which I didn’t consider funny at all. 


We sat down and talked and laughed for over an hour. Then, all of a sudden, she looked like she started fading away, right in front of me. At first I began to rub my eyes, thinking I must be getting sleepy. But then she started fading more, and stood up and waved goodbye. My whole body started to cease, I sat frozen in place, paralyzed with fear, I felt myself blacking out. Then I heard the blaring of the alarm clock. When I open my eyes, I’m sitting up in bed and It’s 6:35 in the morning again. I awake confused, I haven’t dreamt about Vanessa in years. She died almost 15 years ago when I was in my late 20’s, she was on her way to this very house to see me, and died in a car crash on the way here. It’s so strange, the last few days I’ve been waking up happy, happier than I can remember in a very long time. But today, I feel this sense of fear and foreboding, I tell myself, It’s just that dream of Vanessa that's making me feel this way, but there’s another possibility gnawing at the back of my brain. I hit the shower, get a bite for Chow and I, then call Mrs. Lopez, my neighbor from across the street. 


Ruth and Mrs. Lopez are great friends and often have coffee together and let Chow and her dog Misty play in their backyard. Mrs. Lopez agreed to look after Chow until Ruth was able to get back on her feet. I got off the phone feeling thankful for all my wonderful neighbors. On the bus heading to work, I kept having these daydreams of Vanessa and conversations we had at the house. It frightened me because I found it hard to think about anything else. I reached my office and sat down to check my email, expecting a response from Peter. No response, so I call him up and asked if he had read the email I sent, he said I never sent him an email yesterday, I’m like, of course I did, I go to my email and there right in front of me is the email, but I had sent it to Vanessa’s old email address, I hung up the phone and started to hyperventilate, right then I hear a knock at the door and Vanessa walks in saying, “What’s up knucklehead.”

I passed out.


When I regain consciousness, I’m sitting at my dining room table with a plate of Chow Mein in front of me. Chow is barking frantically and has done his business all over the dining room floor. Try as I might, I couldn’t for the life of me remember anything since blacking out at the office. I feel so off kilter, I’m panicky and over agitated, I think I’m having a nervous breakdown. I’m too scared to sleep and keep looking at the front door dreading another knock, Damn, I feel like I’m in a Jordan Peele movie. I go to the cabinet and grab the Bourbon, grab my laptop, take a couple of shots to calm myself, then I try to write down everything I can remember that happened over the last several days, trying to find a logical explanation for what’s happening to me.


I wrote down the first weird thing that I could remember, 4 days ago I woke up feeling great, unusually great and out of character for me. That kinda continued on and I felt pretty good until last night when I had that terrible dream about my sister Vanessa. Then it seems it’s been downhill from there, bad mood, forgetting things and just overall panicky, losing time, passing out, leading to now. The last 24 hours especially have been a disaster for me, so Damn, what the hell is going on… I’m pouring another shot of Bourbon when the phone rings. It’s Danny from Fu Hong’s, he said he just called to check on me, apparently when I picked up my food tonight, it was the first time I ever showed up without ordering ahead of time, I just walked in so Danny put in the order for me. He said he asked me what was up, and I just ignored him, staring into space like a zombie or something. Then I took the food and just walked out, didn’t even pay. I told him I just had a bad day at work, I apologized and said I’d come in and pay him tomorrow. 


It’s just after 6 in the evening, i’m sitting at the dining room table and about to take a sip of Bourbon, when I hear a knock at the door, I swear, I almost started to cry, I chugged the shot and thought to myself, I just can’t take anymore of this. I answer the door with fear in my eyes, and it’s Mrs. Lopez from across the street. Hey Mr. Verner she said, I just wanted to check in on you, you didn’t seem like yourself when you picked up chow earlier. Are you feeling better? Yes, I am, and I’m so sorry for being out of sorts with you, I just had a bad day at work, I promise it won’t happen again, thanks for stopping by. Wow, I don’t think I was ever more happy to see anyone in my life, I was so afraid I was about to have another spiritual appearance from my sister. I quickly poured another shot to calm my nerves. 


I hear this faint sound of barking that seems distant, then it gets louder, then louder still, I open my eyes to sheer panic. Chow is barking loudly, like he’s trying to wake me up, the phone is ringing and the message signal is lit up red, I can hear the alarm blaring in the bedroom and here I am still sitting at the dining room table with an empty bottle of Bourbon next to me. I get up and reach for the phone, I stumble grabbing my head that’s pounding like I’m being hit on the head with a louisville slugger. On the phone is my secretary asking if I was taking a sick day today. I asked her what time it was, she said 9:30am. I said Damn, she said “excuse me.” Just please have all calls transferred here for me Janet, and I’ll see you tomorrow, thanks. I hit the message button on the phone, and It’s Peter asking for me to call him ASAP.


Before I call Peter I'd better find some aspirin, and take care of Chow. So I take Chow out and feed him, then clean up my mess and take a shower. It’s about 10:30 and I’m sitting down with the phone in my hand about to give Peter a call back, when I start to zone out. I’m just sitting with the phone in my hand, not even moving, my mind is blank but I feel dread coming on. Knock knock, comes from the door, and it’s like I see myself get up from the couch, walk to the door and open it. It’s Peter, with a look of shock on my face, I say what are you doing here? Peter says, don’t look so happy to see me Jake, I hopped on a plane as soon as I could when you hung up on me yesterday. I have a problem, Peter said, and I brought it with me. He steps outside and brings in a cat in a small cage. I said what’s this? Peter said, this is the cat. The one that died last.

No, that cat is not dead. Yes Jake, that is the problem… 


Everything goes blank again, when I come to, I’m sitting on the couch with the phone in my hand and It’s ringing. I answered it and It’s Peter. I say, hey where are you? Peter said, I’m in the lab, why? In Denmark? Of course in Denmark, where else would I be Jake? Are you okay? I’m worried about you Jake. Peter I’m okay, just going through some sleepless nights is all, has anything changed with the cats? No, not since we spoke last. But I was a little worried about you when I read that report you finally sent me, you know it’s a little out there. Yeah I know Pete, but I think it’s at least in the realm of possibility. Everything is in the realm of possibility Jake, but we mustn't set ourselves up by setting forth a theory we can’t even remotely substantiate. Understood Pete, as soon as I figure it out I’ll give you a call. Thanks for checking on me.


The whole rest of the day is kind of a blur, I just wanted to blank anything that had to do with work, death and especially cats from my mind. I decided to head to Fu Hong’s and make sure Danny got his money and grab a few Egg Rolls for dinner. When I got home Chow wasn’t there to greet me at the door, I called out to him, but no answer. I walked into the living room to see if he was in his bed. I stopped in my tracks upon seeing a big black cat laying there instead, I’m like, what the hell. The cat sat up, looked at me and said, “What the hell what?” I said what, what are you doing here, where’s Chow? The cat said, I am Chow, did you get the food or what, I’m hungry? I blanked out… I started to come to, and Chow was licking my face, I sat up and gave Chow a hug and said, I can’t take much more of this. I dragged myself to the bedroom to knock out for the night.


The alarm clock is blaring, I reach over to turn it off, but it keeps ringing, as I open my eyes I’m pounding on the damn thing, and I realize I’m pounding on my stapler and sitting at my desk in the office. I see my secretary outside my office window talking to someone and she has tears in her eyes. I’m headed out the office to see what’s the matter, and everyone is heading out. I say to my secretary as she’s walking out the door, hey where’s everyone going. She ignored me, didn’t even look my way, I followed them out, but as soon as I stepped out of the office, I stepped onto the grass. Now I’m at Forest Lawn Cemetery, where my parents and sister are buried. There’s about 40 people there, pretty much everyone I know. 


My heart began to sink, and I wondered if it could be. I walked over to where the casket was being lowered, no one noticed me, like I wasn’t even there. On the grass just above the casket, was a giant photo of me on an easel, with the caption; Rest in Peace… 


Now I’m feeling sick to my stomach, and I’m thinking, could this be the sixth day, and now I’m gone. Could I be living out, so to speak, my own theory. Just then I hear Chow barking, I look over and see Ruth, and Mrs. Lopez is holding Chow, and they say in unison, “Welcome back Jake.” As I open my eyes I see I’m in a hospital bed, hooked up to all sorts of wires and monitors, Ruth, Mrs. Lopez, Danny and even Peter are in the room. All patting me on the shoulder, smiling and happy saying welcome back. Mrs. Lopez is holding Chow and he jumps onto the bed, wagging his tail and licking my cheeks. I say, back from where? Peter says, from the brink, and smiles.


I’ve come to find out, 5 days ago Chow got out of the house and was barking and scratching on Ruth’s door, Mrs. Lopez was visiting Ruth at the time, and they both followed Chow back to my house. The door was open, the ladies shouted out for me but got no answer, they followed Chow into my bedroom and found me in bed unconscious and barely breathing. Mrs. Lopez called 911 and I was in a coma the whole time. The doctors couldn't give a definite reason for my illness, or why I was in a coma for so long. They said it’s a mystery and suggested I may have had a bad reaction to something I ate, (don’t tell Danny.) Now I have to go over everything that happened in the last week, and figure out what was real and what wasn’t. I looked down at Chow and said,

“How about some Pizza.”


Submitted: December 17, 2022

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That was quite an interesting tale! Thank you !

Sun, December 18th, 2022 12:30am


Thank you Houdini, and thanks for the read.

Sat, December 17th, 2022 4:36pm

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