“Sensory Overload” by elizzyviolet
Saul woke up, rose from his grave, and wandered the autumn graveyard as he had done for the last decade. He went through his morning routine and checked to see if anything had changed. He could still pass through things, he still couldn’t float past the graveyard fence, and nobody could see him.
The visitors were wearing thick coats, so it must have been colder today. Saul liked summers more; people tended to stay longer. He liked to peek at their phones to try to figure out what was going on outside the graveyard. But there were few visitors today, so all he could do was eavesdrop on the rare, short conversation.
He thought about going to sleep early today. Saul didn’t need sleep, and couldn’t dream, but it was a good way to make time go by more quickly. But, when an unfamiliar old woman with a lab coat and a leaf blower walked in through the front gate of the graveyard, Saul abandoned his plans. She had puffy gray hair, huge round glasses, and was just under five feet tall. Her lime green leaf blower looked brand new. It had weird green lights on the nozzle and odd wires sticking out from the side of the engine. Saul floated over to her. It was just an odd leaf blower, but anything out of the ordinary fascinated him.
As the woman reached for the switch on the side, Saul wondered what she was doing here. There weren’t many leaves, and she didn’t look like a groundskeeper. Thinking about why she was here filled him with a dull buzz of excitement.
But when she flipped it on, Saul instantly felt something he hadn’t felt in over a decade: wind. A vortex of air sucked him towards the glowing nozzle. The touch of something against his spectral body felt almost heavenly, but Saul tried to pull away from it anyway. However, the wind was too strong for him, and he was pulled head-first into the darkness beyond the glowing tip of the nozzle. The space inside was cramped, and he started losing consciousness.
The last thing he heard before blacking out was a set of beeps, followed by the old woman saying, “Already? Really?”
Saul woke up and felt something cold against his back. Felt. He instinctively sat up, and saw that he was in a dusty, dim basement, on top of a metal table. The old woman and a young blue haired man in plaid were there. Saul looked at his body; it wasn’t translucent anymore, and it was pale and unfamiliar. It tingled with senses that Saul hadn’t felt in years. The air was musty and cool, and it carried the scent of bleach. There were medical devices and crates strewn all around the room, and a few big machines that looked like something out of a Dr. Seuss book. Saul was clothed in an old brown jacket, a pair of green sweatpants, and white slippers.
“You’re lucky, you know,” the old woman said. “Most people don’t turn into ghosts when they die.”
It was hard for Saul to speak. “Who… are you?” His voice was rough and deep, and the vibration in his neck and mouth felt oddly pleasurable.
“Just a couple of crazy people,” she said. “I’m Gertrude, this is my grandson Jerry, and you’re alive.”
Jerry gave Saul a wave and smiled.
“Don’t mind him, he’s a little quiet. But anyway, ever read Frankenstein?” Gertrude asked.
“Yeah,” Saul said. He gripped the sides of the metal table. Delightful cold ran through his palms and fingers.
“Well, we did that kind of thing to you, except sort of different. You’re also less ugly than Frankenstein’s monster. So, what’s your name? How long have you been dead? Any relatives?”
“I’m Saul Thompson, and… Ten, eleven years? I used to work in a popcorn factory, but I fell into the butter vats, and, yeah, not a good time. I was thirty when I died. And no, no relatives.”
“Good to meet you. Anyway, we were just about to have breakfast. Would you like to join us?”
He longed for the chance to eat something again. “I would,” he said. “Thank you.”
Saul stood up. His knees wobbled as he walked, and he didn’t know if it was because he was so used to floating or if the body was defective. But, it felt great to move his muscles.
They led Saul to the creaky stairs. While they climbed them, Gertrude tried to explain the science behind what they did, and how they put him in this body, but Saul didn’t get it and he just nodded and said “uh-huh”. He was more focused on his senses. He felt his blood pumping and sloshing through him as he walked. And when he focused hard, he swore he could even feel the saline content of his cells, unless that was just his eager imagination.
There was a mirror in the white hallway at the top of the stairs. Saul paused to look at himself. He looked a lot like a slightly older version of Edward from Twilight; pale, sort of attractive, and just a little unnerving to look at. At least he didn’t sparkle, and there were no odd marks on his body. Gertrude and Jerry did a good job.
The house had a white theme to it, and there was a clock hanging on the wall every ten feet. Saul entered the dining room; it looked like a diner from the fifties, complete with checkerboard
tile flooring. He and gertrude sat at the dining room table while Jerry wordlessly entered the adjacent kitchen.
Gertrude talked more about the science while dotting in quirky facts about her and Jerry. Saul was too focused on his tingling senses to pay attention to a lot of it; the overwhelming scent of bacon and pancakes coming from the kitchen made him almost quiver with ravenous desire. And it didn’t help that a distant dog was barking outside. But, he did catch that Jerry was mute, and that he was also Gertrude’s assistant rather than a scientist himself; she did most of the scientific work on her own while he tended to other tasks.
When Jerry came in with three heaping plates of salty, browned bacon stacked on top of syrup-covered pancakes, Saul couldn’t take it anymore. When Jerry put the plate and silverware in front of him, he immediately dug in, clumsily using his fork to bite into piece after piece of the salty sweet goodness in front of him. Gertrude kept talking, and Saul just went “uh-huh” and nodded while devouring the plate.
When Saul was finished and his stomach was satisfied, and the wonderful scent in the room no longer overwhelmed him, his attention finally went back to Gertrude.
“…and while we wait for everyone to show up, you can stay in the guest bedroom. You’ll love the king sized bed up there; surely you must be tired after coming back from the dead.”
Jerry smiled at the joke.
“Just a little,” Saul said. It was true, but his restored senses were more powerful than an entire pot of coffee, so he didn’t think he could sleep for a while.
After breakfast, they toured the house. Saul learned more about Gertrude’s plans for the future. She wanted to keep Saul at her home for a few days to make sure his new body worked properly, call some of her colleagues over to check him out, and lastly, rake in the gargantuan pile of awards. Then after that, Saul could leave and do whatever he wanted, although he would no doubt be famous.
The last room on the tour was the guest bedroom. Gertrude opened the white door; the piercing creak was music to Saul’s ears.
Gertrude gestured around the room, pointing at all the antique furniture. “There’s the bed, you’ve got clothes in that cabinet over there, and just in case your skin suddenly gets really dry or really oily, I put lotion and tissues in the nightstand’s drawer. The computer over on that desk takes a while to boot up, but you can use it if you’d like to catch up on anything. Just don’t tell anyone that you’ve been brought back from the dead yet, okay?”
“I won’t. Thank you.”
That night, Saul sat alone in the guest room bed. Its comfortable lull was dragging him down to sleep, but sharp sounds from outside counteracted the seductive pull of the blankets.
While he was trying to sleep, it occurred to him that his senses might not be this sensitive forever. They might not even last until morning. He was enjoying being able to feel things again, and he had to enjoy this heightened state while he could.
He sat in bed and tried to think about what he could do to make the most of his condition. Pain seemed oddly alluring, but he ruled out a lot of ways of inflicting it since they would leave marks and bruises, even if it would be delightful to feel it again.
He had a computer, so he mustered the energy to get out of bed and began searching Google, which was mostly just like it was in the old days. Eventually he stumbled across a familiar term that sent anticipation through him. Autoerotic asphyxiation. It seemed silly and dangerous, but…
He acted quietly so he wouldn’t wake anyone. He took the thin white bedsheet off the bed and tied it into a sturdy rope. Then he put the wheeled chair in the center of the room near the bed and climbed on top of it. It wobbled when he stood up on it. The chair was the only thing separating him from an actual hanging, so he reminded himself to stay steady in it. He tied the rope around the sturdy central hub of the ceiling fan, made a noose, and slipped his neck through.
He pulled down his pants and lotioned up. The touch was wonderful already, but he quivered in anticipation of what would happen when he started to strangle himself.
With everything ready, he crouched in the chair and let the rope support most of his weight. When he couldn’t breathe anymore, he gave himself a moment for the burning in his lungs to kick in, then he gripped himself and went wild. He quivered and shook as he ravaged himself, and the wheels of the chair wobbled and shook harder and harder with his frenzied movements, which grew faster and wilder with every second as he grew woozier and dizzier from the strangulation, interrupted by a tiny, tiny breath every now and then, not enough to fully sate the pain in his lungs or the fogginess in his head.
But before he could climax, he felt the chair slip out from under him. A wave of panic brought his pleasure-stricken mind back to reality. His body jerked downward as the chair fell away and clattered to the floor, and a massive, sharp pain shot through his neck. It didn’t snap, yet as he dangled in place and flailed wildly, the rope blocked the arteries in his neck, and he started to black out just as his body grew too limp to paw at the rope above him…
Saul woke up and rose from his grave in a panicked jolt. He checked his body. It glistened in the morning light, was translucent again, and it was painfully numb. He longed for the overwhelming sensation of whatever it was that had just happened. Was it a dream?
He wandered around his tombstone for a minute trying to figure out if this was his first ever dream while dead or not, but his question was answered when he saw a small yellow post-it note attached to his tombstone. He read the little note, written in bold black marker.
“WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT???” it read.