by R.A. Roth
Dead was how I found Honey Devlin, but I refused to leave her in that deplorable condition. The emergency vehicles had yet to arrive to untangle the mess, so I wrestled her corpse from the wreckage, did my thing, and Honey got up and started chatting up a storm about a prime rib roast sale at Costco.
“Six bucks a pound, a regular steal,” Honey said. I asked if she needed a lift to Costco, and she told me she wanted to go home first to freshen up. “Being dead puts a serious hurting on the makeup.”
“You remember being dead?” I said, and Honey replied, “Yes, vividly,” and elaborated.
It was dark, she said. Whispering voices spoke in foreign tongues. The smell of decay wasn’t as the living experience it. It was a sickly-sweet, jovial odor, like a piece of toffee melting in a double boiler. Although she had no point of reference in the enveloping darkness, Honey recalled a languid motion, like floating downstream on a raft. Unqualified relaxation unlike any she had ever felt. In the midst of that unearthly momentum, she heard the voices converged into a single voice she could comprehend. The voice told her in no uncertain terms she had died when a moving van driven by Walter Lincoln skidded out of control and squashed her Mini Cooper like a brainless squirrel malingering in the street. She asked if Walter had survived, and the voice told her yes, but as a consequence of her death Walter would lose his trucking license, his only means of support.
“Without a trucking license,” the voice continued, “the penniless Walter loses his home, health insurance, everything. Unable to acquire anti-rejection drugs, Walter’s body rejects the liver donated by his sister Ella, and he dies in Grant Park two months and seven days from now, a liverless wretch without a friend in the world. Before the Cook County Coroner’s Office can collect his body, blackbirds feast on Walter’s eyes and contract an antibiotic resistant strain of bacteria which spreads throughout the avian population, crossbreeds with an aggressive strain of influenza, and develops into a pandemic that wipes out twenty-six percent of the world population.”
Honey asked if there was any way to stop this calamity from happening, and the voice told her if a shaman got to her in time and brought her back from the dead, Walter would not lose his trucking license, thereby breaking the chain of cause and effect.
“So you’re a shaman,” Honey said.
“Not always,” I replied and told her I used to run a local storefront business, but the big box stores and chains undercut my prices so badly that I closed up shop to travel the world. While mountain climbing Nepal, I was rescued from a fall and convalesced in the cave of a hermit named Repasha. As Repasha nursed me back to health, I told him my life story, how I had grown up an orphan and lived a life of relative solitude, and he in turn confessed that he was dying and childless and wanted badly to pass on his legacy of shamanistic magic. Persuaded by his kindness and generosity, I agreed to stay on as his pupil. With each passing day, Repasha grew weaker while I grew stronger. He wasn’t just teaching me how to channel spirits, bone shake, incant, invoke and raise the dead, he was bequeathing his talents, permanently, as one bequeaths his worldly possessions upon death.
On the first day of spring, as we hiked a mountain trail, Repasha made me promise not to resurrect him when he died, for his imminent death was natural and shouldn’t be tampered with or the ancient gods would take my life as recompense for disturbing the natural order.
The next morning, Repasha was dead.
I buried him under a cairn overlooking his favorite meditation ledge and returned to the states to sell my home and live as Repasha had, in a remote place where the world would pass me by until the time was right to bequeath the gifts he had bequeathed to me. The moving company I hired was overbooked and understaffed, so they hired a private contractor, Walter Lincoln, to move my worldly possessions to Montana. Walter asked me if I wanted to ride with him, but I said no thank you, I’m terrible company and I preferred to follow him in my car.
Less than a mile into our journey, I watched in horror as Walter’s truck skidded out of control and demolished a tiny car. Without regard for my life, I pulled over and rushed into the street. There was only one person inside, a woman whose key chain said “Honey Devlin.” She wasn’t moving or breathing and was badly mangled. Repasha’s warning echoed in my head. Was her death natural or unnatural? I thought, then reasoned cars were a contrivance of man, so I ruled her death an unnatural one that I was morally obligated to remedy by resurrecting her from the dead.
As she got in my car, Honey asked what kind of business I had owned before practicing shamanism, and I told her I used to be a butcher.
“And,” I said, “there’s no way in hell I could stay in business selling prime rib roast for six bucks a pound.”