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J. L. Navarro

He looked dead; he was dead; he was the dead man. Rumor had it that he had been reanimated by alien technology. But no one knew with an absolute certainty. He appeared one day in the offices of Ted Mackintosh, the executive producer of Mainline Magazine, a TV news program known for its off the wall, in-depth approach to their features.

When it was medically verified that the dead man was indeed dead, Mackintosh assigned one of his top producers and star reporters to the story. The producer ran into some obstacles when he tried a human interest approach to the story's spin. He wanted to establish a history, interview family and friends. The dead man would have nothing to do with it. He wouldn't even give himself a proper name. His reason for coming to the world's attention was to make people happy, he said. His past, his family, his origins were not important.

When the show aired, the ratings went through the ceiling. The dead man was an immediate success. People loved him. They wanted to invite him to dinner, even if it was only to have him sitting at the table. Politicians from around the world and religious leaders from every denomination wanted to consult with him. They felt that he had insights into life that only a dead man could relate. What became immediately apparent was that his mere image on the TV screen instilled a sense of happiness and contentment in the viewing audience that was unheard of in the annals of television broadcasting. No one could account for this phenomenon. Corporations were quick to see the value in all this. They wanted the dead man to pitch their products on TV and in print ads. They offered top dollar, but the dead man had no use for money. Furthermore, he made it plain that he had not come to sell candy, soda, cereal, or anything else to anyone. He came only to be seen and make people happy.

Although he had not given permission, toy makers were manufacturing action figures and dolls in his likeness. He refused legal representation, thus allowing anyone who cared to market his image to do so with impunity. He began to appear in ads all around the world, on trading cards and billboards. The dead man was seen drinking beer and eating foods that he had no use for. He had become an overnight celebrity. Hollywood wanted to sign him to do feature films; TV execs wanted him to star in his own sitcom. He refused all offers. Nonetheless, paparazzi and reporters followed him everywhere he went along with mobs of autograph seekers. Fan clubs sprung up on every continent of the planet. Glossy photos of him were in countless households, even in shacks and shanties in third world countries, all of them signed, The Dead Man.

No matter where he was seen, or where he appeared, he always wore the same clothes--a drab olive green suit, white wrinkled shirt with brown coffee stains blotched around the chest area, and a thin black tie of the sort that were buried with the 60's. No one knew where the dead man lived. He would simply appear where he was expected, and in places where he was not expected at all. People from all walks of life invited him to come live with them, wealthy individuals offered to build him air-conditioned mausoleums around the world so that he would have a comfortable place to stay no matter where he went. He would have nothing to do with it. It was apparent that he was enormously reticent and valued his privacy above human comforts. Scientists took interest in him because he did not decompose. There was a slight scent of methane and damp rot emitted from him, but this did not increase over any length of time. He was a true enigma who always sidestepped a question with a shy and wry smile.

When he met with the Holy See at the Vatican, this press release was handed to reporters:

Re: Subject of Conference with the Pope.

After many a millennia, the time has come to complete the true, long awaited role of the human species. My presence on the planet at this time is to draw attention to the eleventh hour that befalls everyone alive today. The time is near when the great culmination that the human race had long expected on a subconscious level is but an eyewink away. The technology is in place; the required number of human beings is in place; the political antagonisms and spiritual malaise are ripe and very much in place. The momentous time has arrived.
--The Dead Man

Soon after this, reports began coming in about multiple sightings around the world. He was seen climbing Mount Everest with a group of seasoned mountaineers; he was spotted at the Great Wall of China with a crowd of Australian tourists wearing striped Bermuda shorts; in India he was seen levitating four feet off the ground in his green suit, cross-legged near the banks of the Ganges in Calcutta. All these sightings took place on the same day.

The dead man began to appear at bar mitzvahs and family picnics, at Christian baptismal ceremonies, and at pubs and nightclubs where he was seen dancing with delighted females who slipped their phone numbers into his olive green jacket in hopes of a late night rendezvous. Winos toasted him as he passed because they believed he had reached full, saturated intoxication. Post offices had to open up special divisions for all of the fan mail he received. They had to store all these letters in huge warehouses because the dead man did not have a physical address.

On Halloween, dead man costumes prevailed by far over others. During the Christmas season, manufacturers of perfumes and colognes made considerable profits selling the dead man's slight scent of decay-and-methane products. At New Year's Eve parties, it was impossible to step into a room where at least 95% of the people present weren't emitting the dead man's replicated aromas. It became fashionable to have the Dead Man Look. This was a look of stone-faced gauntness and pale skin with murky half-moons smeared under the eyes. It was especially noted in women who could easily muster the look with some well-chosen shades of make-up.

One day Lydia Sporran was driving down a deserted road near Waskish, Minnesota, when the dead man appeared to her unexpectedly on the passenger side of the car. An immediate sense of well-being overcame her. She was awestruck at this visitation. The dead man suggested that she speed the car to 100 mph and run it into a telephone pole. Lydia Sporran, smiling all the while, thought this was an excellent idea and proceeded to do just that. When they found her with her head hanging limp from an exposed neck bone, no one had any idea what had occurred and dismissed it as a tragic accident.

Soon after this, it was announced that the dead man would talk to the entire world in three days to reveal his ultimate reason for having risen from the dead. On the night that this broadcast was to occur, everyone was in front of their TV set or radio, eager to hear what he had to say. Soldiers on battlefields stopped for the occasion, crime halted during this announcement, the flow of human semen ceased while sex was put on suspension. All ears and eyes were on the dead man.

He suggested to all the world leaders that they begin wars with their neighbors as soon as was humanly possible. It was also advised that the nuclear powers fire every single missile in their arsenal at their adversaries with blunt swiftness, and to launch every chemical and biological weapon at their disposal. He recommended to people in general that they go to the streets of their cities to riot and cause as much havoc and pandemonium as they could muster prior to the missiles falling on them, advising the police to take part in this free for all and not to attempt any arrests whatsoever.

Without hesitation, or thinking of the ultimate consequences, world leaders gave orders to launch missiles of mass destruction at countries that were at the top of their adversary lists. They also deployed troops on their home front to riot along side the civilian population. While people sat in front of TV sets listening to the gunfire and explosions in their cities, they waited patiently for the nuclear, chemical and biological warheads to hit the earth; and they watched the dead man on the screen with smiles on their faces, in complete tranquility, wishing he were there with them when the final, unforgiving darkness came.


J. L. Navarro's writing credits include stories published in The Cafe Irreal, BIGnews Magazine, Gang Related, Angeleno Stories, Shadowkeep, Margin, Aphelion, The House of Pain, Suspect Thoughts, Savage Night, and Bastard Fiction. Additional work can be found on his website

Artwork by Juan Navarro

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