671 72 10

I caught my first death when I was only sixteen. According to the nurse on duty, I broke some kind of major record, too. Only thirty-seven seconds. Before that, no one—myself included—would have ever guessed that I was a catcher. I stepped off that tan-dirt cliff and fell free-floating into the darkness below. The thrill of the wind and the unseen pulsed through every fiber of my being and, even though I couldn't feel it with my physical body, it was just like the sensation of falling right down to every ounce of adrenaline pumping through my veins like rocket fuel.

And then I saw the glowing ball of light below me. It was shooting downward, faintly illuminating the blurry rock walls of the canyon as it went, going almost as fast as I was. Almost. It began to grow as my speed surpassed it. Then I was flooded with its glory and immensity and there was nothing else I could do but reach out with my mist-like arms and embrace it.

I woke up lying over the body of a man gasping for air. His body jerked underneath me with the sudden jolt of coming back from the dead.

He was my dad.

Shortly after that I started working for CookCountyHospital. I had caught well over three hundred deaths by the time it started. Most of the time people were grateful. Sometimes... not so much. The local church said that catchers did the work of the devil. They were a little more fundamentalist than your typical church, I suppose. They shunned the re-awakened out of fear. They believed that only God could bring back the dead righteously. Every time I stopped by to visit my dad, though, I couldn't help wondering if they weren't just a little bit right.

Dad would sit and stare at the TV all day long. At first he was just like before. Happy, vivid, grateful I saved his life. But for the past year things had started to head south fast.

"Whatcha watchin', Dad?"



"Bullshit. It's all bullshit. Ain't no goddamn thing on that ain't nothin' but bullshit." He lit a cigarette and blew smoke out into a huge cloud that hovered over the middle of the room.

"Then why do you watch it, Dad?" I looked at the floor and tried counting the number of stains on the carpet from where he'd spilled countless beer after beer.

"Because the only thing more goddamn bullshit is out there." All this was said with eyes still glued to the tube. Didn't even blink. I sighed and watched the TV with him, hoping maybe something would come of the visit other than the same old thing: me catching up on the latest reruns I'd missed and listening to Dad's odd breathing as he drank himself into a sedentary oblivion. By then, he would only get up to eat, get more beer or go to the bathroom. He hadn't showered in months. I had long before picked up the habit of opening the windows when I came over. At first it was just so I could breathe, then it was so the air would keep him somewhat fresher than he would've been otherwise.

"Well, Dad, I can't stay long this time. You put any thought into talking to that lady I put you in touch with?"

"No, Billy. I got free bullshit right here at home. Why'd I wanna go out o' the goddamn house and pay some sufferin' bitch to feed me more?"

Point taken. I didn't respond.

I had asked all the other catchers I knew and this was typical after about four or five years for nearly half of the re-awakened. The other half usually didn't make it that long for various health reasons. But a small amount—very small—made it that long or longer without any problems. I didn't talk about this to anyone else. I told myself at least I was giving people more time. Another chance. And besides... I couldn't afford to lose my job. It was the only thing I'd ever been any good at.

The Death CatcherRead this story for FREE!