The Inertia of Corpses
by Jay Lake
"I shouldn't think he'd be dead." Rosskamp looked over the edge of the cliff, idly fingering his pistol.
Martini snorted, not even trying to hide her contempt. "After a fall like that? Spiderman would be dead."
"Hmm." The older cop leaned a little further out. A thousand feet below, water glinted, a silver thread drawn crazywalk through a landscape of sand and stone. He wondered why nothing seemed to grow along the river's banks. Certainly nothing moved. Or significantly failed to move. "No body I can see."
"He ran over the edge of a cliff, Samir."
"Whatever you say, officer Martini." Rosskamp stepped away in a sort of crabwalk, careful not to turn his back. He'd stopped trusting in the inertia of corpses a long time ago. A quarter mile back to the car, and they could leave.
There would be no paperwork. Not on this job. Accountability, yes. Just not in writing.
Martini shook her head, laughing. "You old guys are so--"
The dead guy ran through her. There was no other way to describe it. Martini's chest burst, arms flying wide from her body. Samir Rosskamp brought up the pistol he hadn't realized he'd already drawn and without even thinking to sight emptied the magazine. Bullets dipped in silver, blessed by three different priests, then rubbed with myrrh and holy water.
His target dropped and rolled, briefly became caught up in a patch of small barrel cactus, then was on its feet and running at least sixty miles per hour away.
There wasn't enough left of Martini for last words. She was leaving here in baggies. Rosskamp threw up, almost perfunctorily, then shuffled back to the car. This he would have to call in.
If there was one small blessing, it was that his ex-partner wouldn't become a runner as well. Maybe the dead guy had done her a favor, killing her that way. The only thing that had kept him from swallowing a bullet the past few years was the same fear, that he'd become one of them. Marathon Men, as some wit in the press had christened the dead back when this was still a curiosity and not a plague.
Personally, Rosskamp thought it was the Rapture, in slow motion and without purpose. He wondered if the dead felt, remembered, knew who they were? They didn't have much to say. He wondered what the bullets felt as they entered a body. They didn't have much to say, either.
© 2008, Joseph E. Lake Jr.
Edited slightly for clarity from the original post
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