The escaping isn't the difficult part: it's the staying escaped.

Digging up through the soil, pushing through the damp, cool sod, clambering up into the night. Every year, year after year, decade upon decade. The next guy over — Samuel R. Haines, Beloved Husband And Father — he's been doing it since 1879. For me it's only been… what, twenty-eight? Twenty-nine years? But it's always the same: a few hours of freedom and then the inevitable, irresistible pull back into the waiting ground.

Last year I made it out past the edge of town, rattling from shadow to shadow, before being dragged back. One year I chained myself to a wrought-iron fence; I was reminded that bones break. Wherever I go I am discovered, grabbed by some spectral hand.

I'll figure it out.

Sam Haines is up and over the wall to the West, always to the West. I don't know where he's trying to go, I've never asked. We've never spoken. I'm not really sure how that would work, anyway, without tongues and lips and lungs. He drops down out of sight on the other side. I'm watching the sidewalk, the street. I know I can't make it anywhere on foot.

Blondie lives in the neighborhood. She's a whore; I don't know her name. She's walking down the sidewalk, half in the bag, maybe even on dope. A lot of them are, you know. She gives me an idea.

She faints when she sees me. Skeleton runs at you like some Harryhausen movie, you faint too: don't judge her. Anyway, she's easier to strangle since she's unconscious.

There's a knife in her purse, for protection against Johns or her pimp or whoever. That makes the next bit somewhat easier.

An hour later I'm wearing her like a coat. She's just draped on, hanging on, for now. If it works I'll find a needle and thread and join her flesh back together with seams. Her bones, her blood-greased bones, are lying in the grass, detached and disordered and strangely still. There's no one there; it makes it easier, somehow, like she wasn't real in the first place.

I make for the edge of town again, this time heading West. I stay to the shadows, I duck around corners, I crouch behind cars. I'll never fool a living person with this disguise, not from closer than a block away.

I'm on a residential street, a street of big old houses with wrap-around porches, when I see Sam Haines, Beloved Husband And Father, clattering his knuckles against the front door of a darkened house. No one answers, but he doesn't stop. It's as if he can't help himself.

But then he stops, because it's time, and he's being dragged away from the door, away from the house. Back towards the cemetery and his appointed gravestone. Only, I'm not.

I stand in the street watching him stumble and roll and slide Eastward. He doesn't cry out; I say nothing.

Blondie and I resume walking West.

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