Stephanie Valente

Dead City

The city was left for the dead. Contrary to popular rumors, the living don’t mind. It made things more interesting. Living is easy for the dead – there were lobster hour bar crawls at 9 am and lots of spilled secrets. What was the point of holding onto a buried past? It isn’t going to get you killed anymore.

We let the living girls and boys sneak in under a hole in the fence. They think it’s a secret, despite all of the neon lights. Humans are funny creatures, with their gods and their secrets. Wouldn’t it be funny if they knew the truth?

The dead even have their own currency – always silver coins. No, it didn’t repel werewolves or handsome vampires, but both of the mythical creatures wore the finest black leather gloves when traveling. Maybe it was just sartorial gratuity. You know how vampires can be – and werewolves, they’re just always playing catch up.

It doesn’t take you long to want to move to this part of town. It has a certain charm. Like beautiful brownstones surrounded by smog and warehouses. I think this is what residents in downtown Los Angeles must feel like before all of the young people took over. One day, if I feel like traveling again, I’ll ask them. And, I’ll remember to write it down. My memory fades in and out sometimes. It’ll happen to you, too.

The living always joked that the lawyers and tax collectors lived on the outskirts of Dead City because they’re not really living humans. Truth is, we like them and we give them cheap rent. It’s nice to have a barrier for the living – they’re entirely too hyper, too concerned, too dry, and yet not thirsty enough. It’s tiring to listen to them, really.

You can buy philosophy at the 7-11 here. It’s cheaper than a slurpee – and really are you surprised? The philosophers try to make the most of their degrees, even after life. In Dead City, listening is always the easy part. We’ve got all the time. We’ve outlasted presidents and absent queens. Even God. The living can’t admit to as much.

As for me, I feel like I’ve always been here. Always 23, nothing more and nothing less. The living here has always been easy until her. It’s cliche to fall in love with a living girl, right? She skips under the fence with her smudged eyes and black scarf and we talk and talk and talk until I have to drink water again. She’s misunderstood. I tell her that there’s a way she could live forever. If she’d only listen to my song.

Stephanie Valente lives in Brooklyn, NY. She has published Hotel Ghost (Bottlecap Press, 2015) and waiting for the end of the world (Bottlecap Press, 2017) and has work included in Susan, TL;DR, and Cosmonauts Avenue. Sometimes, she feels human.

JD Thornton