She woke to a brain-scrambling headache. Needles of pain tore through the wet mass of her grey matter like cheese wire through butter. Her hands clawed for covers, intent on pulling them over her head in a desperate attempt to keep the light from firing more projectiles through her retinas. Finding no covers to pull, she moaned.
â€œSh-h. Easy there.â€
The voice wasnâ€™t hers. Which meant that this wasnâ€™t simply punishment for a night of drinking. Something was different. Evelyn cracked open her eyes. The brightness slammed into her consciousness like a two-ton truck, flooding her eyes with tears and making the world swim.
â€œHey. Just take your time. I know it hurts. It always does.â€
The voice was female, a little gravelly, and sensible in that matronly way. Not what youâ€™d call a really sympathetic, nurturing voice, but caring, nonetheless.
â€œWhatâ€¦ what happened?â€ whined Evelyn, shading her eyes with her hand and trying to focus on something, anything. It didnâ€™t help that, from what she could perceive, the room she was in was entirely white. â€œWhere am I?â€
â€œLook, I realize itâ€™s unpleasant to hear this. But just think, itâ€™s not very nice to have to be the messenger either. Youâ€™re dead.â€
Evelyn pulled herself into a sitting position and squinted through the glare in the direction of the voice. â€œIâ€™m what?â€
A slender, lanky woman with cropped red hair sat some distance away from her on what looked like a banquette of some sort. She was utterly gorgeous and wearing a white tank top and a pair of white shorts. She hugged one knee to her chest, resting her chin on it. The other leg dangled over the edge. â€œYeah. Sorry. Itâ€™s a shock, isnâ€™t it?â€
â€œIâ€™m what?â€ Evelyn looked around her in a panic. Noting the white room, white floor, white ceilingâ€¦ the horrific whiteness of it all. â€œIâ€™m *WHAT*?â€ she bellowed.
â€œDeceased? Passed over? Passed away? Gone to the great beyond? How would you like me to phrase it? Youâ€™re dead.â€ The other woman gave her a sympathetic grin. â€œSorry. It wasnâ€™t anything to do with me.â€
Looking down at herself, Evelyn realized she was completely naked in front of a stranger. She crossed her arms over her breasts. She wasnâ€™t entirely sure she believed what she was being told but, regardless, death was no excuse for immodesty. â€œWho the hell are you?â€ she snapped.
â€œHey! I realize youâ€™re upset. But can the tone, okay? Itâ€™s not my fault youâ€™re dead.â€ The woman took a deep breath and resettled herself on the banquette in a cross-legged, yoga-like position. â€œOfficially, Iâ€™m 22,548,457, but you can call me Bea.â€
â€œHowâ€¦â€ Evelyn began the question but didnâ€™t bother to finish it. Her last memory had been of lying in the bathtub, and watching her cat, Fritz, jump up onto the sink and start playing with the coiled wire of her electric hairdryer. â€œShit. Iâ€™m going to kill that cat.â€
â€œDonâ€™t bother. Heâ€™s dead too. He got tangled up in the wire and pulled into the bathtub along with the dryer.â€
â€œWellâ€¦â€ said Evelyn, beginning to feel the tears well up in her eyes, â€œgood!â€
Suddenly the light in the room changed from colorless white to a deep gold. With it, everything else took on another color, too. Evelyn flinched.
â€œDonâ€™t let that bother you. Mood lighting, you know? It always starts out with white but then it kind of picks up on your emotions and changes.â€
Evelyn began to cry and, forgetting about modesty, covered her hands with her face and sobbed. â€œI canâ€™t believe it. It just canâ€™t be! Itâ€™s not fair!â€
â€œVery few people ever think it is. But look on the bright side: no more traffic jams, sit-ups, or working on the weekends. Being dead is really not that bad.â€ From out of nowhere, Bea snatched a cigarette and lit it with a lighter, which also seemed to vanish the minute she finished using it. She blew out a thin stream of smoke into the golden light. â€œYouâ€™ll get used to it. I promise. Anyway, itâ€™s not like you were doing much with your life. There wasnâ€™t all that much to miss.â€
Evelyn took a stuttered breath and wiped her face. â€œHow do you know? It wasnâ€™t your life. I was doing fine!â€ she said, defiantly.
Bea slipped off the banquette and walked towards Evelyn. Her bare feet made no sound on the floor, which, along with the rest of the room, was turning slowly blue. She stopped, looking down at Evelyn, and sighed. â€œDonâ€™t be ridiculous. You were a twenty-four year old virgin dental assistant. You lived alone, except for that murderous cat. You spent your free time watching TV or reading books or drinking by yourself. You didnâ€™t even have a best friend. You were a uniquely anti-social individual who was busy wasting her life.â€
â€œI did too have a best friend!â€
â€œYou call your next-door neighbor, Sally, a best friend?â€ retorted Bea. â€œGet real! Meeting for coffee with someone once a month and talking about best-sellers doesnâ€™t qualify as best-friend material.â€
â€œWellâ€¦â€ Evelyn muttered, searching desperately for some response, â€œIâ€™m shy. I canâ€™t help that!â€
â€œYou werenâ€™t shy, girl. You were a coward. How did you manage to stay a virgin to the age of twenty four?â€
Evelyn thought back to the four years sheâ€™d spent handing dental instruments to the man of her dreams. Never once had he glanced at her with anything more than platonic disinterest. â€œI was ugly.â€
â€œWell, thatâ€™s a bit of an overstatement; admittedly, youâ€™re no Cindy Crawford, but thatâ€™s no excuse. Lots of ugly people have lives brimming with fun. You were just a coward.â€
Evelyn was furious. She looked up at the woman standing before her, lithe and slender and beautiful. â€œHow would you know what it was like to be me? How dare you call me a coward! I bet you never even had a bad-hair day, miss perfect!â€
Bea smiled, took a drag on her cigarette and closed her eyes for a moment. Suddenly the image before Evelyn began to morph. The woman shrank, bloated and re-formed into an altogether different person. This new creature was decidedly less attractive than Bea: short, squat and definitely overweight, with a truly hideous case of acne, buckteeth and no discernable chin. The penny-red hair was shoulder-length and greasy. The emerald green eyes were porcine and lashless. â€œI had you beat by miles, bitch. You wouldnâ€™t know ugly if it walked up and took a piss on you.â€
Stunned, Evelyn watched the woman change again, back into Bea. â€œThatâ€¦that was you?â€
â€œSee? Itâ€™s really not so bad being dead,â€ Bea said, running her fingers through her restored, spunky haircut. The cigarette had disappeared into the ether. She sat down beside Evelyn and smiled. â€œItâ€™s actually pretty cool.â€
Evelyn tucked her mousy, bobbed hair behind her ears. â€œCan I do that too?â€
â€œSure. Takes a little concentration, but once you get the hang of it, itâ€™s easy.â€
Sitting in silence for a moment, Evelyn considered possibilities as the light, once again, changed to a shade of aqua. Then, abruptly her spirits sank. â€œWhat is the point of being beautiful if weâ€™re stuck in this room for eternity?â€
Bea got up and chortled. â€œWhat a nasty little imagination you have, girl! Weâ€™re not stuck here. This is just the receiving lounge.â€ Another cigarette appeared out of nowhere and Bea took a drag. She tapped idly at the ash, which, predictably, disappeared. â€œWhatever you heard about death, just forget it. Itâ€™s nothing like what they told you. No heaven, no hell, no God â€“ well, Iâ€™ve never seen him anyway â€“ and none of that playing harp shit either. Not really like reincarnation either, although the karma stuff is kind of true.â€
â€œWhat do we do, then?â€ Evelyn was having a very hard time figuring out what all this was leading to. â€œWhat do we do with time?â€
The room was growing a nice shade of burnt orange. Bea held out her hand. â€œCome on. Meet some of the others.â€
With gut-wrenching vertigo, the world smeared into a thin, multi-striped line and quite suddenly they were at what Evelyn would have sworn was an International House of Pancakes, or some other type of faux-family style breakfast place. They stood in front of a long table of breakfasters: men and women, all young, all absolutely gorgeous, all chatting at once and reaching across each other for syrup pitchers, butter dishes and the like.
A beautiful, fine-boned African American man with the cutest little dreadlocks looked across the table in their direction and screeched: â€œOh, for Godâ€™s sake, Bea! Have a little sensitivity! It isnâ€™t even lunch time!â€
Evelyn looked at Bea and then at herself. To her utter horror, she was standing in the midst of a crowded IHOP with absolutely nothing on. She covered herself with her hands and stepped behind Bea, using her has a shield. â€œOh, Christ! You bitch. Get me out of here!â€ she screamed.
â€œFuck you, Nathaniel! How quickly we *do* forget our own little failingsâ€¦â€ drawled Bea. Then she turned around to a cowering Evelyn and said, â€œJust think clothes â€“ any clothes. Theyâ€™ll pop right on.â€
Evelyn was utterly panicked. â€œWhat kind of clothes? Ehâ€¦â€ She peered around Bea at the people eating breakfast. â€œNormalâ€¦yeahâ€¦okayâ€¦â€ She closed her eyes, tried to think about being dressed, and felt her body covered.
â€œUmâ€¦try again, Evieâ€
Opening her eyes and looking down, Evelyn found herself garbed in a clown suit. â€œShit!â€
Bea put a reassuring hand on her shoulder. â€œCome on, girl. Take a deep breath and try again. Just think what you would wear if you were getting up to go to work. Just imagine putting the clothes on.â€
The second attempt was more successful, although a little more formal than was really necessary for the event. Evelyn was wearing a two-piece, charcoal business suit. At least it was slimming.
Bea shrugged and then nodded. â€œSoâ€¦ everyone. After a bit of a false startâ€¦this is Evelyn.â€
A number of diners looked up again, this time with grudging smiles and lukewarm murmurs of greeting.
â€œI guess they donâ€™t like newbiesâ€¦â€ muttered Evelyn, as she followed Bea around the table to a couple of empty seats.
â€œItâ€™s not that youâ€™re new, sweetie. Itâ€™s just that you remind them of what they once were. Theyâ€™re not crazy about remembering their earlier incarnations.â€
â€œOhâ€¦â€ Evelyn didnâ€™t really understand the explanation, but she settled into her chair and nodded gratefully when a perfectly innocuous looking waitress came around with a pot of coffee.
A very handsome looking Latino boy sitting directly across from her gave her a dazzling smile. â€œHey there! Iâ€™m Jose.â€ He offered her a beautifully manicured hand. She shook it, unable to take her eyes off his face, his body. He was stunning. â€œOoooh. This girl has *eyes*, Miss Bea! Mm-mm!â€ Then, addressing himself to Evelyn. â€œDonâ€™t you worry one minute, Miss Thing. You are going to knock their socks off! We were all just like you, once.â€
With a secretive little smile on his face, he slid his eyes shut, slowly, as if he was being ultra-seductive. Instantly, the man across from her was a short, fat, balding, sweating nobody. And, just as quickly, he re-opened his eyes and reverted to the stunning pretty-boy heâ€™d been before.
â€œOh my god!â€ gasped Evelyn, choking on her coffee.
â€œUh-huh! Now you get it, baby!â€ He smiled.
Evelyn put down her cup, for fear of dropping it. â€œWhatâ€¦what is this? What are we?â€
â€œWeâ€¦â€ began Jose, dramatically. â€œWe are the things that go bump in the night.â€
Bea passed the plate of pancakes, but Evelyn shook her head. Sheâ€™d been hungry before but now she was just confused. â€œI donâ€™t understand. Pleaseâ€¦ Bea. Explain.â€
â€œWell, thereâ€™s a technical term for it. You sure you donâ€™t want a pancake?â€
Evelyn shook her head.
Bea sighed and passed the platter in the opposite direction. â€œWell, technically weâ€™re demons. At least that is the human definition for what we are.â€
â€œI thought you said all that god stuff was a load of crap!â€
â€œIt isâ€¦ but we donâ€™t really know why we are here. We just know what mythology has labeled us: incubi and succubae.â€
â€œSuck you what?â€ screeched Evelyn.
â€œSuck you anytime,â€ teased Jose. â€œAnywhere.â€
â€œOh, shut up, Jose!â€ Bea turned in her chair to face Evelyn. â€œHonestly, nobody knows why we exist like this. But we do. And we do have an interface with the world of the living. I guess they just had to make something up to explain us.â€ She thought for a moment and then continued. â€œPersonally, I think its karma. Itâ€™s payback for a lifetime of beingâ€¦ wellâ€¦ less than attractive. And thatâ€™s why some of us arenâ€™t so happy to see you in your current form. The memories are just too painful.â€
â€œSoâ€¦â€ Evelyn thought this was all clear as mud. â€œSo what do we do? Haunt people? Possess little girls and make them projectile vomit pea soup?â€
Jose laughed and so did a couple of others who had honed in on the conversation.
â€œNot exactly,â€ said Bea, sounding tenuous.
â€œWe fuck them!â€ screamed Jose.
â€œDo you *have* to be so goddamned coarse?â€ Bea gave him a stern, cutting look and then turned back. â€œWeâ€¦wellâ€¦we seduce them.â€
â€œWhy?â€ whispered Evelyn.
â€œWHY NOT?â€ hollered half the table at her in semi-unison, and then erupted into peals of laughter.
Bea put an arm around Evelynâ€™s shoulder. â€œLook, donâ€™t let it worry you too much right now. Itâ€™s not like you have to learn anything. It comes natural, believe me.â€
* * *
After a meal filled with questions that only got her half-assed answers, Evelyn let Bea lead her, along with Jose, along some indescribable streak of light to a room that looked an awful lot like a showgirlâ€™s dressing room.
â€œWelcome to chez moi!â€ sung Jose, spreading out his arms like Vana White.
â€œWe could have gone back to the reception lounge but I thought this would be nicer. Anyway, we need a man to give us an honest opinion,â€ said Bea, tossing her head over at Jose.
Evelyn glanced doubtfully over at Jose and raised an eyebrow at Bea. â€œAre you sure heâ€™s the man we want?â€ She was getting her sense of humour back and it was pretty clear, dead or not, that Jose wasnâ€™t exactly your run-of-the-mill macho guy.
â€œOhâ€¦â€ Bea snickered. â€œHeâ€™s only been gay since he died. He used to be totally hetero.â€
Glancing at Jose again, Evelyn looked incredulous.
â€œYeahâ€¦ hideous, ainâ€™t it? Thank god for death!â€ said Jose.
Evelyn laughed. Maybe Bea was right. Maybe death wasnâ€™t so bad after all. At least now, she had some decent company. People who accepted her; people who understood what sheâ€™d been through.
They spent a long time helping Evelyn practice getting in and out of clothes. Then they worked on changing her appearance. The mirrors came in handy and so did Jose, funnily enough. After years of being stuck in the body she had, it wasnâ€™t all that easy deciding what to become. It was like going shopping without having to look at the price tags.
Finally, after what seemed like a thousand changes and many debates, Jose stalked around a stiffly posed Evelyn, eyeing her up and down appraisingly. â€œNow, *you* girl are *hot*.â€ He licked his finger, pressed it to her butt and made a little hissing sound.
What she saw in the mirror was hard for Evelyn to own. A statuesque brunette of medium height, curls tumbling over gracefully sloping shoulders, with firm, cantaloupe-sized breasts perched high the chest. Beneath, her belly was trim but not flat; it swelled just around and below her navel in an excess of femininity. Her hips werenâ€™t heavy but generous and, turning slowly and glancing back, she admired the most beautiful heart-shaped ass sheâ€™d ever seen. She wiggled it and watched it jiggle pleasingly.
Initially she had gone for waif-like and ethereal, as far from her previous body as she could manage, but Jose had nixed the look. There was a world of difference between what lies on the pages of Vogue magazine and what really appeals to a man. Secretly, Evelyn thought that she looked a little like Shakira. And admittedly, she felt like the body in front of her was something she could relate to. She closed her eyes and slipped on a dark red evening gown, smoothing the silk over her newly delicious ass.
â€œSo, what happens now?â€ asked Evelyn.
Bea glanced at a large clock face on the wall above the mirrors. â€œNowâ€¦ we join the others and wait to be called.â€
This time, after the lateral blur of speed and space, the vertigo was less. And as she, Bea and Jose, popped into what looked like a crowded 1950â€™s cocktail lounge, a number of the patrons turned in their chairs to look.
â€œTa-da!â€ called Jose. â€œThis, ladies and gentlemen, is the *real* Evelyn!â€
A couple of people smiled first and then the applause began. People began to stand in clumps and cheer; others clapped and cat-called.
â€œOh, wow,â€ said Evelyn, blushing deeply and grabbing onto Beaâ€™s arm.
â€œSee? I told you they didnâ€™t have anything against newbies.â€ Bea was, to Evelynâ€™s surprise, beaming with pride as she pulled her new companion through the crowd towards an empty table. Jose lagged behind, gossiping and taking compliments.
When they were seated and the roomâ€™s noise level returned to normal, Evelyn began to worry. â€œWhat did you mean when you said we had to wait to be called? Who calls us? Where do we go?â€
â€œThe living. They call us in their dreams. And then weâ€™re there and go to work.â€ Bea smirked. â€œWell, you can hardly call it work, really.â€
â€œYouâ€™re kidding.â€ Panic, forgotten in the afternoon of dress-up and the applause of the crowd, had returned to Evelyn with a vengeance. â€œIâ€¦I canâ€™t. I canâ€™t just turn up and be intimate with someone I donâ€™t know.â€ She clutched at Beaâ€™s arm. â€œCanâ€™t I tag along with you? At least for the first night, please?â€
â€œIt doesnâ€™t exactly work that way, girl. I wish I could explain it better, but thereâ€™s just no point. Once it happens, youâ€™ll just understand right away. But donâ€™t worry, Evie. I swear thereâ€™s nothing to be scared about.â€
â€œButâ€¦. But Iâ€™ve never done *it* before. I donâ€™t even really know what to doâ€¦ not really.â€ There were strange whooshing sounds in the room and all of a sudden the woman at the next table vanished. â€œOh, Jesusâ€¦Beaâ€¦Iâ€™m scared.â€
Jose came and sat in the empty chair at the table. â€œI think itâ€™s show-time, ladies.â€
Bea took Evelynâ€™s hand between both of hers and held it tight. â€œItâ€™s going to be fine. I promiseâ€¦â€
Suddenly Evelyn felt a squirmy sensation in the pit of her stomach, like butterflies on PCP. She looked down to watch her hand grow transparent in Beaâ€™s grasp. â€œOhâ€¦shitâ€¦â€
* * *
The room was almost pitch black. Evelyn could hear cars swishing over rain-wet streets outside a curtained window. Only a crack of streetlight slit the darkness and illuminated the sleeper in the bed.
She knew she should feel fear, but no matter how hard she searched her interior for it, it just didnâ€™t seem to be there. There was only the silence of the room and the form beneath the covers. And that form â€“ that living, breathing thing â€“ drew her.
Evelyn stepped towards it, the stuff of her dress swishing in the mute room. She could smell him nowâ€¦ the musky odor of a warm male body. Her mouth flooded with saliva at the scent, and an insistent fluttering itch began between her legs and crawled upwards over her breasts, making her nipples stand erect and press against the silk.
She was like a cat now, standing over the huddled form as it moved and made a faint sound of want. His need filled the air with the reek of something so male, so human, so irresistible.
Evelyn reached behind and drew the zipper of her dress down, letting the straps slide off her shoulders and take the gown down to a puddle on the floor at her feet. What had been an itch had grown and spread. Her skin, all the way to her fingertips, sizzled and sang as she pulled the covers back and slipped into bed beside the sleeping figure.
Contact with her skin made the sleeper moan and turn towards her. His cock was hard and hot, pressed against her hip. The urgency of his loins hissed at her, called her, spoke softly begging words into her brain. She took the throbbing cock between her hands and caressed its length, its head, her fingers slid through the beaded precum that sprang like pearls from its tip.
The sleeper groaned and reached for her, burying his face in her dark curls. â€œOh, please, baby. Fuck me,â€ he pleaded softly.
Although she would have liked to do much more than that, wondering what each inch of his body would feel and taste like against her tongue, his desires, it seemed, were her own.
Evelyn pushed him onto his back and straddled him, wriggling slowly, deliciously onto the thick, throbbing erection. The act of engulfing him set her body alight with pleasure.
â€œOh yeahâ€¦â€ the sleeper gasped. His hands blindly, instinctively reaching her hips to push her down and take him deeper.
For a spare moment, Evelyn thought back to her conversation with Bea. How could she have ever been scared of this, or worried that she hadnâ€™t known what to do? She laughed aloud and began to ride him.
The sleeper arched his hips, thrusting up into her as her hips rolled. At first he only moaned and bit his lip. But as he pleasure mounted, his eyes flew open and he looked straight at Evelyn, his expression a combination of shock and lust.
Perhaps her eyes had adjusted to the darkness, or perhaps it was her heightened state of physical awareness, but only when his eyes open did she recognized him.
Dr. Jones. The dentist. Her dentist. The man who for four years hadnâ€™t given her a sideways glance. Emotions flitted through her: fear, anger, shame. But the sheer deliciousness of his filling her, the raw sweetness of his thrusts decimated all else.
â€œWhoâ€¦ Oh, fuckâ€¦ thatâ€™s good!â€ he stammered. â€œDonâ€™t stop, baby. Donâ€™t stop.â€
Evelyn snickered and bent forward, pressing her lips to his ear as she engulfed him again. â€œGotcha.â€