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A man is brought back from the dead for 72 hours in order to ID his killer in this fun tale from screenwriter Patrice Williams.

The Unfinished

Death sucks. I should know. I croaked once before the ultimate upchuck to face the one who knocked me off. I'd get to point the finger at the prick who put a .22mm to the back of my head.

How embarrassing. Killed by an ancient bean shooter. They should've at least used a Gatling, Revolving Carbine or AMT Automag with some blinky LEDs. But no, a dumb-ass .22.

I WAS on a roll. All the lights were green.

So why would anyone want to ice a mattress salesman? The worst thing I ever did was charm a rather hefty broad into taking the ROYAL king instead of the PRESIDENTIAL full. So I made an extra one-hundred-and-ninety fatuas; so shoot me.

I've always been what the ladies would call, easy on the eyes, hard on the ears. I'm a yapper. My kindergarten teacher wrote on my report card, " Donny York lacks the necessary skills to know when it's appropriate to speak and when to listen." I know what she really wanted to write was, "Donny York won't shut the fuck up."

Now I'm technically what is referred to as an Unfinished.

I remember like it was yesterday. The year was 2211, June 19. Made the news. Scientist at MIT discovered how to bring back the dead... but only for 72 hours. I listened to the story half-assed while eating a bowl of Fruit Loops. Figured it wasn't my fate. The Gov'ment decided they would determine how to use the devil's technology. Guess they were afraid of a bunch of zombies roaming the streets.

But that's not what the Unfinished were. They were awakened, as if from a long night's rest on the Royal, their memories fully intact, including their own snuffing. Imagine having to relive the moment you were rubbed out! That's why they called the 72 hours given an Unfinished, a "re-life."

The Unfinished would be put in an incubator for a few hours, then spoon-fed all the gory details. Most only cared about eating. The families would be kept away. Too hard on 'em to see their beloved alive again, only to be put down a few days later. That's what I call it. Put down. The Gov'ment uses prettier words for it; "eternal slumber" cause they have no control on the amount of time a re-lifer has. Can't cheat the 72-hour rule they say. But I prefer "put down." More honest. More accurate. Anyway, the families had to watch their trials from TV just like the rest of us rubber-neckers.

Next day, their murder trial would take place with the mug that popped them right in the courtroom. They'd point the finger, eat a burger, cry, have a beer, then be put down the next day.

How do you like that for a bedtime story?

Not a pretty re-life.

The first trial with an Unfinished was televised. Talk about macabre. Followed Lois, that's the Unfinished, from awakening until put down.

Lois was a housewife who woke up one day and realized the slob snoring next to her ain't nobody's idea of a dreamboat.

So Lois decided to better herself by dietin' and joggin'; shit no one does any more. But she read about it on the outernet and decided, hell if it's on the outernet... Well surprisingly, it worked for 'ole Lois. She was no longer an average dame, but a knock out! And you know, once a woman goes from a duckling to a swan, there's no containing 'er.

Her old man, Tinker... yes, that's his real name. What a dick. Anyway, Tinker started noticin' all the attention on Lois, who now spent more and more time outside the abode, away from her prince.

One night Lois flew the coup without fixin' supper. Tinker blew a gasket. Flew all over town on a hunting expedition. He didn't find her, but what he did find was some back alley arms dealer, willing to sell his own mother up the river for a few hundred fatuas and a mustard danish.

Tinker bought a Saturday Night Special, the Q900. Known for getting the job done in the first take. Can blow a head clear off the shoulders while searing the neck shut. Makes cleanup more manageable. A weapon of choice for neat freaks.

Lois' last night hit all eight cylinders. The Prosecution traced her steps from an ozone bar to a friend's Bachelorette Party where the main attraction were humanoid male strippers. One of them even testified, calling Lois "a BIG tipper." Probably the best night of her life.

Lois arrives home, probably with the purple bubbly still on her breath. She unlocks the front door, steps inside and POP! Goodbye Lois.

At least this is how the Prosecution surmises it went down.

Of course Tinker says he has no idea where his wife was. Says to the news crew, " Lois, cupcake, I know we can work it out. Please come home to your Tinker. I'll forgive whatever you done did to me." Wasn't that a load of crap. Even his own mother knew his days were numbered.

Two weeks after Lois went missing, her head was found in a dumpster behind some day care center. Body fished out of the creek the week before... got stuck on a thick tree branch protruding from the banks.

Yuck.

But nowadays decomposition can be reversed. The Q900 was also Tinker's undoing. It was a clean decapitation; easy to rectify.

Coppers along with the D.A. were eager to try out their new toy. So into the incubator went Lois, head re-attached.

A week later, Tinker was on trial for his life. His defense team made the Prosecution look like flat foots until they rolled out the big guns... Lois.

No one was quite sure if this was gonna fly. But we were all on the edge of our seats. Schools were let out early for Christ sakes.

When Lois entered the courtroom for her big debut, Stinker Tinker heaved his breakfast.

Lois strolled in as if on a Sunday walk... ignored Tinker while she took the stand.

She wore a simple grey ladies suit. A real looker. Her heels were new. Could tell from the shine and lack of scuffs. She was still wearing her wedding ring... some cheap forty-two carrot gold band. Her hair bounced as it caressed her shoulders. Plenty of body for dead hair follicles.

You know that old children's story about the lady who always wore a scarf around her neck? Then one day she removed it and her head fell off? That's all that kept sprinting through my skull whilst I fixated on that damn ugly polka dot scarf she wore.

The Prosecution approaches the witness/victim with three simple questions. " Did you see who shot and killed you?" "Yes." "Is that person in the courtroom today?" "Yes."

The world held their collective breaths... "Can you point to that person and name him?" Lois turns her head, raises her slightly decomposed right index finger (the way to identify an Unfinished) at Tinker. "My husband, Tinker Goode shot and killed me."

Tinker had a heart attack right then and there. He clutched his chest, slumped over. Better than anything on the outernet! The Paramedics rushed in with paddles, revived the pathetic louse.

Tinker was found guilty, unanimous jury verdict, despite the fact that his mother was one of the jury members. Nowadays the accused has the option of putting a family member on the jury. They exercised that option and moms voted to "fry his murderous ass."

Ouch.

The next day, Lois, still in her suit and new shoes, was given her final meal of choice. We as an audience watched as she grazed on a baloney sandwich with a dill pickle on the side. Kind'a depressin'. A boring last meal for an Unfinished.

Sadly, Lois' re-life was coming to an end. She was placed back into the incubator, which was programmed to "off." Her eyes drooped shut... and she took a powder for the last time. Her body was lowered into the ground at an undisclosed location for her "eternal slumber."

So here I am in the same incubator like a damn ostrich egg with plenty of time to kill.

I don't know the number who took my life, only got a glimpse of his mug. He may have followed me from 6th to Spring Street. You know that feeling you get at the base of your skull when someone gives you the once and twice over?

It was my day off. Was it the mug walking his cat on a leash? What kind of psycho killer walks a cat?

Maybe it was the piece of work at the transporter stop who kept asking me for a "slice of sunshine." What the hell is " a slice of sunshine?" I told him to get bent. Could be Mr. Sunshine.

The Prosecution must have him dead to rights; otherwise why would I be brought back? Right?

The thought of fingering the wrong mug has my stomach doing flip flops. What if I'm wrong? The jury always sides with the Unfinished. After all, we should know.

I remember taking a short cut down this alley. Yeah, I know I deserved whatever was comin' to me. Any flat tire who takes a shortcut down a dark alley...

But I was makin' tracks. Had a date with Melanie the Magnificent. What she could do with her little pinky was enough to make a grown man weep like a damn baby. And I sobbed. Yes I did.

Melanie was meetin' me at The Office. Not an actual office, but a drinking joint. A great place to tie one on and mingle with the humanoids. The owner came up with the name so that whipped husbands could tell their wives, "I'm at the Office" and not be lyin'. Genius.

We actually met there a year ago last Thursday. I normally have a preference for the female humanoids. Call me doll dizzy. They don't care that you're a mattress salesman, or yap too much... only that you're human.

Humanoid females can't catch or transfer any human diseases and replicate what you want in a woman after only a few hours of knowing you. Nice. So what's the downside to never worrying about STD's? Female humanoids have a 2gig memory. They're automatically reprogrammed every fourteen days. So good luck establishing anything permanent.

It's like visiting your gramps with dementia at the home. He doesn't remember your face, your relationship to him, despite the fact that you visit twice a week. Can suck you dry.

So it was coming up on sixteen days and Mary's memory was already reprogrammed. I was just about to approach her, as if for the first time, when I saw Melanie. She was down on the ground, in the corner, playing a game of craps. On a losing streak, but enjoying every secton of it.

I joined the game by crouching next to her, making sure I accidently brushed her thigh. She smelled of licorice. I hate licorice. But I was willing to make an exception for this doll.

Melanie rises, hurls herself on a nearby couch. With gams as long as my list of indiscretions, she acknowledges me. " What are you waiting for? Buy me a drink." I did. The rest of the evening was filled with conversations from the different types of mattresses available; the best ones for lower back pain as opposed to the ones best for sex, to licorice, the smell of it, the taste, the texture. She was wearing Etro Anice, a perfume with a strong licorice scent. At one point I felt the scent was swallowing up my soul. Perhaps the perfume had nothin' to do with it.

I was dizzy for this dame and soon the scent simply faded into the background.

I assume that is what many would call love. Guess Melanie was the closest I've ever come to it. Wonder if she's back playing craps or weeping over my empty grave?

Doesn't matter. They don't call you an Unfinished for nothin'.

I believe I'm about ready to blow this contraption. Still not any closer to knowing if I can I.D. my executioner. What do they expect with a hole in the skull? Reaching for the back of his head; Hum... guess that's not a problem.

The Prosecution must have enough evidence that bringin' me back is just icing on the loaf. Gotta be it.

The incubator top is electronically unlatched, folds open. Freedom . Some sort of MIT Intern grabs my elbow in an effort to remove me from this cocoon. I'm not grateful for the assistance. " Got a cigarette?" "You're not allowed to smoke." Ain't that a bitch?

The Intern works to plop me into a wheelchair. "I'm no invalid." My feet hit the sterile, cold floor with a tingling thud. I grab hold of the handles on the back of the wheelchair for support, raise to a tall stance, take one step at a time.

"Not bad for a dead guy." The Intern has heard it all before. Not even a hint of a smile.

"Where's my burger, beer?"

Surprisingly, after only a few hours I felt alive again! I wondered what a re-life would feel like, if my soul had returned or even left. Am I any different than the other re-lifer's? Do we all feel, "normal?"

My head returned to Melanie as the Intern brought my clothes for court. "Why do I have to wear a suit?" I've never worn one before. A cheap tie, plain white shirt and slacks; what I lived in... and died in.

The Intern simply stated, "It's the rules."

Monitors, cameras, reporters, gawkers, pack the courtroom. Why all the attention? Re-lifers aren't a novelty any more.

I'm led to the front of the courtroom. But why hasn't the Prosecution briefed me? Isn't that the way this works?

Is that my Grandfather in the Jury box? Wait a second... there's Melanie... in the witness box... with a scarf around her neck.

I make a mad dash for Melanie, but am stopped cold by a baton-welding Copper. I crumble to the ground. Melanie raises her slightly decomposed right index finger, points straight at me. "That's him."

About the Author

Patrice Williams is a screenwriter, founder of a non-profit organization, producer/director of shorts and founder of the Going Green Film Festival.