All things considered, Tyler Grayle was doing very well--for a dead guy.
Better than some of his counterparts, at any rate. Take poor Will Fenton in cubicle seventeen for example. Will had a bad case of the grunge, having been dead for at least three months before reawakening. Poor guy couldn't get a date if his life depended on it--pun fully intended. Women tended to shy away from men with less skin on their bones than the Heart Healthy Chicken Platter at Denny's.
Tyler himself had been dead for only a few hours before his reanimation, the popular term for what had happened to a fairly large percentage of the deceased population. It had all started five years ago when the Dante Comet passed within a few hundred thousand miles of the Earth.
Afterwards, there had seemed to be no rhyme or reason as to which corpse might blink awake after rigor mortis released its hold, or when. Most went right on being dead. Some didn't.
Animals had reawakened as well, which had delighted pet owners and pissed off the guys in the slaughterhouses.
Personally, Tyler hated the term, reanimated. He thought it made him sound as if he were a caricature, like Wyle E. Coyote in the old Roadrunner cartoons, smacked in the head with an Acme anvil with little stars and birdies flying in circles around his head.
In any case, Tyler had been more than a little pissed off when he'd awoken on the hospital gurney with a tag tied securely to his big toe, his face covered with a sheet, thinking that he'd been the victim of mistaken identity or someone's very ill-conceived sense of humor.
He'd soon come to understand that it was neither. Doctors explained to Tyler that he'd succumbed to the viral infection that had landed him on his back in the hospital a week before, hooked up to whooshing and beeping machines within a spiderweb of IV tubing.
Tyler later supposed that he should have caught on quicker--people had been reanimating for years. But still, it was one of those things that happened to someone else, not to you. Maybe his brain had been a step behind his body in the reanimation process, or maybe he'd been suffering from denial, but either way, he couldn't quite wrap his head around the fact that it had happened to him.
"A form of encephalitis," his balding doctor told Tyler afterwards, without looking him in the eye. The physician fidgeted with his clipboard, looking as if he'd rather be anywhere but in that hospital room. Then again, telling a man he'd be spending the rest of his life as a walking corpse might tax even the best of bedside manners. "Most likely contracted through a mosquito bite."
"Is it serious?" Tyler asked.
"You could say that," the doctor answered, his eyes never lifting to meet Tyler's.
"Will I live?"
"That's one way of putting it."
As it had turned out, Tyler had been done in by something as innocuous as a mosquito bite, but he'd had the last laugh. The mosquito was most likely dead by now while he, Tyler, was alive and kicking.
In a manner of speaking, that is.
"Tyler! I need the Van Hilton reports! Get what's left of your worm-eaten head out of your ass and get on it!" Barry bellowed from the other side of the milky glass wall of Tyler's cubicle.
Tyler rolled his eyes. "On it, Barry!" he yelled back. Barry Whittle was Tyler's immediate supervisor, three hundred pounds of bluster and bullshit, and a royal pain in Tyler's ass. Tyler noticed that Barry didn't bother to look over the wall of the cubicle at him, or duck around the corner to peek into the doorway. Barry would rather scream through the wall than look at Tyler.
Barry is a necrophobic, pure and simple, Tyler thought. It was widely believed that he only tolerated the Living Challenged in his office because of the anti-discrimination laws that had been passed recently. Nobody, Barry included, wanted to end up in court being sued by the ACLU, especially not when the prosecuting attorney was likely to be Clarence Darrow or Johnny Cochran.
Luckily for Tyler, his reanimation had come late, well after the worst of all the brouhaha over the dead coming back to life had settled down. When the first wave of the formerly deceased sat up and demanded explanations soon after the Dante Comet had passed by, they'd faced more than simple superstitious fear from the living.