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A Mile in His Shoes

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Author's note: This story was inspired by The Twilight Zone (1960's) episode 'Dead Man's Shoes' and is dedicated to its author, Charles Beaumont.

1930's shoes

In 1933, many were suffering under the effects of an event that would become referred to as The Great Depression in 1934, but there were a few opportunists who adapted and thrived. One such man was Christoph Laurie, a retired judge, who had invested $1,800 and managed to turn it into five hundred thousand and some change by investing into utilities. A mere two months before the Stock Market crashed, doubts about how the market was moving ended up convincing him to sell his shares for a hefty payout. As many of the nearby businesses began to fail, in came Christoph with the purchase. He did this many times, consolidating and spinning his newly acquired companies' assets for quick money. This practice made him obscenely wealthy. Unfortunately for Mr. Laurie, he only got to enjoy his wealth for nine months before dying in the midst of 1934.

The funeral procession was lacking in number due to the hard times. The few attendees were so engrossed in conversation with each other that none noticed the unwelcome, raggedly dressed - where there were clothes to be had - man who sneakily slipped a hand into the open casket and absconded with the recently deceased's well-polished shoes on each foot. Jason Marlow hadn't expected the shoes to fit; he was just happy to have shoes, but his happiness amplified two-fold upon the added comfort.

With a growling stomach and just enough coins in his possession, the poverty stricken man decided to stop at a nearby restaurant in celebration of his lucky acquisition. Barely had he passed through the door, then did a hand hit him in the back... in a friendly, welcoming manner.

The mastermind of the friendly swat crossed into the homeless man's field of vision, stroking his beard as he spoke. “Mr. Laurie, always a pleasure to see you! I'd heard talk that you were dead. Glad to see it ain't so.”

Jason Marlow was confused how he could be mistaken for a regular, especially the dead man who he had just stolen from. Still, he did his best to take advantage of the situation and replied in the hopes that he didn't blow it, “That's quite the mix-up on someone's part. Confusin' me with a stiff, unbelievable. Nice to see you too, pal.”

The restaurateur ceased stroking his feathery beard and moved on to rubbing his bald dome in contemplation as he momentarily gave a confused look. “You don't sound right, Mr. Laurie. You might be coming down with a cold or something, best be careful. Last thing you need is to catch pneumonia and make them rumors a reality. Tell me what you want to eat and I'll get it whipped up and you fixed back into shape!”

“I'll have a hamburger with coffee.”

The worker released a thunderous laugh as though his customer had said the funniest thing of all time. Either he was easily amused or a kissass. After ceasing, he replied, “Mr. Laurie, you know we don't serve hamburgers. You want your regular steak and coffee?”

Marlow gave a nod and let out a sigh of relief after the ridiculous man disappeared behind a door he assumed led to the kitchen. A short time later, the man reappeared with a cup of coffee. The drifter chose to give a nod of thanks in the hopes that the man would leave, instead of opening his mouth. He was pleasantly surprised when his hopes were met. A chunk of time elapsed before the man returned, sitting down a plate in front of him. Much to Jason's dismay, the steak was pink and dripping a rather alarming amount of blood. Having decided to try and maintain his mistaken identity so that he might dine and dash, he kept his mouth shut on the matter. Well, actually he opened his mouth, chewed and washed as much of the matter as he could manage down with his coffee. The strange man routinely checked on him as he ate, never giving him enough time to sneak away. If only the diner had another customer, then perhaps he could have left by now; curses. He sat solemnly, pretending to drink from his empty cup and watching for an opening; finally one presented itself and he made for the door.

The employee turned around with frightening speed. He was on point as if he had radar built inside him and asked, “In a hurry, Mr. Laurie?”

“Yeah,” came Jason Marlow's terrified reply.

“You sound a lot better! I hope you enjoyed your meal. Thanks for buying the diner and keeping us afloat, boss!”

The attempted dine and dasher internally smacked himself.

Once again, the streets of Pittsburgh lie ahead of him. A realm of many possibilities, but few - if any - that would lead to his employment, or housing for that matter. It was because of this futility that he would drift without any destination in mind and just try to seize whatever opportunities he saw, but today was different. He wandered again without certainty, yes, but this time he felt as if there were some purpose behind it all. The man felt as though he was being guided by inexplicable force, but did not attempt to stray.

Jason's trek led him to a large, three-story building with the words: 'Gadenberry Soap Company' plastered atop its roof. The place felt familiar, but he couldn't figure why. The urge to enter washed over him, growing stronger and stronger until he relented.

Save for the walls, floor, and the door that hung at the opposite end, the front room was entirely bare. Despite the trepidation, Marlow carried himself across the empty room, his footsteps echoing throughout. Shakily, he reached out an arm and flung open the door to reveal a rail-less stairway. The split second his feet came to rest on the first step, his brain instinctively knew that there was no turning back. With each successive step ascended, Jason Marlow became more confident. By the time that he reached the final floor, he was a different person entirely.

Christoph Laurie threw open the door to his former office. A scrawny, well-dressed, glasses-wearing man, who might match most people's imagery of an accountant, looked up from the chair in which he was seated. The seat-warmer's eye's bulged with fear from behind their frames when he registered the man that stood before him. The retired judge slowly strolled into the room, relishing the other man's fear which practically lingered through the air.

“Mi-Mister Laurie,” the seated man exclaimed as he rose and slowly backed up into the large window behind him.

“Heywood.”

“Why? Why in the hell won't you die? You should be dead thrice over now!”

The business owner cracked his knuckles, continuing to edge toward the room's other occupant, and replying, “I don't like to leave my work unfinished.”

“That makes two of us,” exclaimed Heywood with a shrill cry as he reached into a pocket underneath his jacket and retrieved a small pistol.

Two gunshots rang out as Christoph Laurie charged the man who had stolen one of his many companies. Heywood let out a grin as he saw blood spew from his former boss's chest; at least one of the bullets had hit, if not both. However, the gunshot victim had enough momentum that the wounds didn't matter and he tumbled forward into his target. Heywood's grin dropped and a visage of fear overrode all expression as Christoph's body made contact with his. The two fell forward, shattering the window, falling and flailing through the air to the ground below. No screams, only glass shattering and a bone-breaking thud could be heard, were there anyone around to bear witness.

A tiny funeral procession was held in honor of Christoph Laurie, even smaller than the last. No one paid any attention to the body on display. A man and woman were off to the side chatting, a well-to-do married couple. Their discussion was one that everyone present was having with each other.

“This is the fourth time, Joel!”

“Martha, I swear this is the last of his funerals we'll go to. Regardless of if this body ends up not being his.”

“At least the first one they buried looked like him! I've heard that two of the times they exhumed his grave, the bodies didn't even look similar!”

“It's so peculiar. The person on display at every funeral looks exactly like him and we've seen them buried. It's almost like someone is swapping bodies as a cruel joke.”

Well, there was one person who wasn't talking about the oddity that was Christoph Laurie's many funerals. This person, a destitute man, slowly and secretly inched toward the dead man's fancy shoes with a look of hope in his eyes.



Written by Doom Vroom
Content is available under CC BY-NC