©2006 Ross E. Lockhart

Gui was hopping mad. Being dead was humiliating enough, but to lie in a coffin and endure the paralyzing parchment prayer his nephew had pasted to his forehead, well that was downright embarrassing. Gui could smell his nephew’s breath as the boy moved about the room, chanting. At first Gui tried to blow the talisman away, forgetting for a moment that a corpse has no breath of his own, now he just seethed and listened. He wanted to pounce on the youth, dig his long, sharp fingernails into the boy’s throat, lap up the boy’s essence with his serpentine tongue, steal the boy’s body to replace his own withering corpse, but the yellow prayer kept him rigor-stiff, harmless. Finally, the boy spoke, closing the lid of Gui’s coffin: “Uncle Gui, it’s time for you to move on from this world to Fengdu Mountain. Yan Luo Wang awaits, I hear he’s always happy to welcome another tax collector. We’ll be sure to burn some Hell Notes for you.”