• Dzama


Geoffrey S. Bhene requested that, upon his death, he be buried with his entire comic book collection. I made sure that’s what we did. I personally built a forty by forty foot cube out of pine boards and Pete and I packed it floor to ceiling with Bhene’s comic collection. We left only enough space for a human corpse to rest in the middle. Now and then while loading the box, Pete and I would take breaks to page through the comics, reading sequences involving rare or inhuman individuals reaching their breaking point or achieving almost godlike power. The old newsprint had the distinctive smell of history. After hours of sweating and stacking comics Pete and I would sit on the stacks with our lunch boxes and discuss the impossible deeds undertaken by the bigger-than-life protagonists.

The day we finished stacking, we placed Mr. Bhene’s lifeless body on his bed of back issues and covered him, as he’d requested, with an entire series of Psycho Fables comics, published by a no-name publisher in the Sixties. These comics were the first that had given Geoff nightmares as a toddler and had remained close to his heart. Once we packed everything just right we nailed the top on and bulldozed the dirt over him and didn’t think about it for years.

But then one day I got a call from Pete, who was living in a rented trailer and broke. Actually I almost didn’t pick up the phone because every call from him these days was asking for money and I made such a pittance at the cemetery I had none to give him. Remember burying old Geoff? he asked me.


Remember that Psycho Fables comic with the soldier who fights the Russian android? I certainly did. In fact, we’d discussed it over lunch the day we’d first stumbled upon it. The inks and colors were crude and the story made little or no sense but we’d both been very impressed by the impossible physique of the sexy Russian android and the sadistic paces she put the army colonel through. Well, bud, that was the first appearance of Sparterrax.

Sparterrax? I don’t even remember him in there.

Well, he was. And that comic book’s worth over a million dollars.


We were both back out in Hadleyville that night with shovels. It was a quiet night except for a few local dogs barking in the distance and we commenced digging, aided by the light of a full moon. After hours of hurling shovelfuls of dirt over our shoulders we hit the pine. That’s when Pete started up his chainsaw. We knew where the issue was and had to tear through stacks and stacks of less valuable comics to get there. The chainsaw cut through the newsprint like butter, creating smoke and clouds of paper dust. The closer we got to Geoff the worse it smelled. But we kept on cutting away, the old newsprint charring black from the heat of the chainsaw. We crawled deep into the tunnel we’d made and finally when the dust cleared we saw what we’d come for. Geoff’s skeletal fingers clutching the first Sparterrax comic. I reached forward and gingerly slid the comic out of Geoff’s fingers. PERFECT MINT CONDITION, I said, turning back to Pete. But behind Pete a cloud of smoke was rising from burning newsprint.

We both rushed with the mint origin issue back up the tunnel. Protecting the comic under my jacket I pushed through a wall of smoke and flames and barely made it out alive. Pete was not so lucky. I had no choice that night but to bulldoze the grave closed again and cover it with fresh sod. When the sun rose I had in my possession the invaluable first appearance of Sparterrax but my face had been disfigured by the fire and I’d lost an accomplice. I decided to lay low for a few months at the cemetery, watching from the shadows for intruders who may or may not have been coming for me. Months turned to years living alone in my little cemetery shack, the Psycho Fables Sparterrax edition hidden under the floorboards beneath my mattress.

When I finally emerged from hiding and sold the comic it was worth much more than I had dreamed. But instead of using the money to reconstruct my face I purchased and resurrected the Psycho Fables brand, and set up an operation with pencilers and inkers to create new issues every month. I created an even bigger fan base than the original series and would still be doing it if a detective hadn’t read the incriminating issue #96. In that issue I couldn’t resist telling the tale of that night, and finally admitting to myself via comic book panels that Pete wasn’t entirely dead when I bulldozed the dirt back over the grave. When the authorities excavated Geoffrey’s grave they found a scene almost identical to the one found on page 18. The mind will play tricks on you over the years but sooner or later the truth is bound to come out, if only through a “fictional” story like mine…



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