Before the Firebird was crushed to a cube, Dave marvels at how easy it is to transport dead bodies. All that matters is having nothing to hide. Like most things in plain sight, the dead take a while to see. Like sunspots in the corner of your eye. Like a wallet on a nightstand. Like wrinkles on loved ones.
Before the long march to Graceland, Dave had little experience with death, which he thought was a bummer. A grandmother died, a distant aunt or two, and of course the crash in town with the mangling and the tragedy. When he heard about friends going to wakes he felt like he was missing out on something. Not fun, per se — but something. The first significant death in Dave’s life was his own, and he didn’t believe that counted. Just thinking about it betrayed some of the significance. Even Tom Sawyer went to his funeral, after all, and he was kind of a dick.
His skin feels very white. Dave is conscious it’s because he is naked, and he’s conscious it should make him nervous. But Dave makes no movement t cover himself. That isn’t like Dave, who still considers getting pantsed at a birthday party one of his all-time worst memories. This calm in the face of buck-naked, more than waking up in Africa or knowing his best friend’s car was going to get totaled or being able to see, in some dim corner of his vision, his ex-body slumped at his kitchen table (still warm — Dave tended to run hot), was how Dave knew he was dead.
Before his friends found him face down in a puddle of Ramen, Dave knew he landed in Africa. He knows this even though it is dark, the sky beginning to cast off night’s navy. He is at least somewhere Africa-like, he reasons. Like death, he had never experienced the continent while he was alive. But he wanted to. He is tickled by the idea that this might be his chance.
And they say people can’t change.
The air is cool and the sky above him brightening; his hands clench and release dry scraps of grass. His pupils are large and his breathing shallow There is a river below; long-horned cattle split the brush and chew cud. A man in camouflage waves, laughing at something Dave can’t see. The sun, still no bigger than a star-point, peers over the mountains.
Eventually, Dave supposes, he’ll have to get up.
Remember, however, that all of this is before. Dave never planned to die, especially so young. But Dave figured he could use this moment to start something new instead of getting caught up in what he left behind. And thank god, because Dave left behind a mess.