So, every now and then, I make myself have a go at writing something out within 30 minutes. Or I try to, seeing as today, my keyboard was playing up. So, I wrote in 35 minutes (because I had to run and get batteries!). So, enjoy!
Warning - this short story deals with dead bodies. (Thanks Kathy Reichs and Tess Gerritsen).
I know death. I work with it. Hey, you can say we’re the best of buddies.
I am a forensic anthropologist, and let me tell you, my job isn’t exciting. Don’t believe that CSI crap. I deal with dead bodies. Whether they are burned, decomposed, mummified (don’t ask!), mutilated, dismembered or skeletal. So, they’re not exactly a chatty bunch.
I prefer working with skeletal remains. Nothing scary about skeletons. It feels safe working with them, knowing that there are 206 bones in the body. It’s like working on an old maths question you feel comfortable with.
I do not feel comfortable working with anything else. I have to pushed into the autopsy room, half the time. Mostly because I don’t have a Starbucks in my hand (other coffee brands are available). But the idea of doing a Y-incision into the dead’s chest – doing it to a female is more disturbing, but if you’re a man (or a lesbian), you’ll instinctively look at the breasts. And then you have get to the brain, which is worse because you have to cut through the scalp, collapse the face (!), and then saw through the bone.
Yeah. Dealing with skeletal remains is much better for me.
And it was dealing with a skeletal remains of a woman (black, mid to late thirties) is when I heard it.
I heard something. I wasn’t sure what, but I heard… movement?
Now that was impossible. I was the only person in the morgue. I was working late to make sure all my notes and findings made sense. I was getting dental records tomorrow and I was sure that we would have an ID for her. For her and for her family’s sake.
“He-hello?” I called out.
Nothing. As quiet as the grave.
I sighed, looked at the clock – 10:47pm – and decided that I should really go home. I was seriously behind on my Grey’s Anatomy – a secret vice no one knew about. Plus, I wanted a shower. I wanted to wash the smell of death that I knew had clung to my clothes, my hair, my skin.
I stretched, feeling my joints pop out of my sockets when I heard it about. A low, muffled sound. I stood perfectly still, arms still above my head, trying to pinpoint the sound.
There was nothing.
I should ignore it. It’s nothing. I mentally told myself. And yet… and yet, I knew I couldn’t.
So, guessing that weird the noise had come from, I walked across the morgue, pass the gurneys and pushed the doors open.
A chill ran over my skin. I felt goosebumps rise. The cold room has that effect on people. It never bothered me before. But it did now.
Eight stainless steel gurneys were taken. Each holding a black body bag. I felt my skin tightened as I walked to the first. I forced myself to work confidently. I had nothing to fear here. It wasn’t like the dead could rise again.
I checked the tag. White female. No date. No time.
Okay, that’s odd.
I unzipped the bag. Inside was a naked white female. Her skin was practically translucent. Her black hair looked wet and was pulled back, revealing a woman with a large forehead. Her eyes were closed, given the impression that she was sleeping.
“Oh, get a grip of yourself.” I told myself aloud, zipping the body bag shut. “You’re tired. You’re cranky. Go home.”
I turned to leave. I made two steps before I stopped. Okay, that time, I definitely heard something.
I turned. It had to be my imagination. Had to be. There was no way -!
Slowly, I edged back to the body bag I had just opened. Then stopped, hand frozen in mid air.
“Get a grip,” I told myself, as I took the zip and unzipped the bag.
Again, there she laid. Her eyes closed. Her hair still pulled back.
My fingers, acting of their own accord, moved towards her throat. If she was dead, there would be no pulse. If she was dead, she would be cold skinned. If she was dead –
The corpse’s eyes opened.
I gasped, recoiled, almost lost my footing and stared, opened mouth.
Her eyes were open!
“Oh – OH MY GOD!” I couldn’t stop myself from saying the words. I grabbed the gurney and kicked at the brake.
Get her out of the cold!
“Sweetie!” I said, kicking at the brake again and feeling my foot making contract. “It’s okay. I got you. You’re going to be okay.”
I wheeled the gurney out of the cold room. I thought I heard someone.
“Call an ambulance!” I called out, hoping that I wasn’t alone.