The quiet of the morgue held an odd sense of peace for Tabatha. The cold stainless steel room smelled of paraldehyde, its odor acrid, sour. She peeked inside the first autopsy room and found it silent as Central Park after midnight. Each table had its own hanging scale for weighing excised organs and hoses for rinsing waste and body fluids away. Trays of instruments—retractors, saws, scalpels—all the necessary accouterments lay nearby. Tabatha walked to the door of the isolation room, peeked in the small window and saw three people wearing protective paper suits and headgear. She pressed the intercom. “I have two customers for you.”
A voice blurted through the speaker. “You’ll have to wait. We’re finishing up here. Ten, maybe fifteen minutes.”
Approaching the John Doe, Tabatha looked around to make sure no one lurked in the shadows. She lowered the sheet then drew in a deep breath, held it for a moment and opened her mind to his soul.
“Who are you?”
“What happened to you, David?”
I’d just got home and was jumped while I unlocked my door.
“Who did it and what did they look like?”
Three men—two white, one with short dark hair, the other with blonde, one Hispanic, black hair, tall, walked with a limp.
“Did you know any of them?”
No. Where am I?
“Hospital morgue. You’re dead, David,” she said gently.
Panic surrounded him in a coppery-scented mist. She ran her gloved fingers through his blood-stiffened hair and spoke softly, “Be at peace, David. It’s a beginning of a new life.”
Tabatha turned away and was met with a solid wall of cold, dry flesh. She panicked for a moment, looking around to see if anyone had seen.
“Oh, hell. Where did you come from?”
His head tilted to one side as if trying to understand her question. His arm lifted, and he pointed toward an open cooler drawer. The long, crudely sewn autopsy incisions glared against white skin. He was young, probably not more than twenty-three or four. In life he had been strong and healthy, good looking.
Damn, she hated when they showed up like this. She always felt sorry for them. Their lives were cut short too early, too violently. They were confused by what happened. Most didn’t even know they were dead. Years of dealing with this type of situation had not lessened her concern for them. She still wanted to put them at ease—to help them accept what had happened to them and make their transitions go quickly.
“What’s your name?”
“Francis Wade.” His voice escaped in a shaky rasp.
“Well, Francis, you have to go back. You’re dead.”
He glanced down at his nakedness then at her. “Dead?”
Tabatha looked into his eyes and saw nothing but death’s black void. His soul gone, only an empty shell remained. She took him by the hand and led him to the cooler. The cold of his skin ran a chill up her spine. “Lie down, Francis.”
He did as she said.
“Go to sleep, and wake only when God calls you.”
Before leaving, she watched his face immobilize in a lifeless mask. Closing the drawer, she turned. Her heart fell to her feet when she saw Bobbie standing next to the other body-draped gurney.
Though she tried to appear nonchalant, standing with arms crossed, leaning against the morgue entry, her expression was almost comical, wide-eyed and slack jawed. “I knew it. Damn, Tabatha, the rumors are true, aren't they?”
CJ Parker--Author of "Fugue Macabre: Ghost Dance", available from Light Sword Publishing