Here’s the second entry, this is where I leave you with a short story instead of a flash fiction piece. It’s the first horror story I wrote for the upcoming collection which is still a work in progress. I hope you enjoy it and your weekend!
A TALE OF TWO SOULS
Written by Talisha Harrison
“P-taff! P-taff! P-taff! P-taff! P-taff!”
On a hot and miserable Friday afternoon, five bullets entered twenty-three year old Deangelo Wright’s body as he sat in heavy traffic on I-4. The actions that brought about his death began when a red 2010 Chevy Silverado dangerously jumped right in front of Deangelo’s vehicle. It nearly caused him to slam into the back of the truck, that would have created a deadly chain reaction continuing way past the plus mile line of sardine packed automobiles.
Deangelo had had a good day at work and wasn’t going to let anyone much less this bully of a truck ruin his day. When the opportunity came to move into the next lane he took it and sped by the Silverado, smiling as he went. Unbeknownst to him, this move was the final nail in the coffin for the Chevy driver who was pissed to the nth degree. Who knows exactly what the driver was already angry about, but Deangelo’s move crossed the line. As soon as the traffic began to move again, the driver unleashed their fury upon Deangelo’s vehicle with their semiautomatic pistol. They then sped off, driving into the oncoming summer thunderstorm, leaving behind a dead man who was just trying to make his way home.
Meanwhile, across town in a Huntington styled two bedroom two bath on the seventh floor of the Emerson Plaza Lakeside Luxury Apartments, a man by the name of Alton Casey Irwin died from a brain aneurysm-a subarachnoid hemorrhage to be exact. It all started earlier in the day with a sudden severe headache that lasted several hours. Alton had taken an Advil which he downed with a glass of scotch. He then went about his daily business, which included a round a golf at the Rolling Hills Golf Club in nearby Longwood. Alton was ahead of his friend by two holes when the game came to a stop due to the oncoming thunderstorm.
It was for the best since Alton had come down with a bit of nausea. When he returned home he laid down on his couch and vomited. The vomit that had not reached the floor, stained up his shirt and hands. Its funkiness caused him to vomit even more, and he suddenly became drowsy and confused. His vision was abnormal and his neck stiffened as he lost consciousness for the final time, never to awaken in the world of the living…
Deangelo knew he was dead the minute he felt a bullet pierce through his forehead zip through his brain, and exit out the back of his head. He watched as the drivers behind his car blew their horns then cursed at the top of their lungs, and finally got out of their cars pissed and ready to kick his ass…that is until they reached his door and saw Deangelo’s bloody, bullet ridden body with his brains decorating the car throughout.
That’s when he heard one of the onlookers scream and saw some of them on their phones calling Channel 9 Eyewitness News, and 911 while others started recording the morbid scene. Deangelo was frightened and confused. He didn’t know what to do and no one could hear or see him. Deangelo wished Jordan Amador was around to help, but no seer was coming to his aid. All he could do was keep watch over his body as the living waited for the news reporters police to arrive…
Alton woke up hovering over his own body. At first he believed he was having an out of body experience but upon further inspection, he realized that he was indeed dead…Alton had a panic attack. He didn’t understand what had happened. Yes, he was a little plump, but he still worked out and exercised. He ate healthy he was a freaking vegan for Christ’s sakes! And yet, there he was on the couch dead as a doornail, never to return…at least he wasn’t a zombie, right?
Three days passed before his body was found. By that time the stench of dried vomit and the initial decay of his flesh had mixed together to create an abhorrent smell. Alton was embarrassed and wished that he had opened a window before he had lain down to take his eternal nap. While he waited, Alton was drawn to his body and kept ever watch over it.
It was his cleaning lady who discovered him. She came in like she usually did every Monday, unlocking the door, heading straight to the kitchen to make something for lunch. But before she could open the fridge, the smell knocked her back. Thinking that some food may had been left out after one of Alton’s infamous lavish weekend parties, she looked around but found nothing. She then headed to the living room to open a window only to discover the source of the smell-Alton’s dead carcass.
The lady did not scream, instead she threw up. When she regained a little bit of her composure, she walked out of the apartment as fast as she could and knocked on the neighbor’s door across the hall. A older gentlemen answered and she frantically told him about her discovery. The man then went into Alton’s place, saw the body and bolted as though a tsunami was rapidly approaching. He called the apartment manager who called the police. They arrived thirty minutes later. Alton stayed by his body’s side and wondered what would happen next?
He didn’t have to wait long to find out. After the police and detectives came and went, the medical examiner and her team arrived. They covered Alton’s body with an evidence sheet and wheeled him outside and placed him in the back of an ambulance to take to the morgue and placed in a fridge where it remained for another two days.
Alton would not leave his body’s side. It was if he was glued to the hip. He was fixated by it, and nothing else in the world could or would draw him away. On the third day of refrigeration, Alton’s brother Mike finally arrived to identify Alton’s body. Alton was happy to see him. They hadn’t been extremely close, however, anytime either one was in a jam, they would come to the other’s rescue. That’s what Mike was there to do, he was taking his younger brother home.
“No autopsies, it’s against our religion. “ Mike said in between sobs.
Alton was relieved to hear this. Though secular in his religious practice, the one thing he did not want to happen to him when he died was to have his body cut open as it laid on an autopsy table, being dissected and examined. He remembered all the horror stories that his grandpa told him as a boy, that performing an autopsy on the body was torture for the soul. It was important to have respect for human remains and not casted around like an animal carcass…
Crime scene images from the variety of TV and films that Deangelo had watched over the years flooded his mind as the police arrived on the scene. It had taken them almost thirty minutes to get to where his car sat on the highway blocking one lane of traffic. Deangelo never thought that he would be part of any spectacle that included the police, yellow crime scene tape, reporters, and onlookers. But then again, he never thought he would die the way he did. Throughout the parade of action, he kept his eyes on his body as he listened to bits and pieces of ongoing conversations from the living. He didn’t appreciate the comments made by some that his death was most likely gang or drug related.
Deangelo watched as the coroners carefully took his body out of the car. He looked at his short masculine build with his luxurious curly hair the color of chestnuts, and his brown skin which was still ruddy despite being lifeless. He didn’t want to believe that he was dead, but he was and he was curious and apprehensive of what the next step would be in the process. He did know one thing: wherever his body went, his soul would follow…
Two days passed and Deangelo’s body lay in the morgue. He had not left the body’s side and stayed with it from the time the officers arrived on the scene, to the ride in the back of the ambulance, and finally to morgue where it now lay. He could not see it as it was still inside the black body bag. At this moment, Deangelo was ecstatic that he was dead since he was claustrophobic and the thought of being alive inside of the bag freaked him out immensely. But he would not and could not leave his body it had a hold on him. The fact that it had been laid on a steel autopsy table worried him. Surely his family knew about his untimely demise?
“I’m sure my family’s been notified. They’re just waiting for them to arrive and claim my body.” Deangelo said. “That’s right. They’re just waiting…”
Pacing back and forth, Deangelo waited for his family to arrive. He knew without a shadow of doubt that an autopsy would not be performed on him. When his father surprisingly passed, Deangelo’s mother after consulting with the rabbi adamantly refused to give permission for one. The practice of autopsy was frowned upon in their religion, it was only allowed in special circumstances-and those were rare.
Ten minutes passed then twenty minutes and Deangelo’s family did not show up.
“Maybe they’re not coming today…They should put my body back in the fridge.”
Deangelo continued to fret as he paced back and forth in front of the table where his body laid. Finally, the hour passed and the medical examiner along with her intern entered the room. Deangelo broke free of his trance and eagerly looked for any sign of his family but none came. Disappointed, he said, “I hope they come tomorrow, at least these two are here to put my body back in the fridge.”The medical examiner and her intern expressed no sign of doing so. Instead to Deangelo’s horror, they brought out scalpels, other medical equipment, and a recorder. “Oh no!” He said clasping both of his cheeks with his hands, Kevin McCallister style. Deangelo’s autopsy was about to begin.
The horrid affair started with the photographing of Deangelo’s body by the intern as the examiner noted the kind of clothes he wore and their position on the body. Next, evidence was collected from the external surfaces of the body. Gun residue was found on the chest and head while dirt was discovered underneath the fingernails. The lights were turned off as an ultraviolet light was turned on so the examiner and intern could search the body for any evidence that wasn’t easily visible. Afterwards, samples of Deangelo’s hair and nails were taken and the body was radiographically imaged.
After the external evidence was collected, the body was carefully removed from the bag. The body was undressed and Deangelo’s clothing and belongings were placed into separate bags and marked as evidence. The wounds were examined and then the body was cleaned, and measured and weighed. He watched the two ladies transport his body onto the cart. After the weigh in, the body was transported back to the autopsy room and placed on a table where the examiner recorded the rest of the external examination.
“The body is viewed unclothed. The body is that of a normally developed, black male appearing the stated age of 25 years with a body length of 71 inches and the weight of a 136 pounds. The body presents a medium build with average nutrition, normal hydration and good preservation. Rigor mortis is complete and lividity is well developed and fixed on the posterior surfaces of the body.”
Deangelo listened carefully as the examiner continued, “The body is cold to touch post refrigeration. Brown curly hair covers the scalp. The face is unremarkable. There is average body hair of adult-male-pattern distribution. The eyes are closed and have clear bulbar and palpebral conjunctivae.” The examiner took a breath as she continued speaking into the recorder, “Evidence of multiple injuries starting with the four bullet holes in the chest and one in the head…” Her voice trailed off into oblivion as Deangelo’s fixation with his body regained its hold. Thirty minutes passed in real time and the examiner finally finished the general description portion of her report. She shut off the recorder. The click of the recorder’s off switch brought Deangelo out of his brooding. He let out a sigh. The autopsy hadn’t been as horrible as he had heard. Relief was returning to his wretched soul until he heard the examiner’s voice. “Let’s take a break before we do the internal examination.” Internal examination? What internal examination?
“Are you sure you want to do that? You might vomit your meal later.” the intern teased as she took off her mask. From what Deangelo could tell, she appeared to be a light-hearted and easy going individual. He couldn’t understand how being around a dead body didn’t seem to faze her at all. Narrowing her eyes, at the intern, the examiner said, “I’ve done this for twenty years and have never thrown up. Let’s go eat lunch then get back to work.”Shrugging, the intern left the room. As she turned off the lights, the examiner looked at Deangelo’s lifeless, cold, naked body and murmured, “I hate the living.” and exited the room.
In the dark, Deangelo paced up and down and the wretchedness returned as a huge anxiety overtook him. “Internal examination, internal examination, internal…what do they mean by that?” Deangelo was a realtor not a scientist, so his knowledge of these things was somewhat limited. If an external examination was the same as what they did on any of the CSI shows, it didn’t look too bad at all. None of the bodies looked disfigured perhaps they intended to do the same to him. His family wouldn’t be too upset. Despite this, none of this reasoning reassured Deangelo, and as the hour and a half passed, he found himself fixated again on his body.
He only broke out of it once again when the lights turned back on and the two women entered the room ready to pick up where they left off. As they put on their sterilized gowns, masks, and gloves, Deangelo became panicky. It was hard to focus on what exactly they were doing as his body called to him. But he stayed there hovering steadfastly over it with fascination and apprehension as the intern placed a body block under the back of his body. This caused the arms and neck to fall backward simultaneously as the chest stretched and pushed upward. This movement of his corpse jolted Deangelo.
“This will make it easier to cut open.” The examiner said. The intern nodded and checked to make sure that the rubber block was properly in place. Perhaps they were doing a biopsy? But Deangelo knew better, and what happened next horrified him. Using her scalpel, the examiner started at the top of each of the shoulders and made large and deep Y-shaped incisions that ran all the way down the front of the chest meeting at the lower point of the sternum.
“NO! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” Deangelo screamed. Not hearing a sound, the examiner handed the scalpel to the intern who continued to extend the cut all the way down to the pubic bone, making a deviation on the left side of Deangelo’s navel. “STOP IT! STOP IT! YOU’RE MUTILATING MY BODY! YOU’RE MUTILATING ME!” His screams continued to fall on deaf ears.
Though he couldn’t bear to see what was being done, his curiosity wanted to know what his tormentors were doing, half covering his eyes and flinching when the intern opened his chest cavity with shears. The examiner then sawed through the ribs on the lateral sides of his chest cavity, allowing the sternum and attached ribs to be lifted as one chest plate. Despite what Deangelo had seen on the big and small screens, there were minimal traces of blood from the cutting.
“I am an animal at a slaughterhouse.” he lamented. “I’ve been killed, my body put out for public display, and now…now they’re going to cut me into pieces to sell to a butcher.” The butchering continued as the intern assisted the examiner in removing the soft tissue which was still attached to the posterior side of the chest plate. Deangelo could see his lungs and heart. Instead of using the recorder, the intern recorded the examiner’s observations concerning the state of the body cavities on a clipboard.
Soon other organs were exposed and removed in a systematic fashion. The examiner removed the organs as one large mass. If Deangelo could vomit he would have. He was in a recurring nightmare that he could not break free of. The dismemberment of his body deeply troubled him.
The dynamic duo continued to disfigure Deangelo’s body by making a series of cuts along the vertebral column. Once that was done, they detached and pulled out the organs one piece at a time. From the major blood vessels to the stomach, each organ was examined, weighed, and tissue samples in the form of slices were taken. When they gutted the stomach, the snacks, lunch, breakfast, and dinners which had been eaten a day or so before Deangelo’s murder, spewed out. They were also examined and weighed.
Two more hours passed and only the autopsy of the head remained. The intern removed the body block from behind the chest and placed it behind the head. Using the scalpel the examiner made an incision from behind the left ear. From there, the scalpel traveled over the crown of the head, to a point behind the right ear. “When we’re done examining the brain, we can sew this up neatly and it won’t be noticed if his family has an open casket funeral.” The examiner said. “I’m Frankenstein’s monster.” Deangelo said as the examiner pulled the scalp from his skull.
As it was pulled, the scalp created two flaps. The front flap fell over the face while the rear flap went over the back of the neck. Using a Stryker saw, the intern cut the skull and created a cap that she then pulled off. This exposed Deangelo’s brain and he could see the hole from the fatal bullet that ran right straight through it. The intern then severed the brain’s connection to the cranial nerves and spinal cord and lifted it out of the skull like an Alien killing a Predator for further examination. “I’m in a SAW film..dear God, what have they done to me?” Deangelo cried out.
The autopsy was finished.
The preparations were quickly made for Alton’s burial. As he continued to keep an obsessive watch over his corpse, he bore witness to the chevra kadisha arriving and performing the rituals on his body in preparation for burial. He watched as they uncovered his body and began to thoroughly wash it in preparation for ritual purification. They cleaned and removed dirt, body fluids, solids, and anything else that was on his skin.
Alton appreciated the time and care that the group dedicated to him. What he didn’t appreciate was the removal of his personal belongings. After all, they were his and he had spent a lot of money on the rings and the watch-especially the watch. It was one of a kind.
After the cleaning, the group immersed the body in the mikveh to further purify it. They then dried the body and dressed it in traditional burial clothing. A sash was then wrapped around Alton’s body and tied in the form of the Hebrew letter “shin” to represent one of the names of God. It was then wrapped in a sheet, lifted and placed into a casket that had no lining or embellishments. Disappointed Alton said, “Surely I should have a nice casket.”
Mike-who was more religious than Anton-made sure that there wasn’t a tallit wrapped around Anton since he never wore one in life. After the body was placed into the lifeless casket, one of the volunteers closed it, leaving Alton inside the confined space, void of light.
The funeral occurred the next day without any religious practice save Mike reciting a couple of Psalms. Mike, along with Alton’s parents, family, and friends, said their goodbyes as Anton looked at his casket, even more fixated on the body inside. He listened half-heartedly as each person spoke and gave compliments about him. After the service and burial, Alton remained behind at his grave agonizing over his deceased body.
As the days went by, Alton spent much of his time learning how to focus. He could see without his physical eyes using a mysterious process that he didn’t have the vocabulary to even describe. It was a frightening thing for Alton to behold as he perceived things flashing into focus from everywhere all at once. He was in a state of total confusion and disorientation. One thing that he did not have difficulty focusing on was his body since it was a familiar pattern with a deep tie that remained. Alton focused on it regularly as a refuge from the disorientation that he dealt with. It was a genuine comfort to him and he did not want to let that go…
After the horrid experience of the autopsy, Deangelo watched the examiner and the intern stitch his body back together. When they finished, the body had the appearance of the twenty-first century version of Mary Shelley’s monster. He was their own whacked version of Humpty Dumpty and it sickened him. When they were finished putting him back together again, he had given up all hope of his family recognizing him.
A day later, the mortician arrived and whisked Deangelo’s body away to the funeral home where it was prepared for burial by the chevra kadisha. After the purification, his body was dressed in a black tuxedo. The viewable areas of his body were cosmetized, virtually hiding any signs of the torture that his body had went through only days before. It was then placed in a black oak casket. Relieved, Deangelo smiled as he looked down at his body. It was recognizable and looked good…for a dead man.
Two days later, the funeral took place. Deangelo was not as focused on his body as he was on the many whispers and discussions that occurred between his family and friends. Listening carefully, he learned that the shooter had been caught and was awaiting trial. During the service, the rabbi delivered a wonderful sermon while other speakers left a positive impression not only on the attendees but also on Deangelo.
When the service was over and the body laid to rest, Deangelo sat down in front of his grave and pondered a bit on the events which had taken him to his final resting place. He had a hard time focusing as different events flashed quickly before his eyes making him disoriented and confused. Like Alton, he had no problem focusing on his body and that helped to relieve him. However his tie to his body wasn’t as strong.
Soon after their burial, the bodies continued their decomposition.
For Deangelo, witnessing this was not as bad as watching his autopsy. Granted, it was gross, disgusting, and somewhat painful. It was hard to watch worms eat through his body. Every time a worm chewed on his lifeless flesh, he could feel each and every bite. It was felt as if a hundred or more needles were sticking him at once.
At this point, he wasn’t too attached to his body at all. His family visited his grave often and spoke to him. He wished that they could hear him when he spoke back, yet he found comfort through their facial expressions, as it assured him that they understood. Six months after his death, his family returned to his grave and told him that his killer had been found guilty and sentenced to prison for twenty years. Upon hearing this news, Deangelo said his goodbyes to his loved ones and ascended to the spirit realm a free spirit…
Alton didn’t take to his body’s decomposition at all. It was extremely painful for him since his fixation to his body was strong. Watching the worms slowly devour the body brought him great anguish and psychological torment. It frightened him as he could hear the loud munching the worms made as they lunched on his flesh twenty-four hours a day. A week after his death, his skin had blistered so much that the slightest touch would cause it to fall off and it did as the worms continued their meal. A month later, the hair, nails, and teeth fell out. He watched as the bacteria and enzymes continued to break down his body, as they worked their way to his other organs. His body became discolored first turning green, then purple, and finally black. Alton could smell the awful stench from the gas that the bacteria created as his body bloated. This caused the eyes to bulge out their sockets and the tongue swell and protrude out of the mouth.
Through all of this Alton would not leave his body. The force was strong and bonded his spirit to his corpse. It was an enduring torture for Alton and it didn’t stop until twelve years later, when his body’s internal organs and tissues finally liquefied causing his body to swell until it finally burst open leaving only a skeleton behind.
With no body to obsess over, Alton’s obsession turned to the material possessions that he had had in life which resulted in him developing an unquenchable hunger. It affected his spiritual appearance as he underwent a transformation into an evil spirit. His spiritual body became bloated and his mouth disappeared. He began to wander throughout the living world to fulfill his endless yearning for the food, drink and pleasure which he had enjoyed in life. As he traveled, he sought out weak-willed people and dispossessed their spirits, taking over their bodies in order to subdue his hunger and thirst. But it was never enough.
“I’ve must have more…MORE!” He belched out after having his fill, like the golem tightly holding his precious.
Thus his accursed obsession resulted in him endlessly searching to no end. He roamed the earth forevermore as a Hungry Ghost…