Raven - Part One
To be honest, it came as a bit of a shock to her. Being dead, that is. It wasn't quite what she had expected. Of course, on the other hand, she was probably a special case. She didn't really remember how she died. She did remember how she awoke, though. You don't forget that much screaming easily.
When Saliya Ramone opened her eyes, it was pitch dark. "Okay," she mumbled to herself, "I'm apparently not in heaven. But if this is hell, it's not anywhere near as hot as they said it would be. In fact," she added with a shiver, "it damned cold in here."
Saliya attempted to sit up and instantly banged her head on a metal ceiling only scant inches from her face. "What the hell?" Reaching out, she found that she was completely encased on all sides. Saliya had never been claustrophobic before, but the dark enclosure she was currently in reminded her too much of a coffin for her liking.
"Maybe I'm not dead after all," she thought with a resurgence of hope. Saliya began banging on the ceiling with her fists. Nothing seemed to give, and noise from her efforts rang hollow in the enclosure. With a sick feeling, Saliya wondered if she had been buried alive. She mentally shook herself. "That's ridiculous. They embalm people before burial. If I was alive before burial, I'd certainly be dead by now." There had to be another explanation.
Exerting herself further toward gaining her freedom, Saliya discovered that the floor upon which she lay moved slightly, as if it were on casters. It suddenly dawned upon her where she was. She was no doubt in a refrigeration unit in a morgue. Saliya had seen enough movies to know that the door either had to be above her head or below her feet. She decided to try the feet first. Mustering her strength, Saliya gave a forceful kick. The end result was more than she had expected. Not only did she succeed in opening the door, but she knocked it clear of its steel hinge. Using her hands against the ceiling, she managed to slide the bed forward and out of the refigeration unit.
The lights in the morgue blinded her at first. It had been a long time since her eyes beheld anything but darkness. Shading her eyes with her hand, Saliya surveyed her surroundings. Along the wall from which she had emerged, she saw many other refrigeration units. No doubt they held their own unfortunate occupants. Saliya wondered how the doctors could have made such an error as to mistake an unconscious person for a dead one. Saliya looked down at herself and fairly blushed. She was wearing nothing but a shroud. Carefully wrapping the shroud about her like a bath towel, Saliya stepped down from the body tray. In the center of the room was an autopsy table. Saliya shuddered and unwrapped the shroud to get a good look at herself. She saw no scars about her person.
Just then a man in a blue smock walked into the room. Saliya looked up and gave out a startled yelp. She quickly covered herself again with the shroud. The man's reaction was much more effusive. His eyes went wide, and then, he screamed. And screamed. And screamed. Saliya wondered if it were possible for him to run out of breath. She decided that the screaming had to stop. Saliya walked up to the hysterical intern and slapped him across the face.
"Get a grip, will you?" The physical remonstration had the desired effect. Stung into silence, the man simply stood shocked and staring. Saliya studied him for a moment. "Look, I don't know what's happened to me. Do you know how I got here?" Silence. "Well, can you at least tell me where my clothes are? I'm freezing in here wearing nothing but this sheet."
As if the mention of the shroud was a trigger, the man began screaming again. This time, however, he added locomotion to his discourse. Saliya sighed at the fleeing back of the intern. She really couldn't blame him. No doubt he worked here and had probably been involved in placing her presumably dead corpse into the refrigeration unit. This whole ordeal was probably like some low budget horror film come to life for him.
Saliya began rummaging through cabinets and drawers. She turned up a bin full of clothes from the deceased. Nothing of hers was anywhere to be found. Instead she found some black denim jeans, a black knit shirt and a black leather jacket. Considering her current mood, she felt that an all black ensemble was most appropriate. Saliya had donned her new attire and was admiring herself as best she could in the reflection of a lacquered cabinet door when her screaming friend returned with reinforcements.
"See?" he screeched in manic fashion. "She is
alive! I told
you I wasn't drunk!"
An older man in a grey herringbone suit and horn rimmed glasses looked at her with a skeptical expression that quickly dissolved the more he observed. He reached up and pulled his glasses further down his nose in order to view her with his naked eyes, as if the spectacles may have been tampered with in some fashion. "Grüß Gott,"
he whispered in a heavy German accent.
"Can you tell me what going on?" asked Saliya. "Edvard Munch over there isn't much of a conversationalist."
The older gentleman blinked a moment then readjusted his glasses more comfortably. "You, Miss Ramone, should be dead."
Saliya smiled. She could tell that this was a man who was not easily thrown off kilter. "Sorry to disappoint you."
"Indeed," responded the old man, "but perhaps I should make myself clearer. When they brought you in here, there was not much difference between your corpse and freshly ground beef. You had been in a rather nasty automobile accident. In fact, you had been decapitated. So, you can imagine that my collegue's reaction is well within the bounds of propriety."
Saliya blinked at this news. "Then, I really was dead? I wasn't in a coma or something?"
"As I said, you were barely in one piece," said the bespectacled man. "I should know. I performed the autopsy myself."
Now, it was Saliya's turn to be shocked into silence. The man turned to the intern. "Harold, be so good as to get my bag, would you?" The intern managed to nod absently and stumbled out the door. The old man walked into an ajoining office, most likely a place for the coroner on duty, and retrieved two office chairs. "Please, have seat," he said proferring a chair. He sat himself in the other one.
Saliya cautiously sat down in the chair. She had the oddest feeling, like she was expecting her body to fall into pieces at any moment. "If I was so badly injured as you say, how is it I'm standing...well, sitting...right here, whole and in one piece, with not so much as a scar to speak of?"
"A very astute question, young lady," said the old man. "Once Harold returns with my bag, we shall endeavor to answer it."
No sooner had he said this than the young intern returned with an old fashioned black leather doctor's bag. "Very good. Now, I want you to go take care of the filing for me in the records room." The young man looked at him with a confused look on his face. The older gentleman nodded his encouragement. "Off you go." After the intern had departed, the older man turned his attention to Saliya. "After what he's been through, a little repetitive normalcy is what he needs."
The doctor pulled a stethescope from his bag. He got up from his chair and leaned over Saliya and placed the chestpiece against her shirt. Saliya caught the frown that was on his face. The doctor moved the stethescope's chestpiece to different areas on her chest and back. Suddenly, he took her hand and felt her wrist for a pulse. "Grüß Gott."
"What does that mean?" asked Saliya.
"It's German, in case you hadn't noticed," answered the doctor. "Austrian dialect in particular. Literally, it means God is great. In this case, it's an expression of disbelief."
"So...what do you think?" asked Saliya hesitantly.
The doctor straightened up and studied her for a moment. "In my professional opinion? You're still dead."
"You have no heartbeat and no pulse," continued the doctor. "You appear to be breathing, but I suspect that's only a reflex because you believe yourself to be still alive."
Saliya shook her head. "That's not possible!"
"I know," replied the doctor, "and yet...," he spread his arms out to show that he had no answers for her, "...here you are."
Saliya couldn't believe what she was hearing. "This...this isn't making any sense. If I have no pulse, what's keeping me alive...or...animated?"
The doctor pondered this for a moment. "Let's find out, shall we?" He turned to the autopsy table and retrieved a scalpel. Then, he walked over to Saliya, lifted her arm and pulled back her sleeve. Before he could make the incision, however, Saliya snatched her arm from the doctor's grasp.
"Are you mental!?"
"Madam, I am giving a physical to a dead person," said the doctor with heavy sarcasm, "I don't think my sanity is a factor at this point. Now, do you wish to learn the truth or not?"
Saliya stared hard at the doctor. "Before I reliquish my arm to you, could you please tell me who you are? I generally like to know the names of the people who cut me up for fits and giggles."
"A fair question," responded the doctor in an equable manner. "I am Dr. Heinrich Geothe, chief coroner here at Blessed Mercy Hospital. Now that introductions have been offered, will you allow me to check my theory?"
After a few more moments of hesitation, Saliya held out her arm. Dr. Geothe made a small incision in her skin. however, instead of blood issuing forth from the wound, light poured from the opening, which quickly healed itself leaving no trace of its existence. "Grüß Gott,"
uttered Dr. Geothe for the third time.
"You know, I'm beginning to think that whenever you say that, it means something bad for me," said Saliya.
Dr. Geothe looked at Saliya with an almost wistful expression. She found it unnerving. "So, was your little experiment a success? Am I cracking up, or did that cut just close right up?"
"No, you are not cracking up, as you put it," said Dr. Geothe. "So, you also saw the wound heal itself. Did you see the light?"
Saliya's brow furrowed. "Light?"
"From the wound?" urged the doctor. "When I made the cut, light came forth instead of blood."
Saliya shook her head. "I noticed that no blood came out, but I didn't see any light."
"I see," mused the doctor. He seemed lost in his own thoughts.
"Let me be blunt, doc," offered Saliya. "What the hell is going on?"
The doctor smiled. "Very well, I shall be equally blunt. I haven't a clue. I think your predicament may be better explained through philosophy or metaphysics more so than science or medicine. Whatever it is that's happened to you, I'm quite certain that hell has nothing to do with it. I'm also certain that there is a purpose to your existence. You must find that purpose on your own. I doubt very much that you will find any answers here."
Saliya sighed. "Peachy. So, what now?"
"That's up to you," said the doctor with a shrug. "I believe I still have some of your effects. Particularly your identification. However, I wouldn't recommend returning to your old life. It could be...problematic."
"So what am I supposed to do?"
"Start fresh," suggested Dr. Geothe. "Create a new life for yourself. An afterlife, if you will," he added without even a hint of irony. Dr. Geothe opened a cabinet the held many small drawers. "I'm afraid that most of your clothes were burned beyond usefulness. It's good that you've found things that fit."
"Cars tend to catch on fire when they crash," said Dr. Geothe with a touch of black humor.
Dr. Geothe rumaged through the many different drawers before coming up with a small clutch purse. "Ah, here we are. Your identification." He handed the purse to Saliya. She took it gravely from the doctor.
"Not that it's going to do me much good now," said Saliya in a defeated tone. "I'm dead, remember?"
"Just so long as you remember that," cautioned Dr. Geothe. He also handed a small card to Saliya. "Should you ever need to talk to someone, there's my number."
Saliya looked at Dr. Geothe. "So, how come you're not spooked by all of this? If I were in your position, I'd be like your friend Harold."
Dr. Geothe cocked his head to one side. "I'm not quite sure, but I believe that I am witness to something...amazing."Part Two