The lights to Exam Room One came to life, as Brad strode casually into the room. He had a pair of head phones on and seemed oblivious to the world. Lilly, who had been sitting in the room’s far corner, with her knees tucked up to her chest, and her crossed arms resting on top of them, slowly lifted her head. There was one of those big, round clocks on the wall, that had ticked loudly during the night. The old brick walls of the exam room had twisted the clocks ticking sound into a creepy, echoing noise that had almost driven Lilly crazy.
Brad walked over to the cooler containing Lilly’s body and opened it up and pulled out the long metal shelf. He put on a pair of latex gloves and a face mask, before unzipping the bag, and looking at its contents. “Damn,” he said out loud. Slowly, and meticulously, he removed what remained of Lilly Barnes from the body bag, and gently placing her on the exam room table. The door to the exam room opened and a short, round Hispanic man, wearing blue scrubs walked into the room.
“Morning Dr. Ortiz,” Brad called out.
“Good morning Brad,” the Doctor replied. “This is our Jane Doe, I take it?”
“Yes sir,” Brad answered, checking the body bag one last time, just in case he missed something, before folding it up and placing it off to the side.
“And Detective Bryant?” Dr. Ortiz inquired, walking over to get a better look at Lilly’s body.
“No idea,” Brad responded, turning on the big bright light above the table.
“Well, I’m not going to wait around all day. Let’s get started.”
Lilly didn’t want to see what happened next, so she lowered head back on to her arms. She could hear an array of different sounds coming to life. Metal hitting metal. A saw of some kind being turned on. The sound of running water. She had no idea how long this went on for, but is seemed like a few hours. She could have easily looked up at the clock, but that would mean that she would have to see what they were doing to her, and that was something that she had no interest in witnessing.
The sound of the exam room door opening again peaked her interest. She tilted her head to the side, allowing her a glimpse of Detective Bryant as he entered the room. “Sorry I’m late,” he said, slipping on a face mask and pair of latex gloves. “What’d I miss?”
“Everything, I’m afraid,” the Doctor replied. “Just finishing up.”
“Yeah, sorry about that, like I said. Had to make sure there wasn’t anyone else out there.”
Lilly lifted her head and looked at Detective Bryant. The thought of there being others hadn’t even crossed her mind. Were there others out there, like her, she wondered? She hadn’t seen anyone else out in the woods, but she had been confined to the small clearing, and the forest looked like a big place.
“Was there?” Dr. Ortiz asked, taking off his mask and gloves.
“Thankfully no,” Bryant answered. “We had cadaver dogs check several square miles of the woods around where she was discovered.”
“That’s a relief,” the Doctor replied, picking up a clip board and writing down some information.
“So, what did you find out?”
“You might want to get up and get a little bit closer, so you can hear what they’re saying,” came a voice.
Lilly suddenly had a feeling that someone was standing next to her. She looked up and saw the most peculiar man standing there looking down at her. He was wearing a tattered old brown jacket, with a gray hooded sweat shirt underneath it, and a pair of dark green corduroy pants, with a large hole over the right knee. On his back was a bright yellow back pack. His skin was pale white, and his head was as bald as a baby’s ass.
“Here, let me give you a hand,” the man said, extending a hand down toward the young girl. Lilly noticed that he was wearing a black metal ring with a large blood red ruby in the center, on the ring finger of his right hand. It reminded her of her class ring from high school, but this ring didn’t look like it had any writing or symbols on it.
“Who the hell are you?” Lilly asked. “And how can you see me?”
The man just stood there staring at Lilly, as he continued to hold his hand out to her. For some reason, unbeknownst to her, she reached out, and was surprised, when she discovered that she could actually grab a hold of the hand presented to her. The man pulled her to her feet, and Lilly discovered that he was only slightly taller than she was, as he pushed her closer toward the exam room table.
“The victim is female, between fifteen and twenty years old. She’s Caucasian, and given the lack of flesh, I’m confident that she has been buried for at least six months. Now for the interesting part. Do you see this spot right here?” Dr. Ortiz asked, pointing to a spot on the left side of Lilly’s skull, right near her temple.
Detective Bryant took a step closer, and saw a small half orb shaped indent in the bone, along with several spider webbing cracks radiating out from the center of the indent.
“If you look right here,” the Doctor said, moving to the top of Lilly’s body.
Lilly followed the Doctor’s movement, and found that the top portion of her skull had been removed, causing her to gag. “Wait, did he say six months?”
“Shhh,” the odd man scolded.
Detective Bryant came to stand next to the Doctor and peered inside of the skull, where he found a dark red stain upon the white bone. “Is that the cause of death?”
“It’s hard to say,” the doctor answered. “It’s defiantly a point of blunt force trauma. The impact was hard enough to fracture the skull, and cause a significant brain hemorrhage. The blow would have certainly caused loss of consciousness, a concussion, and more than likely, given the size of the hemorrhage, put her in a coma.
Given the state of the body, I can’t say if she was strangled, or if she had been sexually assaulted, and I did not find any tool, or weapon marks on any of her bones, but it does appear that some of her hair has been removed. Right here,” the doctor said, pointing to a portion of her hair on the right side of her head. “With all that being said I would say that the point of blunt force trauma certainly assisted in her death, so I’m ruling this a homicide.”
“So, you’ve got nothing, other than that small dent in her skull and some missing hair?”
“Being in the ground, unprotected, for six months will destroy all traces of forensics,” Dr. Ortiz reminded Bryant. “Any idea who she is?”
“None,” Bryant answered, scribbling down what the Doctor had told him in his note pad. “We don’t have any open missing person cases, and the surrounding counties aren’t missing any young white females. I’ll put her in the national data base and hope we get a hit. It’s been a pleasure,” he added, flipping his note pad shut and putting it in his jacket pocket, before walking out of the exam room.
Lilly stood there silently staring at her decomposed body. Brad prepared her body to be placed back in the cooler, while Dr. Ortiz washed up. Before she knew it, both men had walked out of the room, leaving her alone with the odd-looking man, who had not left her side.
“Tough break,” he said. “A lot to absorb huh?”
Lilly slowly turned her head and gave the man a frustrated look. “Who are you again? And what are you doing here? No…let me rephrase that…What am I doing here?”
“The names Fred,” the man said, extending his hand again, which this time Lilly did not accept. “Ouch. No need to get your panties in a bunch.”
“My what?” Lilly said, raising her voice.
“Fine,” Fred said. “I was just trying to give you a few moments to absorb what has happened to you, and…”
“Time to absorb?” Lilly replied, her voice laced with anger. “According to the Doctor, I’ve been buried for six months, all of which I was stuck sitting next to my dead body, so forgive me for saying this, but I think I’ve had plenty of time to absorb.”
Fred stared at the young girl for a moment, before taking out an old looking pocket watch and checking the time. “I really don’t have time for this shit,” he said, placing the watch back into his pocket.
“I’m sorry,” Lilly stated, rather sarcastically. “Are you late for something.”
“Yes, as a matter of fact I am,” Fred replied rather bluntly. “So, if you want the guided tour, you’d better keep up,” he added, walking out of the exam room.
Lilly stared in amazement, but was snapped out of it when she heard Fred telling her get moving. She quickly approached the door, but stopped and hesitantly reached out a hand, which to her surprise, passed right through it. She took a deep breath and stepped through the door and out into the hall, where she found Fred waiting for her.
“Ok newbie, listen up because I don’t like repeating myself. You’re dead,” he began, as he took up a quick walking pace down the deserted hall.
“Duh. Six months remember.”
Fred stopped and turned to face the young girl. “Unfortunately, our system isn’t always perfect. We’ve been under our minimum staffing requirements for the past two centuries. In an idea world, someone should have greeted you at your TOD, and showed you the ropes.”
“TOD?” Lilly asked.
“Time of Death,” Fred replied. “You should never have been left out there for that long on your own, so for that I do apologize. I’m not even the one who’s supposed to be doing this ok, am strictly an east coast Reaper, but I’m doing some one a favor, so drop the attitude and I’ll do my best to get you on your way,” he stated, resuming his trek.
“You’re a Reaper?” Lilly asked, doing her best to keep up. “Like the Grim Reaper?”
“I’m just one of many sweetheart,” Fred answered, coming to a stop in front of a row of elevator doors. He swung his back pack around and took out a purple colored spiral note book. Flipping through the pages, he found the one he wanted and ran a finger down its surface and stopped about half way down. “Sixth floor,” he said to himself, before stuffing the note book back into his back pack. “Your what we in the business call a Purg.”
“A Purg. It’s because your technically in Purgatory, but Purg is just easier to say. You have some unfinished business keeping you grounded,” Fred told her, as an elevator door opened. Fred quickly stepped in, followed by Lilly.
“Why are we taking the elevator?”
“Because I don’t like taking the stairs,” Fred answered.
“Aren’t you going to push the button?”
“Oh, right,” Fred remarked. “Can you do it for me? We need to go to the first floor first, and then cut through the ER, so that we can take a different elevator to critical care unit.”
Lilly reached out and went to the push the button for the first floor, but found that her finger stopped just shy of its surface. She gave the button a strange look, while Fred laughed out loud. “Oh man, that never gets old,” he added, reaching out and pushing the button.
“How come you can push it and I can’t?”
“Because I’m Death, and you’re a ghost,” Fred replied. “It’s like this. The laws of
Physics still apply to you, but only about twenty five percent of the time. You can’t float around, like you see ghosts do on TV, you’re stuck on the ground, but you can’t really interact with anything, which means you can walk through walls and shit, only because you can’t turn a door knob. Oh, and nobody can see or hear you, if you hadn’t already noticed. Understand?”
“Ok, try this one,” Fred tried to explain. “If you would have just walked through the elevator doors, without them being open, you would have fallen to the bottom of the shaft, and because you can’t float, you’d be stuck down there, because even though you could walk through the walls, there no real exit down there, and you can’t just walk through the ground.”
The elevator doors opened and Fred took off like a shot, not waiting to see if Lilly was following or not. The doors started to close and Lilly barely made it off the elevator in time. She looked for Fred and saw that he was half way down the hall already. She took off after him, but found her path obstructed by hospital staff going about their daily routines. She dodged and side stepped her way through the hall, until the sound of a flat high pitched tone coming from one of the ER rooms caught her attention.
Lilly quickly stepped off to the side, as an army of nurses rushed into the room. She moved closer toward the side of the door and peered in to see what all the commotion was about. On the bed was a young man. He was probably in his mid-twenties, and had jet black hair. His white skin held several tattoos on his arms. Lilly couldn’t see what they were from her vantage point. One nurse moved up to his side and started to perform CPR on him. The spirit of the man slowly materialized at the foot of his bed, where he was forced to watch the nursing staff trying to save his life.
The man’s confused brown eyes met with Lilly’s bright blue eyes, as the two stared at each other. He was taller than she was, by almost a foot, making him about five foot ten. His body looked a little scrawny, but not like starving scrawny. Maybe scrawny wasn’t the right word Lilly was looking for. Wiry, that seemed more appropriate. She felt some grab her arm, and turned to find Fred giving her an annoyed look. “Are you here for him?” she asked.
Fred peered into the room, and the man’s expression turned sour as he looked upon Death. “No,” the Reaper replied, as a nurse yelled clear and gave the man’s heart a shock from a defibrillator. The man’s spirit slowly faded from sight, as the heart rate monitor beeped with life. “We’re going to the sixth floor remember?”
Lilly followed Fred down the hallway, onto another elevator, and down yet another hallway. As they made their way through the hospital, the young girl noticed, that even though the hallway was filled with people, they all seemed to move out of the Reaper’s way. She also noticed that not one of them looked at him. “Here we are,” Fred said, walking into room six twenty-four. On the bed was an older man, somewhere in his mid-sixties. He was a little over weight, and had mostly gray hair, and his white skin was littered with brown spots. He had an oxygen tube under his nose, and a tube inserted down his throat, to help keep him alive, while an array of other tubes and wires could be seen hooked up to him.
“Lilly, meet Chuck Jennings,” Fred said, slipping off his back pack and retrieving his purple colored notebook. “Jennings…Jennings…” he mumbled to himself, flipping through the pages. “Ah, Jennings. TOD is at Three O Nine am,” he added, reaching into his pocket and pulling out his pocket watch. “Two minutes to spare,” he said, slipping the watch back into his pants pocket. “You might want to stand over here,” the Reaper instructed Lilly, moving off to a far corner of the room.
“Because in two minutes a butt load of people are gonna coming rushing in here.”
“I thought you said that they couldn’t see me?”
“They can’t,” Fred answered. “But do you really want a bunch of strangers walking through you? Besides, I need the room to work,” he added, reaching once more into his back pack, and pulling out a bathroom scale, which he placed on the floor.
“What’s that for?”
“Gotta weigh the man’s soul now don’t I?”
Lilly just looked at the odd man with a confused look. She was about to say something, when chuck Jennings flat lined. A handful of nurses rushed in and started CPR, and just like in the other room, the man’s spirit appeared at the foot of his bed.
“Is that me?” Chuck asked. “What’s going on?”
“Sir?” Fred called out.
Chuck turned around and locked eyes with the Reaper, as his lower jaw dropped open. “I knew this day would come,” he said, shaking his head.
“If you would so kind,” Fred responded, motioning toward his scales.
The man stepped forward, and began to place one foot upon the scales, but stopped just shy of the scales surface. He held his foot there for several long seconds, before placing his foot back down upon the ground. “I don’t think I can do this.”
“You don’t really have a choice,” Fred replied, motioning once again toward the scale.
“There must be some kind of mistake,” Chuck retorted. “I’ve led a very giving life. To my church. To my family. To my community. There should be no judgement! I want to speak to your supervisor!”
“Yes, you did do all of those things you mentioned, but how did you serve Max Evans?”
“Cut the shit Mr. Jennings. You know who you’re talking to. You hit that little boy with your car, and just drove off. Didn’t even stop.”
“But I was drunk,” Chuck pleaded. “I didn’t even know that I had hit something.”
“You didn’t hit something, you hit someone,” Fred replied, as the Reaper began to lose his patients. “If it were up to me, I would just bypass the scales all together and send you straight down, but management says we have to follow protocol. Now get on the scales. I’m not going to tell you again.”
“How do I know that those things are even accurate?” Chuck asked, trying his best to stall for as long as he could.
“I can assure you that they are routinely calibrated by an independent third party,” Fred answered, motioning once again toward the scale.
Chuck looked down, and shook his head. “Nope, not gonna happen. I demand to speak to your supervisor!”
Fred reached his hand out with lightning speed, and Lilly watched in amazement, as the Reaper’s hand passed right through Chuck Jenning’s chest. The Reaper closed his grip around the man’s spinal cord, and easily hoisted him into the air.
“You can’t do this!” Chuck protested, as Fred set him down upon the scale. The dial, which had been blank, started to spin around. It didn’t take very long, before the dial stopped and the display window was filled with red.
“Fuck,” the man whispered, his voice barely audible.
Time froze within the room, as everyone and everything ceased to exist within the fabric to time. A sinister laugh began to fill the room. All of the shadows being cast from the living, shot to one corner of the room, making it as black as the void itself. Two glowing red eyes, appeared within the darkness, as the evil laughter continued. Chuck made a loud gulping sound, as a figure began to emerge from the shadows. It was a Demon, from the very bowels of hell. When it was fully emerged from the shadows, it stood up straight and stretched its long leathery wings. The Demon stood nearly seven feet tall, and its skin was blackened and burnt. Its once red glowing eyes were replaced with yellow ones, which stared intensely at Chuck. Its bottom half was covered with a pair of pants that looked like it was made from human flesh, while its muscular torso wore a shirt of rusty chainmail armor.
“Fuck me,” Chuck whispered again.
The Demon moved with supernatural speed and came to stand dangerously close to the man, whose judgement had been passed. “Oh, there’ll be plenty of time for that,” the Demon hissed. If Chuck had been alive he would have surly shit himself by now, and would have also passed out, but since he was dead, he didn’t have that luxury. The Demon slowly turned is head and looked directly at Lilly, who also gulped out loud. The Demon sniffed the air around her, as he gave her an evil looking grin. Then the Demon turned its attention toward the Reaper. “Fred! How the hell are you brother?”
“You know, over worked and under paid.”
“You look like they’re working you to death,” the Demon remarked, laughing out loud. “They got you greeting Purgs now?” he asked, nodding his head toward Lilly.
“Doin a favor for someone,” Fred replied.
“I heard it had to do with that incident in the East River.”
“Who told you that?”
“I have my sources,” the Demon replied.
“It was Gladius, wasn’t it? Fucking Gladius.”
The Demon just shrugged his shoulders.
“This one thinks there’s been some kind of mistake,” Fred stated, motioning toward Chuck, changing the subject of the conversation.
“They always do,” the Demon replied. “Let me guess, you want to speak to a supervisor?” he asked Chuck.
Chuck slowly nodded his head yes.
“I can arrange that,” said the Demon, which brought a slight smile to Chuck’s lips. The Demon punched his fist through poor Chuck’s chest and grabbed a hold of his spinal cord, much like Fred had, but this time the hand didn’t simply pass through the dead man’s skin, it was thrust through it. Blood sprayed everywhere, and poured from Chuck’s mouth, as he screamed in horror and pain. The Demon easily lifted Chuck into the air and began to walk back to the shadow covered corner. “See you around Fred,” the Demon called out, over Chuck’s screaming. “Good luck Purg,” he added, before the two of them disappeared within the blackness. The doorway to hell slowly faded. The shadows, that had made up the gateway, returned to their owners, and time began to move forward once again, as if nothing had happened.
Lilly was at a loss for words, as to what she had just witnessed. She had never believed in things like ghosts, and now she was the unmistakable proof of their existence. She had been brought up going to church and believing in God, but believing in church and believing in real life were two totally different things, and now she had just witnessed a Demon taking a soul to hell, where she assumed that it would be tortured for an eternity for the sins he had committed during his life. She suddenly felt sorry for that poor man, knowing what his fate would be, but deep down Lilly found herself wanting to be there when her killer’s time came. Did that make her evil she wondered, or just human.