Enjoy this free sample of my new horror book, Eyes in the Walls, and stay tuned for more:
My mom used to joke that being a mortician was the best job in the world because all of your customers walk away satisfied. At least, they never complain – of course they never walk away. Except… maybe I saw one of them walk away.
Should I tell you the story?
I mentioned my mom is a mortician, well let me tell you, that doesn’t pan out well at school. Everyone assumes you are some creepy goth kid (my favorite color is green) or that you are depressed (I was, but that came later), or that you listen to black metal (I do, but I prefer bubble-gum pop). People also like to make fun. And ask a lot of questions – about zombies, Michael Jackson records, vampires, you know… They want a spooky story.
Well, one day, I got a story. And the days after. I was coming into the funeral home after getting off the city bus. My mom wasn’t upstairs, so I went to look for her down where the morgue was. This sort of thing wasn’t really frowned upon, at least not then. It was an older building, with the refrigerated lockers in a brick-lined basement, along with some dedicated rooms for embalming and one that was used for private autopsies.
She was down there, cleaning up in the main room. There were no bodies out, of course. Everyone wants there to be a body out a table, but no, it was clean. Not that it would be that big a deal – when you are around a funeral home a lot you get used to the idea that a dead body is just a thing. There’s really no “person” there. Even dressed up for a funeral, it’s more like a sculpture – one last picture to remember the person by.
My mom and I talked for a while about the usual nothings, which was mostly me pretending that I didn’t hate school, or that I needed to call my father and talk about my grades with him. We went back upstairs, and I remembered we needed to turn off the lights. When I went back down, I found they were already off.
No big deal, I just forgot that I didn’t forget to turn off the lights.
I turned to walk back up the stairs, and I heard it – the unmistakable sound of metal crashing on the ground. I was too scared to look, so I ran back up and told my mom.
“Something crashed! In the room with the lockers!” I whispered it, but loud enough to hardly count as a whisper.
She just looked at me incredulously and said, “I don’t think so, Billy. There’s nothing in there to go crash. You must have heard something else. Maybe outside?”
“But mom,” I said, protesting, “I know what the sound of something crashing sounds like. You didn’t drop something up here, did you?”
“No,” my mother said, rolling her eyes. “Let me take a look. Maybe I left something leaning in the wrong place.”
We went back down the brick stairs, turned on the lights, and found that one of the rolling tables used to cart equipment around had fallen over in the corner.
“You know what?” my mother said, clearly perplexed, “I must have forgotten about that concrete lip on the edge here, near the fuse box.” She casually walked over and pushed the cart closer to the center of the room. “See?”
“Ok mom, but are you sure it would just fall over?”
“The door is locked, sweetie. Nobody walked past you or me. There’s no possible way it could have been anything else.”
“No person, you mean.” I said it with a smile, but all jokes contain half-truth.
“There’s no such thing as ghosts.”
“I don’t believe in ghosts, mom.”
“Or zombies. You’ve been watching too much cable.”
I let it go and shrugged, but I swear that there was no way that cart could have tipped over on its own.
A few weeks later I was again at my mother’s work. My dad had something come up with his job, and the school sent me home on the city bus again. My mom seemed just as busy as before. She worked the whole afternoon in the office until sunset – I guess burying people requires a lot of paperwork. It wasn’t all bad. I told my mom I had finished my homework (which I would do the next morning right before class, like always) and got out the new GameBoy my dad had bought me for my birthday.
The batteries ran out really quick, though, and before I could find another set in the office closet, the power went off. We had been getting power outages a lot at that time, but this one was weirder than usual. Everything in the office was off, but we could see lights on across the street. My mother was really upset about it – her computer lost power and whatever she had been working on was apparently lost.
We decided to wait it out for a bit since the refrigeration in the morgue would need to run on a backup generator if the power didn’t switch on, but eventually, the lights on across the street got to my mother, and she started to get annoyed and anxious.
“I bet it was a power surge and something broke,” my mom said.
“What would break?”
“The switches. Those black switches.”
“The breakers? The fuses?”
My mother decided we ought to try the breaker box, but she had never had to deal with the power at the funeral home before, so she had no idea where they were. She got a few flashlights out of the closet and resolved to go look for them. I didn’t want to be left alone, so I went with her. First, we checked around the office. We found a sub-panel there, but everything looked fine. Outside, the power main seemed to be on. That left one panel that I remembered – the one in the morgue.
We went down the narrow stairs together to the locked double doors next to the elevator. My mom fumbled around with her keys in the dark, trying to find the right one, when an impulse struck me. I pressed the call button on the elevator, and nearly jumped in the air when it lit up and chimed.
“Mom! The elevator is on.”
My mom startled at my sudden movement and shout. She took a breath and said, “See? I knew it was a real outage.” She bent over slightly to examine the call panel, as the car hadn’t arrived. “Maybe the motor got shut off, though.”
While my mom was trying to find the emergency key to the elevator, I turned and looked at the morgue doors. I pushed on them and found that they were open.
“Hey mom,” I said, pushing open the first door.
That was when I saw it.
It was a tall, lanky figure of pale, dirty white. It was naked and turned half away from me, so I could see all of its pasty flesh. It looked human, but distorted. It had long, skinny arms and huge hands with long fingers like bundles of white twigs. Its ribs stuck out at the bottom, making a little ridge, and its hipbones were likewise pronounced.
It was moving across the morgue from one of the other rooms, its thin legs moving slowly and silently. I couldn’t scream. Somehow, all the will to disbelieve my eyes had turned into total paralysis.
At the same time, I couldn’t look away.
It turned and looked at me, obviously drawn by the light. Its eyes were dark and hollow, almost black the whole way through, with big dark rings on the cheeks. It had a huge mouth that was drawn back into some sort of smile revealing dark teeth. Above the ragged line of its lips was a nose that was crumpled and flattened – barely a nose at all, except for its large, moist nostrils. Its eyes were lit up like a cat, and I thought it would rush at me, and eat me alive.
I screamed and dropped the flashlight. I remember my mother turning, shocked at the sound, and I fell backward, unable to turn my eyes from the darkness.
When my mother shined her light inside, the creature was gone.
“There’s the breaker box,” she said, clearly not realizing my trauma.
“No! You can’t go in there,” I said, grabbing her leg. “There’s something in there. Don’t go!”
“There’s nothing in there, Billy,” my mom said, reaching down and forcibly shaking me off of her. “You’re being ridiculous.”
I screamed in protest, fumbling for my flashlight, knowing that the thing, whatever it was in reality, would tear her throat out, devour her.
But it didn’t. I shined my light all through the room, across all the square lockers and into every corner, but the creature was gone.
My mom found the breaker box and opened it. She flipped a few things loudly, then the lights and refrigerator came back on. I was laying on the floor, still holding my flashlight for dear life, when the white lights flickered and came to life, revealing nothing out of the ordinary.
“See?” my mother said, walking back in a huff. “I’m going to have a talk with your father about letting you watch his cable.”