The Need
by Georgepat
forum: The Need, Chapter 2
speculative fiction for the internet generation.

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The Need
Chapter 2


Headlights flashed through the basement window and alerted the two attendants passing the time by playing a game of cards. One stood and opened the double steel doors at the entrance, while the other rolled a stainless steel gurney through the door and positioned it sideways, locking the front wheels, waiting for the coroner's van to pull alongside and unload another of its morbid deliveries for the night.

It was an event that happened all too frequently as it was, but these days, it was happening with far greater regularity than the small staff at the county morgue almost could cope with.

The attendants watched as the van pulled to a stop beside the gurney. With a great effort, the large black man pulled himself from the front seat and slammed the door.

“What’s the matter, Doc?” one asked, suppressing a grin and nudging his friend on his arm. “Another all you could eat night at Antonio’s Pizzeria?”

“Not funny, boy. Not funny at all,” Doc replied with a scowl. He walked to the rear of the van. “Gimme a hand with our latest guest, will ya? It’s been a hell of a day.”

The attendants moved the body bag to their gurney and pushed it back through the steel doors inside the morgue. Doc trailed behind them carrying his work kit and mentally checking off items from the crime scene clipboard in his hand.

“Where ya want him, Doc?”

“Lets see, put him in room two, I guess. Wait… no, never mind, I’ve got two in there as it is.” Doc glanced at his watch. “Johnson finish the post he was doing?”

“Yeah, he filed the paperwork with Millie and left over an hour ago.”

“Go ahead and put him on ice until tomorrow,” he said. “I’m just too damn tired to post him tonight.”

“You got it, Doc. Reefer room it is.”

As they wheeled the gurney away, Doc slipped a key into the lock and opened the scarred metal door leading to his office. He took off his jacket and tossed it on an empty chair. He looked around the room and, noting its neatness, made another mental note to compliment the cleaning staff tomorrow for their diligence.

He changed into street clothes and dropped his soiled scrubs into the canvas cart by the window, grabbed his briefcase and jacket and walked out.

“You boys finish your shift and take off,” he said to the attendants returning down the hallway as his door snicked shut behind him. “Whitman’s on call tonight, and if anything else comes up, he can deal with it.”

They waved and went back into the break room to continue the card game until it was time to punch out and go over to Mac’s Place for a few beers.

* * *

Reggie watched from his hiding place in the shrubbery as the black man exited the morgue and walked to his car in the small parking lot for employees. There were only two lights on to illuminate the lot; the floodlights had been turned off after the last body had been wheeled inside. Both were dim and afforded only enough light to attempt to fight off the shadows.

Doc made another mental note in his ever-increasing list of Things To Do: have higher-wattage bulbs installed as soon as possible. Millie had complained several times to maintenance in the past, but perhaps a word or two from him might do the trick.

The black man’s car drove away from the lot and Reggie stepped from the shrubbery and walked closer to the steel doors. His brain had finally cleared the drug fog away, and for the first time in a great while, he had a purpose.

He stood in front of the doors and looked around. There were no video surveillance cameras in evidence. Putting his ear to the door, he could hear nothing from inside.

With a trembling hand and a breath held deep in his lungs, he took a last look around and reached for the doorknob. ‘What are the odds?’ he wondered, and pulled at the door.

It opened.

* * *

Reggie opened the door a few inches. Seeing no one, he slipped inside. He heard voices in the distance and looked for a place to hide. He tried several doors until one opened to reveal a small closet that obviously was used for storage. Slipping inside, he closed the door behind him.

* * *

The phone rang and one of the attendants tossed his cards on the table and answered it, listened a few moments, and then hung up with a puzzled look on his face.

“What was that all about?” the other asked.

“That was Doc,” he replied. “Seems that Whitman can’t cover for him tonight because his wife was involved in a car accident and was taken to the hospital.”

“That sucks! What’s he want us to do?”

“He said that the city coroner offered to fill in for him, and they’d handle any calls that came in until tomorrow afternoon,” he explained, “and for us to go ahead and lock up and call it a night.”

“So, in other words, last man out the front door buys the first round at Mac’s?”

“Bingo,” his friend replied, and they both lunged for the door.

* * *

Reggie heard voices growing louder outside the door. Fearing discovery, he squeezed himself deeper into the cubbyhole he had found beside a set of metal shelves.

The voices passed his door and continued down the hall, growing fainter. He pulled himself from his hole and listened at the door. Muted conversation, laughter and the sound of the door closing and a lock being firmly latched was all he heard.

He listened for several minutes. Hearing nothing further, he opened the door and looked into the hallway. Seeing on one, he ventured out and began to look for where Bishop’s body might be.

All of the doors he tried were either locked or empty, or full of old, metal office furniture stacked against the wall. Disappointed, he continued down the hall. The air began to take on the pungent smell of too much disinfectant and death. He figured that he must be close to finding Bishop.

A stainless steel door caught his attention and he tried the handle and pulled the door open. Chilled air and the sharper odor of decay brushed across his body. Surprised, he walked a few steps inside and flipped on the lights. Seven black body bags on gurneys greeted his eyes. He smiled to himself.

Steeling himself, he walked to the nearest bag and grabbed the zipper. Giving it a quick tug downwards, the bag opened to display its morbid contents.

It was a middle-aged woman who had probably been attractive in life, but in death her skin had turned a dirty ash gray with a marbled mottling of blacks and odd shades of blue mixed in between.

Her half-opened eyes looked like a candid photograph gone awry. The camera’s shutter might have caught her midway during a blink, eyes opaque, and with foamy mucus around the bottom of the lids. The mouth was slack and partially open, almost as if she were surprised and horrified to be found in the company of the room’s other occupants.

A coarse baseball stitch of black, roughly sewn catgut, ran from the top of her pubic hair, straight up her stomach, to just below her breasts, where it bifurcated at that juncture and stopped two inches from each armpit, the ends of the twine tied off in a neat figure eight knot.

At the end of the bag, a tag hung from a handle that noted the autopsy had been completed and the body was awaiting release and transportation to either the mortuary or next of kin.

He checked several of the other bags and discovered that all of them had already been autopsied and that perhaps he was not in the right room. What did they do with the fresh stiffs when they came in and everyone went home? And even more importantly to him…

Where the fuck was Bishop and his stash of drugs?

He turned off the light and left the room, glad to be out of the cold air and the stink. He looked further down the hallway.

Another steel doorway gleamed in the distance and he walked towards it. Emboldened by his past success, he pushed down on the handle and pulled it towards him. It opened with a whoosh, the cold air again washing across him. The squalid smell accosted his nostrils and almost made him gag, but with a flourish, he barely managed. He turned on the lights and entered.

Payday was near and he could feel it. He could taste the sweetness of the Rush waiting, and dear God, he was so ready. His want had overcome his desire. He was beside himself to obtain the drugs he craved, that he had to have, that he needed now. Any way he could get them. There was no limit to what he would do to have them.

* * *

Four gurneys were lined side by side across the back wall of the room, all of them draped with white sheets that showed shapeless lumps beneath the expanse of white cotton covering them. Bare feet stuck out from the bottom of the sheets, with baggage tags secured to their great toes. The only information was their names and dates of death printed in indelible ink, and they hung like sad reminders of the better days they’d spent before now.

He was beyond caring about respect for the dead. As he stood there in the cold room, staring at someone’s recently departed loved ones, the Need hit him hard. His stomach cramped and his breath came in short, shallow gasps. Cold, clammy sweat broke out across his forehead and dripped down past his eyes.

He was in pain. His addiction had begun to squeeze his insides tighter and tighter. The fist of Need was cruel and unforgiving, and with that thought, he realized that his salvation lay inside one of the bodies in front of him.

He pushed two of the gurneys aside and stepped up to the third one. The white sheet was dotted with large blood smears that were still damp to the touch. He took a deep breath, pulled the edge of the sheet down and found himself staring at the dead face of Bishop.

Mixed emotions confused him momentarily, with the friend that he had and now mourned on the one hand, and the answer to all his problems on the other. With the Need taking control of his body, his choice was clear.

Having little knowledge of anatomy, he decided to copy what he had seen on the other bodies and imitate the incisions. Surely he could find the drugs that way.

He knew that the condoms were in Bishop’s stomach, but just exactly where that was, he hadn’t a clue. He put his hand on his own stomach and poked and prodded, trying to remember the last time he’d had a full belly and where it had felt the fullest. That’s where the drugs would be.

He pulled the bloody sheet off of Bishop and tossed it in a heap on the floor. This was not his friend anymore. This was his friend's body and he sure as shit didn’t need it any longer. If the situation were reversed, he’d bet Bishop wouldn’t have any trouble digging into his body to retrieve something as precious as drugs.

After a moment’s hesitation, he started to unbutton Bishop’s shirt and pulled the garment to either side of the body and tucked the material beside the arms. The belt was unbuckled next, followed by undoing the zipper. After a few seconds of effort, he pulled the pants down below his waist.

There was a stainless steel cabinet in the room and he searched each drawer for a knife of some sort. Finding nothing but clean sheets, several boxes of toe tags, and two boxes of disposable rubber gloves, he abandoned the effort to think what to do next.

This is where they did those things to the bodies, so there had to be special tools in one of the rooms somewhere; he just had to get to them.

Not wanting to risk being caught in the hallway pushing a half undressed corpse, he thought it might be better to search the rooms until he found what he needed and then return here.

Opening the door, he checked to see that he was still alone. He left Bishop and the three other stiffs lying on the slabs, and began to look for something he could use to get what he needed.

The first doors he tried were locked, but with the next one, he hit the jackpot. There were three large steel tables spaced around the room with small cabinets at the head of each. Large steel sinks lined the walls and each had a reel with a rubber hose attached.

Scales like old man Hopkins had hanging in his butcher shop were above the tables and a microphone suspended from the ceiling hung next to them.

He went to the first cabinet, pulled the top drawer open and discovered a treasure trove of shining steel tools lying inside. There were knives of all shapes and sizes, along with wicked looking saws, hammers, pliers and other tools so odd looking that he had no idea of their use.

He picked up several of the knives and looked them over. Sleek, shiny and extremely sharp, he selected what he thought he might need and tossed the rest back into the drawer. Taking a last look around the room with a grim smile etched on his face, he returned to Bishop and the task at hand.

He placed the tools beside Bishop’s body and selected a long, sharp, very flexible, thin bladed knife about a foot long. He hefted it in his hand. The handle felt as if it had been made for his hand, and he waved the blade back and forth as he looked for a likely spot to start cutting into Bishop.

The feeling that Bishop might be watching him didn’t bother him any longer. The Need overrode any fears that he had left and he placed the tip of the blade just under the breastbone and plunged it into the body.




copyright 2007 Georgepat.