It was after midnight. The attendant wheeled the gurney through the narrow unoccupied hallway. An old man identified only by the tag attached to his right great toe lay naked inside the zippered bag. Marvin Hall, patient number 00118613.
The overhead fluorescent lighting buzzed with a recurrent static, one bulb flickering in the distance. While the upper floors of the hospital were bright and welcomed all that entered, the narrow basement halls that led to the morgue were dim, the dingy walls in need of paint, the floor dirty brown in color, the ceiling low, claustrophobic.
He slammed at the stainless plate attached to the wall with his fist and the large metal doors swung outward with a loud clang. He hurried to deposit the expired one onto a chilled slab. He slammed the vault door, eyeing the shadowed recesses where old equipment sat discarded.
The skin on his neck pricked causing an involuntary shudder to cross his shoulders and stream along his spine.
“Santa Maria, Madre de Dios.” Two fingers of his right hand touched his forehead, his chest, one shoulder and then the other as he sought protection from whatever resided within those sunless walls.
He half expected to see the devil as he waited to greet the recently departed into perdition’s viscera. The metal doors opened to his summons and he half walked, half ran the now empty gurney back toward the elevator that would return him to light.
Marvin Hall’s face appeared when the bag was opened. He was an old man with thin white hair and wrinkles cut deep on his now pasty face. He was likely in is eighties, close to the age of the man the impalpable one had recently departed. Too old, too frail. He closed the bag and returned Marvin to his temporary home.
Six floors above the basement level, a woman's sobs filled the room when the physician called the code and announced the time of death - 04:49. The woman's husband held her, tears streaming down his face.
The doctor removed the endotrachael tube from the mouth of the deceased newborn. Its heartbeat had ceased minutes before delivery and never been revived.
A nurse cried as she wrapped the small body in a white blanket with pink and blue stripes along the edges. A chill swept by her and she shuddered. She gathered the bundle, walked across the room and handed the baby to his mother as the remaining nursery staff solemnly exited.
"He's beautiful, perfect." The mother bent down, kissing the forehead of the son she cradled in her arms.
"What's his name?" the nurse asked.
Shocked family members entered the room, crying. As they gathered around the grieving couple, the nurse retreated.
He hovered over the chilled lifeless one. The butcher delighted. He had claimed bodies in the past, but never a child, an infant. While the pleasure he sought would be delayed for years, requiring his patience, a youthful vessel would be worth the wait.
As he glimpsed Jude’s future, his orgasmic energy reverberated
…the remains of twenty-nine young women have been uncovered in several national parks and forests along the Pacific Northwest…The FBI have linked the deaths and they appear similar in nature to Robert Flem, a serial killer that was executed in 1975…it is believed a copycat killer…
A bulb hummed and then ceased glowing. Yes, well worth the wait.
The woman placed the small black bag onto a metal table located in the center of the room. The funeral home would be arriving shortly. She lowered the zipper and looked at the boy's face. Her throat and chest clinched. Her gloved hand embraced his head, her fingers stroking over his forehead. The nurse had left him swaddled. She loosened the snug wrap, revealing the baby band around his ankle. It confirmed he was the baby boy of Lawson, Elena. The orange identification card that accompanied the small body seemed large, out of place, foreign.
The death of one so young, so healthy in appearance seemed cruel. She draped the pink and blue edges back over him, covering him. The zipper secured, his face now hidden from view.
The woman turned and walked toward a desk. A noise sounded behind her, making her pause. She looked back at the table. Did one corner of the bag...she turned and stepped closer, staring at the black form. She jumped, stumbling backward toward a wall. It moved.
"Dr. Thomas," she shrieked banging her fist over and over on the plaster. "Dr. Thomas," she screamed again, never taking her eyes from the dark parcel in the center of the room.
As he settled in, the movement increased, the bag rocking back and forth like a canoe in raging waters.
The woman continued to shout Dr. Thomas's name over her incessant pounding.
"What is it?" The door flung open, the balding man glaring at the frantic woman.
His eyes followed her trembling finger as it pointed across the room. The bag shook violently as the infant worked to flex and extend his enclosed limbs. Its cries muffled.
"Today's top headlines: Doctors in Oregon are trying to explain how an infant declared to be stillborn was found alive hours later in the hospital morgue. But first, an update on our weather. Bob, what will this hurricane mean for the Tampa Bay area?"