Duty at the Morgue
Duty at the Morgue6 mins 547 6 mins 547
'It is a very difficult job to work at a morgue. Only a person with strong nerves can do it.', claimed my friend, while we were enjoying a cup of sweet, hot tea sitting around the fire in my drawing-room. It was a cold, wintry night, and curling up around a fire with a steaming hot liquid in your hand was the only option to save yourself from the biting cold.
'Why? There are just corpses around who are silent companions. You can easily work in peace', I snapped at him.
'Ah! Silent but not motionless', he pointed out.
'What do you mean? Corpses never move', I blurted out.
'No, they do move but only those who have had unhappy deaths. Once, when I was at duty, I had myself encountered moving corpses of those people who had gone most unwillingly,', he asserted. But, when I objected to what he said, he began narrating the incident to me.
'It was about a year ago when I was at the morgue of the local Red Cross Hospital tending to the dead bodies of the patients who had died in the morning when the corpses of three young boys were brought to me. They were all aged twenty, I got to know. And, they had a road accident in the morning. Though they were rushed to the hospital, none of them could be revived. Loss of blood and fatal injuries were the reason for their early departure from this world.
One of my colleagues who had come in with the bodies further added that the trio was heading to a hotel in Agra from Delhi to celebrate the birthday of one of the boys. Unfortunately, a truck smashed into the rear end of their car on the highway. As always, the truck driver had dozed off resulting in the accident. He was later caught by the police.'
'I listened to him half-heartedly. I was used to hearing such accounts...We got two cups of tea and sat on stools opposite to each other in the centre of the room with the three bodies behind me. He talked about his family, his wife, and their five-year-old son as we waited for the boys' families to arrive so that they could be taken for burial. An hour passed like that and we chatted, sipping the hot tea. Cold winds were blowing and we began to shiver as the wind made its way through the morgue door. So, I got up and closed it. In fact, I bolted it because the door was weak and it might open again with the force of the wind. As I was returning to my place, I looked at the three bodies. Just a while ago, they were behind my stool in the center and now, they were a little more towards the wall. 'Did you move the bodies?', I questioned my colleague. 'No, I did not', he said. 'You must be dreaming.' Well, I too thought that I was dreaming so I again settled down. Another hour came and another hour went by as we waited.'
'In the morgue, even after taking care of the source of the cold, harsh winds, we felt chilled to the bone and a certain uneasiness took over us. 'Shall we go outside? I am feeling uncomfortable', I asked him. He nodded and we got up to go when suddenly, my companion cried out in a frightened tone,' Look...behind you.' I turned around and to my horror, the three dead bodies were moving. And, they were trying to get on their feet!'
'My colleague and I grabbed each other. Terrified, we moved away to the back of the room. The three bodies were covered with a white sheet and now, as they were standing, the white sheet still covered their bodies from the top to bottom. Only the legs were visible.'
'Did you see their faces?', I asked, out of curiosity, interrupting my friend.
'No, the white sheet hid their face so we couldn't see that. But, even their movement sent shivers down my spine. It made my blood curdle. Then, the bodies started to dance in an awkward manner...having a sense of a zombie with them. We watched horror-struck as the three bodies danced with their arms out now, they cheered imagining a glass of beer in their hands and even gave birthday bombs to the boy in the middle whose birthday it was, I guess. No, they did not come near us. They were so absorbed in their celebrations. We could not yell or cry for help, because the voice simply did not issue out of our throats. The screams remained jammed in our mouths. This party continued for an hour and then, it was over. The trio silently, like obedient schoolboys gently dropped to the floor, occupying their initial positions in the morgue. They had completed their heart's desire and now they would go peacefully to their heavenly abode. All was silent for some time as I looked around, trying to regain my breath. Petrified, we remained clasped in each other's arms in a corner of the room.'
'What do you think of the incident?', he paused to ask me.
'It's a fairytale', I answered, as I was certain that it was a made-up story.
He chuckled to himself, 'Well, anyone who hasn't heard the last part is bound to think that my story is nothing but a fairytale.'
'Then, I would be glad to hear the rest of it', I said.
Clearing his throat, he continued, 'After my heartbeat became normal and my body stopped trembling and I got back my voice, I called to my companion who was in my arms. He did not respond so I turned my face to check on him. I froze when I saw his face. It had become a deathly pale, with his eyes bulging out, tongue twisted and hanging from his lips. His body lay lifeless in my arms as I shook him hard to get life out of him. But, he did not recover consciousness. I laid his body on the floor. With my heart in my mouth, I undid the morgue door latch. Once outside, I ran with all my might, screaming all the way. I narrated my ordeal to the other morgue attendants at the hospital but everyone listened to my story with a smile which was only natural since the incident was out of the ordinary. But, nevertheless, a few people accompanied me to the morgue where they themselves saw my colleague's dead body. The poor fellow had died due to pure shock and fear at what he had seen. On further investigation, the footprints found on the floor where the three dead boys had danced matched to the feet of the three young corpses. Only, then did the others began to believe my account.'
'What happened at last?', I enquired.
'Nothing much. All the four bodies, those of the three boys and my colleague were buried in the church cemetery without waiting for their kith and kin. The rest of the bodies were shifted to another nearby morgue. That morgue was closed forever and nobody was seen near it again.....'
Closing abruptly, he reached for his coat and hat. As he prepared to leave, I asked him one final question, 'Do you still work as a morgue attendant?'
'No, I left that job on that very day. You see, my wife cares for me a lot. The news reached her also and she made sure that I do not work there anymore.'