Monday, June 29, 2009

Death Watch

I couldn't grasp the reality. It didn't seem real. However, here I was once again, back in the morgue. I spent many days in such a place but today seemed entirely different. The smells, sounds, and emotions were all absent this time; only existing in my memory. I tried to comprehend who was laying on that cold slab of death, ready to have any form of humanity drained away forever. I couldn't. Emotionless was how I always approached this sinister place and now was no exception. And so, as usual, I observed- locking any semblance of emotion in a deep place within my head. Not that I would've felt any emotion today, even if I wanted to.

Any form of dignity was stripped and gone, the body wrapped in it's own nakedness for the world to see. A body looks so unreal in this state: unmoving, pale, and seemingly content. It reminded me often of some huge porcelain doll, ready for clothes and a small child's home. I wondered what brought him to this place; why these people were gathered around him; where he had come from. This kind of attention was only given to those whose death hadn't come under normal circumstances. Another was taking the pictures this time, even though that was my job. Not that I would've taken those those pictures today, even if I wanted to.

With an emotional detachment, even more so than usual, I watched the coroner perform his dance. The simple and quick slice from each shoulder met mid-chest and then continued in one line down to the pelvis, forming a perfect Y. Ribs were spread with an archaic looking device and body parts followed each other to either a dissecting table, a scale, and sometimes both. The casual and quick way the entire body was emptied only added to my distance. It seemed like a slab of meat being prepared for some gruesome barbecue. The usual stench of death that always accompanied an open body was lacking this time. I barely noticed, so used to this scene from the years of investigating deaths. Not that I would've smelled anything, even if I wanted to.

The head was always the one that bugged me. A clean slice from ear to ear that followed the hairline and then the skin peeled back like a latex Halloween mask, revealing what seemed like another mask, smiling in skeletal bliss. Before continuing on the skull, everyone but two left the room, as I usually do. This time I stayed and watched the vibrating saw scream with joy as it sliced into pure bone, sending wisps of dust into the air. The cut was so clean and the insides so perfect all I could think about were stories I'd heard of people eating monkey brains at restaurants. I almost thought the coroner was going to do the same as he carefully scooped out the brain with his hands and placed it on a shiny silver platter. Like a seasoned butcher he weighed it then sliced it into thin slices pieces, setting all aside for future examination. Future examinations I wouldn't participate in, even if I wanted to.

I had been through all of this a hundred times before but this time something seemed very different. The smells, sights, and emotions were gone. As the familiar group came back into the room to finish their macabre dance a strange feeling seeped into my consciousness, spreading a fear I only had moments to realize. I was not a part of this autopsy, I was the center of it. The severity of the situation evaded me as I began floating away; memories of my life flashed before me as my now defaced body drifted further and further away from me. Not that I would've recognized my own body on that slab, even if I wanted to.

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