Really? You're really going to make me tell these stories? Alright, pass me that bottle. I'm not telling these stories till I'm fucking plastered.
Okay, that's a little better.
First thing's first: I work as a body removal service. Or, in layman's terms, I carry corpses. Professionally. If you've died, somebody has to carry your body to the morgue, or to the hospital, and it sure as fuck isn't going to be the cops. We call ourselves the Reapers, if only because it rolls easier off the tongue.
Don't worry, it's not nearly as morbid as it sounds. Working with corpses is easy, especially if you don't know the person. Once they're dead, it's a lot easier to see them as just big sacks of meat. Grieving doesn't start up until long after you've already dumped the body bags at the nearest hospital you have a contract with, and by then, it's not my fucking problem any more, is it?
You notice some things on a job like this.
For one, as far as standard civil servants are concerned, you're practically invisible. You roll up, in your big black van, in your nice black suits, and you might as well be dead yourself. Everybody knows what you're here to do, and nobody wants to talk about it. The only people who even slightly react are the cops, and that's only because they're relieved that they don't have to stand around this rotting corpse any more. Fucking pansies.
Next, you start to appreciate the people who actually clean the crime scenes. Death isn't pretty, and blood stains like you wouldn't believe. Even the quietest stiff evacuates their bowels when they die, and the worst would have to be the internal bleeders. Sometimes, people would hurting from something they didn't even know they had, and end up vomiting a thick coating of blood across the room. Projectile. Gallons. It would even hit the ceiling, sometimes. If that happens to you, you do have a pretty good chance of surviving if you can make it to a hospital right the fuck away, but people rarely do. Their first instinct is to clean up the blood they just made. Isn't that silly? So we'd walk in, and find some poor bastard in a pool of their own blood, with a bottle of dish soap and a sponge clutched in both hands. After a while, you start to appreciate the ones who have the good sense to kill themselves in the bathtub. At least it's all contained, even if they do end up making human-soup after a while.
And finally, if it was a kid who died, we'd carry the body bag in our laps on the drive back. It's what we do.
But of course, every job has it's weird days.
Refilling my glass.
Okay, I'm back.
The one that I usually stick with at parties is the story of the seven hundred pound man. No, seriously, he broke our damn gurney, he was so fucking heavy. And he lived sixteen floors up. In a building with no elevator. And of course, it was in the middle of summer, and he had been rotting in an attic for all that time. And we had to carry him down. Without dropping him. Down sixteen floors of stairs.
I guess what I'm trying to say is, have you ever seen a water balloon pop before?
The worst days were the ones when the family had found the body. Oh, I'm not talking about your usual weeping widows, you get used to those. No, no, I'm talking about those extended families, where practically everybody in the neighbourhood is related? And of course, they're all there to pay their “respects”. There's weeping, sobbing, screaming. Singing, on the weird ones. They throw themselves on the gurney, beside the gurney, perpendicular to the gurney, the whole nine yards. It turns a five minute job into a six hour one, with everybody screaming at you the entire time, like a really depressing rave. You sit through one of those jobs, and you have a headache for weeks.
Except for this one day. We showed up, nodded to the policemen, and headed inside, same as usual. We took the guy, sixty-eight years old, looked Filipino, slid him onto the gurney, and started heading out through the apartment complex.
And the family was there.
And they were all completely silent.
No crying, no screaming, no sobbing, no singing. No teary eyes, no averted glances, no guilty glares- nothing. The exact same looks, across every man, woman, old lady, frowning grandpa, estranged uncles, confused friends- must have been over a hundred, easy. And not just in the grown-ups, either. There were little kids watching us, couldn't have been more than ten years old, and they were staring just as blankly as everyone else.
Wait. No, I guess “blankly” is an unfair way to put it.
They looked excited.
Like little kids, who couldn't wait for their turn on the roller-coaster.
I drank like a fucking champ that night.
Years before I had started working there, my boss, Greg, used to do this job solo, and on long nights, he'd tell me of this one call he had gotten. It was about noon, and he had gotten called out to a construction site. Somebody had fallen off, and gravity had taken it's toll- it's always messier than it is in movies, by the way. If they'd hit something hard, it was hard to even tell they used to be humans. But this guy was apparently one of the luckier ones- relatively speaking.
When Greg had gotten there, he'd noticed that the cops and ambulance drivers were even more wary then usual- like, waited a good twenty feet away from the body kinda wary. But Greg just shrugged, and went ahead anyway. He walked over to it, flipped it face-up, which is the part of the story where Greg would turn noticeably green in his retelling, and tried to pick it up.
Which is when it started moving.
First, it's head shot up, shattered jaw flapping in the wind as if it was trying to scream, before swinging it's shattered arms uselessly, trying to hit Greg. As it did, it's compound fracture began to tear through the already battered flesh, and the white edge of the bone began to slice out from inside the torn muscle.
That was about when Greg ran.
It calmed down a few moments later, and as Greg and the cops started trying to inspect it, it started up again. But one of the cops- evidently a rookie- panicked, and slammed his nightstick through the body's barely attached head.
Nobody really had a problem with that.
The coroner's official diagnosis was that some stray adrenaline and electrical currents had combined, and send the body hog-wild, like a chicken with it's head cut off. I asked Greg exactly how much truth there is to the story, seeing as we both had a fair amount of rum at this point.
He just smiled, and pointed to our freezers- see, we're not always able to get the bodies to a morgue right away. Sometimes, we just take them back to our shop and stuff them in our several man-sized freezers to keep them nice and fresh while we run paperwork.
And look at that.
There's a lock on the outside.
Okay, one more, you get one more fucking story out of me.
Suicides are pretty much the bread and butter in a job like this- god, what a sentence. But it's true. With a suicide, there's no crime scene, so once the cops are done, we get to just swoop in and take the mess off their hands. Like morbid superheroes.
It was a normal guy- forty, white, tattoos- and we made it just as the technicians were figuring out all the medication he was on, and which ones he used to off himself. They'd put them into little plastic baggies, just to keep things as morbidly convenient as possible.
We walked in, invisible as always, and Greg leaned down to flip the body over, so he'd be face-up when he was on the gurney. And as he did, he accidentally shifted his shirt.
Revealing that under his shirt, something was carved into his chest.
Words, sentences- English, definitely- and that's all I could tell for sure before the cops let out a gasp of startled confusion, and immediately picked us up by the scruff of the neck and tossed us out the door. Next thing you know, the entire building was lit up by the crime technicians, and we were told that our services weren't needed any more.
Weirdest thing is, we never heard of it again. No news stories, no hospitals, nothing.
Greg got a better look at the words than me, and he was practically shaking by the time we got out of there.
I asked him what they said.
He never did tell me.
Heart-attack, a week later.
They made me pick him up.
(By A Very Strange Place. Author's Note: All of these accounts are based on a true story.)