As I push through the thick metal doors, the morbid truth of my name resonates within me. Dad does all he can to save lives. However, I do whatever I can to immerse myself in death. My last name, Morana, means just that, death. Whether a coincidence or fluke, it seems I was born to have some sort of affiliation with The End.
I slip inside the morgue. Goosebumps prickle my arms at the change in temperature. The metal doors of the morgue close with a loud click. I look back, hoping this isn’t one of those moments where the door is locked from the outside and a knife-toting killer is waiting for me on the inside. I shake the image out of my head and turn back toward the room. Nothing living is down here. Just me.
Long metal tables fill the center, and trolleys lined with silver tools glisten in the light. The space is cramped. I work my way toward a desk at the back of the room. On the wood surface is a thick black binder. It’s in plain sight, so I’m not really snooping, I think, as I flip open the cover. My eyes scan the page until I find what I want—a name associated with a number. Quickly, I close the binder.
The walls are lined with thick, square doors, clearly marked with numbers. I stop in front of the one I want. In the middle of that wall, at waist height, is number twelve. Beyond the door, lying on a sliding metal table, is the body of Landon Phoenix.
I’ve always had a crush on Landon, ever since freshman year when his family moved to Silversprings. I’ve watched him grow into his looks, no longer a gangly boy with braces. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to share the same air as him. To hear my name roll off his tongue in that deep voice I’ve come to long for. To press my lips against his as he holds me in a tight embrace. Though, now those things are impossible, except one. I can pull open the door, slide the table out, and at least for a moment, share the same air as him, whether his lungs are breathing it in or not.
I hesitate, my hand on the handle. Besides my mother’s frozen stiff body, this will be the only other dead person I really knew and can see up close. The others have just been people, random ones at that. The guy from the grocery store who jumped off Whibley Bridge into the icy waters below, the occasional patient of mine who succumbed to old age, and many, many others. But this is personal. This is someone I’d known, or at least had held secretly in my heart.
I suck in a deep breath of air and pull on the latch that separates me from Landon. It opens with a sticky suction releasing sound. A haze of foggy, frigid air surrounds me. When it clears, the sandy blond hairs of Landon’s head come into focus. I yank on the table handle and slide his stiff body out of its cold crypt.
I take everything in. I try to commit to memory everything about him, from the exact color of his hair to the tiny freckles that cover his bare arms. The perfect shaped eyebrows to the unique lines of his once rosy lips.
I touch him; my body chills with death’s influence. I breath deep, drinking it all in.
Then the startlingly loud sound of my ringing cell phone pierces the air and makes me jump. The moment absorbing Landon’s features wasn’t long enough. Quickly, I dig my hand into my pocket and pull out my cell. It’s Dad, probably wondering where I am. I press the ignore button on the screen, amazed I even have reception in this metal encased tomb.
I take one last look at Landon, release a sigh full of sadness, and realize I need to put him back in the compartment. But this is the last moment I’ll ever have with him. Forever. I can’t help but lean over him for one last look, one last time. From this angle, his skin looks severely pale. Tiny blue veins crisscross over his face, and I can even see the thin hairline cracks in his lips. I reach out and smooth down his unruly hair, tucking a few strands behind his ear. I pull my hand back slightly, but then I place my fingertips gently against the cool of his cheek. My heart tugs in my chest, my eyes well with tears. Another rush of regret envelopes me. If only I’d been stronger, I could have saved him. Or worked up the courage to talk to him…
This is it. This is the last time I’ll ever get to see him. I want to say goodbye. All I want is to be close to him one more time. My heart speeds up, my palms grow clammy, but I inch closer and closer until the cool soft skin of Landon’s lips are touching mine. I hold still for a second and feel that odd buzzing of death I always feel when I’m close to someone dead. It grows, deepening, until it’s almost too much.
I force my lips away from his. I’d wanted one last look, one last touch of his skin, but how did that turn into a kiss with a stiff? I shake off the moment, and when my eyes open, a small amount of relief washes over me
But that relief is quickly rinsed away when Landon’s body shifts.
And then the impossible happens.
Landon sits up.
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