It was a windy, storm-prone night, quite unusual for this time of year – a full moon, intensely and holy magnificent, just visible through the clouds. The streets are an empty, desolate landscape; the approaching tempest violently scattering what is left of autumn leaves.
Peter didn’t like people very much, human contact, small talk, birthdays, as far back as he could remember, he was always like this. As a child his parents would take him to the movies. He always hated the movies, even the love stories. As an adult, he preferred the company of the dead. When he got his new job and the opportunity came, he gladly accepted the night shift.
Peter had now been working at the morgue for years. The job suited him, the hours too. It was punctual, precise and the pay above average. Besides his job, nothing of interest ever happened, ever. Every day he would see the same people, that is, if one doesn’t count the corpses. Of those he saw quite a few, and some, he felt, became his companions, even if only for a moment before they would decompose or be burnt to ashes.
Initially there was nothing unusual with the new body they had just received. It was, as they all do, inexorably disintegrating, Peter would repeat to himself. They didn’t know the identity, but then that’s more common than one might expect and they were certainly in no hurry for an extra autopsy that night.
But suddenly.. the most unexpected thing. Peter had a sudden rush of euphoria. In his well-planned, premeditated life, he had all but forgotten he had any feelings, much less anything of this magnitude. Confused, Peter stood in the metallic chamber staring intently at the one leg sticking out from under the hospital sheet dressed as it was in well-worn jeans.
Momentarily dazed, he shifts back against the wall, his heart thumping. Peter is stunned, bewildered and surprised at his sudden flush of emotions.
Peter’s two colleagues are called on a matter next door, leaving him alone with the body. As he stares at the corpse a most bizarre thought crosses his mind. He desperately wanted the jeans for himself.
First hesitantly then enthusiastically he undresses the corpse and tries it on, right there, on the cold concrete floor of the morgue, tucking the half naked body carefully back under the blankets. It was a perfect fit, even though the body seemed considerably smaller than his.
As he stood gazing down at his new acquisition, slightly ashamed of his deed, he wonders what to do next. He feels an urge to leave, immediately. Not that he had anything or anywhere in particular to go. He just wanted to leave, immediately. He grabs his keys and does so without bothering to say good night to the staff.
Even though Peter had taken this same route to his car everyday for the past 6 years, suddenly, he’s lost. He can’t take his eyes of his legs. He touches them; feels them, caressing himself in the empty parking lot.
Then, most unexpectedly, he hears a faint voice from behind. It is Marie. The most beautiful Marie. She worked for the pharmaceutical company on the second floor. She had never looked at him, much less spoken to him, except in his fantasy. And yet here she was, asking for a ride home, with a smile.
It wasn’t very clear how Peter had found his car, nevertheless, he was now on the highway going north.
They didn’t realize they’d missed the exit until they reached a small town neither had ever been. Perplexed, Peter excused himself and promised her this wasn’t ‘some kind of trick’. He did, however, urgently need a gas station for his car. After driving aimlessly around the ghost town, one is found open.
The moon, shinning in all its glory. How beautiful, look, how beautiful. Peter had never contemplated it before, not really, but that night it seemed so exquisitely balanced that if touched ever so lightly, it would rock back and forth forever till the end of time.
They make their way to a small café adjacent to the station for a break before the ride home. Surprised that Marie would indulge in such a late nightcap with him, Peter, unlike himself, walks in proudly.
The café falls silent, all eyes on them. Small town folks, but, slightly to the right, a man elegantly dresses in a three-piece suit, stares agog, transfixed.
They order, wine. Peter, who never liked alcohol, drank with enthusiasm. Then, most unexpectedly, the well-dressed man approaches them with an unusual offer. Unsure why and equally embarrassed, he offers Peter to buy the jeans he is wearing, right there, on the spot. Peter, taken aback and surprised, declines. The man excuses and goes back to his table.
But then the man comes back, and again in the most polite and convincing terms, offers Peter an outrageous exchange. His jeans for his top-of-the-line Mercedes parked outside. Peter is impressed, but says no. Marie feels frightened and asks to leave.
Outside they make their way towards Peter’s car. As they enter, the well-dressed man comes running after them. Peter turns the ignition and darts away with Marie safely by his side.
That night she was lovelier than ever and at that moment, with her face sparkling in a faint silhouette, she was divine. Peter would have given his life for hers without a thought. She was wonderful, Marie was sublime.
As they drive back, Peter has a dream. In his dream the most beautiful things happen. For the first time in his life he began to ask himself questions. He began considering the possibility of never going back to the morgue and that everything would change. From this moment on, he would rather deal with life and the living.
He would take Marie safely back home and never let harm approach her. He would send her flowers the next morning with a letter telling her in prose he loved her more than anything he could imagine. They would have a family and celebrate Christmas with their children and when they where old, together they would view death as being united forever.
A deafening clap of thunder interrupts his thoughts. The storm was close, it was nearly on them. Outside, he remembers, was still night as they approached the city again. He collected his thoughts. He sighs as he looks at Marie as she, most gently smiles back.
Of all memories he had in life, he had never anything this glorious.
Yet absentmindedly Peter had driven back to the morgue. As Peter shivers with memories of a place he would leave behind forever, Marie suddenly remembers she’d forgotten a bag upstairs.. and if Peter could just bear a moment while she quickly retrieved it.
And so he did.
As Peter sits in his car, feeding his mind with images of things to come, he feels a tickle inside the pocket of his jeans. He looks down and scratches but the itching is still there. He straightens himself and slips his hand inside the pocket. Immediately he retracts it, feeling a sting.
The pang was soon colossal. Peter contorts himself frantically. As he briefly controls the pain, holding his right hand with his left, he felt a coldness overcome his body. Initially from his finger, but quickly overcoming everything.
He crawls out of his car, stunned, dizzy, yet still strong enough to cover the distance across the street to the morgue. Then suddenly he collapses.
His body had been there for only a while when a hospital van arrives, the drivers notice Peter stretched on the sidewalk.
They rush towards him but Peter is now cold dead. They pick up the body, put it on a stretcher, cover it with a blanket and take it upstairs to the morgue. As they enter the doorway they cross Marie coming out.
She finds the car, empty.
Late at night a body is delivered to the local morgue. They didn’t know the identity, but then that is more common than expected, they were certainly in no hurry for an extra autopsy.
The morgue manager stood there, gazing at one leg sticking out from under the blanket, dressed, as it was in well-worn jeans, confused at his own feelings of sudden euphoria.