I opened the cooler, slid the body out, placed it on a gurney, and brought it under a bright neon light for proper examination. There was an annoying hissing noise in the room, so I turned on the radio, and took a seat on a rolling stool in front of my patient. When you see one corpse, you’ve seen them all. It’s hard to be shocked by what lies inside the body bag. That said, when I saw her frozen and pale face, I felt a slight twinge in my chest. You never expect to see someone you know come across your table. Yet, there she was, the young lady I’d pranked the night before. Her skin had taken on a blue sheen. Bruising around her neck revealed that she’d suffocated. The markings were not indicative of human hands, so I checked her file for an explanation. Apparently, Miss Renée Jackson’s scarf had gotten stuck in a rotating door. A group of good Samaritans tried to help, but as they pulled the door, the scarf tightened around her neck. By the time they got the poor woman free, she was gone.
It doesn’t matter how long you work in the business, the loss of a life always leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. No, not like the taste of rotten eggs from a homeless man’s final breath: a metaphorical bad taste. I certainly felt bad for the young lady, but at that moment, I had no idea her death was my fault. It just seemed like an unfortunate accident. When I slipped her back into her cooling unit for pickup by the funeral home, I made a conscious effort to erase her from my thoughts, and moved to the next corpse on the list.
Later, as I was filing paperwork, the radio started playing god-awful pop music, so I turned it off to keep my ears from melting. My throat was still quite sore, and no amount of water could moisten the walls of my esophagus. I was just about to leave and get something to eat when I heard the faint hissing coming from the cooling units. I hoped none of the compressors were going on the fritz again. Last time one of them burnt out, we were forced to pair up bodies in the remaining units. It made me uncomfortable to do so, since it could be seen as a lack of respect for the dead, but the alternative was to let them warm up and rot. If I were a family member, I would much prefer seeing my loved one well-preserved rather than decomposed, even if that meant they were spooning another body for a few hours. I made my way to the cooling units, focusing on the rhythmic sound. It was coming from Unit 5. It sounded like a repeated cycle of compression and decompression. I opened the pod, touched a hand to the wall, and confirmed that it was still cold. As long as the refrigeration was still working, I saw no reason to make a fuss. I left a note for maintenance to check it out and took a much overdue lunch break.