Every single inhale and exhale brought with it a searing pain, as well as a strong sulfuric taste. I was getting really sick of the horrid flavor. In the cold and deserted morgue, I paced back and forth, trying to snuff out every horrible theory coming to the forefront of my mind. Was it cancer? Had I been poisoned? Was I going insane? I was so lost in my thoughts that I failed to notice the new corpse waiting for me on the operating table, until a movement caught my eye. I saw its chest rise. It was subtle, but I was sure of it. Was Doctor Chang playing a cruel joke? No, I hadn’t told anyone about my fears: how could he have known? I approached the body hesitantly. As my heart throbbed desperately against the walls of my chest, I pulled back the white sheet that was draped over his body.
There, on my table, lay Adrien Carter, the last of the med students. My legs felt weak as I watched his corpse in disbelief. One death? Unfortunate. Two deaths? Suspicious. THREE deaths? There was no way to rationalize how three medical residents had perished, all within the span of a few days. My trembling fingers took hold of Mr. Carter’s chart, and my eyes darted through it, reading only the keywords: depression, stress, suicide, hanging. His family thought he’d done himself in because med school had proven to be too stressful. It wasn’t unusual for residents to get a little depressed, and I could almost buy the story, if not for one crucial detail: the look on Adrien’s face. His eyes and muscles were twisted in absolute terror. It wasn’t the look of pain and regret you sometimes see when people hang themselves. It wasn’t the peaceful acceptance of one’s fate. No, it was a look of primal fear that I had never seen on anyone before. An emotion so raw that I could practically feel it by proxy. It sent chills down my spine, and I had to throw a sheet over his face to be able to continue my work, though I wish I hadn’t.
The sheet moved. I screamed, but my throat was so tight that the sound could barely make it through.
Quickly, without even completing the autopsy, I rolled Adrien’s body into one of the cooling units, and locked him in there. I could hear all three of them breathing from the other side. They were breathing a dead man’s final breath. A breath we had stolen. It was all my fault. I had done this to them. I had killed each and every one of those young medical students, all for a cheap laugh. Their blood was on my hands. I had cursed them. I had cursed myself. They continued breathing, even as I ran out of the room. I could hear the echoes of their deep exhales as I frantically ran to my car and drove home, breaking the speed limit. What did it matter if I was arrested? I was going to die soon, anyway.
So here I am, writing this to you. Consider this a mea culpa, if you will. Though not directly by my hands, I caused the deaths of three young medical students, and have cursed myself to the same fate. I’m afraid I’m not long for this world: I can feel a lump in my throat now. My autopsy will probably reveal a tumor of some sort. I could keep quiet, I could preserve my legacy…but for my own peace of mind, I couldn’t leave without revealing the truth. I am sorry. To the loving families of Renée Jackson, Brandon O’Neil, and Adrien Carter: I am so terribly, terribly sorry.