Heartbeat

heartbeat fin

Halloween is my favorite, so it’s not surprising I woke up the other day with this twisty paranormal short story clawing its way out of my brain. Hopefully it’s as much of a treat for you as it was for me. Enjoy!

A shiver trickles down my spine before I can even process the cold seeping into my bones. For a moment I question if I’ve even opened my eyes, the darkness that surrounds me blacker than pitch, but then the panic sets in. I want to scream, cry out, beg whatever god would listen for help, but only a pathetic whimper makes its escape from my lips.

It’s instinct that keeps me quiet more than the dryness in my throat because I learned long ago the darkness is no friend of mine. Neither is the light, but at least it keeps the monsters at bay. Most of them anyway.

I try to remember where I am, where I was, but a hazy cloud in my mind prevents it like a foggy mist masking a rocky shore. I must’ve been drinking, the alcohol now stale on my tongue and my bladder desperate for relief. The memory loss makes sense now; I never could handle hard liquor. One mystery solved, but where the fuck am I?

I reach around for clues, but all I feel is cold—smooth metal caging me in on all sides. And then it hits me….

“Not again,” I groan, heaving out a sigh of disbelief.

The morgue.

Just then a sliver of light pierces through the darkness and I feel the cold slab below me start to move. The slightly warmer air sends a wave of heat rushing up from my toes, and despite the frigid temperatures, I feel my cheeks flush under the incredulous gaze of the man now staring down at me.

A weak half smile is all I can manage in lieu of an explanation, and I watch his face pale at the sight of me alive. In the morgue. I even have a tag on my toe, the string like a tether keeping me here. I sit up and swallow hard wondering how the hell I’m going to get myself out of this one.

“Oh, sweet Jesus,” the man gasps. No doubt surprised to see a living being in a box reserved for the dearly departed. “We—I thought you were dead.”

“I-I have narcolepsy?” I try, cringing at how unconvincing I sound. His nametag reads Damien, and I do my best not to stare at his thick fingers as they curl into his lab coat. He’s cute, though a little doughy—no voluptuous. I do love a man with meat on his bones.

Of course it’s then that I realize I’m naked, my body covered in a thin sheet that barely shields my modesty. Not that I have any at this point.

“But you didn’t have a heartbeat,” Damien says, his bushy brows ascending almost to his hairline.

“Bradycardia.”

That usually does the trick, but I can tell by his slow nod that he’s less than convinced. I watch his oscillating expressions as the logical part of his brain wars with the unrealistic truth that maybe I’ve come back from the dead like some sort of zombie, a horror story come to life. If only he knew. I smirk at the thought, which seems to broker a peace treaty in his mind.

He smiles back. “Bradycardia, a slow heartbeat… right. I guess I should’ve double checked you myself when they brought you in. But things get a little crazy around here on Halloween.”

“Is it still Halloween?”

“Not anymore.”

“Ah, then it must be the Day of the Dead,” I snigger. How very appropriate.

“Or the Undead,” Damien says with a dark chuckle of his own, and I wonder if he knows more than he’s letting on. “I’m sorry about the mix up. Let me find your things.” With a delicate touch he removes the tag from my toe, and I watch as he walks toward a door marked storage. He comes back with a small cardboard box. “Uh, we’ve already incinerated your clothes, so I got you some scrubs. You must be freezing.”

His eyes, like a flickering candle, dart down my chest chasing away any lingering thoughts of the cold. Our eyes meet and I see a glimpse of something sinister behind them before he turns away. It feels almost familiar, the darkness hidden below the surface, and I wonder how far down I’d have to dig to unearth it. But I’ve had enough darkness for one day.

I slip on the scrubs in a hurry and reach in the box for my phone and keys. My wallet is missing. Someone must’ve stolen it after I passed out. Typical.

“Can I get your name for the paperwork?” Damien asks, returning to me with a clipboard in his hand. “We had to label you a John Doe when you came in.”

“My name’s Brady.”

“Damien,” he replies with a smile, his disarming dimples tempting me. “Brady with bradycardia? That’s quite a coincidence.”

More than a coincidence, I almost say, but I catch myself and laugh. I have to get out of here before he punctures through my defenses. I can already feel my fangs twitching for a taste, but I hold them at bay. I’ve always had a weakness for dimples.

“I should probably get going. Thanks for rescuing me, by the way.”

“No problem. And I get off in twenty minutes. I could give you a ride,” he offers.

“That isn’t necessary.”

“I insist. We can even grab a bite on the way. You must be starving.”

I regard him for a moment then nod. There was something about the way he said “bite” that has me intrigued, and I briefly wonder if the night will end with a stake through my heart or Cupid’s arrow.

Only one way to find out.

“I could eat.”