The Cannibal in the Morgue
A Tasty Short Tale of Revenge
Originally published on Medium.com, in the publication, Literally Literary. Feel free to read it right here or visit the original post on Medium.com.
The paramedics flopped the disfigured body awkwardly onto the examination table, chuckling and yapping rudely about the damage the steering wheel had inflicted on her misshapen fake breasts.
Dr. Marcus Arilio shooed the obnoxious paramedics out of his morgue. Such vile attitudes toward auto accident victims, indeed any victim, was not to be tolerated.
To an untrained eye, the cause of her death might appear obvious. After all, if your car slams into a brick wall at 90 MPH, you’re very likely to die. However, an accident like that also raises questions. Detective Famalo ordered the autopsy of Marta Skyksamenski immediately.
Once the door had sealed behind the paramedics, Dr. Arilio began his work. His hands moved automatically, positioning the body on the table correctly, snipping quickly to remove the bloodied clothing, and drawing samples of bodily fluids.
His magnifying glass moved meticulously, scrutinizing every inch of the poor naked woman. With nothing more than Detective Famalo’s “something feels off, I don’t think that this is just an accident,” to work from, Dr. Arilio committed to being extra thorough.
He wheeled the instruments of his trade next to the body, selecting his favorite scalpel to begin.
“Perfect,” he mouthed as he ran his left hand over the mangled body.
The song of his scalpel sang its opening lines, followed by a odious symphony of savaging instruments, bone saw, forceps, scissors, and the like. Organs extracted and weighed, more samples collected, as each step of the process meticulously dictated into the microphone hanging from the ceiling.
Detective Famalo gagged gratingly as she walked into the morgue glaring at him. “Smells like hell itself in here,” she proclaimed while attempting to suppress a cough. “And you look like the devil himself. You are the sloppiest butcher I have ever seen.”
Dr. Arilio looked down at his scrubs, chuckling to himself at the unknown irony in her words. Blood and bits of the woman formed grotesque patterns where the various power instruments had scattered them. His sleeves were coated black almost to the elbows from blood and bodily fluids.
“We’ll know for sure when the lab results come back,” Dr. Arilio announced tritely as he tried to brush some of the drying bits from his chest, “Everything here points to massive blunt force trauma with the damage to the head, the likely immediate cause of death.”
Detective Famalo turned and rushed to the door, “Let me know when you have the lab results and clean this place up.”
Dr. Arilio followed her, but only to the door. When he was certain she was gone, he opened the door and looked down the long hospital basement corridor. Empty.
He peeled off his latex gloves and picked up his large gym bag. The stench of sweat made his nose scrunch as he dug beneath his damp, musty workout clothes. The soft-sided cooler fit perfectly snug in the bottom of the bag and had more than enough room if he didn’t get too greedy.
He carefully carved a small, fist-sized chunk of muscle from the woman’s mangled thigh, removed her entire left bicep, and carefully dissected what could become two perfect roasts from her hindquarters. One of the kidneys and the liver joined the muscles inside the cooler. He returned to his official duties and replaced all the other organs in her body, except for the heart.
The woman’s heart was gorgeous, thought Dr. Arilio if such a thing can be said about a heart. He’d never tried heart before; there’s a first for everything. He packed it into the cooler gingerly and replaced the cooler in the bottom of his gym bag.
Clumps of gauze and other pliable trash were replaced for missing muscle. His overly pristine stitches closed the lacerations hiding any evidence that elements from the inside were missing. It didn’t matter that much. A closed casket or cremation was more than likely, so the risk was minimal and acceptable.
“Chianti or a maybe nice Merlot,” pondered the doctor out loud absentmindedly as he made his way slowly down the wine aisle. The vegetables, baguette and oyster sauce were already in his cart.
“Vegetarian or vegan,” asked the colorfully-dressed, lanky woman as her spindly hands poked at the cash register.
He stared at the unevenly stained, hand-crocheted Rasta sack of a hat she’d chosen to hid her greasy, unkempt hair. “I’m a butcher,” he replied in a monotone voice, “I get my meat from a very select source.”
“Whatever, man,” the wannabe-hippy cashier replied as she handed him his receipt.
He became more and more agitated by that grocery store clerk as he drove home. What nerve she had to insinuate anything negative about someone who eats meat, especially a discerning gastronome such as himself. He noted to himself to complain to the manager on his next shopping trip.
Upon returning to his drab, nondescript house buried in a sea of interchangeable tract homes, Dr. Arilio donned a black, masculine apron and began unpacking his groceries from his shopping back and his freshly carved indulgences from his gym bag’s hidden cooler.
Dr. Arilio meticulously washed the vegetables, setting them to dry on a washable bamboo paper towel, and placed the bottle of Merlot in the refrigerator to chill slightly. Red wine should be served a few degrees below room temperature, especially when enjoyed with a fine meal.
Each of the delicacies that he’d brought home from the morgue, except for the heart, were carefully washed, patted dried, placed into freezer safe bags, vacuum sealed, and labeled with the precise contents and the name “Marta Skyksamenski”. He cubed the beautiful heart and tossed the pieces in a bowl with balsamic vinegar, salt, and olive oil. He then set it aside to marinate, while he uncorked the wine.
“Wonderful of you to provide me an entire week of exquisite dinners, my love,” he spoke gently to the items as he placed them gently in the freezer. “I promise to make each dish a spectacular experience.”
The small cubes of her heart sizzled as they hit the bubbling butter in the hot frying pan. Thinly sliced sweet potato followed, along with onions and carrots. A bit of the wine was added, along with garlic, cumin, coriander, and thyme.
He dimmed the lights in the dining room and prepared the fine china and good silver. The aroma of the meal spread through the house making him eager for the start of the meal, as he finished the first glass of wine. Once the dish was fully cooked, it was carefully plated and joined another slightly fuller glass of wine on the white linen tablecloth.
“Spectacular,” mouthed Dr. Arilio in between gentle bites of his homemade feast. After he gingerly mopped up the remaining spots of sauce on his plate with a slice of baguette, he leaned back in his chair to enjoy the aftertaste of such an exquisite main course.
The remainder of the wine filled only a tiny portion of the glass, but it would be enough. He selected a very special dark chocolate truffle that he’d saved for a special occasion from the crystal dish in the middle of the table.
A somber thought raced across his conscious, and he stood up before taking the last bite of the chocolate. He raised his wine glass and proposed a toast, “To my dear lover, for that is what we are now that I have your heart, may your spirit rest in eternal peace on the dark side of this vale of life.”
He gingerly swallowed the last of his wine and relished the final bite of his truffle. Once the dishes were washed and the kitchen cleaned, Dr. Arilio crawled into bed.
“I’m telling you for the last time,” articulated Dr. Arilio with an icy, impatient glare, “Blunt force trauma, you know, a nasty car accident!”
“Do you have all the test results, back?” she replied, trying to remain calm while gagging on the terrible smell in the morgue. Did this man never hear of bleach and elbow grease?
Dr. Arilio felt his agitation level grinding higher with every passing moment and every asinine question. The night before had been spent tossing and turning, awakened way too many times fleeting memories of horrid nightmares. Such mental annoyances had not happened since he was a child. Dealing with this overly eager detective was not on his short list of tolerable activities for the day.
“No, all of the results will not be back anytime soon,” he stated exasperatedly, “You know, as well as I do, that the lab is backed up, understaffed, and everything they do is being scrutinized.” What could he say to make this irritant leave? He was in no mood to deal with her.
The detective asked to see the body again.
“Fine,” he said, rolling his eyes, gritting his teeth and yanking open the cooler door. The sliding tray banged hard against its stops shifting the woman’s body roughly.
She gazed at the body, exhaling sharply through her nose. “Could you please get a clean sheet to cover her with?” snapped the detective while pulling the stained sheet down from the victim’s face. She was more than an accident victim in the detective’s mind. Something felt fishy, but without evidence, she was hamstrung.
“I’ll be back tonight at 7:30 with the husband,” announced the detective, “He wants to see, so anything you can do to make her face look,” she stuttered, “more presentable?”
“Fine,” he spoke again, finding his irritation oddly waning as he spoke the word, despite the realization he was giving up part of his evening for this, “I’ll be here.”
As Detective Famalo escorted Jonathan Skyksamenski to his wife’s covered corpse, Dr. Arilio could feel his pulse accelerating. Deep in his soul, a knot formed and began pulling at the edges of his reality. The chilled air sucked into his lungs returned to the room heated from the inferno boiling inside. The doctor knew this man, intimately, despite never laying eyes on him before.
Dr. Arilio watched Detective Famalo’s lips move, but a fog of betrayal seeped into the pores of his consciousness, fanning the flames of growing anger. He knew that she was explaining the brutality of the accident and giving the husband a graceful exit, should he choose. The husband shook his head definitively, without emotion or expression.
The moment the woman’s face was uncovered, Dr. Arilio’s gaze drilled into Skykamenski’s eyes. The medical examiner found himself trying to read behind the man’s pupils, to measure the malice in his soul, and assess the value of his life. The doctor began to lean forward, moving closer and closer to the victim’s husband as he stared compassionately at his dead spouse.
The doctor was no plastic surgeon, but he’d made her look less distorted than when she arrived in his basement laboratory. The crushed cheekbone, broken jaw, and the numerous lacerations were impossible to completely disguise, but he’d done his best.
Skykamenski began to speak, but Dr. Arilio couldn’t hear the words. The rage tightened in his guts, pulling entrails and muscles violently together, and Dr. Arilio could feel his hands knotting into tight fists. He knew that the detective continued to speak, but couldn’t see her through the murky blur that had covered everything in his sight, save Skykamenski. Not a single word of their conversation pierced the veil of fury boiling inside the doctor. Nothing but a driving, intensifying rage passed through the doctor’s thoughts.
Dr. Arilio drew in a huge breath, preparing to strike down this monster standing before him.
“Doctor!” the detective’s words broke the trance in which he found himself consumed, “Please, cover her back up.”
He glared at the pair as they left the morgue, angry and confused. Skykamenski was a terrible human and didn’t deserve to live. He knew this as one knows the color of his own eyes.
He stumbled into the tiny morgue restroom, closing his eyes and bending over to splash cold water onto his face. The paper towel felt cheap and flimsy as stood back up. One look in the mirror caused him to crash backward horrified, flopping against the wall and floundering to the floor.
The person who looked back at him in the mirror wasn’t him. It was the victim’s reflection with open, angry eyes, glaring into his.
The tiles on the floor felt cold. He traced his fingers along the grout, trying to find his sanity in a mantra of tracing the perfectly spaced shapes.
Lack of sleep. That was it. The previous night’s rough nightmares and horrifying visions of hell caused all this. He needed a nap. The anger and hatred felt toward Jonathan Skyksamenski stemmed from the twisted neurons in his mind that failed to receive the daily reprieve they required.
On his hands and knees, Dr. Arilio crawled from the restroom, half expecting to see Marta Skyksamenski standing next to the cooler, looking down on him as groveled along the floor. He stood up, his legs still unsteady and his breath firing in staccato gasps. The accident victim remained covered on the table.
Dr. Arilio began walking to the door when he heard his own name. The sounds came from behind him, from a distant, quiet place, but he heard it. He spun again, expecting to see her standing. The room remained unchanged.
The silence in the room began penetrating into him as he scanned the shadows, still half expecting a ghost to materialize. His body shook with a chill and goosebumps sprang forth from every inch of skin when he heard it again, “Marcus Arilio.” The sound that hung in the air was a woman’s voice, soft yet harsh, cold yet demanding. His shiver transformed into shaking as he felt his feet betray him and begin walking deeper back into the room.
“Marcus Arilio,” it hissed again as he stepped back into the restroom. He clamped his eyes shut terrified as his hand planted themselves on each side of the mirror.
He felt air move across his face as if someone was speaking too close. “Run!” he screamed inside at himself. Flee with all your might. But he remained frozen in place as the voice chanted his name.
“See me, Marcus Arilio,” the voice demanded, “See me.”
Using all of his strength, he clamped his eyes shut. Nothing in this world could force him to face the horror accosting his ears and thoughts.
A crack of light slipped into his vision. He fought the sensation, but something was prying his eyes open without touching him. “NO! NO! NO!” he screamed as the pressure continued to push his eyelids upward. He fought with all of the will he could muster, with his body shaking harder with each passing moment.
She stared directly into his eyes from the mirror. Fire and fury burned deep behind her piercing gaze. Her broken jawbone clinched in a crooked rage. His eyes felt a searing heat as she roughly inhaled and exhaled. A mist slithered through his hair with each breath breaking forth from her cracked and broken teeth.
Everything went dark as he fell unconscious to the floor.
The chilly night felt even colder with each attack of the howling wind upon the trees, their branches crying out with painful creaks as they bent. Clouds rushed across the sky in a mosaic of racing patterns, revealing and hiding the full moon, creating a dancing, monotone light across the landscape.
Dr. Arilio moved as quietly as he could through the shadows between the houses, stealing his way into the backyard. His mental state was a haggard, surreal haze as if he was watching himself slip through life without control and without conscious thought. He pushed at the thin border of his imprisoned reality, unable to tell if he was dreaming or hallucinating.
Somehow, he knew that the backdoor to the garage would be unlocked. It had broken some time ago, but he knew Jonathan Skyksamenski found other activities more appealing than home repair.
Slipping into the pitch black of the garage, Dr. Arilio set his gym bag down while he waited for his eyes to adjust. The latex gloves felt more comfortable than they usually did, and a smile crept across his face. They were as comfortable as the black ski mask he wore to hide his pale skin in the dark.
Thoughts of what was coming pushed his heart to beat faster, the rhythmic pounding growing louder in his ears, propelling him to action. He placed the ladder under the garage door opener, climbed up, and removed the lightbulbs. After replacing the ladder, he selected an aluminum bat from the bin in the corner containing sports equipment from Jonathan Skyksamenski’s teenage years.
The darkness and shadows hid Dr. Arilio perfectly as the garage door began climbing up its rails. The clouds embraced the moon, chasing any ambient light into the heavens.
Skyksamenski opened his car door, “Fucking shitty cheapass light bulbs always burning out,” He angrily slammed the door, “I’ll buy ones that fucking work rather than the cheap shit she always bought.”
The guttural chuckle emanating from the man’s lungs polluted the air in the garage, igniting a blaze of anger in Dr. Arilio’s chest as he crept through the shadows. The bat rang out like a church bell as it smashed into Skyksamenski’s head.
Dr. Arilio clicked on his flashlight and rapidly examined the man’s skull, letting out a sigh of relief. No blood. No spatter. He felt for a pulse. The vein pressed back in rhythm against the doctor’s fingers.
Working quickly, Dr. Arilio retrieved the body bag from his gym bag, rolled Skyksamenski into the bag, and zipped it to the man’s torso. A brief gasp left the man’s body as he struggled to find his way back to consciousness.
Dr. Arilio removed the belt from his pants as rapidly as he could, wrapping it around Skyksamenski’s neck and cinching it tight. The man’s eyes popped open in fright as he realized that he was unable to breathe. His first reaction was to grab for his neck, but his arms flailed uselessly against the constricting body bag. The clouds released the moon from their darkening embrace and a stream of light pulsed into the garage. Terror melted into confusion and panic in Skyksamenski’s eyes as life passed into death.
With Jonathan Skyksamenski’s body in the trunk of his car, Dr. Arilio backed out of the garage, pressed the remote control, smiled, and drove away.
A light rain began falling as Dr. Arilio pulled into the Graverly Family Mortuary. Only one working parking lot light of five illuminated a far corner of the pavement. The pitch black interior of the building refused to be penetrated as lightning painted the dark clouds.
With the car hidden by the rear employee entrance of the building, Skyksamenski’s body thudded onto the old rusting gurney, careless left outside to be gnawed upon by the elements.
The doctor’s consciousness searched frantically for the passage to escape this torturous experience of watching his life unfold without any means to direct or control what he was doing. He knew where he was, he knew what he planned to do, and he battled for control of the path that he was compelled to follow.
He pulled off his ski mask and smiled toward the security camera. Having worked here a few years before, he knew that the camera was a fake. Mr. Graverly was a terribly cheap bastard. A fake rock near the door hid a door key because the old forgetful owner would often leave his at home.
The gurney squeaked as Dr. Arilio tugged it down the hallway. From memory, he knew to turn left and then enter the last door. One large stainless steel piece of equipment dominated the room.
The aging crematorium continued to show signs of neglect. The cheap owner found no reason to instruct his employees to clean anything beyond what customers would see. The gurney left trails on top of the trails already drawn in fine dust on the floor. Dr. Arilio opened the crematorium door and wheeled the gurney into position, ready to shove the body into the oven.
Sweat dripped down his forehead. Murder is an exhausting business, especially when you can only watch yourself commit the heinous act. As he let out another deep breath, he attacked the edges of his sanity, wrenching back the veil that left him rudderless and separated from his own soul.
“This isn’t a dream,” he spoke out loud.
He felt his consciousness being besieged once again by the force that controlled and fought back with all his remaining energy.
“I really killed him.”
His fingers ran through his hair, digging at his scalp, tearing at the edges of his sanity. He pulled with the last bit of emotion that remained within him, yanked open his own spirit and crawled back inside.
He closed his eyes and opened them again. Nothing had changed. The man’s dead body remained.
He rushed to the nearest restroom, flipped on the light, and stared into the mirror. As his fatigued reflection stared helplessly back at him, the pale reflection of Marta Skyksamenski’s broken and distorted image inked itself across his own face in the mirror.
“What have you done to me?” he demanded.
“My lover, you have my heart and have done my bidding,” she replied, sending a frigid shiver down his spine, “ I am avenged.”
Her reflection faded further away, leaving him looking at his own face.
Dr. Arilio emotions ricocheted through his being, smashing into one another and bewildering him further. Anger flared hotly in his chest knowing she’d used him as a pawn. Panic and fear spread through him as he considered the criminal repercussions of killing a man. Yet, satisfaction and self-righteousness cradled his moral core, knowing he’d served justice.
The man in the mirror watched as a gnarled smile and focused eyes emerged from the befuddled face. An idea was sneaking across his mind, infusing a delicious finality to this demented drama.
He stepped back into crematorium’s room with a smile and a large blade in his hand. Not the appropriate tool, but it would do. The blade sliced through the abdomen, just below the man’s rib cage leaving a wide tear from one side of his body to the other. Pressing the stomach down, Dr. Arilio drove the knife up into the diaphragm making a hole large enough for his forearm.
Jonathan Skyksamenski’s heart looked dark and cold in his hand as he pulled it from the oozing gash in the man’s torso. The doctor’s nefarious grin grew wider, even as he opened his mouth to bite into the raw, blood-drenched muscle. The acidic and metallic taste of blood mixed with the bitter sinewy muscle with each bite.
As he devoured the last morsel of the life-sustaining organ, he longed for a glass of Merlot to wash down the aftertaste lingering in his mouth. His laugh filled the room as he gently stroked the dead man’s face. “Not long now.”
He pushed the body into the crematorium’s open mouth, using the long paddles to ensure that the body was fully extended. After closing and locking the door of the oven, he pressed the full cycle button. Before dawn, only ashes would remain in the incinerator. The mortuary owner and employees would blame one another for the mess, if they even noticed it.
The rain quicked its pace, pounding down angerily, as Dr. Arilio pushed the gurney back into the dark night. Each raindrop striking the tiny pools and stains of Skyksamenski’s blood as if the drops hated the man as much his dead wife’s spirit hated him.
Despite the apparent violence wrought upon the gurney, Dr. Arilio remained in the watery torrent, letting the heavenly downpour scrub his sins away. It felt cleansing and rewarding to feel the baptism of nature submerge him in a freshly cleaned psyche, unobstructed by the vengeful shade that controlled earlier.
With his consciousness refreshed and confident of his own ability to hold tight to his own spirit, Dr. Arilio stepped back inside and walked fearlessly through the dark to the filthy employee restroom. A single fluorescent bulb fought valiantly to illuminate the small, dank room but flickered defensively as darkness returned the attack.
Dr. Arilio peered deeply into his own eyes in the mirror, waiting. As the eyes looking back at him began to grow wider and frightened, he knew the rest of the face in the mirror would change. Within moments, Dr. Arilio’s reflection faded, replaced by the terrified face of Jonathan Skyksamenski.
“What have you done?” demanded Skyksamenski.
“You murdered her,” replied Dr. Arilio with unassailable satisfaction flowing through his entire being. He didn’t know exactly how the husband killed his wife, and it didn’t matter. Any desire for justification or need for evidentiary proof fled away from him, superseded by the certain knowledge of the man’s guilt that Marta Skyksamenski’s spirit infused into him.
“She… She…” he replied in terror, desperately pleading to share his pitiful excuse, but a force began pulling him deeper, twisting his spirit further into the darkness of the mirror. “No! No! No!” he screamed, “She’s here!”
Dr. Arilio breathed a deep, refreshing breath as he stepped into the rain. “A case of Merlot, I think that’s what I’m going to need.”