Annabelle dragged the heavy crash cart. The gurney scraped the bare metal hinge of the doorframe, the screech making the two other morgue employees cringe. Her iPod tuned out the incessant bitching and complaining of the night crew.
Six months in this creampuff job taught her some hard truths. The first eye-opener was learning her employment was a smorgasbord she couldn’t sample. The second dose of reality concerned how much time she spent thinking about a police detective with player written all over his sexy abs. The third slap upside the head involved the county coroner’s problem; he was a man with a major appetite unfazed by normal dietary suppressants. The hidden minority of ghouls in the greater metropolitan area struggled with the wreckage left in the wake of Ernie’s frequent rampages.
The boss made her life hell. Every time he got snacky, Annabelle cleaned up the crumbs. Inevitably, Detective Smithson showed up and her self-control hit the floor as fast as her thong.
She slammed the gurney against the institutional green wall and gestured with both hands. “Voila.”
“Who’s the stiff?” Jacob asked.
Annabelle waited until Michael turn around. “Ernie.”
“No shit!” Jacob dropped the bucket with a clang and trotted across the room.
Michael shifted nervously, torn between wanting a closer look and keeping his distance from the man who’d terrified the staff.
Jacob threw off the plastic sheet. “Fuck me, what happened to him?”
“Somebody tried to eat the asshole.” Annabelle gave a dismissive flick of her fingers.
Michael’s eyes opened wide. “Literally?”
She ignored his question.
“Who could stomach the tough old bastard?” Jacob flopped the cover back on the corpse.
The door swung open and the trio swiveled to face the newcomer.
“That’s what I’m here to find out.” Detective Smithson said.
Annabelle ignored the shiver of heat in her stomach. “Don’t do it on my account. I’m okay with the bastard being dead.”
Smithson eyed her with a jaundiced twist to his mouth. “Who’s next in charge?”
“Mrs. Cox until they hire a replacement-“ Annabelle stumbled back.
The partially digested corpse reared up on the gurney. A garbled moan burbled between his crooked lips.
Michael and Jason skittered away.
Smithson reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a small black rectangle. The Taser looked like a television remote with a gun handle. He calmly electro-shocked the coroner.
Jacob scuttled forward. “Dude, that’s rad!”
Michael huddled behind his coworker.
Annabelle studied the steaming body. “He’s a zombie now, isn’t he?”
Smithson winked. “I’ve got some paperwork before we sign off on this evening’s fun.” He shoved the door open with a shoulder. “Officer Griggs, these young men need to give a statement. They just witnessed the suspect rise from the dead.”
Michael and Jacob left.
Detective Smithson met Annabelle’s gaze. “You never call.”
She rolled her eyes. “Don’t start.” She jabbed a finger at her boss. “Is he getting up again?”
Smithson slipped off his coat. “We should drop him in the incinerator soon. The second shot seldom works.”
“Why do I get the weirdos?” She muttered.
“You want to catch something to eat after shift?”
Annabelle ignored him. Since her last lapse of judgment, after a late night death scene a month ago when she’d tumbled into a clinch with the man and they’d damn near humped on the rear fender of his car, she’d been avoiding him.
They slid her former boss into the crematorium chute, flames licking out from tiny gas jets. Smithson was still pressuring her for a date when Ernie climbed out and dropped to the floor.
Annabelle grabbed the fire extinguisher at the same moment she heard Jacob yell. Michael’s scream cut off midway and she bludgeoned the zombie with the red canister.
Ernie blinked startled eyes.
Pandemonium reigned inside the morgue. Shouts came from the lobby. Crashing sounds of chairs and file cabinets being tossed about echoed from the hallway.
Annabelle trailed Smithson through the door. His arm clamped around her waist and swung her back into the corner, pressed her tight to his side. He made a shushing sound at her ear.
Her boss staggered into the room and gave her a pained expression.
“Christ Annabelle, did you have to bash my head?” Ernie rubbed his temple and slapped at a smoldering remnant of sleeve.
A body crashed into the frosted window. Grigg’s throat had been torn wide, viscera spilled over the fractured safety glass; a streaming coil of bloody intestine spewed a green fountain. The sudden silence was marred only by body fluids dripping from the ruptured torso.
The Coroner took a jerky step forward and licked his lips, eyes rapt on the carnage.
“Fight it, man. Not now!” Smithson clutched Annabelle’s hand.
“Ernie’s going to lose it again.” She said.
Two simultaneous things happened. The outer door crashed open and framed a zombie in antiseptic light, and Ernie lost the battle with his internal hunger. The animated corpse shambled forward. Ernie threw himself at the steaming gore. They collided in midair. Unprepared for the rabid masticating of Ernie’s jaws, the undead went down in a tangle of limbs, sliding in Grigg’s offal. They slapped hard into the wall.
Annabelle drew the detective into the refrigerated dead-end.
Smithson frantically pushed buttons on his cell and shouted into the speaker.
Annabelle listened. Wet slaps and meaty cries carried through the steel door. She galvanized into action. They had corpses. She’d willingly sacrifice Mr. Paulson’s cancer-ridden body if it slowed down the winner of the melee. Next gurney in line was Trilby Wilcox, a three-decade hooker. Annabelle doubted Trilby would mind a guy taking a nibble or two since rumor suggested she’d had pretty broad limits.
“Do you have a concrete plan for survival?”
Smithson snapped his phone shut. “Don’t be sarcastic. I’ve called the cavalry.”
A thud against the door pulled them into a united front, hands clasped.
Flash Fiction Challenge: Death is on the Table @ www.terribleminds.com