Authors: Richard M. Cochran
by Peter Fussey
Cochran can be contacted at [email protected]
WAITING TO DIE
Richard M. Cochran
To Iain for all your help and encouragement and for writing
some of the best zombie horror out there.
To Persephanie for dealing with my frantic writing sessions
and my lackluster approach to love.
To Meagan for your input and support and proofreading gusto.
To Paul for your words of inspiration and support.
To Wild Wolf Press for publishing my first short story, “In
the End” in
Holiday of the Dead.
To Permuted Press for all the great Undead Horror!
And last, but not least, to all of the fans who have bought
my stories and beaten me to death with questions like, “How does
end? ...here’s your answer.
An R. M. Cochran book
Waiting to Die
copyright © 2012
by Richard M. Cochran.
All Rights Reserved.
book is a work of fiction. People, places, events, and situations are a product
of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or
historical events, is purely coincidental.
part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted
by any means without written permission of the author or publisher.
back in his chair, feet resting at the edge of the desk, Bill watches the
clock. The hands seem to go forward once and back twice before finally resting
at five o'clock. His eyes become heavy as he leans farther back, intent on
sleeping for the last two hours before he can punch out and leave. He has never
been good with busy days, and today is the busiest he has seen since he’s been
working at Our Lady of Grace.
“Bill, are you there?”
forward, Bill pushes the intercom button on the phone. “Yeah, what’s up,
a couple more bodies up here that we need you to pick up,” Becky replies, a
hint of fatigue in her voice.
Bill rests his head in his hands upon the desk and wipes his face before he
starts to speak. “That will make six in the past three hours. I was trying to
take a nap,” he chuckles, trying to make light of the situation.
nap after you pick these bodies up.” She hesitates. “They’re creeping me out,”
sheet over them.”
becomes silent, pausing for a moment, “They’re pretty messed up. All the sheet
does is hide the fact that they might be human.”
really? I'll be up in a second.”
on his lab coat, he heads toward the exit and pushes the door to the side. The
outer hallway of the morgue is stale and depressing. A heavy smell of
formaldehyde hangs in the air, drowning out any other odor that dares expose
itself. With a whoosh, the double doors close behind him, pivoting in on
themselves with reversible hinges, allowing them to swing wide into the hallway
before reversing their course and clacking back into place.
from the previous pickups, Bill drags his feet slightly before entering the
elevator. He enjoys the silence, glad that Doctor Pratt had the wisdom to
demand that the music be removed last month in a heated argument with the staff
coordinator. Really, there wasn't any need for music in an employee only area
beside the fact that one of the higher ups thought it would boost morale.
tranquil silence, Bill waits for the motion of the elevator to subside,
effectively stopping the feeling of his stomach being pushed down into his
doors open so slowly it is as if they are taking their time before allowing the
occupant to escape. Bill yawns while he waits. The sterile smell of bleach greets
his nose, welcoming him to the first floor. He points himself left and wanders
toward the reception desk as the soles of his shoes squeak, creating a shrill echo
along the empty hallway.
over the counter, Bill looks at Becky and tries to get her attention as she
places files in a cabinet. She shuffles through each file until she finds an
appropriate folder and places it in the drawer. She wears an expression of deep
concentration as she shuffles through the alphabetical arrangement and slides
the next in line into its spot.
catches an image out of the corner of her eye and turns, “Fuck!” she exclaims.
“Damn it, Bill! You scared the shit out of me!”
lets out an amused chuckle, “It isn't like you didn't know I was coming.”
she raises her voice. “Give me some warning, you jackass!”
he replies, “Sorry about that, Becky. So where are you hiding the stiffs?”
looks over her shoulder towards the emergency room. “They’re being kept back
there in one of the rooms,” she says, shuddering from the mental images from
earlier when they were brought in. She motions toward a room at the back of the
ER with a disgusted look.
turns on his heels, following Becky's gaze.
look pretty bad.”
probably seen worse,” he laughs.
it,” she says as Bill heads off.
doors slide out of Bill's way as he enters a bustling emergency room. Nurses
barely miss one another as they run from room to room, carrying supplies by the
armload. Every second that passes brings several new cases through the busy
doors, cramming the waiting room with a combination of sick and languid faces.
A pink blur
of scrubs whirls past Bill as he stares into the waiting room. He holds out his
hand, reaching, “Wait, Angie!”
nurse turns, pauses for a moment, “What is it, Bill?”
going on? Was there an accident somewhere?” he asks.
mean because of all the people?” she asks, too involved with her work to fully
understand what he’s getting at. “No, I don't know what’s happening. People
started flooding in about an hour ago.” She checks her watch and diverts her
gaze back to the supplies she’s carrying. “Sorry, Bill, but I have to go,”
Angie twirls around, half jogging to the next set of curtains, throws them
aside, and hands another nurse the bundle of bandages.
Bill sidesteps nurses and doctors, making his way toward the back of the ER and
through a doorway. He gasps deeply when he sees a bloodstained sheet
haphazardly thrown over a gurney, pushed into the far corner of the room. What
he sees barely passes as a body; creases in the sheet where no indentations
should be, lapses of space where limbs should clearly form outlines in the
cloth. He tells himself not to look, pleads with his curiosity to subside, but
yet his fingers reach, open and twist, grasping at the sheet to tug it aside.
clipboard hits the counter along the doorway.
are you doing?” Dr. Benton asks.
um... I was getting ready to bring the body to the morgue, sir,” Bill replies,
don't you think you better get to it?” The Doctor asks.
sir,” Bill grasps the gurney, pulls it back to unlatch the wheel locks, and
pushes it forward through the door.
need to get your head out of the clouds. We have quite a situation going on
here. Now get that out of here and come back for the other,” Dr. Benton
gestures to the other gurney. “I swear I have to do everything around here.”
shakes off the insult and pushes the body out through the rear entrance of the
static hiss, the hospital intercom hums to life, “Dr. Cerda and Dr. Mersh,
please come to the ER... Dr. Cerda and Dr. Mersh to the ER,” the voice repeats.
the silence of the passageway that winds through the rear of the hospital, Bill
sighs. He breathes easily once he’s away from all of the commotion. If his job
had entailed being around that many people on a daily basis, he wouldn't have
lasted a single shift. He could handle the blood, he could deal with the death,
but the pompous doctors were well beyond what his nerves could endure. He
thanked his good fortune that he had been placed with Dr. Pratt who seemed to
have a firmer grasp on reality and a very minor amount of ego to deal with.
series of random squeaks and shimmies, one temperamental wheel jostles back and
forth, pivots and resumes working for only a moment before going spastic once
again as Bill pushes it along the seemingly endless hallway. He wonders why a
hospital can’t afford better equipment, or at the very least, a handyman who
could repair it.
corner of his vision, Bill watches as a leg slides out from under the sheet and
flops against the side of the gurney, trailing blood in its wake. He jumps at
the sudden movement, letting the gurney roll ahead a few feet before it nudges
up against the wall and comes to a rest.
Bill says aloud and shakes his head for being so on edge.
the cuff of the corpse’s leg, Bill returns it to the gurney, and tucks it under
the sheet, keeping mindful of the blood saturating the corpse’s pants. Curious,
he lifts the sheet to the side, exposing a mess of ragged and torn flesh.
“Jesus!” he exclaims, putting the sheet back in place. The mutilated remains
flash through his mind like a train wreck, impossible to turn away from. He
lifts the sheet once again, feeling the light cotton fabric against his hand.
The body is missing a leg which looks to have been ripped from its socket, torn
from the hip, exposing a blackened hole with clotted blood lingering around the
edges of jagged skin and protruding veins. Portions of the abdomen are agape;
slick pink intestine juts through torn skin and ripped muscle, mocking its
wide at the scene before him, Bill returns the cloth to its rightful place and
tries to scrape the remnants of the images out of his mind. With a deep breath
of resignation, he pushes the button to call the elevator and waits patiently
until the doors open. Once inside, he waits again for the doors to close and
the elevator to descend to the basement where the morgue is located.
twitches beneath the sheet, catching Bill's attention. Again, there is a sudden
movement and the arm lifts from the gurney at an angle and points upward toward
the ceiling. Alarmed, Bill darts backward, hitting the far side of the elevator
in shock. He stares, waiting for another movement, gripping the scuff plate
behind him. The appendage remains motionless, idle in its upright position,
transfixed until a whooshing sound emits, sending a noxious smell through the
elevator. The cadavers arm falls exposed to the gurney as if it had never
a bitch!” Bill exclaims, finally able to speak. “It is just gas. Just gas...
the body is expelling gas, and that's why it moved. You learned all of this in
medical school. It's a normal reaction that
when the body
begins to decompose, nothing at all. You're perfectly fine, everything is
good.” He bites his lower lip and gives a quick, decisive nod. “You’re
perfectly fine, everything is good,” he repeats through deep breaths.
are going to wheel the lifeless body into the morgue where Dr. Pratt can
perform the autopsy, and you can go back and get another body from upstairs
when you’re ready,” Bill tries to calm himself.
his deepest fears involves the dead moving, shuddering through the electrical
impulses and gases that form from decomposition. When he was twelve, his
grandmother passed away in her sleep. While waiting for the Ambulance, her body
suddenly jerked, her arm flailed as if it were trying to reach for him. It took
years of therapy and a rather expensive degree in medical sciences to calm him.
Now, more than anything, the dead merely unnerve him rather than making him
feel like hiding in a dark corner and waiting for the urge to vomit to subside.
jumps at the sound of the voice, “Shit, Doc!” He glares at the Doctor. “You
need some louder shoes.”
Dr. Pratt smiles and takes a sip of coffee from a paper cup, holding it
leisurely by the cardboard flaps that serve as handles. “So, what do we have
here?” he asks as he lifts the sheet to the side. “Someone who has had a very
bad day, I see,” he pauses for a moment and investigates the remains. “Are
those teeth marks?” he asks aloud as he leans down closer to the wound.
examination room, Bill and Dr. Pratt lift the body off of the gurney and place
it onto the autopsy table, adjusting what remains of its limbs into position.
Dr. Pratt immediately goes to work by removing the clothes and placing them
into small plastic bags he unravels from a box in the corner.
another one upstairs,” Bill says. “I'll be back in a couple of minutes,” he
informs and waits for Pratt to reply.
dismissive nod and a wave of his hand, Dr. Pratt continues with his work,
engrossing himself in the task at hand. In a sudden bout of realization, he
turns. “Wait for a minute and I'll get a few samples. If you would be so kind,
you could drop them off at the lab on your way to the ER,” he says, looking at
Bill over the top of his reading glasses.
Pratt removes the plastic wrapping from the tubes he has retrieved from a
cabinet and goes about taking samples of the cadaver. Placing each scrap of
skin, hair, and tissue into the containers, he seals the cap with a label.
After taking a few notes at his desk, he hands the samples off to Bill.