Vita Post Mortum Part Two
By: A. Stump

The three boys shut the cooler door and proceeded to open the wooden door next to it. It led to another room. One half of the room was the garage, and one wall was stacked floor to ceiling with new caskets, wrapped in foam sheets. The other side of the room contained a furnace and a door and a series of shovels, wracks, and pans. Clearly, this was the crematorium. As the boys began to walk toward the blackened furnace door, which was hanging slightly open, a click and then loud buzzing sound growled overhead. They looked up and saw a plastic box with a chain attached to it cycling through, humming in a loud drone as the bottom of the garage door lifted. As the door rose, they could see the tires of the hearse emerge underneath. "Oh, crap!" breathed Mike in a hoarse whisper. "Blackshear is back! Quick! Run!" And the boys ran through the wooden door, slamming it shut, then pounded their way back up the steps. Emerson, who usually lagged behind, pushed himself forward like an Olympic sprinter, pushing the other two ahead of him. They ran through the door under the stairs and back into the foyer of the house. Ralph was first out of the basement and immediately ran for the front door, but as he got there, through a narrow pane of thick crystal glass, he could see a figure quickly walking up the path toward the porch. In a few more brisk strides, that person would be on the porch.

"Someone's coming!" Ralph hissed. "Quick! Upstairs! Now!" The two boys pushed back on Emerson, who stumbled and nearly lost his balance, then scrambled on all fours up the first few steps of the grand staircase before regaining his footing and thundering up the creaking steps two at a time. Mike and Ralph pushed harder from behind as they rounded the corner and heard a knock on the door. As they reached the top landing, they stopped, for ahead of them was a narrow hallway with several sunken panel doors and all had old latch style handles. The hall extended to their left for twenty feet, but there was a door directly in front of them and one to their right. As they stood there, paralyzed, they heard the front door creak open on its old brass hinges. With no more time to deliberate, Emerson reached for the door to his right, found it unlocked, and stepped in, as silently as possible. As Mike and Ralph pushed him further into the room and squeezed through the door behind him, they could hear voices downstairs.

"Mr. Blackshear? Are you home?" spoke an oddly familiar voice.

The basement door creaked. "Ah, Mrs. Potter, just in time," languished the cool, even, old voice of Blackshear. "So good of you to come on such short notice."

The two exchanged hushed pleasantries and the boys looked at the room where they were standing. It was positioned in the front of the house, with large windows looking out over the entire village. The green square could be seen as well as half the shops and some houses. In the distance were the two church steeples that the small community had to offer and then the flagpole of the local school (K-12 all in one building) with the stars and stripes hanging, listless in the drizzle. To the right of the boys lay a bed, not too large and not too small with a single white sheet on top of the whole thing. The form of an object lay underneath. Emerson, being the first one in, stepped to the side. "I'm not touching it, even if it's just meat and cheese!" he whispered. Ralph moved forward and grabbed the sheet and in one motion whipped it halfway back toward the foot of the bed. There, resting neatly on a pillow, was the body of Bobby Sommer. His face had the remnants of a grimace and the left side of his head was covered in a bruise that the boys did not know was the result of the blood pooling on the lowest portion of the body. His eyes were closed as if he were sleeping. Immediately below his head and neck was a giant, rough incision that exposed his chest cavity. Ribs were removed or pushed back and there was a noticeable depression where the boys' biology class taught them that a heart should be.

In shock, Ralph took a step back from the body and backed into a small table, bumping a tray that sat on top of it. Startled, he jumped forward and turned to see a plate with a small, oddly shaped bit of red meat with pink tubes coming out of it and a large glass jar filled with thick, dark blood. The boys felt lightheaded and Emerson began to sway. Mike grabbed him by the arm. Suddenly, they heard a creak on the stairs. Blackshear's voice wafted up through the stairwell, "Right this way, Mrs. Potter. You will not be disappointed."

Panic stricken, the boys exchanged glances, then Mike pointed Ralph to the sheet, who covered the body as best he could and pointed Emerson to another door in the corner of the room. He turned and silently shut the bedroom door behind him and latched it as the creaking of the steps continued. The three boys crammed into the doorway in the corner which turned out to be a rather small closet. Emerson was in back shoved as tightly into the corner as possible with Ralph pressed into his belly and Mike shoved into Ralph, pulling the door shut, even as he saw the latch of the outer door jiggle open. Smashed into the confined space, none of the boys dared to even breathe.

"You will find, Mrs. Potter, that this specimen is most pleasing," Blackshear's voice sounded different, more vibrant—full. "I only wish that I had gotten there sooner. I could have retained more of the life. As it stands now, only what you see in the jar beside you was preserved. Still, I reckon that infusion contains at least 35 or 40 years.

Mrs. Potter held the jar of syrupy merlot in her hands—hands clothed in thin onion skin with brown spots on them. She could see her reflection in the glass of the jar, which looked back at her with deep canyons of wrinkles across the forehead, cheeks, and chin.

"You're sure it will work?" she pleaded.

"How old do you think I am, Mrs. Potter?"

"I—I couldn't say…."

"It will work, but you must be careful to do all that I say, especially with the heart."

"Who was this child, anyway?" Potter diverted.

"He was one of your students in the elementary school, Mrs. Potter."

"Why can't I remember him?"

"If I revealed all the secrets of the dead, then I would lose the respect of the town, Mrs. Potter. However, one thing you must know: as long as you live, the donor lives."

"Th—the price…" she stammered, running a bony finger along the lid of the jar.

The air in the closet had become intolerably hot, and the boys' heads pounded. They dripped with sweat and the odor of their sweat began filling their sinuses until they could taste it in their mouths. As they stood, helpless in the closet, their palms grew clammy and waxen. Emerson quickly tried to wipe the perspiration from his hands on the front of his shorts. As he did so, the empty chip bag crinkled in his pocket. All three drew a sharp breath in.

"Eh?" snarled Blackshear as he snapped his head toward the closet. "Do we have a guest?" he jeered as he took one long, gangly stride toward the closet. He pressed down on the door latch and as the door began to creek open, there was a squeak and a flash of gray on the floor. It darted under the bed with the sudden SNAP! of a wire spring against wood. "Forgive me, Mrs. Potter, but these old houses do have mice. I am constantly catching them so that they do not disturb the dead." He latched the closet door and turned back to his client. "Now," he said warmly as he picked up the tray of meat and blood, "about payment…. The agreed upon price was $25,000. That's only about $500 a year. Quite a healthy investment, I would say. Let us go downstairs and begin the infusion, shall we?" And with that, Mrs. Potter swallowed deeply and preceded Blackshear out of the room.

Mike slowly unlatched the closet door and allowed the air in the closet to circulate. Only after the creaking on the stairs had ceased and they heard the "click" of the basement door shut did they dare venture out of the closet. They cast a glance at the sheet that covered the boy, wondering if he would wind up in an unmarked grave or cremated in the furnace and spread as fertilizer around Blackshear's bushes. They crept down the stairs, stepping on the sides of the treads near the wall in an effort to keep the creaking quiet. However, they didn't need to worry about making noise, because they could hear sobbing and moaning coming up from the basement. At first, it was just groaning, and they thought that Blackshear must be killing Potter, but then the sobs became words, and they were words in Potter's voice, "Oh… oh, God, no! Oh, God, forgive me! Oh, please, please forgive me! Oh, I remember! I remember! Oh! Bobby! Oh, forgive me, my boy… forgive me…." Then came Blackshear's voice, stronger and more alive than ever, "Now, now, Mrs. Potter, in 40 years or so, you will still remember, but the pain will be gone, and you will most assuredly become one of my many satisfied customers!"

The boys slowly opened the door, the creak of the heavy door on its hinges masked by more of Potter's sobbing. They walked onto the porch and out into the evening air and shut the door behind them.

The End

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