* * *
BTW: The photo art and prose included in any given post are separate creations having nothing to do with each other. Duality and such …
* * *
The Desairologist’s Gift
The call disrupted the delicate process of lightly brushing just a tiny amount of mascara to the eye lashes of the corpse, so he let it go to voice mail. He would call her back shortly. But she called again only seconds later which she never did, which suggested a sense of urgency, which she never had. ‘Okay’, he thought, and put down his tools, which he hated to do. The left eye was more or less finished, but not the right. The interruption risked an ever so slight variance between the two. Not acceptable to an artist.
He answered, “Hi, what’s up?”
“You have to come over here.” Her voice was trembling madly. She was perhaps the calmest, least flappable person he knew, so this was disconcerting.
He put as much quiet empathy as he could into his voice. “What’s going on, my friend?”
“Just get over here,” she said, tears behind her breaking voice. “Please. Right now. I need you.”
“Okay, sure; no prob. I’ll come right over.”
“Thanks,” she said, only marginal relief in her voice.
He’d always felt great affection for his friend, though they’d never dated or shared that level of physical intimacy. Part of him wanted to; but the other part so needed the intellectual intimacy they shared he feared diluting it with lust. So they’d kept it platonic, and they’d leaned on each other through so many ordeals. They were both licensed as a special kind of cosmetologist known as desairologists; that is, they were employed by mortuaries to perform cosmetic services on dead people.
But they shared another gift. Only handful of people had it. They were intensely secretive about it. They could touch a corpse and know if that person had fulfilled their purpose in life.
He gently took between his hands the face of the dead woman lying on the table, “I’ll be back with you shortly, dear,” he said. “Everything will be fine.” He could sense, through his fingertips, an electric pleasure of her life well lived; a mother, a businesswoman, an avid gardener; only a propensity towards introversion had interfered with friendships and empathy. But that was okay; nobody got everything right. Ordinary purposes of an ordinary life. It all shot into him in an instantaneous rush, a lifetime pulsing through him like a drug.
As he drove across town towards his friend he thought of the first time he’d become aware of his gift. His uncle’s funeral, just fifteen-years-old, he’d reached out and touched his uncle’s cold hand as he lay in his coffin and felt that instantaneous rush, only that time the electricity was painful. His uncle had drunk away his opportunities as a father, worked jobs he’d hated and never cultivated his purpose as an artist, a woodworker who could take a chunk of a fallen tree and sculpt it into something magical. And he had let that purpose lay fallow. It stung with a bitterness he could actually taste. It was three years before he touched another corpse, at another funeral, this time another uncle, only the rush he got then was intoxicatingly pleasant. That uncle had been a teacher and a listener and had led such an open and gentle life its afterglow spread through him like a warm bath. He’d gravitated, then, as did nearly everyone with the gift, towards the mortuary sciences, but especially desairology as it was the most personal, and the most artistic.
He found his friend sitting on the steps of the funeral home porch, an older, Victorian style building with majestic trees in front. Mascara streaked her face, and she ran to him and threw her arms around his neck, tight. ‘Well’, he thought, ‘this is different’. They stood and hugged each other for some time; she was trembling but couldn’t seem to cry or had already cried herself out. “What is it, what’s happened?” he gently asked.
She finally broke away. “In there,” she said, but wouldn’t make eye contact. “She was indigent.”
He’d worked at the funeral home himself many times and knew where to go, downstairs, where the chemical smells lived. She was laid out on the metal table, simply dressed in clothes he knew had probably come from shelter donations. Likely older than she looked, she looked roughly mid-fifties. He went to the paperwork first; it put her at just over forty. No known family or children, though the body indicated she had given birth at some point in her life, and probably not that long ago. She’d been found dead in an alley, likely been there for a day before she was noticed. The coroner had found nothing to indicate it was other than natural causes, no trauma to the body. Bloodwork had ruled out drug overdose, though needle marks up her arm verified she’d been a user once. Bloodwork also revealed significant liver and heart abnormalities. Malnourished, alone and ‘rode hard’, she had simply died. He approached her and placed the fingertips of both hands gently against her face.
The jolt violently knocked him backwards like a gunshot, slammed him against a metal cabinet and onto the floor, his body wrenched tight by a seizure that seemed to cramp every muscle. His head screamed with agonizing pain. In an instant he was shot with a slaughterhouse of death, searing firestorms, souls violently ripped apart. Emotional rape by something that could only be described as satanic. It all shot through him in a few seconds, but he lay shuddering for many minutes. When he finally looked around the room was as placid as when he’d entered; the woman lay motionless. Dead. He crawled more than walked from the room, used the walls of the hallway to push his way to his feet.
His friend was waiting outside. Their eyes bore straight into each other, and they held the stare. “I hoped you’d have seen something different,” she whispered.
“My god,” was all he could mutter, “My holy god.” They embraced each other tight once more as though a single being trying to envelop itself in a protective shell. Only they knew. In all the world, only the two of them.
“What are we going to do,” she asked.
“What can we do?”
“We have to find the child.”
“We can’t read the living.”
“We have to try.”
“We can only see the story when it’s finished,” he said. “There are no records. We don’t know how old, boy or girl; what would we even do if we found the child?”
She pulled away enough for their eyes to come back together. “We have to try,” she pleaded.
In days, the woman’s body would be buried in a pauper’s grave, likely not even a marker. No one knew her name. No one would mourn her. But she had done all she could do. She had fulfilled her purpose. She had birthed the Antichrist.
All my life I have had to learn to do things differently. To see the world differently.