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A staunch burning metal smell seared Gary’s sinuses. Within seconds of this awareness, pain cascaded through his body like a wave of heat.
The collection of feet surrounding him within his minimal vision didn’t move. Their mumblings gelled into a mess of colliding whispers. In-between his pained groans, a conversation managed to reach his ears.
“Should we move him?” a single voice asked another.
“Let’s not, we’re not trained for this,” the response came. Their voices vanished inside the sound of oncoming ambulance sirens.
Gary couldn’t concentrate on what else what said and blacked out from his overwhelming pain.
The loudness of a door closing nearby shocked him awake. His mind registered new surroundings, unrecognizable to his senses.
The air offered a sterile, dry quality.
No more burning metal. But where am I?
Tremendous lights blasted Gary’s face, blinding his closed eyes. Soft voices asked him questions.
I’ll answer, I’m trying to speak.
His mouth seemed to move, but sound remained trapped within his dry throat.
Where am I?
His eyes burned from attempting to open against the searing incandescent indoor lights.
Many hands touched him and offered comfort.
I want to say something!
His voice seemed muted and his level of anxiety skyrocketed. Gary fought to exude life. Instead, a blanket covered his face, the lights dimmed and the darkness overtook him.
What? What is in my hands ~ a book? Hey someone said I just needed stitches to my head. Hey!
More silence soaked inside him.
Am I dead?
He acquiesced into sudden unconsciousness.
Hours later, sounds of vehicles crashing just outside of his bedroom disrupted his senses.
The crack of metal against metal jarred Gary awake and his feet lead him toward the carnage.
The small populace gathered around the crash, hoarding the view.
Gary’s five-foot-nine frame could not gain a glimpse of what occurred.
Although mumblings among the crowd persisted, no one dared approach the accident area.
He spoke up while raising himself on his toes. “Let’s help! There’s got to be a way to help!”
No one dared to move.
What is it with gawkers? This fascination with watching someone suffer is downright insidious. What if any of them were inside twisted metal like that, their body broken and bleeding?
“Should we move those two?” a small voice perked above the town gathering.
“We should help. Come on. We can do this. The power of many does much good. Come on, I’ll show you all, “ Gary insisted.
“Let’s not, we’re not trained for this,” the response came. Again, their voices trailed off inside the sound of oncoming ambulance sirens.
“Wait…our help. It’s important. Come on…”
Within seconds the swiftness of EMS took over.
The crowd parted, allowing the bodies to be carted off and settled into their final resting places.
Small condolences and many shaking heads rippled through the observant crowd.
“Is that Bob? Oh no, he has a wife. She’ll be…. And Rick, no! He’s a father of three.”
Now they’re sorry. Oh my God! Wait, I can still help.
Gary decided to take his sympathies a step further. He made his way into the hospital; aiming to find the morgue.
You’d think security would be a little tighter around here.
He took out the small book, thinking it represented something spiritual.
Maybe I can ease these two souls into the next life. It’s worth a try.
Upon his arrival inside the morgue, two gurneys rested side by side. The attendant looked straight at Gary and left to take a meal break. He was left with the two soulless bodies.
A moment later, a loud door slammed hard, alarming him away from the book without a title on its cover and its pages.
This time, a small sea of people gathered around.
Gary turned to face everyone and remained quiet, in respect.
One by one, they placed their hands upon each corpse.
Each person offered his or her respects.
At the conclusion of this emotional display, each man’s bed sheet revealed each face.
Gary’s heart froze.
It wasn’t because both of them were strangers.
Each man on his gurney stared at Gary with a cold, piercing glare.
Both men revealed facial muscles twitching and moving, suggesting life returning to their bodies.
One of the men sat straight up from the gurney, pointing and mouthing something at Gary and then slumped back down.
The small crowd gasped, calling for help.
Gary’s heart pounded, creating heat deep inside his chest.
What was that all about? Did he just mouth “not me ~ you!”
Gary’s eyes expanded into eternal wonder, confused whether he should wait around at all.
All left the room and waited for the doctor just outside the exit doors.
But, no doctor arrived.
The attendant returned from his meal, closing everything down for the night.
Gary’s book splayed itself upon the morgue floor with pages left pages opened.
But, it wasn’t a prayer book.
It read, Spells for the Dead ~ the claiming rituals.
One of the victims on one gurney mouthed something continuously.
Just out of the attendant’s sight and in the corner, Gary’s clothing settled, empty.
To the right of the attendant, the crowd of shadow people smiled while one whispered, “Do you all understand why we should never move them? Those who join us should be pure ~ away from our meddling. The ones about to pass into eternity whisper to induct others or join us.”
The crowd hushed itself, blended into the walls, waiting for the next soul.
Bill D. Bistak, Author, Producer of Bestshorthorrorstories.com & Founder of Friedrich Imagines, Ltd. a media production company