I came to the morgue to get back my wife, because that’s where people go when they die. So logically it should be possible to reverse the process, to turn it around and by getting her out of that place to make her alive once more, or at least that’s how the theory goes.

When I arrived I was greeted by a doctor who appeared to have already been waiting for me.

“Good day to you, sir”, he extended his white-gloved hand sticking out of his white coat, shedding the faint smell of antiseptic like some sort of fancy perfume.

“My name is Dr Hayden, I am the supervisor of this establishment, welcome to our little world here.”

Shaking his hand and in the course of that picking up his smell I answered: “James Orfen. I’m here for my wife.”

“Oh, the lady who came in quite recently, I presume? Well, how may I help you?”

“I’m here to get her back.”

“Ah, you mean ‘to take back her body’.”

“No, not only her body, I mean to take her back or rather get her back as a whole.”

“I’m not sure I understand, Mr Orfen”, perking up his eyebrows.

“Oh, I’m sure you do, I want my wife back.”

The doctor frowned, flashed a short, misplaced smile but quickly composing himself answered with a serious face: “Your wife is dead, Mr Orfen. There is no way of ‘getting her back’ unless you believe in some sort of afterlife and even then I wouldn’t be sure.”

“If this is the place where people go when they die, the outside must be the place where they come alive again, as soon as they set foot there and leave your ‘little world’.”

Now Dr Hydden grinned openly when he replied: “I can assure you of the definite condition of your wife. If you will follow me, I’ll show you and you can see for yourself”, indicating one of the corridors with his hand.

I was led down several hallways deep into the bowels of the morgue, before we arrived at one of those chilling rooms you only know from films until you see them yourself, lined from top to bottom with narrow cabinets only displaying their sleek metal doors to the outside.

“You see? It’s deadly dumb in here. Perfectly quiet. The only thing the people could do in here is look at those funny little slips of paper tied to their cold toes.”

From the nearest cabinet I heard a tap and then another one, from a second one came a constant scratching noise and from one at the back a quiet moaning. Contrary to the doctor’s assertion the room was everything but quiet, the more you listened the more different sounds and voices could you discern, all joining in like some kind of orchestra with Heyden in the centre of it as its conductor.

“Can you hear this? It’s perfectly quiet in here, perfectly quiet, the people are as dead as doornails!” At this he turned around, spreading his arms.

“Give me back my wife.”

“I already said that this is impossible.”

“Give her back.”

“Out of the question.”

“Give. Her. Back. Please.”

“Ah, now this is finally getting civil.” He popped open a nearby cabinet and pulled out Erin. “This one? Or do you want another one? There’s a lot to choose from”, he smiled. “Why should I give her back? What could you possibly offer me in return? What is your occupation, Mr Orfan?

“I’m a writer.”

“A writer? Pray tell me, what do you write, Mr Writer?”

“Stories, I write and tell stories, Doctor.”

“Well then, dear Mr Storyteller, tell me a story, a good story and not simply one you already know, I get tired of these. I want you to make me a story, a new and fresh one just for me, and then, possibly then I will let her go.”

I paused to think for a few moments and this is the story I told to the doctor:

.

.

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.

After I had finished, Dr Hayden looked at me for a long time, not taking his eyes off his guest, his mouth twitching occasionally before he twisted it into a sour grimace.

“All right, Mr Orphan Storyteller, you told your story and I am bound by my word as much as I may dislike this circumstance, but rules are rules.” Upon this he snapped his fingers and Erin, abruptly opening her eyes, swung her legs over the edge of the cabinet and got out.

“But her release is bound to one condition”, he continued and set upon her head a twisted crown. “You may leave, both of you, but you won’t get any help from me finding your way back through the corridors and you will go first, James Orfen, without ever looking back at her. When you do, all will have been in vain and she will be back here, back with me for good. Is that understood?”

I replied with a nod.

“Very well, off you go.”

With a final look at her I turned around and left. Maybe I had somehow anticipated that the way out would be unfair, that there would be some kinds of obstacles to hold as back and to make me glance over my shoulder, but there was absolutely nothing of that sort. It was only us, me and her, together, alone.

Being dead or alive usually is an either-or decision, a fifty-fifty chance, heads or tails, but in these moments with my wife it was both, not one of them but both, at the same time. Once tossed, the coin would have twisted into exceedingly absurd shapes.

The way back was by no means unfair, on the contrary, it was the fairest chance I ever got in my life and thus was absolutely impossible to begin with, because tell me: who in his right mind could have at some point of this way back refrained from looking at his dead wife, this walking impossibility? Who could have refrained from wanting to confirm that this was actually happening, that he had indeed parted with her, that this wasn’t some extremely weird fantasy of wish-fulfilment? I did the only thing that made sense, the only human thing. I looked back. And when I did, she was gone.

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Aside

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