Memento Mori: Death Incarnate - Prologue: All Things Must Die
Hello, my name is Clay, well, Casper Clay. Either one would do really since they both feel like first names. My friends call me…Well, I can’t say that my friends call me Clay for short on account of the fact that I don’t have any, not anymore.
I’m a Corpse Collector, you see. A few decades ago, saying something like that would’ve made people think I was either mentally ill or had a strange hobby. I can’t say that both don’t apply to me, but a Corpse Collector is an occupation that’s quite common these days.
My job is to retrieve corpses from extremely dangerous places so they can be buried or cremated properly. It pays well enough so I can’t complain and most people even praise my job saying it brings resolution and closure to relatives of the deceased.
So why is it that I don’t have any friends? A question I asked myself before realizing the obvious answer.
I’m just a little obsessed with death…More than just a little, I’m really obsessed with it. If I wasn’t so infatuated with it, I would be able to hide it better. I’ve had a few girlfriends over the years and a sizable group of good friends before, but again, it’s very hard to hide.
Walking in the park and noticing a dead animal would often leave me absentmindedly staring. They tried to ignore it at first, they truly did and I applaud them for that, but I began to…take photos or souvenirs and let’s just say if people find literal skeletons in your closet they’d be smart to leave you alone. They were animal skeletons, by the way, my obsession didn’t spill over into murder.
I should actually be more specific about my…tastes…I’m not a necrophiliac, I swear.
I’ve never once looked at a corpse and had any strange thoughts about jumping on top of it. I’d say I’m more interested in the art created by death. I find it amazing how someone’s last moments can be captured through their corpse. Every fiber of their being and existence all compiled into one rigid pose, one stiffened expression, one satisfying story. I look at it and I swear I can see their history playing out before my eyes.
Maybe it’s my own imagination giving meaning to death in order to cope. A therapist said that to me once. Maybe it’s true, maybe, but that doesn’t change what I see, only the medications do.
It wasn’t as if my “illness” appeared from thin air. I know exactly where it came from in fact, and that was none other than the death of my mother. That day, something broke in my mind I guess. I looked at her, placed in the casket, tidied up, and put on display like a wax figure, and every memory of her I had replayed in my head. Ever since then, I’ve felt a similar sensation when looking at corpses.
That about sums it up and that’s the reason why I’m staring at the mauled corpse in front of me instead of running from the creature that caused it. The growling abomination of muscle that was slowly sauntering toward me.
“Hoo-man…” It spoke to me, its primitive mind just sharp enough to let out a barely cohesive word.
I couldn’t see it though, I was too busy looking at the corpse. A man, late 60’s, fairly healthy. He had a family too.
“Hooo-man…” It sounded Angry.
It was angry, after all, I should’ve been running or screaming or pissing myself in terror and I probably would’ve done all of those things eagerly…If it just wasn’t for that damn corpse in front of me.
His first daughter went off to college, she’s earning a degree in business and management. Understandable, these days management positions in guilds were in demand and paid a lot, more than what I made. A business savvy person would earn more than a living if they had enough skill to distinguish themselves.
His oldest daughter would be alright without him, it was what he thought during his last moments. A look of resignation was left on his face that remained intact unlike his body. He was right, she was a bright girl who would toughen up after this loss because she had two siblings to look after. A younger brother and sister who were weaker than her and would need her support to go on.
“Could you shut up, please?” The words came out my mouth before I could stop myself.
No, I no longer had control of my own body, I was just staring at that corpse and I would probably take my place right next to it pretty soon.
Would someone look at my body and see my history? My dad maybe, he was a man who tried his best to close the distance between us left by our shared loss.
This man…this corpse in front of me didn’t have to worry about that. His wife was the glue of the family like my mother was. The wife of this corpse would weep after this but her oldest daughter, the one in college, she’d help bring them all together again…eventually.
“Dum, Hoo-man?” It slowly moved to obstruct my view but the corpse was still visible and so long as it was, I would still be here to look at it.
“You’re one to talk,” I replied dryly.
Was this my death? I wasn’t as scared as I thought I would be. Nope, not a shred of fear ran through my body much like my soon to be companion. He accepted it just as I am right now. Though, unlike him, my body just won’t move and mind can’t focus on anything but him. It should now be understandable how I lost my friends so easily, right?
“Ru-un, Lit-tul Hoo-man!” Did I mention that the creature had a horrible stench? It’s breath smelled worse than a corpse and I would be the one to know.
Just because I was obsessed with them didn’t mean that I would enjoy smelling them. Rather, it’s a smell you become accustomed to and it doesn’t bother you after being around it for so long. And when I was in this state, the smell would fade and I would barely notice. The breath of the creature didn’t allow for such a temporary escape now.
“Hoo-man?” It was curious about me now. It’s grotesque meaty finger reached out and poked me in the shoulder, he was probably bewildered and a little offended by me ignoring him.
“Ouch.” I didn’t sound too sincere but I meant it, that really hurt, a lot.
I wasn’t exaggerating either, its disgustingly twisted fingernail ripped through my shirt and pierced my flesh. Warm blood began to trail down my aching arm but that damn corpse kept me. I guess it’s karma, I did regularly disrespect the dead in a way, staring at them so blatantly with more interest than sadness.
“Bur-ring, Hoo-man…Die.” Its hand was large enough to cover my head and I guessed it already knew that because a heavy palm covered my face but through the gap between its fingers, I could still see that corpse.
“You should really wash your hands.”
Ah, my last words, a cheap insult, sure, but it was anything except for false. Really, if I wasn’t going to die in the next few seconds, I’d be a bit concerned about the amount of germs on the greasy palm about to crush my skull.
“Let him go!” I could hear a man’s voice behind me.
The voice of the man behind me made him sound young, older than me, but still younger than the corpse in front of me. The corpse was almost 60 before his body was torn open like a stuffed animal. Ripped apart, like a spiteful sibling who got their hands on your favorite teddy bear would do.
I never had any siblings, not like the corpse. He had a brother. He must’ve regretted not seeing him before the end. They grew apart, understandable, loss does that to people. It’s a painful memory, much like the monster, that pushes you apart and separates you from the people you care about, much like the corpse. It’s only satisfied when it wrings every single bit of joy and happiness out of you.
I heard something, a bowstring maybe? And then, something hit the monster.
“Hoo-man! Hurt!” It let me go and stomped off toward the disturbance.
More arrows, more growls, more voices, and sounds of fighting that I couldn’t pay attention to.
Why? I hate to sound repetitive, I really do, but that corpse just wouldn’t let me go, not yet. Only when I’ve looked at all it showed would I be able to look away. Until then, it would continue to grasp at me, threatening to pull me down with it.