Black cloth was traditional, but white would have to do. The coroner’s office flickered orange, the sleek metal tables throwing the candlelight in odd places. She folded the white sheet back from his face. His skin was pale and slack, the color of dirty cement.
The thick smell of papalo overtook the air’s sterile crispness as she ground the leaves between gloved fingers. She pressed her thumb to his forehead. When she spoke his name, each syllable coated her tongue. “Daniel Rojas.”
Heat flowed from her fingers and the skin beneath them brightened. His nose flared, his eyelids twitched. The vocal cords always took a minute to soften and warm. She waited, watching color return as his chest swelled.
He turned his head centimeters at a time, squinting at her in the low light. His fingers tugged weakly at the white linen covering him. She placed a gloved hand gently on his bare one. “Shh stop, Daniel can you hear me?”
“You know my name?” His fingers halted their agitated twitch at her command and she let go. Across the room one of her black candles extinguished itself. He frowned at her apron and the sweater beneath it, and then at the metal table next to him. “You’re a doctor?”
“Yes, among other things. And I know your name, its Daniel Rojas. I have questions for you.” She said smoothly, ignoring the deepening shadows and the cold creeping into her hands.
He nodded slowly.
She relaxed, leaning back against the empty examination table next to his. Another candle flame began to shudder. “Can you tell me what happened to you?”
Daniel Rojas began to shake his head, but stopped, his eyes locked on the ceiling. His fingers once again went to the sheet and the long rows of stitched incisions down his abdomen. “I died. It was very painful. Not anymore though. It doesn’t hurt.”
“You’re beyond pain now.” She explained, behind them the second candle went out and she felt a stab of ice prickle the bones of her hand. “The person who did that to you, can you remember them?”
He moved again, and she watched him trace his body’s never healed wounds with glazed eyes. Another candle sputtered away, she winced. “Daniel, tell me.”
“Yes. I can remember them.” His voice was hollow.
“Describe them.” She leaned forward, no longer patient. There were two candles left haloing them against the pressing dark of the office.
“Beautiful.” His voice cracked as if the memory stifled him, but a croaking laugh escaped his throat. When he twisted his neck to look at her, he was smiling with brilliant white teeth. “My love, it was my love.”
The next candle extinguished in a trail of pale smoke when Daniel grabbed for her and clawed air. She gasped as cold pain flooded her stomach. With one hand pressed to the worming ice under her ribs, she could only stare as the laughing corpse pushed himself up.
Daniel Rojas stumbled off the table, his mouth working inefficiently. “Dead for her, beneath this dark shroud, I’m dead for her.” He spat the manic devotional, teeth grinding against each other.
She reached for the final candle as he lunged at her. The flame burned her fingers as she snuffed it out. Daniel Rojas’ corpse crumpled to the clean industrial tile, no longer filled with whatever had become of Daniel Rojas.
In the dark, she breathed slowly and purposefully, waiting for the lent heat to return to her body.
This week I challenged both myself and Raw Rambles to write something to, or inspired by, La Camisa Negra by Juanes. See what she wrote here.