I’ve always been the solitary type. There’s something about being alone that makes me feel whole, as if silence and solitude are the glue that holds the fragile pieces of my existence together. I suppose that’s why I never minded working as a pathologist in the morgue. It was just me, the dead, and silence.
The day it happened was no different. I was working late, alone in the morgue, catching up on a backlog of cases from the past week. A storm had rolled in earlier, blanketing the city in a thick layer of fog that seemed to swallow up every sound, leaving only a damp, muffled quiet in its wake. I liked it that way.
They’d brought her in earlier that day, found by a jogger deep in the woods just outside of town, her body cold and stiff and hastily concealed beneath a pile of wet leaves. She was young – nineteen, maybe twenty – and beautiful in a way that made my heart ache as I carefully peeled back the thick black bag they’d brought her in. Her skin was waxy and pale, the blue veins spidering beneath it vivid despite the fact that she’d been dead at least two days. Her dark hair was wet and tangled, matted with what looked like blood but could have just as well been mud from the bottom of the forest floor.
I began my examination, unwinding the long tape measure from my waist and recording her height, weight, and other vitals before moving on to external signs of foul play – bruising around her neck, scrape marks on her arms and legs. Beneath her fingernails were bits of what looked like skin and hair. A struggle then – perhaps she’d been strangled or beaten before being dumped out in the woods.
As I worked, I couldn’t help but feel a chill creep over me. Not fear, no – after years of working in the morgue, I’d grown immune to that particular emotion – but a sense of unease. It felt as though this girl, this cold and lifeless body lying before me, held a secret that was just beyond my grasp, something that if I could only pry loose, would unlock the answers to her death.
The silence was different too, heavy and oppressive in a way that seemed to suck the air from my lungs and tie a cold fist around my heart. I strained to catch the faintest sound – the ticking of the clock on the wall, the buzz of the overhead lights – but there was only the dull roar of blood in my ears and the chill of the fog pressing in from outside.
I didn’t notice it at first – just a flicker in the corner of my eye, a sudden rush of movement that was quickly swallowed by the darkness. It was only when it happened again that I realized what I was seeing: shadows, thick and black as tar, coiling and slithering beneath the rows of gurneys and autopsy tables. I tried to ignore them, to continue my work as if they were simply figments of my overactive imagination, but they grew more frantic as the night wore on.
I couldn’t take it any longer. I set down my scalpel and lunged for the light switch, desperate to banish the writhing darkness from my workspace. There was a flash as the room was bathed in artificial light, but when I opened my eyes, I found that the shadows had not retreated. They clung to every surface now, slithering up my legs and crawling across my shoulders before dripping from the ceiling like ink. The air was thick with them, a viscous miasma that made it difficult to breathe.
In a panic, I stumbled backward, tripping over a chair and falling hard to the floor. As I lay there, gasping for air, I caught sight of her – the girl, still lying motionless on the autopsy table. Beneath the shadows, her skin had taken on a sickly hue, a greenish tint that seemed to pulsate with each beat of my pounding heart. Her eyes were wide and glassy, staring at the ceiling above, and I could tell that it was she who held the key to the encroaching darkness. It was her secret, her unspeakable truth that gave the shadows their power.
I forced myself to my feet, determined to banish the darkness and uncover the truth behind her death. As I approached the table once more, scalpel in hand, I felt a wave of nausea wash over me, a gnawing hunger that went beyond any human craving. The shadows had seeped into me too, burrowing deep into my soul until they’d found the very core of my being and begun to feast upon it.
I knew that I couldn’t give in, that to do so would mean succumbing to the darkness and losing myself to it completely. So I pressed on, slicing through the cold flesh of her chest and peeling it back to reveal what lay beneath. And it was there, nestled among the organs and gore, that I found it: a writhing mass of shadow and darkness, pulsating and hungry, feeding off her life force.
The second my scalpel pierced its oily surface it recoiled, a deafening scream tearing through the silence as it erupted from her chest. The entire room was plunged into chaos as the shadows converged upon me, tearing at my skin and clawing at my eyes as they tried to force themselves down my throat.
But it was too late – the truth had been exposed, and with it came a sudden flood of light that seemed to burst forth from every corner of the morgue. With a final shriek, the shadows dissolved into the ether, leaving me standing there soaked in blood and gasping for air.
The girl was gone now too, her body reduced to ashes and scorched bone. Perhaps she had been a ghost, a lost soul trapped between worlds and consumed by the darkness that had killed her. Or perhaps she had simply been a vessel, a warning to those who would dare challenge the shadows that lurked just beyond the edge of our sight.
I’ll never know for certain. But as I stand here now, alone in the morgue and surrounded by the corpses of a hundred strangers, I find that I no longer crave the silence and solitude that once held me together. For it is in the dark and quiet corners of our world that the shadows breed, and it is only by shining a light on their existence that we can hope to banish them for good.