Halloween Haunts by Dorothy Davies

EXTRACT FOR
Halloween Haunts

(Dorothy Davies)


Halloween Haunts

CONTENTS

 

The Dissectionist – Lena Ng

The Congress of Familiars –David Turnbull

Night Creeps – Chris Rodriguez

Halloween Dream - Dorothy Davies

Mortaki – Dan Allen

Darkness Follows – Carie Juettner

Collecting Treats – Daniel L Naden

Masklore –Michael H Hanson

Night of the Goblins - Kevin Jones

Once In A Blue Moon – Diane Arrelle

A Graveyard Haunting – Stuart Holland

Legride and the Matter of the Ripper Murders - Scott Harper

Vengeful Spirits – Olivia Arietti

All Hallow’s Eve – Rie Sheridan Rose

Halloween Again – Wondra Vanian

Whispering Wood – Wendy Lynn Newton

50% Halloween – Dorothy Davies

When Your Skin Is On The Pumpkin – Dona Fox

 


 

The Dissectionist

Lena Ng

 

The room was cool, the fire burning low in the hearth, with a bare concrete floor and bare plaster walls. The acrid smell of formaldehyde. The rolling trolley. His tools shiny, sharpened, laid out on the workman’s bench: a handsaw, scalpels of various sizes, forceps, scissors. The dissectionist, burley and broad, wearing his leather apron, stood at the width of the body table. The skritch of the knives.

A loose arm hung over the table’s edge, anticipating, only slightly mottled, the red of the veins chilled into blue, like delicate branches on a dead tree. The skin was cold, icing into rigidity, grey; the eyes earth brown, muddy and opaque.

The corpse monger stood at the door frame, waiting for his coin. “Fresh from the garden,” he said. “Poor one, planted only yesterday. Unnamed, in an unmarked grave. No one will miss him.”

“That’s what you said last time.” The dissectionist’s graveyard voice could make any man’s skin crawl.

The corpse monger shrugged. “Should have guessed he had a long-lost cousin. They come out of the woodwork at the smell of money.” He shifted his weight from leg to leg. The night waned and there would be more bodies to be gained if he were on his way.

The dissectionist scrutinized the body with an expert eye. It was a nice specimen. No visible injuries, despite the pool of blood settling on the back. No outward deformities, although they would make good teaching examples for the medical students. The linen shroud had kept the insects at bay.

He reached into a pocket and counted some coins. “A discount from last time. And next time, I want a woman. I’ll pay a premium for one.” The money exchanged hands.

The corpse monger accepted the payment with a curdled expression, but made no argument. The last body had put both their livelihoods at risk. The dissectionist was also a dependable customer with whom he’d done much business over the years.  He grumbled under his breath and disappeared back into the night.

The dissectionist began with a broad cut down the length of the body, beginning at the neck, and ending down the full length of the torso. He slowly cut away the five major organs—the lungs, liver, kidneys, brain (after a short time sawing into the skull), and heart—from the connective tissue, preserving segments of the highways of veins and arteries routing into the structure, before placing each into a jar of preserving fluid. He worked down from the major organs to the smaller ones—such as the pancreas and gallbladder—until all seventy-eight organs rested in glass. Hours passed and the darkness of night gave way to the grey of early morning. The labelling and routing of the jars would be the next night’s work, along with the preparation of the skeleton. The dissectionist removed his leather apron, put out the fire, washed his hands, and locked up.

The dissectionist trudged home through the empty streets, then through the dew-dampened fields to his lonely cottage. The interior was gloomy. No wood burning in the fireplace. No warm woman with a smile of welcome. Usually, he enjoyed the quiet solitude, but today for some reason, it felt empty. Some corner of his heart ached. He made himself a humble meal of cheese and stale bread, washed down with a mug of watery ale. Afterwards, he curled onto a cot and fell into sleep.

 

***

 

This one was a beauty. Thick waves of mahogany hair. Unmarked skin like parchment. Thin from the ravages of consumption. Dead eyes, of course, but the colour of a stormy sea.

The corpse monger’s liver-coloured lips stretched out in glee. “A nice one, no? Saved it especially for you. What do you think?”

The dissectionist stood as though stunned into silence. Her beauty, so fleeting, must be preserved. As promised, he paid the corpse monger double as premium. With his morbid smile lingering, the corpse monger went on his way.

The organs were small and slight, the lungs black from disease. The dissectionist removed all but the heart, which he left nestled in the body, and the eyes which he injected with formaldehyde. The empty cavity of her torso, he filled with sawdust and wood shavings.

He opened a trapdoor in the corner of the workhouse, gathered the body and carried her down the creaking stairs. He wrapped her in linen and placed her in a sand-filled coffin, covering her remains. He had tinkered with the ventilation of the room and hoped this time the drying process would take and her body would preserve.

 

He waited four weeks before checking back on the body. The results were beyond what he thought could be believed. She looked almost the same as the day he had received her, though there was some gauntness to the cheeks, some thinning of the lips. The linen shroud and internal sand had absorbed the body fluids which would have led to decay. It was now time to take her home.

 

***

 

She was so small, she could be folded into a duffle bag. He carried her body back to his home. The clothes he chose for her were too large; his first wife was big-boned and full-fleshed and had sewed their clothing with care and he had a full wardrobe for his new bride’s needs. He propped her in a chair as he ate his meal. Afterward it felt strange, since it had been three years, to have another body in the bed. He smelled her hair as he wrapped his arms around her and his breath deepened into dreams.

In his dream, his new bride was dressed in her white wedding gown. He bowed and she curtsied. In the otherwise empty ballroom, they began a wedding waltz. The room spun around and around. Their feet left the floor and they danced like marionettes in mid-air, as though in an invisible music box. He ignored the shadows in the corners.

When evening came, before he left for work, he picked flowers from the garden, large rose blooms he placed on his new wife’s lap. His first wife’s body had well-fertilized the land. It was an accident, he assured himself. He didn’t mean to. He would ensure he would treat this new wife with more care. This wife at least would be silent, which would lead to no arguments. His dormant heart awoke into joy.