This story is paired with Chapter IV of Bulfinch’s Mythology. For best experience, download the LithoReader for your iPhone or iPad and get NonBinary Review for free.
She was three days into her internship. And it wasn’t that she was having second thoughts, not really, but she was wondering how she had fallen into it. Assistant to the County Coroner. It certainly wasn’t a field she had started out wanting to study. Medical school had been a necessary step to legal midwifery, yet somehow, along the path she had stumbled into forensics and one of her sisters had an in with the person who filled this particular position and that was that. Her future beginning to be tied fast to a fate she had not chosen.
So, here she was. Her new pumps biting into her ankles, the pencil skirt too constricting, and the blouse sticking like wet tissue paper to the middle of her back because of the required suit coat. At least her hair was bound up off her neck and it was a look she preferred as well as giving her some relief from the heat. The damnable heat. She was also refusing to wear stockings and so far no one had mentioned it.
She was sweltering in the late-Spring humidity. And the basement was beckoning, cool and refreshing and what sort of respite was that, she asked herself. The refrigerators, the gurneys with their tragic loads, the drawers, the dissection theatre, and the small room with the curtained window.
She thought of her new boss, the god of all the remains, Dr. P, and how he somehow radiated a fiery heat within the frozenscape of the Office of the Medical Examiner. The Deadhouse. The Corpse Station. And he, Keeper of the Pleas of the Crown. Inquest Holder. The Gore Inspector.
When she had come to interview for the position he had been visibly taken aback. How old are you? the first thing he had asked, as though incredulous at her appearance. In a small angry response, she had blurted out Old Enough. He laughed until he finally grew quiet and studied her hard through a narrowed gaze. Then he stood abruptly, walking around the massive black desk, towering over her, his wild red hair mussed by brushing both long-fingered hands through it, and he grasped her elbow. She had been stunned into stillness by such familiarity and he steered her towards the door and told her she had the position. At the far end of the hallway she turned and looked back, compelled. He was leaning in his office doorway watching her, arms crossed across his chest, head tilted to one side, his eyes shadowed by his brow. Another few steps and she had returned to the sunshine of the afternoon.
Now she was his intern and the days that should have been filling with medical wherewithal were, instead, overflowing with conflicted thoughts of him. Of him and of her. Of being led by the hand into the cold darkness of his basement kingdom, deeper and deeper into his realm until the warm sunlight of her own world faded, a summer tan in Autumn sloughed off for the pale flesh of Winter.
She walked down the sidewalk, away from the coffee bar. Getting his coffee was somehow one of her duties. She had his morning java, black house with three shots of espresso. Grande. And she had her herbal tea. She was trying a different flavor each day. Her heavy bag was slung over her shoulder.
She was juggling all of it, pushing her way through the front doors of the block-long building, and then he was there. Ascending the wide stairs at the far end of the room. He caught her gaze, one foot mid-step on the top step, and slowed, watching her move towards him. She held out the coffee cup and the gesture propelled him forward. It was as though the world itself stopped spinning, or as though he and she became the axis upon which it spun. He took the cup, he took the bag, sliding the strap down her arm and slinging it over his own shoulder. He reached for her hand and pulled her towards the gaping-open elevator. Used for transporting the dead. She tripped quickly after him.
Inside the elevator car the doors glided shut, clanging closed, and he was on her. The coffees fell forgotten to the floor, spilling liquid like blood across the linoleum. The satchel shrugged off and discarded.
His arms were under her arms, lifting her, pressing her against the wall. One long thigh between her legs, pushing her skirt up, leaning himself down into her body, his hands splayed and fast on her back, fingertips in the well of her spine. Pulling her against him until she could feel his heart beating out all the long syllables of her name.
And then, at last, at last, he was kissing her. Devouring her, swallowing every recognizable part of herself. And she allowed him this hunger. Her lips as red as pomegranate juice.
Elizabeth Vegvary is a half-centurion woman living in the wild woods of a small foothill community in Northern California. A professional photographer and lactation educator by trade. A writer by drive. She loves dogs, mules, tattoos, and reading poetic prose.