It was 1:30 when the corpse lifted her head and spoke to him.
"I'm not your science project, you know," she said. "I'm a person. Or I was, before you showed up."
He ignored her and continued examining the heart on the scale before him.
"I had a niece," she continued, propping herself up on her elbow. Twin slabs of chest, pale and freckled, drooped toward the cold steel of the table. "She turns nine this spring." She paused, and let her pale eyes bore holes into him. "She wants to be a doctor. Like you."
He glanced up, briefly, and went back to perfecting the sketch of a ventricle spread across part of his desk.
"I was in law school, myself," she continued. She swung her legs over the side of the table, letting them bang against the edges. "Only another 4 years, you know? Then I'd set up a name for myself, get rich, meet a nice guy, move to Melbourne, the whole shebang."
He rolled his eyes and shifted his concentration to an aorta.
She slid down to the floor and began walking around the edges of the room, her fingers gently brushing the jars and shelves. She stopped when she got to the cold metal of the file cabinet, and began rifling through folders. Formaldehyde dripped through the hole in her chest where he removed her heart.
"Hm. Roxanne Starr. Thirty-two, five-foot-ten, one hundred and fifty-four pounds. Married to George Starr, and-" She tutted her tongue and looked over at him. "Oh, now. She was pregnant. Seven months. You naughty thing." She wagged her finger disapprovingly and continued through the drawer's contents, pulled out another. "Sienna? That's a pretty name."
He slammed his pencil down. "Shut up," he hissed. He walked to her, snatched the folder from her hands, and forced her back onto the table.
"That file there," she said as he fixed leather straps around her chest and legs, "Sienna Miller."
"Shut up." He tightened the straps and turned to his desk. He put her heart in a jar on the right corner of his desk.
"Brunette, green eyes, Caucasian?"
"Shut. Up." He gritted his teeth and poured in the formaldehyde.
"She was only twenty-six."
He whirled and got the needle from his desk, along with the stitching thread.
"Oh, very mature. Yeah, just sew up my mouth so you can't hear what I have to say. Way to act your age and not-" And then her mouth was completely closed.
He sighed, relieved, and rubbed his eyes beneath his glasses. This recent move had been the toughest on him- after all, he was getting older, and these were, well, strenuous activities he was performing, not to mention stressful. He'd been having trouble sleeping. He gathered his tools, sealed the jar, nearly dropping it and its precious contents to the cement floor. Look, it was affecting his work-
"Oh, yes , poor baby," she cooed from the table. He looked over sharply. She was sitting up, staring at him. The stitches around her mouth were gone, as were the straps that had held her down. "No sleep for baby?" The rage building in her was evident. "Will he get cranky if he doesn't have his nap?" She picked up a sealed jar (containing her liver) and threw it at him with all of her strength. It was a near miss- if he hadn't ducked it would have broken on his left temple.
She was a whirlwind of rage, grabbing whatever she could get her hands on- jars, pens, papers, a coffee mug- and threw them as hard as she could, the directions of the objects seemingly based on whim. He pressed the side of his face into the wall, covering it with his hands.
It was ten minutes before the sound of breaking glass finally subsided and he cautiously looked through the gaps in his fingers to gauge his safety, and his fortress's destruction.
Instead, he saw her. She was no longer a naked, defiled body- she was as she had been the first time he had come across her, rosy and dark eyed. Her face was inches from his, and he could taste her breath as she hissed, "Sienna Miller, twenty six," into his face. Her lips were full and red, and when they formed around angry words he realized they terrified him- reminded him of snakes. He put his hands over his ears and closed his eyes, fully reverted to a child.
"No, no, open your fucking eyes, listen, listen to me, you sick fuck," she snarled, and wrenched his hands away from his face, slamming him into the wall. He opened his eyes and cowered. "Sienna Miller, twenty-six. Brown hair, green eyes, white skin- you compared it to the moon once. She was a teacher's aide at one of your university's Psych classes, remember?"
He did not immediately reply, so she shook him, violently. "Hmm? Do you?" He whimpered, and she slapped him across the face. "Remember now? Huh? Remember Abnormal Behavior? The text book with the brain on it?" She rubbed his red cheek, leaned in close, and whispered, "You were her favorite." Her breath, breath that shouldn't have been coming out of her mouth like those words, brushed his ear. "And she was yours, too." He shuddered as her tongue caressed his earlobe- it felt unholy; sacrilegious and dirty.
"We were learning about psychosis," said the girl, only when she spoke she didn't sound like herself and when he looked up she didn't look like herself- rather, there in front of him stood Sienna Miller- brown haired, green eyed, with a face as pale and beautiful as the moon. She was naked, and bloody, and raw with anger. It made her terrifying. "You brought up good points; you wanted to discuss them over dinner." Her eyes went black. "But you wanted more than dinner. And you know that, don't you?" He swallowed and it hurt- his mouth was dry.
"After your hand went up my skirt I left- I was practically a teacher, after all. Students were off limits, and to be honest, you weren't really my type anyway. You called me the next day, and said you wanted to apologize. You sounded so flustered and nervous." She paused, and her eyes softened for just a moment. "I liked you, Ashton." He wanted to vomit. So, this was for real, then- no one had called him Ashton in years. "When I got to your dorm, everyone was gone- big football game. You had this pasta dinner all set out, and you kept apologizing for everything. 'Sorry the pasta's overcooked, Ms. Miller, my roommate distracted me.' 'I'm so sorry the place is such a mess, Ms. Miller, I really am, but my roommate, you know, such a pig, typical college guy.' You really wanted me to like you. I remember thinking that was cute. 'Poor Ashton. He's so sweet, poor kid.'" She snorted in disgust.
"Things started out fine; you said you were sorry for the previous night, you cracked jokes, you made me feel comfortable. You're quite the charmer. At least, that's what they tell me." He felt a chill, strong and urgent, pass through his body, and suddenly, there they were: his other twelve, ghostlike and translucent, gathered behind Sienna like her own personal army. He could taste the iron of bile in his throat.
"You said you understood my fears, my inhibitions. After all, student-teacher intimacy is frowned upon. But that didn't stop you from trying to inch your hand back up my thigh. I told you no. I moved to leave; I was angry and insulted. You slapped me and held me down." He could hear it happening as she said it. Her screams were fresh and bloody in his ears. "You screamed at me, shook me, and when I tried to escape you chased me down the hallway and pushed me down the stairs. You did this." She turned to reveal her tailbone jutting out from above her buttocks, partially coagulated blood and yellow bruises flowering and spread over the area. Her spine was visibly twisted and cracked, close to puncturing the skin in places, straining against the tissue and cracking the scabs. It aroused him slightly, until she turned around and he could see her coal-like eyes again.
"I was paralyzed. I could breathe, I could blink, I could feel some things- but I couldn't eat on my own. Couldn't bathe on my own. Could barely shit on my own. Couldn't stop you or cry out when you pushed open my legs and experimented on me like I was your fucking sex toy. You hid me in your closet. You took great care of me. When your room mate was in class, you'd bathe me, brush my hair. Then you'd lube up. Remember when you raped me in the ass so hard that I shat blood in my closet hiding space for a week, or that time you pissed in my mouth, just to see if I would cry?
"Do you remember that? Do you remember me crying?"
He could. He remembered it perfectly. Sometimes, on the rare occasions when he splurged on hookers and dancers, and they were doing a particularly poor job, he would go back to that night. He considered those tears, and the scent of her vomit, leaking out of her mouth, as the most beautiful things he had ever witnessed; his first conquest.
"I was alive for three months in there. You finally took mercy on me- if you have the capability to call it mercy. But you wouldn't just let me go. Couldn't just bury me. You did things with my body. I... I couldn't go home." He watched her lip tremble. Under normal circumstances, he would have been giddy.
She turned away from him, her head held high. "I was going to be a therapist. I was going to help people." He could see her broken tailbone again- it made him salivate. He reached out and brushed it with his fingertips, feeling the crust of pus, the texture of dried blood.
"And look what you did to me!" she screamed. "Look what I became!" She whirled around and caught his index finger in her fist, bending it back until it snapped. He screamed, cowering in the corner. Her skin, once pale, was almost entirely gone- strips still sagged over her cheek, her breasts, and shrouded part of her left eye socket- empty. Her right eye remained, pale and empty and white. A centipede crawled out from behind and dislodged it. It hung by a tendril, bouncing lightly against her raw cheek. She stank of death and rot, worse than any body he had ever worked on before. She was more than twelve years gone.
She snatched at him again, this time taking his other wrist in her hands; she snapped it. He wailed and curled over the protruding, bloody bone fragments that stuck out from the skin, too weak to fight, with his finger and one hand out of commission.
"Get up," she said. He couldn't, and she kicked him in the ribs. Several cracked, and he could do nothing but roll over and take it. "You're pathetic," she whispered. "Fucking pathetic."
He looked up at her through the sheen of tears and sweat and he could see them, all of them: Gwenn Potenta, 18, from Geneva; Wendy Bell, 23, picked up in a highway rest stop just outside Philadelphia; and his black sheep, Ashton Brown, picked out specifically because of his name. Then there were the ones who he could not remember. They weren't good; they didn't scream, or cry, or beg to his satisfaction(Ashton had cracked a rib and given him a black eye- well worth it).
Sienna stood at their head- the leader. You know why we're here, they said, collectively. Their mouths weren't moving, but he could hear it. He knew it.
You know what you've done.
He threw up- cream tinged with blood.
"What about me?" He looked up, and, in front of Sienna, was his freshest. She kneeled and brushed a dark lock of hair from in front of his eyes. "What about me? Why did you take Melbourne from me?" Drool hung in a long thread from his lips. As he spoke, it swung through the air. "Stupid bitch," he slurred, "You're such a stupid, ugly bitch-" His body crumpled. She had broken his desk chair over his head. He could feel that his cheek was broken, along with his jaw. It felt as though chunks of his ear were missing, and his left eye was glazed over with red- it was getting difficult to see out of.
She grabbed his arm and hauled him onto his knees, driving the pointed steel edge of a broken chair leg into his soft belly. He made a thick, gargling noise, and slumped over onto her shoulder. Thirteen pairs of hollow, corpse eyes stared at him. Ashton Brown giggled.
He could feel the steel between his organs, puncturing them and forcing him to bleed harder out of his mouth and wound. He should be dead by now- but he wasn't.
Suddenly, he felt it slide out of him, and the girl, whose name, in his shroud of pain, he had completely forgotten, moved away; and then Sienna was there, his scalpel in hand. She smiled, showed rotting teeth. She reached up a skeletal hand, pointed at her left eye, and drove the point of the scalpel through his right. She scooped it out of the socket and flicked it towards the wall, where it bounced wetly. He screamed and Asher cut out his tongue, so he just gargled, choking on his own blood. He wished for death, and Death turned his head and laughed.
They all took their turns- Gwen, the one he had raped the hardest, shattered a beaker and shoved a large, jagged piece into his anus; Wendy, who he had been most experimental with (he had cut parts of her up and stewed them, fed them to his dog, a stray cat, and donated the remains to a charity soup kitchen) cut off each of his fingers and toes with a dull steak knife, after tenderly ripping the nails from their beds. They all took their turns with him, and he finished with Roxanne, former mother-to-be, slowly slicing off his penis and scrotum.
He then watched as she ate them, raw and bloody, smiling with a deep red clown's mouth.
Sienna and six others went to his head and lifted him by his arms; Roxanne and the other five went to his bottom and lifted his legs so that he was parallel to the floor. Sienna smiled down at him. Blood and spittle dripped from his lips and stained the floor.
"Welcome to Hell," she whispered, and then they ripped him in half.
He realized he was screaming and shut his mouth, confused. He was in his office, the night one, where he did his important work. It was calm, and neat, and his tongue and toes were not missing, and he was not covered in blood and corpses were not speaking to him. His desk was prepped with tools, as was the body. It was 12:00 A.M. He smiled, got his things, and prepared to operate.
An hour later, he had her chest cavity open, organs removed and catalogued, and his sketchpad out. He was sketching her heart, to add to his collection. He drew parts of every body he ever had- perhaps one day he'd have a whole person, muscular tissue and all.
One of his lines was off- as he got up to retrieve his eraser, he thought he saw the girl on the table sit up and stare at him. But when he looked, she was dead on the table, just like she had been before. Maybe she was a zombie. He chuckled at the thought, and went back to his drawing.
It was 1:30 when the corpse lifted her head and spoke to him.
"I'm not your science project, you know," she said. "I'm a person. Or I was before you showed up, anyway."
He paused. This sounded familiar, but he didn't pay much attention to it, nor did it strike him as odd that the girl he had killed was speaking to him. He went back to his drawing.
"I had a niece," she said, propping herself up on her elbow. The two slabs of flesh he had cut open to get at her heart were moist and seemed to suction themselves onto the table. "She turns nine this spring." She paused, and stared. "She wants to be a doctor. Like you."
He looked up, then went back to his work. Clearly it was just the late hours getting to him- he'd ask his secretary, the cute young thing, to brew him up some stronger coffee in the morning so he could still function. He knew it was a bit soon just after this one, but Lanolin, the feisty ginger, was too tempting. For a moment he allowed his mind to wander and imagined her naked, creamy skin dotted with freckles, forcing himself into her mouth, ripping out a few teeth, choking her with her own hair-
He felt a pain in his side, suddenly. He looked down, saw blood staining his shirt. Shocked, he untucked it from his pants and lifted it, revealing a deep, wide gash that stretched all the way across his abdomen, organs just visible behind the thinning wall of tissue. He looked up, horrified, remembering- and for just a second, he could see them all, every single one, rotting faces writhing and twisting with rage and anguish, but soon they were gone, leaving him and his most recent conquest alone.
She smiled at him maliciously, fingering one of the scalpels. "Now that you've had your group welcome," she said, teeth showing in an ape-like grimace, "I think it's time we had some one on one time, don't you agree, Ashton sweetie?" She caressed his Striker saw, which he'd used most recently to cut through her rib cage, holding it up to the light. For a second, in its reflection, he thought he could see his face, terrified and bloody as a victim's.