I’ve written four exercises now but this one, number three, is my favorite so far. It’s quite dark, although by nature I suppose it has to be. Still, when looking back at my other assignments, I do seem to gravitate toward darker subject matter. Could this be a sign?
Prompt #3 – Write the passage that would lead up to the discovery of a body.
“Sir, please come with me,” the police officer said.
I stood and followed him through a set of swinging doors and down a long, narrow corridor, taking deep breaths in a futile attempt to calm myself. The hallway was bathed in fluorescent lights so bright that I had to squint as we passed beneath them. The only sound was our footsteps as they echoed off the stark white walls.
I broke into a cold sweat as we made our way down the corridor. It’s not Sarah, I told myself. Not Sarah. Not Sarah. Not Sarah. I repeated the words over and over in my mind, trying to will them to be true. It was somebody else’s wife we were going to see, not mine. Not my beautiful Sarah with her blue, blue eyes and long blonde hair that always made me think of spun gold when it caught the sun. I didn’t know where my wife was, or where she had been for the past twenty-six days, but I refused to believe that she was here, in this awful place that smelled strongly of antiseptic cleaning products and faintly of decaying flesh.
The officer — Jeremiah, I think his name was — stopped in front of a door labelled B08. How strange, I thought. I’d been half-expecting to see a sign with the words THE MORGUE printed in ghastly Gothic lettering, not one marked with a room number like so many others we had passed. Jeremiah pushed the door open and held it for me. After a moment’s hesitation, I stepped into the room.
It was colder inside than the hallway had been. One of the walls was lined with stainless steel drawers. The rest of the room was filled with cupboards, sinks and countertops. In the middle was a morgue attendant in a white lab coat. He stood beside a table, also stainless steel, upon which lay a body covered in a white sheet. I felt my heart rate quicken.
Not Sarah. Not Sarah.
I swallowed hard and lagged behind Jeremiah until we were standing across the table from the attendant.
Jeremiah turned to me. “She’s got some bruising around the face,” he said. “And there’s swelling.”
I clenched my jaw and stared hard at the floor.
“Are you ready?” he asked mildly.
Was he serious? How could I ever be ready to find out if my wife was dead? Still, I wanted this over with, so I took another deep breath and gave him a curt nod.
Slowly, the morgue attendant pulled back the sheet to reveal the face of the dead woman.