AUTOPSY – A Short Story

My name is Zack Greenlee and the story that I’m about to tell you is true.   You may find it unbelievable, but rest assured – so do I. No matter how absurd and far-fetched it may sound to you, I know for a fact that it’s the God’s honest truth, because it happened to me.

And I have the scar and the documents to prove it.

It all started on Christmas Eve when my wife and I sat down to have dinner with a few of our friends, something that we’ve done every year for the ten years that we’ve been married. I love the Yule season and all of the joy that it brings.   The bright, multi-colored lights, the decorations, and overall warm feeling is something I have treasured since I was a young boy. While all Christmases are special to me, this particular one is the one that I will never forget, for what I experienced on that night changed my life in a way that I would have never thought possible. It also changed my entire outlook on life, and how precious and valuable it truly is.

I was sipping on a glass of red wine that my wife had poured for me while I enjoyed the company of our friends, laughing and talking, having a splendid time, when suddenly, the world around me came to a screeching halt. Paralyzed, I fell from my chair onto the floor, unable to move or to speak. As I lay flat on my back, I could see my wife, Phyllis, and friends hovering over me. Phyllis was screaming and crying, falling to her knees beside me and holding my hand. Everyone was talking and staring down at me, but their voices sounded muffled and faint, as if coming from the inside of a tunnel.

Call 9-1-1!” I heard someone yell.   It sounded like my lifelong friend, Terrence, but I can’t be too sure because at that particular time, everyone sounded the same. “Now!”

Even though I could hear them speaking and see them moving about through my peripheral vision, I could not respond.   No matter how hard I tried to speak, my lips nor tongue would move. My unblinking eyes stared openly at the ceiling, looking at nothing in particular, yet trying to focus. Although I was completely cognizant of everything that was going on around me, I was unable to do even the smallest of things – like lifting a finger or wiggling a toe. I even heard the doorbell ring and the two paramedics asking questions as they made their way toward me with a stretcher.

“I’m not getting a pulse,” I heard one paramedic say. The drum of the stethoscope was cold as it touched the bare skin of my chest. I saw the paramedic shake his head at his partner, silently telling him that there was also no heartbeat.

“I’m sorry, ma’am,” one of the paramedics said, speaking to Phyllis, who had refused to leave my side even when the paramedics told everyone to step away. “But there’s nothing we can do.”

“No, no, no!” she whimpered. “Don’t tell me he’s dead! Please don’t say that.”

“I’m sorry, ma’am,” the same paramedic said.   “But he is.”

More muffled conversation from our group of friends, but I couldn’t understand any of it. Nor could I see them because they were no longer in my line of view.

And then I heard the most horrible sound imaginable as the zipper on the body bag closed, enshrouding me into pitch-black nothingness.

“I’m not dead! Let me out of here!” I screamed, my words heard by no one other than me.

There were no sirens blaring as the paramedics made their way toward my destination, and if there were any emergency lights glaring, I would not have been able to see them.

My ride lasted no more than five minutes when I heard the back door of the ambulance open and felt the stretcher I was on being pulled out. Another couple of minutes passed before I felt myself being lifted up and moved onto a hard-surfaced table.

I heard the zipper again, and then light, sweet glorious light, and oxygen. “Oh, thank God! They finally realized that I’m alive!” I was huffing and puffing for breath, short-winded from being inside the darkness for so long. But, wait a second. If I was gasping for air, why was no one noticing? Couldn’t they see me?

Another thought struck me, one that would have made me have a debilitating panic attack under normal circumstances. Obviously, this wasn’t normal.

“I did die,” I thought. “And I’m in Heaven, or Hell, whichever place I went to.   That’s why they can’t hear me breathing, can’t see the rising and falling of my chest. Either that, or I’m having an out of body experience – or a horrible nightmare from which I need to awaken. Yes! That’s it! That’s what’s happening. “Wake up, Zack!” I screamed to myself.

Nothing.

“Sorry to call you out on Christmas Eve, Doc,” the paramedic who had tended to me said. I had no idea what either one’s name was because they hadn’t addressed each other by name. I only knew that both were male.

The two of them lifted me out of the body bag, but then laid me back down on the table – it’s steely coldness cutting through the thin fabric of my shirt.   How I hoped the iciness would cause goosebumps! Surely they would see those…wouldn’t they?

“Can’t any of you hear me?” I screamed. “Look at me!”

As before, I was again flat on my back, staring up at an oblong fluorescent light that was nearly the same length of the table.

“Blink, dammit!” I commanded myself. “Move your hand, lift your foot! Don’t just lay here – do something!”

“It’s no problem,” came a voice I had not yet heard.   “I didn’t have any plans tonight anyway. Besides, I’ve got my assistant here to help. We’ll get this one knocked out in no time and be home in time for Santa Claus.”

“Why is this man undressing me?” I wondered.   “And why is he cutting my clothes off instead of unbuttoning my shirt and unzipping my pants?”

A spray of cold water washed over me, starting on my head and ending at my feet. Why was this man giving me a shower using only cold water while I lay naked on a bare metal table? Was he trying to kill me? I’d surely die of pneumonia after that ice bath!

Then an uncanny thought came to mind.   Perhaps the cold water would give me an erection. He couldn’t possibly miss that!

If he did see it, he paid absolutely no attention to it.

Oh well, at least he was kind enough to put a pillow under my head while he physically assaulted me!

“Such a pity,” I heard him say softly. “It’s sad enough to see such young people die, but at Christmas, it’s even sadder.”

He stood over me as he strapped a microphone over his ear and adjusted the mouthpiece.

But I’m not dead!” I screamed. “Listen to my heartbeat! Check my breathing!” Of course, I was only screaming inside my head, for my lips remained sealed, my eyes unblinking.

With overwhelming horror, I suddenly realized where I was and why I had just received an ice cold shower. I was in the morgue, on an autopsy table, and that wasn’t a pillow under my head – it was a headrest, the elevation necessary when the bone saw began slicing through my scalp and skull. The man standing over me whom the paramedic had called Doc was a coroner.

He turned on the light above the table, blinding me with the brightness of the fluorescent bulbs. I wanted desperately to shield my eyes from the glaring luminescence, but I couldn’t, and I knew I’d go blind if I stared at it for too long, but resisting it was beyond my control.

“Today’s date is Sunday, December 24, 2017,” he began speaking. “My name is Doctor Samuel Fox, Chief Medical Examiner for Winston County, Indiana.   Name of the deceased is Zacariah Dominic Greenlee, as identified by comparing the name on his driver’s license to that on the county toe tag.” Dr. Fox laid the clipboard that he had been holding beside my bare leg, the corner of it poking into my skin, then began his external examination of my body.

“Deceased is a thirty five year old Caucasian male, measuring seventy two inches and weighing approximately one hundred nine kilograms. The body is unremarkable.   There are no visual signs of trauma to the exterior body; no contusions, no abrasions, and no lacerations. The sclera of both eyes are white and appear to be healthy. Mr. Greenlee did not present with any type of corrective lenses in his personal belongings, nor do I see any contact lenses on the eyeball itself.” He stopped abruptly, leaning in closer. He was so close, in fact, that I could see the tiny red blood vessels on his nose. “Hmmm,” he grunted, and then stood erect again.

“What is it, Dr. Fox?” A different voice, one I hadn’t heard before and had no idea was in the room.

“Probably nothing, but I find his eyes to be quite peculiar.”

“In what way?” he asked, joining Dr. Fox on the opposite side of the table, coming into my view.

“Take a look for yourself.”

“Hey, I know this guy,” the second man said.

“Is that going to interfere with your ability to properly perform your job duties?”

“No, no. I mean, I don’t know him personally, I know of him. He’s been on the news a lot lately.”

“Whatever for?” Dr. Fox asked.

“I think he’s an investment broker or something like that. He’s been running some kind of a scam, cheating the elderly and retirees out of their life savings, robbing them of millions of dollars. He took every cent they had to their names and left them with nothing. He has multiple lawsuits pending against him, but he’s fighting every single one. Hired some high-falootin’ attorney that’ll probably get him off, too. That’s why he’s been in the news.”

“Oh, dear,” Dr. Fox said, shaking a finger at me.   “You’re not a very nice man, are you?”

“What am I looking at, Dr. Fox?” he asked. He was a much younger man and nice looking, with black hair and green eyes. Too handsome to do this kind of work, I thought. Probably doesn’t get too many dates once they find out where he works.   “What do you see, Matthew?   Better yet, what don’t you see?”

“His pupils,” Matthew answered after studying my eyes for a few moments. “They’re not dilated.”

“Exactly!” Dr. Fox confirmed. “There’s also no petechial hemorrhaging. A little strange for someone who suffered a cardiac arrest, wouldn’t you say? Then again, in this business, you’ll see a lot of strange things. I’ve had corpses burp, fart, and sit upright. One even knocked a scalpel out of my hand once when he had a muscle spasm in his arm.”

Dr. Fox picked up the clipboard, wrote something down, and then returned it to the table.

“Upon my examination of Mr. Greenlee’s outer body, I have no reason to believe that he died of anything other than natural causes. Now, to begin my internal exploration,” he said, picking up a scalpel.

Oh, my God!” I bellowed. “Oh, God, please,” I begged. “Show him that I’m not dead! Please let him see something that will confirm that I’m still alive! I’m truly sorry for everything I’ve ever done. I’m sorry I cheated all of those people out of their money. I’ll give it all back, I promise! Please don’t let me die!”

“Matthew,” Dr. Fox said.

“Yes, sir?”

“Do me a favor, will you? Check the time of death listed for Mr. Greenlee.”

I heard the shuffling of paper coming from behind me, then Matthew’s voice. “Six fifteen pm.”

“That was approximately four hours ago.”

“Yes,” Matthew confirmed.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” I said, feeling certain that Dr. Fox had found something that would confirm that I was still a living man.

“This will most definitely be one of those cases that I can add to my list of autopsy oddities,” Dr. Fox said.

“Why do you say that?”

“Like I told you, Matthew, you will see a lot of strange things working here. Some you will be able to explain, some you won’t. This is one of those that I won’t be able to.”

“What do you mean?” Matthew asked, returning to the table and standing beside Dr. Fox.

“What I mean, Matthew, is that Mr. Greenlee expired about four hours ago, yet there is no blood pooling, no modeling, no signs of rigor mortis. Absolutely no indications that point to death. Wouldn’t you say that’s a little strange?”

“I would,” Matthew answered. “Now I see what you mean about oddities.”

“YES!” I hissed. “Dr. Fox did find something that confirmed I’m not dead!”

My hopes were short-lived as I immediately felt the blade of the scalpel slice deep into the skin of my left shoulder as Dr. Fox began his “Y” incision. The pain was excruciating, yet in my catatonic state, I could not tell Dr. Fox that he was about to kill me by performing an autopsy on a living person!   My life was about to end.

“Good Lord in Heaven!” Dr. Fox stammered, dropping the scalpel and taking a step backward.

“What the…?” Matthew began, his mouth agape.

“My sentiments exactly!” Dr. Fox proclaimed incredulously. “Dead men don’t bleed, Matthew.”

“They don’t cry either, Dr. Fox,” Matthew replied, pointing to a single tear that rolled down from the corner of my eye.

“Get an emergency team in here right now!” Dr. Fox barked. “And tell them I said STAT!”

“Thank you, God!” I screamed, only to be heard by me.

“Mr. Greenlee, if you can hear me, please know that I am so, so sorry. But don’t you worry,” he said, patting my shoulder. “We’re going to help you through this.”

He did not suture the incision that he made in my chest. Instead, he held it together tightly and placed steri-strips over it, telling me that he wasn’t going to cause me any more pain than he already had and that it would be taken care of by medical staff that actually dealt with the living.

And they did.

It took one hundred and fifty staples to repair my chest and three days in the hospital while the medical staff tried desperately to figure out exactly what had happened to me.

They came up with nothing.

Every single test that they ran on me came back normal. There were no drugs or alcohol in my system, nor did I suffer a heart attack or a stroke. I was labeled a medical anomaly with the term “Temporary Paralysis Of Unknown Origins.” I will probably never know the reason for my ailment, and that’s okay. The important thing is that I’m alive.

I kept the promise that I made and gave back every cent that I swindled people out of. Of course, I had to sell everything I owned but I was okay with that as well. Afterall, it didn’t really belong to me anyway.

My wife was not happy about being broke so she divorced me and ran off with an insurance agent. Last I heard, she and her new husband were living it up somewhere out in California.

Some have suggested that I got a good dose of karma, or divine intervention. It’s possible that they just might be right. I won’t question either.

But whatever the reason might be, whether it was something that occurred naturally because of a short circuit in my nervous system, or heavenly assistance from above, I definitely learned my lesson about treating people unkindly; and I can assure you that from this point forward, I will be as kind to others as I want them to be to me.

About glendascorner

I am a wife, mother, grandmother, sister and aunt. I worked for nearly 30 years in the field of law enforcement, but am now retired. I'm originally a southern girl, born and raised in Pahokee, Florida, land of black muck, Lake Okeechobee and the heart of the Glades. I now reside in Clarksville, Indiana and love seeing the change of seasons, the cold weather and blankets of snow. I love writing....blogs, short stories, poetry, and I just finished my first novel, entitled Animus, and hope to have it published.
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2 Responses to AUTOPSY – A Short Story

  1. Gabriele says:

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