Piercing the Veils of Death: A Paranormal Exploration
Disclaimer - Graphic Scenes Are Described In The Excerpt Below!
Excerpt from the Apologue: A Dispute With Departure
“Time of death… 23:40 hours.”
Doctor Jacob Kellenburgh, a young, tall man, bare of facial hair, which would distinguish him as a recent graduate of medical school. Nothing marred his pristine complexion except a distinctive mole above his left eyebrow. The anesthetized doctor clasped his stethoscope firmly in his hands as he scuffed his shoes across the black and white vinyl hallway floor leading to the waiting room.
The waiting room, poorly lit; and dressed in somber earth tones, offered some type of beverage, which was endorsed as coffee. Beside the murky forty weight sludge endorsed as a caffeine pick me up, sat a platter with traces of cookie crumbs, which had been left behind, and a decorative note card, which read; “Donated by, The Sisters of St. Chelsea of Providence – Your Local Catholic Charitable Foundation.”
Sitting all alone, just beginning to doze off, clenching a tissue in her right hand and her purse in the left, was Stephen Allendale’s wife, Tracy Allendale.
“Mrs. Allendale, do you know if your husband had any allergies to medicine or to anesthesia?” The slinky doctor asked while gently grasping her shoulder.
“What’s wrong? Where’s Stephen?” Mrs. Allendale startled, not realizing what the doctor had asked.
“Understand, we did everything we could; everything possible.” Tracy stood with a confused look of desperation and an ominous look of fear strangled her face.
With the same sympathy and empathy, which would precede his lunch order at the hospital cafeteria, the young doctor blurted out, “Mr. Allendale passed away.”
“What? What are you talking about?” Tracy Allendale began shaking and crying uncontrollably. Her mascara ran down both cheeks and her nose was turning a distinctive shade of rosy red.
Shortly after 3:00 PM
Here I lay – naked, on an icy steel table. I can see right through the thin sheet they have draped over me. I can see, but I cannot move; I cannot talk. Why? Is this is a nightmare? Why can’t I just wake up, damn it?
In Stephen’s peripheral vision; he can see a tall steel cabinet, a steel desk, and a sink. He thinks he can see a cart, or something resembling a cart – it has various medical instruments on it. He can hear every noise including the soft buzz emanating from the overhead fluorescent lighting. So, if I can see and I can hear why can’t I talk? Why can’t I move? I am so cold and so tired.
The Next Day
Tracy Allendale was beginning to reflect the outward appearance of a woman who had just lost her love. She was now dressed in a black knee-length fall dress wearing black high heels. A shadowy dark grey, full-length wool wrap sweater draped her shoulders and tied loosely at the waist. Her eyes were sad and her normal chipper smile had morphed to a dropping grimace of sorrow and pain. She was unable to wear a guise of deceit, which crippled her life from the few short days prior, which to Tracy seemed like an eternity. Any unsuspecting observer could notice Tracy was now deprived of some basic necessities of life – a reason to live, a sense of love. Tracy, like the autumn leaves falling to the ground, was feeling as though she wanted to shrivel up and return to where she once came from, the beginning of time, a time when Stephen was still here. A time when living meant sharing life and days had been filled with happiness and love. A time when daily they would greet one another with a familiar kiss and an affirmation of their love with a smile and a single word -- "Forever"!
Where am I now? I haven’t been asleep that long. It looks similar to the last room. There’s Tracy. Honey, I’m in here. She can’t hear me. What the hell is going on? Why does she look so unhappy? Tracy, what’s wrong? What’s going on here?
“Mrs. Allendale, I’ll be right outside if you need anything,” a lanky fellow dressed in a drab black suit said; as he turned and exited the room.
“Oh, Stephen! Stephen, I miss you so much,” Tracy wept; as she knelt beside Stephen. Her voice was so grief stricken she would barely get the words out.
Tracy, I’m right here. Don’t cry, honey. There is just some kind of mix-up. They’ll realize I am just asleep and we will be fine. If only I could hold you. I’m trying, Tracy. I’m trying to reach my arms out. I just want to wrap them around you. Stephen struggle’s, but not a single sign of him lifting an arm is apparent. It’s as if they are tied down. I’m trying to lift one… but, it won’t move. Stretch! Damned arm! Why can’t I move? Baby, you’re so close; but I can’t reach you.
“Stephen, I don’t know what I will do without you. I love you so much. Your students will miss you too. You mean so much to them. You were the best thing that ever happened in my life. I miss you so much already.” Tracy wiped her tears on her monogram handkerchief and turned to walk away. The lanky well-dressed man entered and approached Tracy.
“Wait,” she turned to the man, “Mr. Corso, I would like to leave something with Stephen.”
Mr. Corso turned to Tracy, facing her, he invited her outstretched hand with both of his refined delicate undertakers hands he cupped her hand patting it ever so gently, offering a moment of comfort. In a very soft empathetic tone he said, “There will be time for that before the final viewing, Mrs. Allendale. We will treat this; the same as when we served your family in the past, with love and honor.”
“You did a wonderful job with my aunt, Mr. Corso. I trust you with Stephen,” Tracy said as she held the hands of Stephen’s overseer. “I know you will honor him.”
Of course, I knew the lanky fellow looked familiar. This is The Corso Family Funeral Home and that is Frank Corso. I met him when we came to Aunt Betty’s funeral last year. He’s quite talented, he made Aunt Betty look twenty years younger. She was a real hag. We had a hard time believing that the old bag could look so good. He took an old haggard alcoholic beasty woman and made her look like Greta Garbo in her heyday. Yes, Frank Corso has quite a talent with dead people. I am sure he will realize I don’t belong here. I’m still alive.
“Mrs. Allendale, all of the arrangements are in order. If there is anything you are in need of, please feel free to contact me.”
“Thank you, Mr. Corso, for all you are doing for Stephen,” Tracy said as she fidgeted with her handkerchief.
“No thanks are necessary, Mrs. Allendale. Assisting the living, while the deceased makes the transition from this life to the next is our highest concern at Corso’s. We are here for you and your family, Mrs. Allendale.”
Tracy left the funeral home dreading the ride home, but not before she walked back to Stephen and kissed his forehead then whispered, "Forever". Frank Corso offered her a ride, but she turned it down, stating she wanted to go visit her parish priest. Her soul heavily burdened and she wanted to ask her priest, Father MacDougal, to conduct Stephen’s funeral ceremony.
Stephen had always been quite the snarky professor. Although his students respected him for his interesting approach to teaching and allowing even the most opposing views in class discussion, Stephen Allendale would shatter the dreams of any would-be wise-ass bent on causing commotion for the mere cause of drawing attention -- Stephen made an art out of quashing the swelled-head. To his peers Stephen was known as "Professor Overlord", although not one person had the courage or fortitude to refer to Stephen by his moniker to his face.
He was passionate about his work, and more passionate about his students learning correctly. To his friends, Stephen was merely a cynic. He seemed to have a cavalier airiness about him and he questioned everything to the nth degree.
The Stephen Tracy fell in love with was no academic scholar. Back when Tracy and Stephen were in Elementary School together, Stephen was known as a class clown. Perhaps that's why he despised foolishness and clowning in his classroom.
Tracy, on the other hand, had greeted every day with a smile. She would bolt out of bed, walk to the window, no matter the weather, rain, snow, or sun, Tracy would say, "A wonderful day awaits. Let's make it worthwhile!"
Yes, Tracy was a ray of sunshine and kept Stephen towing the line. She would say, "Stephen, today is such a wonderful thing to waste. Let's make something of it and love it!"
Stephen would raise an eyebrow. Smile and retort, "My dear, I may have a few marbles loose, but I do know one thing for certain; you are the only thing that makes sense to me in this entire universe!"
Stephen once viewed their relationship as "polar opposites". Tracy put it into perspective, "Yes, Stephen. But you see, even the earth must have polar opposites for it to rotate with precision, otherwise life could not be sustainable."
Complimenting one another, Stephen and Tracy vowed as children to remain together, "Forever".
When Tracy left the premises, Frank Corso began his descent to the preparation room one floor below the main level of the funeral home.
There was a service elevator, which enabled Frank to easily move the bodies in their caskets to the viewing areas once proper preparations had been completed with the once living bodies. Frank, the physically strong and frugal man he was, chose to save money and use the staircase as much as possible.
The stairwell was steep. Being a slim man; and having spent years embarking the flight of steps, Frank could walk the stairs in blinding darkness and not miss a single step. The walls were frigid cold and made of cinder block; painted a bleached sterilized shade of white. The sterilized cinder block walls followed throughout the preparation room, as did the chill in the air. A blast of cool air escaped when the door was opened to the preparation room in the basement.
Frank, I am in a coma or something? Help me, please! Stephen pleaded.
Frank removed his suit jacket and hung it up in the stainless steel cabinet. He slowly removed a pair of rubber slippers from the cabinet examining them. He gently slipped out of his patent leather shoes, brushing the dust from their shiny tips and he slid his feet into the rubber slippers. Frank removed a rubber butcher’s smock from the cabinet and gently placed it over himself, covering his torso and being ever so careful to tie the nylon ties just perfectly, reminiscing about the way he learned to tie knots in the boy scouts when he was a child. An elastic hair net is lightly snapped over his head. He tucked his hair in making sure to gather every strand. Frank walked toward the table where the surgical instruments lay. Checking to make sure; the instruments are all in order, Frank heads to the sink where he begins scrubbing. After a thorough scrub, he places a pair of surgical gloves on and with a final snap of the gloves he heads to the table where Stephen awaits.
Stephen Allendale began thinking: We entered the emergency room at 10:30 AM yesterday… I think it was yesterday… I don’t even know what day it is anymore. Okay, so I was diagnosed with an enflamed gallbladder. The doctors said I had gallstones… Sure, I was in a lot of pain… but if I knew the alternative was this… damn, I would have dealt with the pain.
“Stephen, I do hope you don’t mind the informalities, but I never call my family by their last names. You are now my family Stephen, and it would be too impersonal to refer to you by last name. We are very personal here.”
Frank, can you hear me? I’m in here… I’m not dead yet… Frank! Stephen attempts to move a finger. If only Frank can see I’m still here. However, as hard as he tries he is unable to move his finger.
“Stephen, you can let go now. The living must live and the dead must let go. In two days time you will be buried. Buried, why Frank? I’m still here!
“If you have not made peace, you must do so before it is too late.” Frank walks over to his portable stereo and he turns on classical music.
Hey, I know this music. Frank, I can hear the music. How can I be dead if I can hear the music? It is The Dead March from Sal by Handel. Go figure, a mortician listening to this song while... Don’t ask me how, but I know this song. Frank, hear me? Damn you Frank!
Frank Corso places his thumb and forefinger over Stephen’s left eyelid. He opens it wide to place the eye cap in, ensuring Stephen’s eyes will hold a lifelike appearance. Frank! What the hell are you doing? Don’t touch my eyes… I’m serious Frank, I don’t even like the optometrist touching my eyes. Damnit, Frank! Frank gazes deeply into Stephen’s eyes during the process. “Stephen you are in a far better place now. Your family and friends must endure the tragic pain… the pain of a tragic loss of someone who is loved, someone as young as fifty-two, runs deep. Suffering each day… during the holidays… your wife, each evening when the sun sets. The sooner you let go… the sooner your loved ones can move on.” Frank slowly and respectfully closed each of Stephen’s caped eyes.
Frank what are you talking about? I am still here. I am right here, Frank! I swear as soon as I get back to normal, I’m going to poke you in both your eyes and say a bunch of crazy shit… and we’ll see how you like it!
“I will preserve you in death. You shall be restored with life for your departure. I respect you and your body as your body is the temple of your soul. I will cleanse your body of the filth of this world and prepare it for the next. You shall not be disrespected," Frank said as he places a towel over Stephen’s genitals. “Sleep now my child, soon it will be time.” Frank places his hand over Stephen’s eyes, and mouth, and positions his head upward in a slight fifteen-degree position to the right – in the direction the family will be viewing Stephen.
Frank makes the necessary cuts for the procedure. He places the tubing running to the embalming machine in their designated openings. The caregiver of the deceased turns on the apparatus that will drain his blood and replace it with the embalming fluid. All the while, Frank is careful to act diligently, constantly monitoring and sanitizing each instrument. When he is finished with the embalming machine, the mortician gazes at Stephen as if to offer a parting salutation to his work, then he turns off the machine.
Stephen attempts another cry for help. Frank, I can still hear you. I know… I can’t move my mouth or anything else… But, you have to be able to see somehow that I am still with you… Frank, please! Tracy needs me… I don’t want to leave her… she’s my whole universe. If anything should happen to her… I could never forgive myself. I promised to take care of her… forever.
Stephen continued to plead with Frank as he tried to figure out a way to make Frank realize he was not dead, but now Stephen was beginning to doubt his existence. As soon as the doubt surfaced, Stephen suppressed it, convinced he was merely in a coma.
Frank approached Stephen with the trocar in his hand. Frank begins to insert the trocar in Stephen’s abdomen to release the gasses and liquids trapped inside his body.
Frank, what are you doing. No, don’t! NO! Don… Shit… that hurts… Frank, get that damn thing out of me I can… feel you pushing… it… in. No!
Frank inserts the trocar with the necessary pressure. Inserting the trocar into the human body takes a of bit of pressure and strength. Frank may be a lanky man, however, he is very strong. Frank works out daily lifting a casket repetitiously to keep in shape. He keeps a casket in his apartment above the funeral home. It is the first casket Frank helped to build and line with satin when he was a teenager, a summer project Frank and his father worked on together, a magnificent specimen, one Frank is very proud of.
Frank inserts the trocar into Stephen, like a toothpick gliding through soft butter on a hot summer day. The remainder of the preparation procedure is prescriptive and uneventful.
Once the body is prepared, Frank places a sheet over the deceased, the sheet helps prevent dehydration, which leads to a rapid decay of the body. “We do this to keep you fresh Stephen. It’s important for you to look good for the service.”
The Following Morning