An abrasive flurry rolls over gravestones, poking out from the morgue's grey gardens like fingernails of a decaying, subterranean titan. With a flick of her wrist Nora ignites the rag-fibers of Frank's last cigarette with an zippo prolonged from her coat pocket. The words: NO STEP ON SNEK, are written on the lighter's azure surface as well as a crude etching of an annoyed serpent sporting a V-shaped monobrow.
Nora takes a long, drawn-out drag. Her homunculi companion twiddles his latex thumbs.
“I’m a certified restoration artist,” he says, smiling like a toothless carnival ride operator.
“I don’t know what that is,” Nora coughs.
“You ever been to an open-casket service?”
“Not personally, but I know what you mean.”
Thanks, “Six Feet Under.”
“Well,” Frank explained. “When most folks pass they appear notably different to the living. It’s subtle. Almost impossible to describe, but they catch it every time. The bereaved prefer sending their loved ones off looking the way they used too, peaceful, alive, and whatnot.”
The uncanny valley is a tempestuous force on mere mort-
Shit that burns!
“So the morgue pays you to do, what, exactly? Makeovers for the dead?”
“Necro-cosmetics, more-or-less. Depending on the COD. That means, 'cause-of-death.'
Nora already knows that. She's memorized many abbreviations. Frank continues.
“Heart attacks and brain hemorrhages are a godsend for the industry but derma-surgery’s to be expected. More often then not someone gets into a rather nasty mishap and has to be put back together like a big, person-shaped jigsaw puzzle.
Nora's mind played a clip from Clive Barker’s Hellraiser: The scene where Pinhead reassembles the mutilated face of Sean Chapman.
“And how does one go about that?” She asks.
“Standard restoration materials such as wax, plaster, pliancremé, and hot-chocolate.”
“Dead people and cocoa-what more could one ask for?”
“Sorry, that’s just mortician-diction. Hot-chocolate’s a powder used for shadowing. Great for nostrils, lips, chins, cleavage, any crevice, really. It looks just like cocoa but isn't edible. ”
“Good to know."
“Wanna know a trade secret?” Frank asked with gumminess in his gaze.
Taking a second puff, Nora nodded, hacking meekly like a chain smoking sugar glider.
“Spray-paint. Nothing sticks better. Nothing drys faster.”
The wind howls. Nora's brain cuts to an image of Bruce Willis' bald, phallic head.
“Fascinating. ” She says, digging in her balmacaan.
She removes a paper square, folded six times, hands it to Frank
“For the smoke." She explains.
Frank gawks at the little quadrilateral like a Neanderthal offered a vibrator.
“What is it?” He asks.
“A scene. I wrote it. I don't cary cash but I prefer trades to charity.”
A blank stare from Frank.
“You’ve seen the poetry-buskers downtown, right?” Nora asks.
“You’re mean the hipsters with the typewriters that hangout by the Varsity Theatre?”
“Brennen and Sherease, yeah. Their poems go for a dollar, apiece. A scene's like a poem in that it's short, entertaining, and tells a story but with more words and is coherent.”
An eyebrow on Frank’s face lifts skeptically.
“What’s the scene about?” He asks.
“Why don’t you find out?” She answers, presenting the note with her paraffin fingertips.
A gloved hand extends with orange, outstretched fingers-
The wind howls.
Nora’s fingertips loosen and the note’s caught in a school of fumbling, sardonic leaves. The school floats past Frank for 6-meters before an obelisk, covered base to tip with rhubarb-red vines, stops the note dead in its tracks. Frank doesn't want to trek the semi-great distance, but chivalrious-deprivation can change a man.
“I got it!” Frank grumbles with a pitiful jog.
“By all means,” Nora replies.
It takes roughly 48-seconds for Frank to reach the monument, claiming the paper oblong. Pretending he’s not out of breath, Frank unfolds the square six times.
He sees an illustration of the Man in the Moon from Georges Méliès’ 1902 silent film, Le Voyage Dans La Lune, with a colossal dolphin penis lodged into it’s right eye socket. Beneath the doodle with flawless calligraphy is a quote.
OF ALL THE WORDS OF MICE AND MEN, THE SADDEST ARE: IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN. -K.V.
“Miss?” Frank calls out in a confusion he hasn’t felt since puberty.
A cacophonous, metal RASP answers him. He sees the knobless, yellow hatch sealed. The concrete doorstop replaced with a smoldering, half-finished cigarette.
Nora seems to have evaporated.