Angel Of Death
by Shannon Wolfe
The lovers had bound their wrists together with metal baling wire before setting themselves on fire. The two corpses lay on the charred cement, blackened semi-circles that bore little resemblance to the human beings . They were still bound by the wrists, but turned away from one another now, and Az stood staring at them wondering what their last thoughts had been. In those final moments, did they rethink the price of their love for one another? Did they scream too loudly as the flames ate away at their hearts, burning away their humanity? Did they still love each other as much in those last seconds before death claimed them? Had it been worth it?
Az thought to himself, that if that's what happened when you loved someone more than life itself, then he wanted no part of it.
He hated these Coroner's calls the most, standing here looking at the wreckage of human folly. If it wasn't some desperate suicide, it was some messy accident or some horrific murder scene. And as always, Az had to endure the heartless jokes of the cops and medical examiners who milled about with dead eyes and expressionless faces. It only served to remind him, that even after death there was no dignity offered you by your fellow man.
It was 5am, and here he was standing in the bitter cold of a deserted Marin playground staring at two lumps of coal who should have been smiling, prosperous human beings. He put on his gloves.
“How's the Funeral Home biz treating you these days, kid?” It was Detective Ryanowski, a callous pig of a human being, who was present whenever Az was called in to do a removal for the Coroner's office. Az couldn't stand the man. He made his skin crawl, and looking into Ryanowski's eyes was like looking into a shallow pool void of all emotion or empathy. Ryanowski was clearly a borderline sociopath, and everytime Az was forced to engage in conversation with the man, the same thought ran through his head, “ Heart attack at the age of fifty-two, the bloody and lifeless corpse of a teenaged prostitute beside him on the bed. Only then will everyone know what a monster this man is.”
Az was unfailingly polite to Ryanowski at all times, knowing him for what he really was, “Oh, you know, it's the same.” He replied. He stooped over the corpses, beginning to remove the wire that bound them together so that he could load them into body bags. .
“Pretty, eh? Ryanowski snickered, “Makes me hungry for Pork Rinds.”
Az shuddered and didn't reply. He truly hated that man.
Az sped down the freeway and flicked his cigarette out the window. In the back of the van lay the two corpses of another in history's long list of ill-fated lovers. For some reason couldn't get these two out of his mind, wondering about who they had been, what their dreams were.. They whispered in his head, telling him stories he tried not to hear.
Daddy was going to send me back to China, the girl said, My homies told me I was a pussy for loving her, the boy said. Images of cherry red lips set into a small oval face barely fifteen years old. A young tough Latino boy holding a gun to his temple, reconsidering and then reaching for the phone. A dark patch of cement where they attended the same high school during the day. Gasoline, a lit book of matches, whispered words of eternity... pain and the starfire pattern of oblivion behind your eyes.. The image slammed out of Az's head almost as soon it had come and he gasped and realized he had been swerving into oncoming traffic, his whole body shaking, blinded by nightmares. The dead followed him everywhere, even in his sleep their rictus faces and glassy eyes swam through his dream landscapes and crawled through his bones like movie set extras from some terrible morality play.
He secretly hated his job, and he could feel the ugly shell of indifference growing over his heart, worming it's way into his soul the same way it had long ago for people like Ryanowski.
With every wreath of flowers he had to set, for every casket he had to carry, for every family member who wailed like an animal and threw themselves at the grave, Az could feel another piece of his humanity crumble away in ashes. He was only twenty-three years old, and already he was beginning to lose it. He was a taxi driver and errand boy for the dead, and the demand for his service was unending.
He had begun to wonder what the point of life really was, when all you had to look forward to was some embalmer standing over you and grimacing at all the fat they're going to have to cut through, or wondering how much putty they're going to have to use to reconstruct your face so that your family won't freak out when they look at you.
The ghosts in the back began whispering at him again, telling him that it was all good, Vato, and that he shouldn't worry so much.
“Shut up!” Az shouted, lighting another cigarette with shaking hands. He was cracking up, and he needed to think about something else. Horror images wriggled around his brain, trying to push through. He was going dancing tonight and wondered what he should wear. Maybe tonight his luck would change. Maybe tonight he could find some better meaning for his own life, instead of worrying so much about the dead.
People said the dead couldn't hurt him, but they already had.