Food Chain

She finally slept. Her skin was pale white, no longer the porcelain white of a China doll but rather the dull pitted white of the enamel on a pot which had been handled too much. Passed around after a lifetime of boiling over.

Scent of vanilla from the thick stubby candles permeated the air. Once a favorite flavor, from a vector point in the near future the smell would evoke horror rather than peace. Floral prints upon a beige backing, winged back chairs rose from maple upturned legs. Couch and end tables with wood grained clawed feet clenching at the forest green napped carpet. The slightest half moon brushed past the threshold with each soft swish of the thick glass doors.

The ability to go stealth, to see without being seen was not in his mind. As if concerned she might wake before he could be standing at her side. Long raven hair hung almost to his shoulders, breaking across the dark woolen overcoat draped high across his right shoulder. The walk slow and deliberate, the pattern of which was all the long aisle was accustomed though he had not made this trek since sometime after his days as an alter boy before his innocence was lost in the war. Which war did not matter.

The small sea of heads was as diverse as the shells along the Pang River shore and like the shells, the people were worn down from time spent tumbling. Times flowing with the current of life, times crashing along the rocky shore. And in some cases the faces of the youth appeared older than their elders. Older of flesh, not of wisdom. Age is just pages torn off the calendar.

We are accustomed to viewing people as they approach, creating little scenarios in our minds as to the life behind the face. Harder to do when the first glimpse is of one’s back. We care more when someone enters our space, less when they pass by or leave it.

Swirls of grey in the leather of the shark skin across the pointed toes polished to a high luster. Recognizable as boots when the herringbone cuffs broke across the ebony heels and soles with each deliberate step as if the weight of the world were being carried.

Double split below the fitted waist of the dress coat, giving ample room to the barrel chest and wide shoulders, the right of which the bulky faded black canvas hung almost to his knees. He walked with purpose as it swayed.

His back now held the added weight of the inquiring eyes upon him, the curiosity building as to who the tall man was; now standing at the edge of the light blue coffin. The occupant’s head rested at his left. He realized their heads were always at the left. Broad immaculate fingers hung from crisp red cuffs, long fingers from his left hand which gingerly traversed the silver coffin pulls. The satiny edged lining. Her hair which still seemed to be clinging life. Never happy how we are. The dark and auburn haired dying their hair blonde. Her platinum white hair now dyed to a sullen black. Gothic black with strands of dull maroon and purple.

The air over the sad flock mixed with the unseen notes from the organ hymns, the angels, and re-circulated air. Perfect submission, all is at rest; I in my Savior am happy
and blest, Watching and waiting, looking above, Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.
Submission was her undoing.

Back of his left hand gently brushed her cold hollow cheek. The dark hairs of his knuckles grazing the blond facial hairs coated with number 12 flesh pancake make-up. Her face even paler than associated with death. He spied the trinkets left by well-wishers. Such a silly breed, people. Tokens offered up to lay along side a carcass which has been cleaned, perfumed, and dressed before having a ton of dirt dropped upon it. As stupid as the act of not talking to the ones we care about for years, then feeling the need to rush to their side as they lay in death. The cart before the horse perhaps, with the dung to be cleaned up either way. Tokens. A tube of eye mascara. A broken toy from childhood. A grandmother’s brooch. A small joint. A tiny curved silver spoon.

Through many dangers, toils, and snares, I have already come; ’tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home. Yes, it was Grace that brought him, brought them both. He reached for his load, perhaps a Gothic rug which landed with a dull thud, the appearance shaking the God fearing people more than the vibration as the roll opened up. The second corpse had not received the gift of preparation before viewing.

The face frozen in a cross of terror and pain. Lower lip bitten through and hanging from his still mouth betwixt yellowed teeth. Knees bent, legs splayed, one arm out-stretched, the other tied to his waist with a belt. Shafts of two needles plunged into his crushed veins, the hypodermic cases severely duct taped to his forearms contorting a purpled tattoo.

The gasps and horror remained in their throats, stifled further when the tall man turned to face them once he had dropped his package. His, a face they would never forget, a face they would never recognize again. Two steps and he realized he was not done as he began to search the eyes of those upon him. From time to time his eyes would burn into the dark pupils of another, traversing their infected veins, to the cold marrow of their bones. Many knew without knowing that they would soon breathe their last and later question if they should snuff their life out before the stranger could do so.

Even the Men of the Cloth seemed unable to move past their horror into the unknown, especially transfixed as he passed the holy water stoup set up for the service near the front door. He peered into the small basin, respectfully touching the skin of the water’s surface as memories flooded him, caressing him and crashing into him. The tiny ripples rolled out to touch the ceramic edge. He peered across the crowd and then turned back, brushing his hair from his face – and spit into the holy water basin.

Blasphemous? Sacrilege? Or perhaps as in olden days liken to how a commitment was sealed with spit upon a handshake, perhaps he was sealing a covenant with God. Entering a contract, forging a conspiracy. He realized evening the score was no longer an option, that it had turned to leveling the playing field.

He pushed his consciousness to be aware of the floral smells. The vanilla candles. And the dead person Muzak which followed him into the lobby where Grace Kelly Parker sat announced atop the podium holding the guest book. He gazed at the names scrawled, and found a blank line as he reached for the ivory quill to sign his name. The feather hairs fluttered at his touch. He lifted it from the golden pen holder and placed the ink tip to the next blank line and inscribed, Food Chain.