White Paint

By Maria

This month I was working in the morgues, and one day something scary happened. Somehow I had got onto night duty in one of the morgues.

Initially, of course, it was scary and disgusting. Then I got used to it. Once I was on duty and in the evening I met Ivanych. He had been working in this morgue for maybe twenty years. He came up to me and said:

“Today you’re going to work overnight in the duty room, so you should close the door and do not go out no matter what. Tonight is going to be too bad. It’s the night of the first full moon, anything can happen.”

I laughed at him. I don’t remember how many words in mockery I had said to him. I was offended, that a person without a higher education had tried to scare me.

Ivanych listened quietly and said: 

“Think what you like, I warned you,” he turned and went out.

By the end of the working day I would probably not have remembered the incident if it wasn’t for detail, which alarmed me: Ivanych was sober and he had said this quite seriously. After the working day, another person, who worked in the morgue, stayed with me to talk on philosophical subjects. We had been sitting in the duty room, arguing, and the detail that Ivanych was sober and serious, worried me a lot.

Late in the evening my companion left. I locked the door and was left alone. I checked the freezer, looked around, checked if everything was in order, turned out the light and went back to the duty room. It looked like this: the front door opened up to the duty room and a long corridor, at the end of which there are doors leading to the storage area where dead bodies are kept, and other rooms. A few lights are left on all night in the corridor. The light in the duty room should be on the whole night, but the watchman always turn it off, when he goes to sleep. The back door is usually unlocked.

That was how everything was that night. It was quiet on the street with no wind and no traffic noise. The full moon was shining in the dark sky. I was reading a book, but at the same time was listening to the silence. At midnight I decided to get some sleep. And then I heard the door in the corridor creak. It was a careful, very quiet sort of sound, but it definitely creaked. I looked out of the duty room, the corridor light was dim, diffused, and it was dark next to the door so I couldn’t see anything. Somehow I felt uneasy. However, I thought I should go and look to see why the door opened. I stepped firmly to make myself confident, and all my steps created an echo. Then I noticed and even felt a subtle movement in the dark, next to the door.

I remembered the phrase: “Close the door and don’t go out no matter what happens!” I slowly came back into the room, and closed the door.

I had clearly heard a rustle of quick steps in the corridor, terminating next to the door. Then the door handle was pulled down from outside. The door moved for a few millimetres and then a catch stopped the door. I saw a shadow in the door and it smelt like a corpse.

I jumped up, rushed over to the door and clung to the door hand. Something horrible and awful was trying to get inside the room. Something was scratching the door, pulling the handle, and all of this was happening in complete silence. I didn’t hear even a breath. Something was intent on pulling the door out, and I could smell violet and the formalin of a corpse.

At dawn it become totally silent in the corridor. No one was scratching and spoiling the door anymore. But I still kept my hand on the door, clinging onto the handle with my white fingers.

The bell rang intensively and reality returned with a jolt, forcing me to open the door. The corridor was empty and normal. Everything that happened that night was like a nightmare. The lock was jammed, as always, and I was not able to open it quickly.

“Well, you had a good sleep! I have been calling for an hour!” He said, surprised.

I told him that I was a little bit drunk, and I didn’t hear anything.

My working day was over,  but I was not able to force myself to go home. I nervously smoked and desperately tried to understand what happened during the night – did it really happen, or was it a dream? The other colleagues were smoking next to me and asking me about something. I answered something, but had only one thought in my mind: “It was a dream, this couldn’t have been real!”

At that moment the intern joined us and said:

“Andrey, something strange happened. When I was getting the corpse of a drowned man ready for autopsy, I saw white paint under his fingernails.”

“What’s so strange about that?” – he asked lazily.

“The paint is dried, old, but fissuring and tearing of nails on the hands of the corpse, in my opinion, is posthumous, but fresh.”

They left and I went to the door of the room. At head-height on the smooth white surface of the door, scratches and rough chipped marks were clearly visible.

After this horrible event, I wasn’t able to fall sleep. I was so confuse, I didn’t know what to do. Should I leave the job?

I’ve pulled myself together since then, and I continue to work there. One day I saw Ivanych’s wife Elizabeth when she came to visit him while he was working. I smelled the strange perfume of violet just as during that scary night. I tried to understand from where the smell was coming from. Elizabeth came up to me to say: ”Hello” and the smell get stronger. Now I realised that it was definitely that same smell that I sensed that night. Everyone said that Elizabeth is a good and kind women. How can the Ivanych’s wife be related to the corpse?! “I should, no I have to speak to her!”

I was too confused to talk about this but after our conversation I laughed because I found out that she hated her husband’s work and tried to scare him. After this, he may quit his job but she mixed up the people.

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