|Connector by Dean Verheyen|
"You know," said Lauren, "I think we have some bodies like that at the morgue where I intern."
"Really?" Brad's eyes widened, and his mind started to race. The idea of jacking into a dead person was one that had been floating around his brain for almost as long as he'd had his connector installed in it. Until now though, it had only been an idle daydream as Brad had never actually seen a dead body before, let alone had one presented to him by a cute girl in a tight skirt.
Lauren had never even considered the idea of connecting to the dead. Most of her time in the morgue was spent dissecting with her friends and trying not to think about zombies, but it was Friday night and she was out and feeling bad. The thought of getting into trouble late at night in the place where she worked and studied was too much fun to let fall from her mind.
They all had another two drinks each, and within thirty minutes of the bars throwing everyone out and locking the doors behind them, Lauren was experiencing an excited rush of adrenaline as she unlocked the doors to the science building on campus and let in her friends. Brad went through first, followed by Nadia and Alice, who walked in together, connected by a long purple cable at the back of their skulls. Nadia and Alice had barely been acquaintances before hooking up one night at a dance party. Since then the two of them had been linked almost constantly. Port-to-port when they were together and through the net when they were home. They even slept like that sometimes.
Next through the door was Derrick, who they had just met at the bar about two hours earlier. He was at least ten years older than the rest of them and so full of drugs that he was still wearing sunglasses indoors at two in the morning. He walked through in silence.
Lauren came in last and locked the door behind them as they stepped into the darkness.
The girls' shoes clacked and echoed like keys in a porcelain typewriter as they made their way down the stairs to the bottom floor, down into the chemical smells. Brad normally had a video game or two running in the corner of his mind whenever he went anywhere, but the anticipation was too incredible. He couldn't think of anything other than death and what lied ahead of him. He could only think about death.
Brad unplugged from his cell.
Down on the bottom floor, a pair of double doors opened onto a tiled space that could have easily been a normal highschool classroom except for the drains on the floor, and the metal tables with the little black wheels on them. Ominous silence filled the room like a ghost that had been waiting for them.
There were nine metal tables in there, loosely arranged in rows of three down the center of the room. Six of the tables were covered with sheets, white sheets not quite thick enough to hide the familiar and unsettling outlines of what lied beneath them.
Standing by a gurney near the front of the room, Lauren reached for the covering and pulled it back to reveal the face and blond hair of the dead girl underneath. The morgue was lit only by the iridescent blue light of Nadia and Alice's platform shoes, which flickered softly across the dead girl's lifeless features as the two of them stepped closer to see.
"This is one of the ones that still has a port in it," Lauren said, feeling behind her head to make sure. "Her body just came in today so nobody's had time to take it out yet."
Brad rolled a chair over from behind a desk as, with a sly little smile, Lauren licked the long metal connector piece of his Second Spinal Cord and slipped it in to the back of his skull. "I can't believe I'm doing this," said Brad as it fit into his brainstem. Lauren couldn't believe how flirty she was feeling, especially under the circumstances. Brad smiled back at her. He looked into her eyes and gave a quick, playful lick to the other end of the wire he'd just taken from her hands. Then he turned his attention to the body.
His fingers traced through her cold, long hair until they found that little metal hole just above that spot where the spine connects with the base of the skull. The Jade Pillow in Qi Gong. His heart raced ? primal synapses firing, ancient instincts reaching out from his unconscious. It was happening now, there was no denying it.
He looked down at her. She did not look like she was sleeping. There was an audible click as the connector piece slid into place, and Brad let out a moan with a dozen exclamation points as he flew back hard, the office chair just barely catching him before he hit the floor.
The sky opened up in front of him, even though he was underground. The walls and floor and ceiling broke apart and fell away with no discernable gravity, and above and below him vast white storm clouds were spreading out forever into the endless haunted pink horizon. There were planets out there. Brad clung to the chair, white knuckled with terror, his feet kicking out over nothingness, and in front of him, moving completely in unison, as if controlled by a single mind, the dead began to rise. The room was gone, but the wheeled tables were still there, and so were the bodies. The sheets fell from their faces, down over their chests to their thighs as they sat up straight in their deathbeds. Slowly they turned their heads to look at him with eyes that could see inside him, and their eyes were metal orbs screaming bright and silver light like knives exploding. Somewhere beyond the horizon a star was calling his name. He turned to the left as the dead girl who's brain he had connected to coiled her naked form into a crouching position on the table. She locked her metallic flashlight eyes onto his and reached out for him.
"Should we steal his wallet?" Derrick asked, only half joking.
Lauren rolled her eyes at him and shook Brad by the shoulders again. She called his name as if he were somewhere far away. "Brad! Can you hear me!?" They'd lost contact with him as soon as he'd plugged into the dead body, and had been watching him twitch and spasm in the chair ever since. Lauren was nervous, but it was bad etiquette to unplug someone while they were playing a game and everybody agreed that the same rules would probably apply here, so she kissed him on the cheek and left him there in the dark. The custodian found him three hours later.
When Sunday morning came Lauren burst back into the room and went straight for the coffee machine. Right through the morgue and into the break room. She'd gone out dancing again the night before, and the end result of the entire weekend's worth of partying and not getting enough sleep had her walking through the morning like she was on the bottom of a swimming pool. Her eyes still hadn't adjusted to the light yet.
"It's already brewing," said her lab partner China from behind her notebook.
"Thank fucking God," Lauren purred back, smiling.
The smell of the coffee alone was enough to get some life flowing through her veins again, and as a bonus it was fantastic for overcoming the smell of the formaldehyde and preservatives. China had already gone back to her typing. Lauren went up on the tips of her toes and let out a little yawn as she arched her back, stretching every muscle she could in her lab coat and shorts while wishing she was still in her pajamas. She relaxed down into her chair with her coffee cup touching to the tip of her nose, and swam through her last idle thoughts of the morning before starting the day.
Then there was a sound from the other room.
"Is somebody else here with us already?" Lauren asked.
China was looking up too. "No, I thought it was just you and me."
Somebody was moving the tables around in the morgue. Lauren crept over to the little window in the door and peaked through.
"Oh wait, hey," she said, "It's Brad. Hey!"
Brad spun around as she came through the door, all smiles. "Hey!" Brad said on reflex, and then he smiled too when he saw it was Lauren.
"Oh my God, what is up? How are you?" She was actually really happy to see him. "I tried to call you last night to see if you wanted to go to the bars again, but I kept getting your voicemail. I thought you were ignoring me."
"Oh no, I was just out running around. I had a lot of stuff I had to take care of and I didn't get in until really late." He had the fast talking nervous energy of somebody who hadn't slept for days, that hyper-activity that only exhaustion can bring. It looked like Brad had been awake since at least the last time Lauren had seen him.
"Sorry about leaving you here alone Friday night," Lauren said. "We tried to talk to you but we couldn't get you to respond."
"Don't even worry about it," Brad said.
"I'm dying to know what that was like. I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since I saw the way it dilated your pupils."
"Yeah, it was. . ." Brad looked up, searching the ceiling and the back of his skull for the right words. ". . . weird. I can't even describe it. There was so much happening."
"You'll have to tell me everything," Lauren said. "Do you want to go get breakfast? I should probably get some food in me before I start my paper anyways."
Brad's eyes had been darting back and forth around the room, but they shot back to hers as the invitation touched the right neurons.
"Absolutely," he said, "I'm starving."
It was then that Lauren noticed which of the bodies he was standing next to. It was the dead girl Brad had connected to the night before, completely uncovered. A lot of the bodies were uncovered. "So, why did you come back here this morning?" Lauren asked. She was heading back towards the break room to get her purse.
"To ask you to breakfast actually," he said through a grin. "What kind of mask is that on the wall?"
"Where?" Lauren asked, turning to follow the point of his finger to a blank white wall behind her. Lauren turned back and then suddenly she was screaming as the severed head Brad had just dropkicked came flying across the room at her and bounced off her face. Brad grabbed the dead girl from the night before and threw her on top of another body behind him, the other body with the connector piece still in it, and the next thing Lauren knew he was racing them down the hall at full speed towards the elevators. The metal table's wheels were squeaking as he ran. Extra heads were spilling over the sides.
The campus police gave chase, firing wildly after him as his corpse-filled car took off roaring across the college. Students went running in all directions. Brad's foot was on the gas as he reached around behind him for a bodiless head with a hole in the right place. He couldn't wait any longer. Everyone was screaming as he smashed by them. His fingers felt a skull with a perfect port and Brad shoved it onto his dashboard and grabbed a connector. A shiver ran up his spine as he plugged into his own skull, and when he plugged the purple wire into the one on his dash he started to spasm.
The severed head opened its silver eyes wide, and as the sky did the same, Brad floored it.