by Damien McKeating
THE alarm wailed.
Corallina ran to the stairwell and propelled herself downwards. Her black and red jacket billowed behind her and her combat boots hit the concrete steps with solid thuds.
“Department of Departures to the morgue,” a voice intoned over the tannoy.
She crashed through the swinging doors, leapt a final set of stairs and stood in the entrance to the morgue, her breath misting in the chill air.
“Mistress Corallina,” a woman in a blue jumpsuit said. “I’m Attendant Moss,” she ran over to an empty gurney so that it stood between the two of them. “I called as soon as I found out.”
“Found out what?”
“Look,” Moss gestured at the empty gurney.
Corallina pursed her lips until they broke apart with a smack. The alarm cut off and the sudden silence highlighted the anti-climax of the… nothing.
“That,” Corallina said, “is an empty gurney.”
“Do you need it filling with a body? You should speak to Accounts.”
“No. It was filled.”
“You called DoD for a purloined cadaver?”
“Mistress,” Moss whispered, “there’s been a resurrection.”
Corallina drummed her fingers on the gurney. She took a deep breath and blew it out long and slow. The departed had to stay departed. That was the point.
She stopped her drumming and looked down at her fingertips. A dusting of bluish powder was just visible. Corallina sniffed at them and licked her index finger clean.
“Angel dust,” she said. “Someone has summoned an angel.”
She grabbed the clipboard at the end of the gurney and flicked through the information. “Melissa White, died of irreversible organic damage in a violation of her freedom of choice,” Corallina dropped the clipboard onto the gurney. “Melissa White… I know that name…” She took the slim device around her wrist and scanned it over the barcode on Melissa’s file.
“Evelyn?” Corallina addressed the air.
“Yes, Mistress Corallina,” the computer’s voice sounded all around them.
“Where is Melissa White?”
“Records indicate she is currently in the morgue awaiting organic re-assignment.”
“She is not.”
“Scanning the department…”
“Melissa’s next of kin?”
“Her fiancée is listed as Roberta Simmons.”
“Bobbi!” Corallina pointed at Moss. “I knew, I knew it. Evelyn, find me Bobbi,” Corallina ran out of the morgue.
“Psychonaut Roberta Simmons is in stairwell 2D, floor 32 and going up.”
“Is anyone with her?” Corallina charged through the corridors, throwing people aside and leaping obstacles to reach the stairwell.
“An unregistered female. Her organic structure closely resembles that of the deceased Melissa White.”
Corallina ran up the stairs.
“Is it true?” someone shouted at her.
“Resurrection,” she called back.
She arrived on the roof breathless. At this height the wind slammed into her, hooking into her clothes and threatening to drag her off the department roof.
“Bobbi!” she called, the words whipped from her mouth and lost over the glowing cityscape.
Corallina drew her pistol and stepped out among the ventilation shafts, aerials, satellite dishes and detritus that turned the roof into a maze. She tasted the tang of the angel dust on the wind and followed it to the building’s south edge.
Roberta Simmons and Melissa White stood on the raised wall at the roof’s edge. Images cast in blue dust swirled around Melissa’s bruised and pale body. Creatures that might have been birds or dragons formed in the dust and then settled into her skin before being caught up again in their own tempest.
“Stay there, Coral,” Roberta called. Her eyes were wide and ringed with sleepless circles. She clung onto Melissa, who wore only a flimsy medical gown that flapped in the wind like wings.
“What did you do?” Corallina called. She knew all of the answers; desperate to save her murdered fiancée Bobbi had travelled deep into the consciousness realms and brought an angel back with her.
“I’ve saved her.”
“Look at what it’s doing to her!”
As the blue dust swirled, coalesced and disintegrated in an endless pattern of chaos it began to take pieces of Melissa with it. Before their eyes she was being taken apart.
“It can’t last,” Corallina said.
“It doesn’t have to.”
Bobbi turned to look over the ledge.
Corallina swore. Angels, for reasons unfathomable to any conventionally conscious mind, would intervene in disasters to save lives or even restore and reanimate a recently deceased person. But the process always destroyed the body they inhabited. It was a cruel, temporary reprieve. If Bobbi and Melissa jumped together the angel would try to… She had no idea.
“Stop,” Corallina aimed her pistol.
“That won’t work,” Bobbi called back over her shoulder.
She was right. Corallina scowled at herself. She’d brought the wrong weapon. A gun was for taking life; not for re-taking a resurrection.
Bobbi clutched Melissa’s arm and tensed for the jump.
“What will happen?” Corallina asked.
“Something new, Coral. We’ll merge, I think. The angel will try to save us both and we’ll emerge as a new consciousness beyond anything this world can imagine.”
Melissa turned to look at Corallina. The blue mist flowed around her, glowed in her veins and blazed luminescent in her eyes. She smiled.
And they were gone.
Corallina barely had time to register the movement, the gentle push from Bobbi’s legs that sent them over the wall and out of sight.
She ran to the wall and leaned over.
Blue dust cascaded upwards in a whirling dance. It rushed past her face and she tasted it on her lips. She squinted against it, staring down the vertiginous stories to the empty pavement so far below.
They were gone.
They were really gone.
No bodies. Just… something new.
Corallina stared. She licked at the dust on her lips and it tingled through her body.
The dust was starting to fade but it was still there, still dancing in its own current.
Corallina climbed up onto the ledge.
The angel would recreate her.
“Something new,” she said.
The wind pushed at her, the lure of the fall pulled at her and the angel dust on her skin and lips made her tingle.
Corallina took a deep breath.
And took the step…
© Damien McKeating 2016