Bill Harrison looked down upon Mother lying motionless upon the polished black-granite table. His eyes were still drowsy with the sleep interrupted by the hissing of the motion alarm that guarded the embalming room of his family’s mortuary. For three days and three nights a series of electrodes attached to Mother’s scalp and forehead created a complete circuit with the electrodes attached to Mother’s copper bound feet. Five hundred milliamperes of a five-volt DC current had been applied to the circuit steadily for exactly seventy-eight hours when the alarm went off. Bill rubbed his eyes and looked down at Mother’s face. Was it Mother’s eyelids or his imagination that was twitching? Bill rubbed his eyes again and remembered when it was Father lying upon the table…
Will-eee! You are the man of the house now and you know what needs to be done. We can’t have Father decaying. The smell will drive away the customers. Take the ice pick and make the holes. That’s a good Willy. I’ll get the formaldehyde.
Willy. Will-eee! Will-eeee! Bill hated listening to the sound of the name more than he hated embalming Father. Mother’s mouth turned it into a profanity every single time she spoke it. “Mother, I want to cut out your evil tongue. Mother, I want to break your neck. Mother, I want to kill you.” These were the things he repeated over and over again in his mind while the seventeen-year-old hands used the ice pick to poke Father’s liver full of holes for the embalming solution. First Father’s Liver, and then Father’s kidneys, and then Father’s spleen, and finally – without mercy, Father’s brain.
Bill poked, jabbed, stabbed, and mutilated Father’s organs in preparation for the foul-smelling Formaldehydic embalming fluid Mother mixed. Mother chanted as she combined the ingredients …
Formaldehyde, in solution, 1.9%, poured to the line that’s red
Phenol, the poison extracted from tar, 9.3%, slowly added to the yellow line
Methyl Alcohol, that poisonous liquid, 11.1%, stir while pouring and stop at blue
Glycerin, so syrupy sweet, 11.1%, for substance, body, and character that’s true
Distilled Water, clear and cool, 66.6%, to carry it all where it needs to go
Bill opened his eyes and looked at Mother again. Mother’s eyes were fluttering rapidly now. The tips of Mother’s fingers were beginning to move up and down on the table. The excitement in his chest grew as he envisioned a successful culmination of an experiment inspired by that small article in the Herald wherein the science reporter had referred to the amniotic fluid as the “liquid of life”. Getting the fluid wasn’t an easy thing. One could not simply go down to the corner drug store and purchase a gallon of two. No, Bill had to stake out the local gynecological clinics and offices were he would place a radio transmitter on a pregnant woman’s automobile. Then, when he was sure that she was alone, Bill would enter the woman’s house where he would inject her with a tranquilizer via a dart fired by a small air pistol. Bill would then extract a potion of the woman’s amniotic fluid allowing it to drain into a sterile container. Recovering the dart and the radio transmitter from the woman’s automobile Bill would leave as surreptitiously as he arrived. Bill knew that no one would ever suspect anything. The woman’s unconsciousness would merely be blamed on a fainting spell caused by unknown complications of the pregnancy.
It took Bill six weeks from the middle of September to get enough amniotic fluid to replace Mother’s blood drained body. When he had the necessary amount Bill took Mother’s body from the dehumidified storage chamber where it had been kept since January at a constant 40 degrees Fahrenheit in order to avoid the growth of ice crystals which, if allowed to form, would rupture Mother’s cells and destroy any hope of resuscitation. Once on the table Bill had pumped the amniotic fluid slowly into Mother’s veins. First at one pound per square inch of pressure, than two, and then three until he was assured that every vein and capillary had been filled. He than bound the feet together using a copper band and attached the electrodes to Mother’s scalp, forehead, and feet. Bill turned on the current and waited.
Mother’s fingernails were tapping loudly on the granite table. Growing slowly in death the fingernails were now longer than the first joint of Mother’s fingers. Bill watched them tap, tap, tap, and wondered why he never thought to trim them. Mothers feet were beginning to move and Bill turned off the current. The movement of the eyes, feet, and hands not only continued but spread throughout Mother’s limbs. Bill removed the electrodes from Mother’s forehead and scalp and then from Mother’s feet. Bill cut the copper band that had held Mother’s feet together in the circuit. Mother’s eyes opened.
Bill helped Mother sit up on the table. He gingerly moved Mother’s legs off the side of the table so Mother could more easily sit upright. Bill held Mother’s shoulders as Mother’s initial unsteadiness evaporated into an easing balance. Mother’s eyes studied Bill while she puzzled over the sensation in her abdomen. Mother reached out and placed her hand upon Bill’s side, stroking it, feeling it, and sensing the life force within. Mother plunged her long fingernails into Bill’s side, ripping a wide gash large enough to insert the hand that pulled forth Bill’s liver from the gaping wound. Mother chewed and swallowed, chewed and swallowed, until Bill’s liver was gone. Ever so hungry from nine long months of fasting the pain in Mother’s abdomen ceased – a little. Mother stood on the floor next to the embalming table and looked at the thing lying on the floor below her. Slowly, as if remembering how to walk, Mother stepped over the thing and moved slowly toward the door of the embalming room. Pushing through the hinged doors Mother proceeded cautiously down the hallway, through the showroom, through the waiting room, and finally through the entrance doors of the mortuary and out into the yard.
Mother stopped at the sidewalk and looked up and down the street at the dozens and dozens and dozens of witches, goblins, scarecrows, Ninja’s, pirates, Indian chiefs, cowboys, princesses, ghosts, vampires, and at all of their escorts.
Mother looked and Mother was pleased.
Mother was very hungry.
This short Halloween story was written several years ago and was used by my wife this time of the year in her high school English classes. She now teaches sixth grade and this is a little to much for the tender ages. This story appeared in this months Fresh Ink publication of the Inland Empire Branch of the California Writer’s Club