Short Story Titled 'The Morgue Worker' by Ahmed Mahmoud Sharqawi
A few days ago, I received an assignment and found myself heading to another province for a month because they had a shortage of anatomists. Here in the capital, we have a lot going on, and since we are plenty, and I upset my mother today, the choice fell on me. Of course, with a promise that they would provide me with allowances and incentives, as well as luxurious accommodation. I know it's just talk and it won't happen, when has a morgue ever had luxurious housing?
But my curiosity was piqued to know why there was a shortage in this morgue. I had just read a horror story and had this obsession that the bodies there were killing the doctors. So, I picked up my phone and called a friend who works in hot news.
I called to find out if there was any news about a morgue, and he replied a few minutes later with some fresh news and a sprinkle of gossip. I told him I wanted to know the reason for the shortage; I wasn't going blindly into this.
He paused for a moment and then called back:
"I've exhausted myself getting you this information."
"What is it, my friend? Tell me."
"There's a crazy guy working there named Awad."
"Awad? What about him?"
"He's the one driving all the doctors crazy."
"Why don't they just fire him?"
"It's not possible because his family is big, and no one can dare to fire him. Besides, they say the management is afraid to let him go."
"To that extent?"
"How does he drive the doctors crazy?"
"He says he beats the bodies and handles them with extreme violence."
"That's what I found out. Looks like you're getting into some trouble, my friend."
"May God help me, Awad. Tomorrow, you'll hear the news from me."
I hung up, feeling very tense. The morgue was short of crazy people too. I arrived at the morgue and was greeted by the management, which consisted of just one man, befitting a morgue situated in the outskirts, away from the buildings. The building itself was old and dilapidated, a single-story structure with a very small iron door. When you enter, you find two offices, a sleeping room, and further down the corridor, the door that leads to the refrigerators and the dissecting room. That's it. Even the building didn't have windows so that sunlight wouldn't enter the morgue, ensuring it stayed cool year-round.
I completed the takeover procedures and went to the six bodies now in my care. I don't know why I remembered people who refuse to sign two notebooks at work; come and see me signing off on the receipt of bodies.
At 4 o'clock, all the administrative work was done, and the two employees left their offices. I found myself alone in the morgue with six bodies and a sleeping room that refused to accommodate anyone due to its terrible condition.
Feeling exhausted, I decided to take a nap after this journey. I laid out my stuff in the small cupboard after chasing away a few small mice, and I fell asleep immediately from fatigue while waiting for the accommodation they promised to arrange for me in a few days.
I had a dark sleep full of hallucinations and strange sounds. Suddenly, a large hand violently shook me while I was asleep. I jumped up frightened, feeling the hand, and started screaming:
"What's going on?"
In an instant, someone turned on the light, and I saw a dead man's face. I screamed, and he remained calm, saying:
"Thank God you're safe, Doctor."
What is this? Are the bodies respected here to this extent? I found him turning his back on me and, as a command, he continued:
"Come on, we have a lot of work."
I remained in my place, stunned for a couple of minutes until I focused and understood. This is Awad. Your days are not going smoothly with me, son of the troubled one.
I preferred to take it easy on myself and have a little break from this tough experience. I left the room and headed straight to the autopsy hall. I saw Awad in front of me, wearing black overalls with a cap. I didn't know his name. His eyes were slightly white, and the pupils were about to disappear. His face felt rigid, like stone, devoid of any emotions. If it weren't for him speaking and moving his lips, I would have thought he was carved from rock.
I looked at him with a touch of mockery, although my heart felt a sense of dread towards him, and I said, "Make me some coffee, Awad."
I focused on his eyes, and honestly, the man moved towards the small kitchen to prepare it. I smiled, imagining myself undressing him, tormenting him, extinguishing cigarettes on his body while he said, "Enough, Doctor." That's the kind of person who annoys doctors, I thought.
After a few minutes, he brought the coffee, and as I was sipping it, I thought of throwing it in his face and telling him that this is unpleasant. But then, I would have entered the stage of dealing with the intimidating and controlling perverted mother's husband. I drank the coffee, and a couple of sips later, I told him, "We have bodies today."
"Two bodies, Doctor. One from Naj' El-Husseini and the other from Kafr El-Bulur."
"Okay, prepare the bodies. I'll enter the bathroom and come back to you."
Indeed, I went into the bathroom, and when I came out to open up about the end, I stood there shocked. Awad was carrying the body on his shoulder from the stairs and forcefully placed it on the autopsy table.
To the extent that I felt her back was about to break from the impact. I reacted while standing in my place, "What the hell, are you out of your mind?"
He looked at me with the same coldness and said, "This body is difficult, and I handle her firmly to finish our work quickly."
"What's difficult? Look, there's a demon in front of me."
Suddenly, he prayed as if my blood froze in my veins. Honestly, I was more afraid of him than the corpses themselves. I ignored him with difficulty and worked on the girl's body who died at the hospital from an overdose, and the prosecution wanted the autopsy report in the morning.
I finished it and then worked on the other man's body until I completed it. I asked him to close the bodies and return them to their place. When I went out, unfortunately, I heard banging sounds as if he were dealing with iron, not human bodies.
This man is definitely crazy, or he has some strange deviation. I can't allow what's happening, and I entered my room to disconnect from the thoughts and the strange feeling that had taken over me.
The next day, I called the administration in Cairo and informed them about what was happening. Strangely, they tried to evade and said it's the local administration's responsibility, and I shouldn't stay here for too long. Strange words from these medications.
In the evening, we received a new body, and Awad stored it in the drawer so that we could work on it at night. Of course, I warned him not to misbehave like yesterday, or I'll make his days with me unbearable.
I don't know why I was angry, disgusted, and felt a great burden since I came to this place. In the end, I went to sleep.
I set the alarm for 10 PM to wake up and work a bit in peace. Indeed, after sleeping, as usual, all anxious, I woke up at 10 PM.
Awad was present, as usual, because I knew he lived in an old house next to the morgue itself. I asked him to prepare the body and not to mess with it like yesterday. I drank my coffee and stood in front of the stretched body, contemplating.
A girl in her twenties, stabbed in her abdomen and chest multiple times, with scratches all over her body. The initial diagnosis indicated rape and murder, and it was clear that the violation of this girl had occurred.
Awad stood next to me, observing and not uttering a word. While I was working, I heard groans coming from the body whose chest was completely torn. My body trembled as it does every time something like this happens.
I turned, grabbed the scalpel, and looked again at the knee of the body that was a bit twisted. Even though I was confident that I had straightened her legs properly before the autopsy, I heard a strange sound from Awad and saw frightening looks in his eyes, but I ignored him.
I moved from my desk to the autopsy room to get a new scalpel, intending to surprise with a strange sound coming from the dissecting hall.
I returned to find a janitor holding a stick, hitting a corpse's legs hard. What terrified me was hearing faint moans, as if the body was in pain. I was confused, ran towards him, and grabbed him forcefully, saying, "Are you crazy?"
He retaliated forcefully, stating that the girl wouldn't respect herself except through beating. I broke the stick, told him to leave, but he insisted that he would stay. I felt if I continued arguing, I might stab him with the scalpel involuntarily.
Suddenly, he patted the body, apologized, and I found myself comforting her. These were human remains, even if lifeless.
As he continued dissecting, I heard distant crying, and tears fell on the body. I finished and placed it in the drawer, returned to my room, disturbed.
Surprisingly, a janitor was on my bed. I confronted him, but he insisted on taking my room, citing the hospital's negligence. Helpless, I went back to the autopsy room, emotionally drained.
Later, a mosquito bit me, and I confronted him angrily, realizing I had no control. Upset, I returned to the dissecting hall, hearing cries from a distance. Eventually, I finished and returned to my room, feeling defeated.
In the dark, a mosquito on my bed claimed my room. I confronted him, and he argued about the hospital's negligence. Helpless, I stayed under a palm tree, upset with myself.
The next day, I found myself outside the autopsy room in mud. Disturbed, I learned about a body being attacked, and the police investigated. It was the janitor, a sadistic man.
The report stated he died of a heart attack. That night, I found myself with his body, hesitated, and left him untouched. The next day, authorities were informed, and the police secured the body.
His family was unaware, and the police advised waiting to avoid conflict. That night, I found myself with the body again, this time beating it mercilessly. Despite the relief, I felt haunted by the act.
Later, I discovered he had a violent history, and his brother had committed a heinous crime. My actions brought relief, but an odd desire to repeat them lingered. I feared succumbing to that desire, especially when extinguishing a cigarette on his body.