Keys to a Good Life

The red-headed boy sat behind the bushes. He waited against the cool bricks of the funeral home under the window he unlocked earlier. The boy rummaged through his backpack while waiting for the last workers to leave.

“Maybe. Maybe.” He read through the names labeled on ziploc bags in sloppy black marker to pick his favorite one. “Hard pass.” He chuckled at one name, ‘Doreen Hills’. “Out you go.” He pulled the bag out and emptied the brain onto the dirt. It fell out with a slimy plop and he stashed the empty bag in his backpack again. No matter how often his dad said the brain itself didn’t matter, the pale boy believed it did. The sound of a car door drew his attention and he peeked out of the bush in time to see the last car leave the parking lot.  “Alright!”

The pre-teen slung the grey canvas bag over his back and pushed the window up with complete confidence. Not having a security system put this funeral home at the front of the line, and it met the rest of his requirements too. Including storing the bodies overnight before any work is done on them. He climbed in the window and pushed it closed again, then made his way to the body he was there for.

A woman in her mid-30s in a bright blue dress with short blond hair rested on a table with her hands on her stomach. The boy stood beside her and placed his bag on the table. He shook his head to himself.

“Dad, next time we’re for sure switching jobs,” he mumbled to himself. “This is weird for me.” He concentrated on the palm of his right hand. The boy focused and flexed a muscle in his forearm until a small metal tip emerged from his palm. He took a breath then flexed harder to push the rest of object out. The tip grew broader and longer until he produced what looked like a long dagger. Though instead of a solid blade, the edges were broken into sections of different lengths, like an old style key.

He glanced at the woman’s face and gave her an apologetic nod. In a swift motion, he brought the blade down. It sliced through her neck with supernatural ease. The head separated from the trunk before the boy was ready and it rolled off the table. He heard several loud thunks as it bounced off the concrete floor and rolled to a corner.

“I’ll get it right now,” he shrugged and retracted the long key into his hand. Then he opened his backpack and pulled out one of the ‘maybe’ bags, “Erica Valiente”, and opened it. He eased the brain to the bag’s opening and touched it to the woman’s neck. A pair of red vines grew out of the neck and attached themselves to the brain. Once the first set of vines found their place more grew out of the neck to connect to the brain. The boy noticed white growing out of the neck also and nodded to himself. “Cool,” he smiled. If the spinal cord was reattaching itself everything was fine. “Now I gotta find that head.” He ducked and peered across the floor.  The woman’s face stared at him from under a gurney on the other side of the room. By the time he got it and returned to the body the woman was sitting up. She twisted her neck this way and that to test it out.

“Well? How do I look?”She asked the boy. He smiled at her.

“You look great, mom. Same as always. “

“Good. Where’s your father?”

“He got the fun job,” the boy pouted.

“What?” The woman asked with a sharp tone. She hopped off the table. “I specifically told him you were old enough.” She paced the tiny morgue for several seconds in anger, then she placed a hand on the boy’s shoulder. “You’ll get to next time, Keys. I promise.” The boy nodded.

“I hope so. How come we can’t do it more often?” he asked. “I don’t wanna wait years.”

“Because we don’t need to. Every time I cash in an insurance policy, it’s another chance for them to catch us. So I only do it when we have to, understand?” She stared into his green eyes, and the boy nodded.

“Okay. I’ll wait.”

“Keys! Can I get a hand?” A male voice shouted from beyond the door. The boy took a step toward the door, but his mom placed a hand on his shoulder.

“He had the fun, he should do the work too,” she said.

“Yeah!” Keys grinned.

“KEYS!” the voice sounded closer and more impatient. Then his father walked through the door. A tall, burly man with a headless female corpse hanging over his shoulder. He tossed the body down in front of them.

“Can you fix that up?” He held out his stained, white polo shirt. “I gotta get this blood out.” The woman gently gave her son an elbow in his side. He got the hint and tossed his mom’s head at the man.

“You had the fun, you do the work.”

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