A Man Called Corpse
Al Bruno III
You know the story from the papers; cross country bus blows a tire and goes crashing into a ravine in the Arizona desert, thirty-seven dead or vanished and one survivor.
Some of you might think this is an appropriate punishment. At the time fleeing from New York to Los Angeles seemed like my only option. Did I think about Claire waiting at the altar in front of an audience of her family and friends? No, not at all.
It happened about an hour after we crossed the state line. What I remember is the bus swerving and pitching over. Everyone was thrown against the ceiling then back to the floor. We rolled seven times in all. I struck the roof of the bus head first, there was a loud crack that I felt and heard.
I'm not sure how long I was out, long enough for the bus to stop rolling but not much more than that. All around me people were sobbing and groaning, some were calling 911, the pale light from their cell phones casting an ugly glow over everything. The bus had landed on its side, a pair of seats had torn loose from the floor and I was pinned beneath them. Only my head and left arm were free but I couldn’t move them. I couldn’t even feel them. I was right beside a dead man, he was staring at me with a surprised expression.
The things came crawling in through the shattered windshield. I thought they were children at first but the light of the cell phones revealed they were naked, gray skinned things. The people near the front of the bus started screaming. Groups of the things surrounded each survivor and started chanting “Meat. Meat!” before dragging them away. Whenever those things came upon someone that had died they would prod and sniff at the body experimentally. Once they were sure of it they would hiss “Corpse.” and move on.
Most of the survivors were too injured to move, those that did try to run or fight didn't make it far.
I knew what I had to do, I laid perfectly still in the blood and the broken glass with my eyes closed and my breathing shallow. Be dead. I thought to myself, Be dead.
I listened to them toy with the dead body beside me, lifting its head up and dropping it back down on the broken glass. “Corpse.” The thing sounded disappointed, “Corpse.”
Maybe you would have screamed by now. How long could you have held your breath? How long could you have laid still? There is no doubt in my mind that being hidden under a pile of twisted metal and fabric is one of the things that saved my life.
Just one of them.
The things began sniffing at me, their collective breath smelled of rot and reptiles. I imagined my skin prickling with revulsion. I was sure Those things would notice, I was sure that any moment they would take me like the others.
One of them took an experimental bite out of my arm. I only noticed because of the warm spray that hit my face. There was the sound of thoughtful chewing.
Then they left.
Where did those things take the survivors? And why didn’t the police and paramedics find any footprints or drag marks in the desert sand? The authorities are blaming coyotes but they’ve seen the teeth marks on me. No coyote leaves a wound like that.
The police just won’t believe me. They roll their eyes and tell me I was unconscious and dreaming the whole time.
I’ve given up trying to make them listen. I just want to go home, I want to get out of this hospital and out of this state but the doctors say it isn’t safe to do that. They say I have a long recovery ahead before travel becomes an option. Internal decapitation is what they call it. When my head hit on the roof of the bus my spine separated from my skull. I’m paralyzed from the neck down, I can’t feel anything; not my legs or my arms, not even a bite on the shoulder. That’s what saved me.
My parents and brother are coming to see me. They couldn’t afford a flight from New York, we are not wealthy people, so they’re driving here. Dad called a couple of times from the road to check in. He even called to let me know they when they were crossing the Arizona border.
I haven’t heard from them since, and that was two days ago.