Working in a funeral home doesn’t have many perks, so when one presents itself, it’s important to jump on it. That’s why closed-casket funerals are the best. You know the ones I’m talking about. People who died in car accidents. Fires. Shotgun suicides. Anything that destroys the face and head of the deceased. No one wants to look at hamburger meat in a suit.
I was in charge of preparing the carcass of a middle-aged woman who’d gotten half her head blown off in a gas explosion. We didn’t even offer her family the option of an open casket. She was really f****d up.
The family gave us the dead lady’s favorite dress and some of her jewelry. This is where the perks I mentioned come in. The bereaved are always so trusting. Over the course of the three years I’ve had that job, I must have pawned $10,000 worth of necklaces and engagement rings and all sorts of other sentimental crap.
I figure it’s a victimless crime. The families think it’s in the coffin with their busted-up relative, so they’re happy, and the dead person’s dead, so they don’t care. They’re in a better place, right?
Anyway, you should’ve seen my face when I got the jewelry to bury with the gas-explosion lady. One locket caught my attention immediately. It was huge and looked like solid gold. I opened it up and saw pictures of the dead woman and others who looked like her mother, grandmother, and maybe even great grandmother, all smiling happily for the camera. The locket had space for five or six pictures. I figured it’d be perfect for my girlfriend. She loves big and gaudy s**t. We live three towns over, so there wasn’t a chance she’d get caught wearing it.
I pocketed the locket after everyone had left and I finished working on the dead chick. I wheeled the coffin into the fridge and headed out.
Liz was making dinner when I got home. I figured I’d wait until bedtime to give her the present. We ate, watched a movie, and got ready to turn in.
After Liz got out of the shower, I surprised her with the locket. As I’d expected, she loved the thing. It looked comically large on her tiny frame; the golden heart full of pictures was the size of a deck of cards against her chest. I thought she looked ridiculous, but she couldn’t get enough. She opened it up and flipped through the photographs. Then she closed it, sat me down at her desk chair, and unzipped my pants.
Toward the end of one of the greatest b******s of my life, the sound of the dangling locket banging against the hardwood floor was starting to break my concentration. But then Liz did something she’d never done and went all the way down. And I mean all the way. And that was all it took.
When the world had unblurred and I could move my body again, I patted Liz’s head and told her I didn’t want to know where she’d learned to do that, but if she wanted to do it every time she should feel free. Liz remained with her head between my legs. She didn’t move.
“Ok Liz,” I said, starting to feel over sensitive and uncomfortable. Still, no response.
“Liz?,” I asked, starting to worry. I realized she wasn’t breathing. “Oh my God, what the f**k!,” I yelled, and pushed her back. She separated from me and collapsed on the floor. Her eyes and nose were bleeding. Panic filled me as I stared at her motionless body.
Her bloody face was horrifying, but that wasn’t what I was focusing on. It was the locket on her chest. The bright gold locket that now glowed dull red. It opened on its own. My eyes widened as I saw that the oldest picture, the one of the great grandmother, had changed. Her smile had become a scowl of rage. Page after page turned and I saw the once-smiling women were all frowning with hatred and indignity.
The photo of the women I’d stolen the locket from was next. Her expression was one of seething animosity. My paralyzing terror kept me rooted to the chair, and I wondered how it could possibly get any worse. Then the page turned again. There was another picture. One that hadn’t been there until right that very moment.
The photograph was of Liz, with blood streaming from her eyes and nose. In the picture, carved across her forehead with vicious precision, was the word “THIEF.” Only once the word started to appear on her forehead in real life, invisibly etched by some malevolent, ghostly hand, did I begin to scream.