Einherjar

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Ethan woke lying atop a cool metal slab, in a cool metal box. It was dark, and he was naked. It was quiet except for the constant whirring of motors and the sound of a radio that seemed to be playing in another room. Gingerly, he explored his confines with his hands and got a sense of how large of a space he was in. He was lucky he wasn't claustrophobic.

Where was he? His head was foggy. He had a faint recollection of leaving work and stopping to get some groceries on the way home. What then? It had started to rain, maybe, he wasn't sure. He had seen a homeless man right? Right. He had seen a homeless man. An elderly homeless man with a graying beard and an eye patch.

No.

Not just the homeless man.

There had been someone else there kicking the homeless man and—

"Oh shit," he said. "Oh shit oh shit oh shit."

His memories flooded back to him. He had offered food to the one-eyed homeless man and afterward had looked back to see another passerby had started kicking him. Ethan had tried to get involved. Tried to break up the fight, and the other passerby had pulled out a knife and stabbed him in the chest.

And now he was in the morgue. There had been a mistake. Someone had declared him dead by mistake. His hands flew to his torso where he felt the gashes in his chest that had been left by the knife's blade. His chest was caked in congealed blood, the texture of which registered just barely against his numb fingers. That was good, he thought. He hadn't bled out at least.

Now was just the matter of getting out of the freezer. It was horrendously cold. He rocked himself back and forth, inching the drawer he was in out of the wall and opening himself up to the blinding light of the examination room outside.

"Hear that?" said a voice somewhere. Ethan couldn't see the owner.

"You're imagining things. New guys always do. You spend all night looking over your shoulder convinced the bodies are moving. They're not. Now shut up and eat your sandwich."

Satisfied that those voices were coming from somewhere other than the room he was currently in, Ethan resumed his strenuous and uncomfortably noisy task of freeing himself from the freezer. Once he did, he realized that the next step would be much more difficult. His freezer was not at ground level and he saw no easy way to exit gracefully.

"Here goes nothing," he mumbled, and he rolled out of the freezer, trying to angle his arms and legs as best he could to break his fall. He was mostly successful.

He crashed into the cold cement floor of the morgue, hitting his head on the way but most of his weight ended up resting on his elbows, which hit the floor with so much force he was surprised they didn't shatter. But they sure felt like they did.

He heard the voices again. Still muffled, and now garbled by what Ethan assumed was a sandwich. He was still undetected. Good.

Why was that good? Ethan wasn't sure. Logically, he knew that if he had been put in the morgue by mistake the workers there should be happy to help him. He didn't know why, he just knew it would be better if he wasn't seen. Which led to his next problem.

He was naked and covered with dried blood. A lab coat stolen from a rack by the door fixed the first problem. The second, he decided, would have to wait until he got home.

He was able to look down and get a proper look at his wounds now. The gashes on his chest were horrific and yet scabbed over like so many playground scuffs. He should be dead. That he knew. Ethan decided he couldn't blame whomever had pronounced him dead prematurely, he would have pronounced himself dead too.

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