Hayaden Mucestra, a Deltan elf, loved his job.
Tonight, like most nights, Hayaden would spend most of his nighttime shift as a Coroner’s Office guard at his desk deep in the office’s bowels, snoozing.
The New Delta Medical Center’s Coroner’s Office was a relic of another age. It was obsolete even when the Center was opened in early 9900s, simply called the Coroner’s Office out of tradition. Anyone, provided they had an autopsy tablet, could perform an autopsy. The Coroner’s Office was really a morgue, a vast warehouse of the dead.
Bodies were brought into a holding area where they were tagged and placed into special bags. They were loaded onto a conveyor belt and sent into a cavernous warehouse stacked with walls of refrigerators a hundred feet high. Automated lifts put the bodies into the fridge drawers and took them out.
The Office only saw a fraction of the deaths in the city, which still numbered in the hundreds of thousands each year. All deaths in the Medical Center, murder victims whose killers went to trial and random unclaimed bodies made their way through the office. If bodies were not claimed they were sent into a chute into the sludge at the bottom of the New Delta towers. The bodies dissolved over time, becoming part of the sludge. The sludge was then collected by various entities and turned into a variety of products, the most common of which was aircraft fuel.
Only one group ever bothered pilfering the dead: Necromancers. They raised the dead by infusing a part of their soul inside a body or body part, and were attracted to the Coroner’s Office like Uthirans were attracted to fly-through eateries.
Necromancy was officially banned in New Delta and was hunted vigorously by the Order of Elohim, which called it an abomination. Despite their efforts, necromancy was very much alive. It was just being practiced in secret.
Order priests were originally stationed inside the morgue in Hayaden’s position, but were replaced with other magic practitioners once non-Elohim worshippers started complaining that bodies of their loved ones were being giving Elohim funeral rites. Instead, the Order had a legion of priests stationed everywhere else in the Center searching for them.
Still, despite the heavy security, some necromancers always managed to make it through.
Hayaden’s job, in case the dead started rising, was to alert the Order priests who’d come and kill the necromancer. Once necromancer had been killed, the dead went back to being dead. That was the only way to deal with the undead short of disintegrating them. Taking a zombie’s head off only meant you had a blind and deaf zombie. A necromancer could even resurrect a finger and have it hop around and poke people if they wanted to. The Deltan elf was hired, instead of the more common ogre, troll and orc guards, because he could use magic and could better deal with the occasional violent necromancer.
Hayaden was snapped awake by the terrified screams of scared holding area workers filtering through the maze of fridges to him. Necromancers showed up every five or six days like clockwork. It was had been five days since the last one, so Hayaden wasn’t surprised.
All around in the center of the morgue, the dozens of fridge doors were rattling on their hinges as the dead tried to escape their frigid tombs. A lift rolled past with a flailing body on a stationary conveyor belt. It stopped in front of a low door which opened automatically. The conveyor belt delivered the body onto the fridge tray inside, and the door slammed shut again as the lift rolled off to continue its work.
A door high up on the wall opened and a zombie human male crawled out and fell fifty feet, breaking most of its bones against the hard tile floors. It continued to writhe on the ground.
While many considered this a nightmarish scene and would flee in terror, Hayaden yawned.
This was business as usual and he wasn’t in much danger. Necromancers rarely had their zombies kill, since if they did, the full might of the Order would be unleashed upon them.
Hayaden reached down and placed a thumb on the biometric scanner built into the desk. A compartment opened and Hayaden was about the press the alarm button inside…but then music began to play over the PA system. It was a dance remix of traditional elven music which consisted of strings and ethereal vocals. The crippled zombies on the floor stopped moving as other zombies crawled out of low fridges and stood in a row. They were all nude and disturbing to look at as usual but Hayaden started to tap his finger to beat as they danced.
Half of them were in varying degrees of rigor mortis and moved stiffly and methodically, while the others moved freely, whipping their limbs to the tune.
Hayaden considered lighting a few of them on fire to watch them burn to ash rhythmically.
Then the necromancer, a Deltan elf with hair dyed into a rainbow of colors and wearing skimpy clothes, appeared and started dancing.
Hayaden was transfixed. This was not the usual necromancer, frumpy old guys who’d have the dead run around for a bit before leaving.
He was torn about pressing that button and she knew it. The necromancer danced her way over and started dancing around and then on the desk.
She leaned back, putting her face close to his. His heart skipped a beat. She spun her body to face his, wrapped her legs around him, and passionately kissed him. Her lips were coated in a tangy gloss, which only heightened the sensation.
But as she pulled away, Hayaden began to feel sleepy.
“I’m Selsidhia,” the young woman said as Hayaden’s eyes slowly drooped shut. “I’m tired of controlling decrepit zombies…” She unwrapped her legs and he fell back in his chair. Her voice became indistinct against the music.
The last thing Hayaden felt before he lost consciousness was a warm body against him and breath against his ear. “Don’t you worry…you won’t decompose under my control.”
His heart stopped a few seconds later.
Selsidhia wiped her poisoned lipstick on his shirt. She waved; the music stopped and the other zombies just stood there. And then she cast an incantation and Hayaden reanimated as a zombie. His body was still very warm.
Salsidhia started the music back up. She guided zombie Hayaden to the other zombies and started dancing with him.
Then the zombies in the holding area spotted priests rushing towards them.
She released every zombie but Hayaden and stopped the music.
The necromancer and her prize jogged through the morgue to a back corner and pulled up a loose tile, revealing a secret tunnel. They went down and she replaced the tile.
Hayaden would remain at Salsidhia’s side forevermore.