The Long Wake of Trent Senior
The smell of death coming from the decaying corpse caused a gag reflex in Kane’s throat and he coughed gently into his hand. After all these years, the stench still sickened him. The family of the deceased watched as he examined the body. To him this was just a piece of meat, a thing that had been cast off by the departing soul as it journeyed to the beyond. A place where Kane had already been.
“How long has it been?” Kane asked, staring into the lifeless eyes of the corpse.
A woman stepped towards him, her words chewed up by tears. “Found him an hour ago. Can’t have been dead more than three.”
Kane looked at the woman. She was the pretty sort, right side of forty with a neat blonde shoulder length cut. Her eyes were smokey blue and her lips showed the red stain of a woman who liked to look good. “Looks like it’s going to be a long Wake,” Kane sighed. “Twenty one hours, perhaps a little less.” He checked his watch, knowing it was hard to really tell when a soul returned.
“Get you anything while you wait?”
Kane shrugged. “No.” He looked down at his notepad, checking his facts. “You must be his daughter, Lorna. Nice name.”
Lorna smiled, though not the kind that found it’s way to your face after a joke. It was the uncertain reaction that Kane had grown to know well in his job as Priest. “Yes, he’s my father.” She looked behind to an older woman and a man roughly her own age. “This is my mother and brother.”
Kane nodded a greeting to them. Checking over his pad again, he noted that the brother, one David Trent, had resurrected five years ago. They’d seen it before, then; it was always easier when they knew what was coming. “You have nothing to worry about,” Kane said, “these things normally go smoothly.”
Lorna’s face creased in worry. “Normally?”
Kane pulled an armchair across the room, positioning it a few inches away from the table where the body of Trent senior waited to come back alive. Taking a seat, he looked up at Lorna. “That’s why I’m here,” he said. “Without us, the soul gets lost on the return and something else is brought back. Something from the depths of darkness.” Kane paused, his mind flashing back to that dark place he had already been, was destined to return to.
Lorna’s mother began to cry and David led her from the room with his arm around her shoulder. On passing Kane, David pressed a coin into his hand. A traditional family, then, Kane thought. He gave thanks and placed the coin next to Trent Senior, paying for his return. Now it was just Kane, Lorna and Trent senior. He apologized for upsetting her, but he didn’t really mean it. People needed to know the risks of resurrection. Looking at his watch, Kane rubbed his eyes: it was going to be a long night and he had barely slept since the last Wake. That had gone smoothly, the deceased returning as though waking from a beautiful dream. The family had cried, hugging him and welcoming him back to life. Then Kane had snuck out the back, his long night’s work completed. Now he was back on another night. Sighing, he thought, why do I always get the Graveyard Shift?
“Have you resurrected yet?” Lorna asked, sitting on the arm of the chair.
Shifting around uncomfortably, Kane felt a shiver as he remembered that day when he had found his way back. That was twenty years ago when he was seventy. Now he was fifty and the memories were still sharp. There was no waking from a beautiful dream for him. It had been a nightmare filled with darkness and despair. And of course he was nearing the age when he would begin to age forward again towards that eventful fate. “Yes, I have come back. I don’t like to talk about it.”
“They say it’s a miracle, a blessing from God,” Lorna muttered. “But I don’t believe in God.” She looked apologetically at Kane.
“Neither do I.”
“But you’re a priest. Why wouldn’t you believe?”
Kane took a deep breath, coughing as he inhaled the fetid air of death again. “The resurrected come back with a talent to call to the lost soul. When it nears, I can hear it and guide it back to life. When I was lost in the darkness, it was a priest’s call that brought me comfort in that struggle. Not god.”
“That’s why you became a priest?”
Kane nodded. It was a half truth. The other half of it was redemption, and a recurring nightmare of the darkness beyond. Leaning forward, Kane stared at the still body on the table, listening for the call of the soul. It was silent, but there was still a long wait. Somewhere, the soul of Trent senior prepared for the return home.
Rain began to fall, pattering against the window. “Can we lower the light in here?” Kane mumbled, rubbing tired eyes. “It’s too bright.”
Lorna dimmed the lights until they sat in shadows. “Why do you think this happened to us?”
Kane thought for a while in silence. He had long given up wondering why the universe had changed this one consistent law. “They reckon it’s something to do with a quantum field.”
Lorna pulled up a chair and sat opposite, her features hidden in the gloom. “What’s it like coming back?”
“Like bursting from the dark depths of the ocean, grabbing hold of land and gasping for life. At first it’s great, aging backwards until you hit your thirties and you begin to age again towards that date when you know you’ll have your second death.”
“Has anyone come back a second time?”
Kane shook his head. “No.” Physics or whatever it was had decided they’d get one more shot at life to put something right before heading to that dark place again. Only not everyone came from the dark. Every soul he had guided back had spoken of beauty and peace. Some had spoken of paradise. But Kane knew the dark awaited him, cold and unending. “How old are you?”
Lorna’s voice drifted across the gloom. “Thirty Eight.”
“If you’re lucky, you’ll die before you’re forty; those ones don’t come back.”
Lorna laughed. “What kind of priest are you to say that?”
Kane’s cynical smile was hidden by the dark. “One who has crossed into the dark and is on his way back. Unless...” He let his words drift away into thought.
Kane leaned forward. “Unless I can save enough souls. Anything to avoid the dark.” He shivered and wrapped his arms around himself. Checking his watch, only minutes had passed and the gentle patter of rain had turned into a relentless assault against the window. A flash, then a rumble and the storm was upon them. What better weather for the resurrection of Trent Senior? The old man lay still at his Wake, waiting for something to come back and animate his body. He had seen the resurrected where the soul had got lost. They came back, but different. The cold steel of a gun pressed into his side, reminding him what he would have to do if that ever happened.
“One shot to the head,” the Bishop told him. “It’s cleaner that way.”
“You should get to bed,” Kane told Lorna. If it did go wrong, he didn’t want her to see.
Lorna remained seated. “It’s a lonely job, isn’t it?” she asked. There was a sudden illumination and her face filled with fire as she struck a match and lit a cigarette. The smoke masked the smell of death, always lingering in the background. The tip burned red as she pulled on it.
“We like to work alone.”
Lorna sat up. “You want me to go?”
Quickly, Kane shook his head. “No, but It will be a long night.”
Lorna got to her feet and crossed the room, stopping at a cabinet. “Then I’d better get us a drink.” There was the sound of glass clunking as she searched around in the cabinet. She brought out two small glasses and filled them with a shot of drink. Handing a glass to Kane, she knocked hers back and coughed. “Here’s to dad.” She held two fingers close together. “Two finger shot.”
Sipping his drink, Kane recognised a cheap whiskey. It burned with pleasing warmth and he knocked the rest back. Taking his empty glass, Lorna sat back in her chair and they stared at each other in silence as Lorna smoked. There was something about this woman, Kane thought, that began to waken something inside him he had thought long dead. Sitting in the dark with a body waiting to resurrect felt intimate. Lighting another cigarette, she asked Kane if he minded.
“It won’t affect the resurrection.” He bit back his words. Too harsh, he thought, unused to holding conversations. “I mean, that’s okay.”
Chuckling warmly, Lorna took a long drag on the cigarette and poured another drink for them both, making it a three finger affair. They spoke about the life of Trent Senior for sometime. Occasionally, Kane checked the body for signs of resurrection, before settling back to listen to Lorna. He avoided details of his life; there were buried secrets he wasn’t ready to bring to the surface. Perhaps another time, if Lorna wanted to see him after the Wake. But she eventually got to the biggest secret of all.
“How did you die? Was it peaceful, or did you go out fighting?”
Suddenly there was a voice calling out to him in the distance, saving him from Lorna’s questions. Standing, he listened, thinking it was his imagination. The voice called out to him again, this time louder. Looking to Lorna, he could see she was unaware of it. “It’s started,” Kane whispered. Checking the body, he saw a faint glow around it as the cells began repairing themselves in preparation for the soul. Pale skin filled with blood as organs began to function once again.
“This way,” Kane said. “Listen to my voice and find me. I am with your body: it is ready to receive you.” He looked at Lorna who stared at him with an open mouth in shock. The voice grew louder, more certain as the soul drew closer. “Come to me now,” Kane said.
The body of Trent senior began to groan and Lorna jumped back. A hand reached up and the body tried to sit upright. Kane grabbed the hand and held it, easing the body back down again. “Rest, you have travelled a long way.”
Trent Senior’s eyes flickered open and looked at Kane. “It was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen,” he gasped. “Everything is going to be okay.”
Kane nodded. Another soul returned from the light. Lorna grabbed Kane’s hand and squeezed it. She raised it to her mouth and kissed his wrist where there had been a jagged scar, a place he had cut with a sharp knife all those years ago, damning him it seemed to the endless dark and closing the gate to paradise. It was as though she knew what he had done and as she looked him in the eyes, he saw a real hope for redemption. Taking her hand, he kissed it gently back before turning to Trent Senior.
“Welcome back, Mr Trent.”