This isn’t where the dead bodies go.
This isn’t where they go, and also, this one’s not packaged. Did someone break into the hangar just to die? Why not die in the street? They – she? She would’ve had plenty of company.
Arrow takes a step closer to the body and stretches out a foot to push the crumpled little corpse onto its back. It flops over, and she’s not so sure it’s a girl now. It’s definitely weird-looking. Black hair, almost black skin, kind of shiny. Some kind of alien, then. And there’s something wrong with the legs. Maybe someone beat it up before they killed it. Arrow wrinkles her nose. This is probably gonna get her in trouble.
She sighs and goes to find Jordon. He’s in the office, sleeping and stinking worse than the body. She puts a sharp little elbow into his fat shoulder once, twice. “Mr. Jordon. Mr. Jordon, wake up!”
He rolls upright in his chair like a drunken bear, one hand fumbling across his stained belly for the plastic bottle nestled in his armpit. About half a deep draught of vodka spills down his chin, making it in an instant the most sanitary square inch of him. It brings him momentarily out of his stupor. He blinks swollen, bloodshot eyes at her.
“Wha…. Urrow. Ged oudda here.”
“Mr. Jordon, there’s a dead body in the hangar.”
A deep rumble makes its way up from his chest, much the worse for the journey by the time it exists his lips. “Uuuuugh. Put ‘er in the morgue.”
“It’s not packaged. It’s just… dressed. Kinda. And it’s an alien.”
He groans and turns half over in the chair, which complains at the mistreatment. “Fuggin… Label it then, an’ put it away. The fuck I keep you for. What fuggin time is it?”
Arrow glances up at the battered analog clock over his desk. It’s upside-down, but Arrow doesn’t know that. She’s never seen another one. “Six-thirty.”
He lashes out with a boot, which she doesn’t have to dodge – it misses her by a good four feet. “Get the fuck oudda here… fuggin six-thirty.” The last of these words is carried out of his mouth on a deep sigh, the kind that could make you drunk if you were within kissing distance when he did it. Arrow curls her lip and turns to go. He mumbles after her, “An’ don’ take long. Not payin’ you t’jerk off all the way to the morgue.”
Label it and put it away. Fine. If an alien fell off a ship and died in the hangar, it’s none of her business. She gets the biohazard tape and then stops to think. She’s going to need some way to get the body to the shrinkwrapper. Probably can’t lift it; it’s about her size.
After some consideration, she extracts a wooden pallet from one of the back rooms, then looks for rope. There are a few bungie cords – that’ll have to do. She hangs the bungie cords from their little hooks on the end of the pallet, and sashays back to the corner where the body is, balancing the pallet on top of her head with both hands.
A few minutes’ work forms a crude litter. Then she screws up her face and her courage and works her hands under the dead alien’s arms. It feels warmish – can’t have died long ago. By the time it’s on the pallet, Arrow is sweating and tired, but dragging the litter isn’t too hard. She feels a bit of pride at her solution to this problem.
The pallet makes an awful sound scraping along the concrete floor, and she realizes right away it’s not gonna fit out the side door. She’ll have to go out the main door and loop around to the morgue. Ugh. Lot of bloody trouble. And when she gets onto the blacktop outside, the scraping sound is even worse. Fortunately there’s no one around to hear her. Mornings are quiet here.
The sun isn’t up yet, but it’s sort of dim grey out there. Only a little hazy today. She’d hoped to get done early and make it to the kitchen before the line got long, but this is gonna set her back an hour, easy. Balls.
The morgue is locked, of course – only she gets to loot bodies around here. She leaves the litter outside one of the loading bays and unlocks the door beside it. In the dark she finds the exposed chain that works the bay gate and drags on it with all her scrawny weight. Slowly, with much screeching, a bar of greyish light grows.
Panting, she hooks the chain over a protruding shaft of rebar and ducks under the gate. The pallet is at her feet… and the body’s not there.
What? Where’s her dead body?
Arrow twists around, one way and then the other. Maybe someone took it? That would save her time… no, it’s there, sprawled beside the door she left open. Did it fall off?
She crouches to get ahold of the blasted thing again, and it squirms in her arms. With a yelp, she jumps back, pressed up against the cold cinderblocks. The body turns over on its own, producing a sound like Jordon’s hungover groans, but thinner, smaller. And then the eyes open, deep blue-black eyes with no whites at all in that dark greenish face.
Arrow whimpers. Is it a zombie? She knows all about zombies, but she was almost certain they weren’t real until just this minute. The body whimpers too. For a moment, they just stare at each other. The grubby sky brightens slowly over two frozen figures, similar in size but otherwise as different as they can be. One is dressed in dirty flannel and denim, her red curls matted around her head like a helmet. She’s small and slight, freckled and dirty, and she looks about ten years old. The dark-skinned alien at her feet could be any age, as far as she’s concerned, but isn’t any bigger.
When the thing doesn’t move any further, Arrow’s curiosity conquers her fear, and she crouches down to look it in the face.
“Are you a zombie?”
The zombie’s brows draw together in consternation. “Zzzz… Zzombie?” It raises shaking hands and rubs its face hard. “I don’t… I don’t think so?”
Hearing it talk does much to ease Arrow’s mind. Zombies can’t talk; they don’t have brains. “I thought you were dead,” she says candidly.
“I… don’t think I’m that, either. I don’t feel real good though.”
“Yeah, you look like somebody beat you up. But I was gonna put you in the morgue.”
The alien squints at her. “That doesn’t sound good.”
“Well, it’s fine. I mean, if you’re dead it’s fine. Now…” Arrow sighs and settles onto her haunches. “Now I don’t know what to do with you. You can’t sleep in the hangar, though. You’re only allowed in there if you work here.”
“Atlantis Shipping Surplus. Queens.”
“Queens?” The alien looks pained.
“New York? Earth?”
Her head rolls back and forth. “I… don’t remember anything.”
“What about your name?”
“No…” Slowly, the alien pushes herself up with both hands, head hanging.
“Well, uh… can you stand? Or walk? I guess I could take you to the hostel. It’s where I live. There’s a nurse there; maybe she can make you feel better.”
The hanging head bobs. Arrow takes this as assent, and gets to her feet to help the alien up. It takes a lot of doing, most of it on her part, and when she’s done they’re both leaning against the wall of the morgue, looking at the dirty blacktop. Then Arrow notices those legs.
“I thought your legs were broken. What’s wrong with ‘em?”
The alien looks down. “Nothing… I don’t think. Don’t feel broken.” She shifts her weight carefully from foot to foot. Arrow watches the legs bend the wrong way, lifting feet that look more like hands.
“You’re an alien.”
“I… am? I guess. You’re not?”
“I’m a human. I was born on this planet. Don’t you remember anything?”
The alien shakes her head again.
“Well, I gotta call you something.” She casts around for a name, and her eyes fall on the broken letters peeling off the building across the way. “You sound like a girl to me. Is Laguardia okay?”
The alien shrugs. “Sure. It sounds nice.”
“Okay then, Laguardia. I can take you to the nurse, but then I have to come back to work. I’ll get in trouble if I’m gone long.”