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Corpses do not smell good.

I should know.

This is a fact of life, a fact of death.

Mabel often says that it's not worth thinking about things like that; because I lose focus. But it's so hard to not think about that.

How can you ignore a corpse's nature when the very life you lead is because of them?

The people of the city are blinded by the smog-filled streets; their eyes are down to the ground, focused on politics or jobs and such. How can they do this? How can they ignore the essence of cadavers, when death is all around them? What is a chimney sweep if not living on borrowed time? The slums of London are filled with death, and no one seems to take notice. Nobody.

I brought this up with Mabel once.

She'd said, "Dog, the less people care about the dead, the better it is for us."

I told her that she was right, because she was right. Mabel usually was right about things, and of course, the nature of what we do for a living has to do with the dead. It's much easier for Mabel and I to haul the deceased from their place of burial when the dead are paid no mind, than it is to make a peeler join them in death due to his unexpected patrol crossing paths with us.

They don't care, and we don't care.

I should know.

Mabel found me as a small boy, an orphaned runt of seven in a Lambeth slum. I had never known such kindness, such benevolence. No one would give me a second glance; I was pale and gaunt, eyes sunken, emaciated by my greedy siblings. I was nothing but an invalid, acute retardation as the ones we deal with would call it. But Mabel didn't see it that way; she saw something in those bloodshot eyes, and so she took me in.

We became more than boy and woman as I grew older, and I began to know her in more ways than one as we shared our lives, though I was always an underling in every sense; whether it was work or more privately.

She taught me everything I know now, how to hide, how to dig, how to wrap and how to slice. To start with, I hadn't understood why she did it, but I saw money, and Mabel said I was good at it, and so that made me happy.

The slicing makes me happiest, in fact. The process is so meticulous, so beautiful.

First, a Y-shaped incision in the chest, scalpel sharp and gleaming; creating a red sea like Moses of old, parting the flesh with ease. The organs come next, an amalgamation of different sensations with each one. Liver and lungs, a strange lumpy but smooth feeling on my hands; placed carefully in the trays beside the table I use. The heart is last, the core of the body. Everything in the body is so neatly aligned, so tidy. I feel such intimacy when I do this; touching the innards of a person; the physical things that keep them alive is so...exhilarating.

My favourites are always the fresher ones. Their essences are more clear, so much more accurate to how they were when alive. Not the older ones; they reek. The rancid stench they waft is unpleasant; their rot a far-cry from their once abundant beauty. But it has to be done; we can't always find them fresh.

I remember the best one. She was gorgeous, with honey blonde hair, still clinging to what little life her body had left. Pale and stiff, we'd lifted her from a graveyard in Whitechapel. She was pristine, buried in a lace dress, flowers still in hand. She smelled like roses; her soft blue eyes staring into nothingness. She was the best kisser I'd ever known; the love we shared before I sliced her was authentic; I knew it. Mary had been her name. I felt a little sad to see her go.

I often wonder what happens to them when they go.

All I know is the men from the medical universities come to Mabel's home on the moor outside the city, and she leaves for a while with Horace.

Horace is our horse; he hauls the bodies to and from wherever we go, and has a nice covered cart that he pulls.

I like to think that the men see them like I do, but I don't think they do.

I don't think they do, because Mabel doesn't, and if Mabel doesn't, then they won't.

Mabel always says that the dead are disgusting and that their only use is for money. I think she says that because she's noticed what I've been doing.

I don't understand it myself; I don't know why. It started with Mary, but I couldn't stop. Mabel doesn't understand the bodies like I do; she doesn't see the blooming gorgeousness that only begins in death. Up until now, she hasn't been this nasty though.

The day before yesterday, she said that I'm depraved. She told me that I'm nothing but a defiler and that I'm compromising the operation. It hurts so much, and I don't know why. Is it wrong? How could it be wrong, it makes me feel so good; so intense and complete. Her words hurt and my actions confuse me, but I cannot stop.

Mabel must understand, she must.

I should help her, then she won't say those awful things; perhaps she'll even help me. Yes, it's going to be okay.

The one who raised me should understand me; I can't go on while she's so blind to what I see.

I know just the way.

Our haul today is a slight young man in his early twenties, thin as a rail, stringy brown hair adorning his scalp. The factory work has not been kind to his body; scars atop most of his torso and arms. He will be my hero, Mabel's key.

I take the scalpel, carefully, metal meeting flesh, seamlessly slicing through. Skin peels slowly, the wonderful mesh that encases the precious insides separated from muscle and bone. A crimson shower follows this, and It's a shame I can't watch for longer; the arousal almost too much to bear.

But alas, I have a job to do.

I ascend the stairs from the cadaver room, my feet taking me closer and closer to my destination.

The night is silent, with no sounds throughout the house save for the drip of red on the floor.

I enter her room.

Mabel sleeps peacefully, wrapped in white sheets, closed eyes pointed skyward towards the wooden ceiling.

I move as stealthily as I can, the skin in my hand placed down delicately for the moment as I slowly pull back the sheet.

She stirs.

I clutch the man's shell once again, trembling as I slip the face onto hers.

Eyes open.

"Dog, what are you-"

I interrupt excitedly, voice wavering and shaking; I am so giddy.

"Don't you feel it? Don't you feel the beauty?"

Mabel fully comes to her senses, leaping up with a shriek as she feels the flesh.

She stares at me; what I can only describe as utter shock is on her face. She leaves the room without a word, and I hear the trickle of water soon after.

My face falls, giddiness leaving me in an instant.

I take back my previous statement. Mary is my second favourite. Mabel is the best. Her body lies still now, ready for slicing. She smells so rich in death, like lavender and honey. Her subtle wrinkles intensify those mature, radiant features; those amber pools reflecting my face as I look over her. I even brushed her hair and redressed her, lovely brunette locks framing her long red dress. I feel a little bad, she didn't die well, the red palm marks on her neck look unsightly amongst everything else; but there's no chance she'll ever understand now.

The first slices into that perfect skin begin as I kiss my mistress passionately; I no longer need to contain myself, lust pouring into every synapse. My clothes slip to the floor as I finish the incision.

She didn't feel it.

And now she never will.

Written by ZugZuwang
Content is available under CC BY-SA