The Calling of Cadence Saenger
by Darshes A. DiPesa
Part 1 appears|
in this issue.
He waited for her after class. Naturally, Cadence wanted nothing to do with Trevor, but she finally consented to having a cup of coffee together, only as long as he promised to leave Daniela and her alone during their lessons. She couldn’t believe she’d even consented to it. However, she did want to finish gross anatomy at the top of the class and, logically, it only seemed possible if Trevor’s obnoxious behavior could be somehow abated.
“I find you fascinating.”
The words seemed to come out of left field, making Cadence almost spit the double espresso she’d ordered across the room. “Excuse me?”
“I mean, here you are, seemingly plain Jane, but you have a huge chip on your shoulder for no reason.”
“I’m just trying to graduate. I strive to be the best at anything I do and never settle for second.”
“Never?” His smile had some humor to it as if he didn’t believe her.
“Never.” She was straightforward as usual, but then suddenly managed an impish grin. Her light laughter enchanted Trevor.
“What’s so funny?”
“Well, there was one time when I came in second place at my eighth grade talent show. I lost to Julie Springer’s flawless baton twirling, pep-squad leading, dance routine. She wasn’t that good, if you ask me.”
“And what did you bring to the talent show? Let me guess... you performed open-heart surgery on the family dog.”
“We didn’t have a dog. No, I played the violin. Julie said it sounded like someone was killing a cat. And she wonders why I flushed her tiara down the toilet when she became Homecoming Queen.”
“You played the violin.”
“Having a hard time wrapping your mind around that one?”
“No, my mind is quite fully rapt. What kind did you play?”
“It was a three-quarter, old Italian Stradivarius that had belonged to my mother since she was six.”
“Ha. I thought guys like you were only impressed by a woman’s cup size.”
He leered. “Though I’m impressed by your size, you’d do well to know I’m certainly impressed by other things.”
“So I’m learning.”
Cady’s smile continuously brightened the coffee shop that evening. They went to a movie the following night, followed by a nice dinner at Pizzeria Regina in the North End. He was charming, interesting, and even had a dry but witty sense of humor. Everything he said seemed to be sarcastic, and yet everything he did belied it. Cadence had never expected anything like this. Underneath the blasé, arrogant exterior that served as his public façade, Trevor was actually a nice guy. She would eventually fall in love with him.
* * *
Cadence blinked as she came out of her momentary reflection. The stairway was brightly lit now. The lab coat remained on the hook, untouched. She stood on the top step of the landing, her arms still folded tightly over her chest. Cadence pulled her long dirty blonde hair back. Her hands trembled, and the gesture had all the grace of a pregnant yak. With a black elastic band she found around her wrist, she tied her hair up in a dangling ponytail.
She always did have beautiful hair. Her mother used to say it reminded her of ashes in the sun’s golden glow. Her husband used to tease her, saying it resembled angel-hair pasta overpowered by black pepper. She laughed lightly at the latter thought, as she made her way down the steps.
The boards groaned underfoot, but she hardly heard them. It was their common protest to any footfall.
Cadence touched down on the fourth step and took a deep breath. Upon exhaling, she could see cold mist rise. Something was definitely here. She wrapped her arms around her slender frame once again, shivering at the idea of some evil presence down there, waiting.
The lily white of Cadence’s skin contrasted horribly with her black sweater. The combination was astoundingly bad. What did she care? She loved this sweater and despite its heavy construction, she was beyond cold. That’s what it was, cold, ice cold!
Her breath was visible, and her lungs ached in pain. Walking down the next few steps seemed to last forever. As she composed herself, she tried to envision a tropical paradise.
In her mind, the cellar transformed, and suddenly, she was in Aruba. The sandy beaches and crystal blue waters sprang up around her, and she welcomed the contrast. This was where she and her husband Trevor had spent their honeymoon.
The beaches were warm. The sun beat down on her in a blaze of relentless glory. Everything seemed perfect. Everything felt... Cold! Cold like the refrigeration units at med school! She wasn’t basking in the glory of Aruba anymore, or daydreaming about the skimpy swimsuit she wore for her husband during their honeymoon. No, she was back in the cellar, teetering on the sixth step.
The force of evil exercised its will to pull her back. She wouldn’t be going anywhere unless she went deeper into the heart of the house’s foundation. Poised on the sixth step, Cadence swallowed hard and willed herself to the seventh.
The strange presence was tormenting Cadence. It was a strong hand grasping hers, leading her down into the basement. The thoughts of an extra-planar foe in unrest and assaulting her were suffocating to her. She’d seen Poltergeist, and wondered if such things could be possible. Perhaps, after all these years, Cadence was finally getting confirmation on the subject. Damn Trevor and his love for those stupid horror movies! Cadence preferred love stories and romantic comedies, but her husband barely managed a smile at the joys of love on the big screen.
She prayed for a romantic comedy, but love wasn’t on the menu of this malevolent force. It held her, poised on the narrow stair, as its frigid tendrils dragged her from reverie. This was it! Cadence was abject from this dance. Something steeped in damnation called to her and she’d kept it waiting long enough.
The smell of a potent rose olfaction filled the air. This was the same germicide her father would use when he was embalming. Cadence normally loved the smell, but for some reason it was like tasting rust today. The lights flickered as she turned the corner. What sort of demon awaited her?
He was standing in front of the porcelain table, and he wasn’t alone. There was a fresh body on the table with him. Cadence noticed he had already finished the arterial embalming process in which he chose the heart instead of a nearby vein. It reminded Cadence of when she’d gone to the doctor and he’d cursed her for having such poor veins for drawing blood. There was a contingent of chemicals on a rollaway cart next to the table, and a syringe as well. They had all been used.
Cadence ticked through the options mentally. This would indicate the person he was embalming was a diabetic, a drug user, or might even have had blood cancer. Cadence remembered when she’d been diagnosed with diabetes. The doctors told her it ran in the family, and the affliction was something her father had also suffered from for twenty years.
The eerie coincidence was making Cadence want to leave and let her husband work in peace. He never worked without her, though. They’d always worked as a team, sometimes she even teased him about giving better manicures than she.
Cadence frowned. He didn’t seem to be speaking to her much as of late. Maybe she’d somehow forgotten why they’d grown apart, but she wanted to make things right. He must have come in through the side door, it was still ajar.
Sunlight filtered in, but it wasn’t the normal sunlight you’d expect from a muggy summer day. It was severely blinding.
Cadence again shrugged off her discomfort and closed the gap between her and her husband. She eyed the trocar he held, noting his hand was a little shaky. Maybe the evil in this place was plaguing him, too.
Cadence placed her arms around his waist. He seemed to stiffen at first, but then eased into the curve of her body. She was glad. The gooseflesh she’d had when first she came down was subsiding in her husband’s warmth. There was no evil here. It was only her imagination.
“I’m sorry if I upset you, Trevor. Let’s put it behind us. You always said the road behind isn’t as interesting as the road ahead.”
He didn’t answer. She could hear the sound of the metal cylinder being inserted close to the navel. Cavity embalming was a precise art in Cady’s eyes. Without looking she knew he was dead on. She rested her head against his back. Wait, was he crying?
“It’s okay, darling. Whatever it is, it will all be okay now.” The words were noble, but did little to ease the pain of Cadence’s true love. She noticed a bottle of whisky on the rollaway cart. Had he been drinking? The outward show of disrespect to the dead made Cadence’s stomach turn.
“A mortician must always be clear and fully conscious when preparing a body!” She was the echo of her father now.
Trevor broke free of his wife’s embrace and ran out the side entrance. Had he even heard her? Startled but still seething with anger, Cadence was about to follow, but that familiar black magic held her in place. The feeling! It was back again and more forceful than ever! She felt helpless as she struggled to make sense of what was happening to her.
“What do you want from me?!”
She turned to face the table. Whatever was here with her had to do with that body on that embalming table...
She involuntarily walked over to the corpse. Just like when she was a child, she just had to see what it was for herself. She was close enough now. Close enough... Her eyes widened in shock.
“No!” she screamed “This isn’t possible!”
Cadence’s mind spun, cartwheeling as she tried to make sense of the dead figure lying before her. Accident! There was an accident! Blood! So much blood! The car, beautiful metallic silver, the color of her father’s eyes, was crippled, and she could feel the impact as if it were happening now, her body folding in on itself and the horrific sound of twisted metal and breaking bones screaming inside her head.
In a daze, she looked again at the corpse. The chilled touch of the grave coursed through Cady’s body. Her widened eyes began to tear and suddenly everything became clear. Was it too late? Had she seen it all?
The reason for the lack of communication between her and Trevor over the last couple of days, and even the sobbing fit he had just before he left the room.
Staring down at the person being embalmed, it all began to make sense. The evil she’d feared, the one that had inhabited the entire house from the confines of the basement, the evil was her!
Sheer terror filled the spectre of Cadence Saenger as she watched her own lily-white face, devoid of life, smile back at her.
Copyright © 2012 by Darshes A. DiPesa