The old streetlamp cast a dim yellow glow over the front of the aged funeral home. Along the lower side of the stone building where it was darkest, Mia Langston stood holding hands with her boyfriend, Lucas Forester. Lightning seared the sky, and they cringed at the immediate thunderclap that followed. The wind had kicked up, and the first rush of raindrops washed over them.
“Come on,” Lucas said, laughing, and pulled Mia into the dark recess of the side entrance. “Can’t change our minds now, anyway. We’ll get soaked.”
“Nope.” Mia giggled into Lucas’s broad chest, then raised her face for a kiss. Having sex in the funeral home had been her idea, just like most of the places they’d broken in to do it. They needed some kind of fun in this boring town, where all they did was work in the lumber mill during the week and drink on the weekends. Three months ago, breaking into a car at the local used car lot at midnight and steaming up the windows had been Lucas’s idea, but Mia had loved it, and from then on they’d found various businesses that seemed easy to enter after dark. They’d even hidden under the stairs in the lumber mill until closing time last month, and then had sex three times on the plant manager’s desk.
The basement entrance to the funeral home would be good, if the lightning would let up. The darker, the better. Mia hoped Lucas’s lock picks would work. This door had no bolt, just a doorknob that looked ancient.
As if reading her mind, Lucas bent down and studied the knob, then said, “Just an old fashioned lock on this one.”
A familiar thrill ran through Mia’s body, but she wondered at the strange undercurrent of fear. She’d never done it in a place that held dead people. Even thinking about death was scary, but that was why they were here — because doing this type of thing made them both feel alive. Plus, they’d started to run out of places to break into. The town was only so big.
Mia heard the lock click, and Lucas straightened. “You ready for this?” he asked.
Lucas nodded and then put on gloves before grasping the door knob. He turned it slowly and pushed open an inch, and they listened for any sounds of an alarm. If there was an alarm, it would be hard to hear over the crazy thunder and pounding rain. Lucas opened the door wider.
“Nothing,” he said.
They crept inside. Mia’s heart raced. Sneaking into a building was her favorite part — besides the sex, of course.
Lucas eased the door shut and turned the simple doorknob lock. Mia jumped at a blast of thunder that seemed to shake the building. She usually didn’t let storms bother her, but they were in a funeral home, and this added a whole new level of scary thrill.
Mia pulled her cell phone from her pocket and turned on the cell’s flashlight, shining it around the upper walls. “Cameras?”
“Don’t see any. Not in this little room, anyway.”
They stood in a room barely bigger than a closet, with a door directly in front of them and another on their left. Still wearing the gloves to avoid fingerprints, Lucas opened the door on the left. They peered inside and saw a small storage room that held trash cans, cleaning supplies, and gardening tools. Boring. They backed out and Lucas closed the door.
The other door opened to a huge room with a cement floor, almost like a garage. They did a quick check to be sure no security cameras were present that they could see, and then Mia drew in a quick breath as her cell light shown on a row of five caskets along one wall. “Ooh, doing it in one of these would be weird, and so fun! As long as the lid stays open.” She hesitated then added, “And as long as there are no people in them.”
She heard Lucas’s low laugh. “I doubt it, but we’ll check.” They looked around the room and saw a garage door that stood to their left, probably there to let in a hearse. That made sense since the driveway sloped down alongside the building and around to the back.
To the right were two doors, one of them wide and made of metal. This door reminded Mia of the refrigeration unit in the fast food restaurant she’d worked at during high school. The other door was nondescript but had a sign on it, too dim to see from where they stood.
Beside the row of caskets was what looked like an elevator door, and beside that one, another door with a sign. Lots of doorways, but no windows.
Mia moved toward the caskets. “Do you think there’s dead people in these?”
“That’s a lot of dead people.”
Mia held her breath until Lucas had lifted the lid of one at the end of the row, then she sighed in relief. “Empty. Good. She climbed in, folded her hands on her stomach, and closed her eyes. “Let’s do it in this one. I’ll pretend I’m dead.”
Lucas leaned down and kissed her. “I prefer you alive and moving. And maybe we should check the other rooms first, make sure no one’s here.”
Another blast of thunder, this time sounding like it was right on top of the building, made Mia sit up and hop out of the coffin in alarm. The thunder was followed by a crackling and buzzing sound from outside. Lucas went to check outside. He was only gone half a minute, but Mia imagined someone was near her at the coffin. Then, she swore she heard a voice, sounding tinny and far away, but definitely there in the room with her. She trotted to the door that would lead to the little room where they’d come in and opened it, sure she was imagining things but wanting Lucas to hurry up.
He was just shutting the outside door and locking it. “Lights are out,” he said. “There’s a transformer down the street that looks like it exploded.”
“All the more darker for us,” Mia said, her breath in a slight pant. “I got a little spooked in there.”
“Spooky sex will be good,” Lucas said, and grinned.
In the distance, a siren sounded and grew louder. There were no windows, but Mia and Lucas turned off their cell lights anyway and stood silent in the dark, holding hands, listening. The siren peaked and then weakened as the vehicle passed the funeral home and went on its way.
Both turned on their cell lights. “Okay. Let’s see what’s in here,” Lucas said, and led Mia to the metal door. He grabbed the latch and pulled the door open. Cold air swept out at them. They directed their lights onto long metal shelves, where two cardboard boxes, each in length about six feet or so, lay on opposite each other. At the end of each box was a nameplate and a short series of numbers.
Mia held the door open. “Oh, wow. So this is where they keep the bodies.” She grinned and mimicked holding a telephone to her ear. “Thank you for calling Mia’s mortuary. You stab ‘em, we slab ‘em.”
Lucas laughed. “That’s the trouble with this town. There haven’t been any stabbings in years. Just old farts kicking the bucket.” He lifted each of the cardboard lids. “I don’t recognize these old farts.“
“Betty Dickens,” Mia read, then looked at the nameplate on the other box. “Michael Bransley. Hey, I heard about him on the news. He’s not old at all. He’s that teenager who drowned when he fell out of his boat. They couldn’t find him for a few days.”
“Yeah, seventeen I think. He’s all puffy and gray.” Lucas held the lid open. “Want to see?”
”Nah.” For some reason, Mia’s palms had gotten clammy. She backed out of the refrigerated room. Another waft of air, this one seeming to ride on a soft sigh, chilled her face in a cold caress. She touched her cheek. “I don’t want to do anything in here.”
“Me neither. And the power’s off, so these guys won’t stay cold for long.” They shut the door, then approached the old wooden door next to the refrigerated room. Lucas tried the handle. “Locked.”
The sign on the door read, “Preparation”. Mia pointed her light at the doorknob so Lucas could see as he picked the lock. She glanced over her shoulder into the darkness. Sure, she’d figured there might be dead bodies in the funeral home, but seeing them stored in a fridge in long cardboard boxes was kind of weird.
A soft click sounded, and Lucas opened the door. There were no windows in this room either, so after entering, Mia closed the door and found the light switch. She flicked it a couple of times, but the room remained dark. “Yup, power’s out,” she said.
A stainless steal exam table stood in the center of the room. Against one wall was a stained white porcelain sink with a spotted faucet. A table against another wall held a toolbox, and beside this, in a neat row, lay brushes and combs. An empty garment rack stood beside the table.
The room smelled like lavender and roses, and something else that made Mia’s nose tingle. She rubbed it and said, “Pickles.”
Lucas sniffed. “That’s the shit they use to embalm people. It’s called formerhide.”
Mia decided she wouldn’t correct her boyfriend’s usage of formaldehyde. Lucas had barely passed his classes in high school, and he’d always felt like he was stupid. He wasn’t — he was a good machine mechanic and kept most of the mill saws and belts running — but there weren’t too many opportunities in the area to gain advanced certification or a journeyman’s card.
She strode to the toolbox and opened it. “Just as I thought. It’s makeup and hairspray. This must be where they fix them up for a viewing.”
Lucas tapped the stainless steel table. “Hop on up, lady. I’ll fix you up good.” He loosened his belt.
“Wait.” Mia had spotted another door at the far end of the room. This one had two signs on it. She approached the door. “Embalming Room,” she read. “Danger, flammable liquids.” She tried the handle. To her surprise, the door was unlocked. They entered.
This room was a truly creepy part of the funeral home. She didn’t know much about embalming, just that it involved pumping chemicals into someone’s body to keep them fresh-looking for days, maybe weeks. The smell in here was pungent, and Mia rubbed her nose again as she looked around.
A stainless steel gurney, angled with one end sloping slightly lower than the other, was bolted to the floor. Two metal buckets hung at the end of the gurney. On a chipped countertop nearby sat a machine, a little taller and wider than a restaurant coffeemaker, with dials and thin orange hoses. Near this was a double sink. The countertop also held a metal tray with hooks, scalpels, scissors, tweezers, long, thick needles, and small rounded things that looked like spiky oversized contact lenses. On the wall next to the door hung lab coats.
“So this is what it looks like,” Mia said.
Lucas sneezed, then picked up one of the domed, spiky pieces. “What are these for?” He tossed it back onto the counter, where it rolled into the sink. “Wait.” He lifted it and put it over his eye. “Whatcha think?”
Mia laughed, but it sounded forced. Being in here made her perspire. If they’d broken into the funeral home to have sex in an unusual place, the embalming room would be perfect. But the idea of doing it in here, with needles and knives and scissors nearby, would make her feel like she was in a slasher horror movie, where the set was a gurney in an embalming room instead of a cot in a cabin at Camp Crystal Lake. She opened the door and said, “I don’t really like it in here, baby.”
Lucas placed the piece back onto the tray with the others, and they left the room. Lucas wiped any fingerprints Mia had left on the door knobs since she wore no gloves. “Where to next?” He asked. “Upstairs?”
“Sure. Let’s explore up there. Might be more comfortable than the prep table, but that coffin was comfy if we don’t find anything else.”
As they left the preparation room, they listened for any sounds. Outside, the storm raged on, and another emergency vehicle passed, siren blaring. Ignoring it this time, they moved to the elevator. Mia almost pushed the button, then stopped. “Maybe we should take the stairs? In case somebody is up there.”
“Yeah,” Lucas agreed. They found the staircase at the far end of the wall. The heavy door’s hinges creaked, sounding far too loud. Lucas opened it just enough for them to slip in. Quietly they crept up the concrete steps, which led them to a landing and then another short set of steps that ended at another door. This one, also made of metal, had no lock.
Standing behind Lucas, Mia looked over the rail, and pointed her cell light to the downstairs door. “I hear a sound,” she whispered. “Like someone’s down there…breathing.”
Lucas froze with his hand on the doorknob. Both turned off their lights. Heads cocked, they listened. After a moment Lucas murmured, “Maybe it was our steps, just echoing or something.”
“Maybe.” Mia took his hand nonetheless and looked down again into the blackness below. She felt watched, somehow. It was much worse without any light. “Hurry and open the door.”
This door’s hinges had been well-oiled and made no sound as Lucas opened it. A quick flash of light made them both stiffen, and then they each let out a sigh of relief. Up here, there were windows along the walls that showcased the storm outside. Lightning lit the sky and rain pounded down.
Feeling better now that they were away from the preparation room, the refrigerator, and the embalming room, they explored this upstairs area. It was a chapel of sorts. Rows of chairs faced an empty space in the front. A podium stood to one side. Mia’s mind went to the reason they’d broken in here in the first place. She smiled as she opened a door along the side near the podium and looked into a closet with white cloths folded neatly on shelves. She jumped at Lucas’s hand on her arm.
“Easy,” he said. “Let me do it. We don’t want fingerprints.”
“Right,” Mia said. She rubbed the doorknob with her shirt. “How about in here?”
“I want to check the rest of the place, make sure no one’s here,” Lucas said. “Probably just offices and storage. I’ll be quick.”
She should go with him, but she didn’t feel nearly as spooked up here as she had downstairs. Besides, he probably wouldn’t be long, and he was quick and light on his feet. Mia figured the rooms up here were just what Lucas suggested: boring offices, bathrooms, and closets. “Okay, but hurry,” she said.
Lucas disappeared through a door behind the podium. Mia looked around. Right in the center, in the empty space where the coffins currently sat for services, would be a good place to fool around. It wouldn’t be completely dark up here, and there’d be enough time for them to escape if anyone came in. She walked to the front door of the chapel, looking again for cameras and finding none. Narrow windows on either side of this door faced the street. The streets were empty, and a little ways down, she could barely make out where the transformer had fallen. Surprisingly, no firetrucks had come yet. But they might.
The chapel was a good a place to do it as anywhere. She returned to the front and removed her clothing, and tossed them within easy reach. She stood facing the front door, bathed in flashes of lightning. After a moment, she moved to stand behind the podium in case anyone happened to look through the windows flanking the front door. Her back was to the door Lucas had gone through, so that he’d see her naked butt first thing. Lucas loved her butt.
She could bet that no one had ever stood here completely naked before. Not even the dead, who were always dressed up in their coffins. The thought made her excited, and she reached down and touched herself. After a moment she emitted a soft moan as she worked her fingers. “We are gathered here today,” she panted to the empty chairs, “to fuck.” Lucas needed to hurry. She wanted him.
As if he’d read her mind, she felt him behind her. “Ready?” he whispered, his voice lighter in pitch but no less sexy.
“Yes,” she breathed, closing her eyes. “Wet and ready.”
His hands — he’d removed his gloves and his hands were cold, she vaguely noted — squeezed her breasts and then slid down her waist and hips as she continued to arouse herself. Lucas liked to watch her do that, too. His erection pressed against her. She shivered with a sudden, strange chill.
“Damn, you’re sexy,” Lucas said. “Can I join you, or are you good with getting off by yourself?”
“What?” Mia whirled. No one stood stood behind her. Nothing pressed against her.
Lucas stood leaning in the doorway where he’d disappeared a few minutes before. He was grinning in satisfaction, his gaze roving down her naked form, taking her in. Mia gasped and crossed her arms over her breasts in a protective gesture, and darted her gaze around the chapel. Who had touched her? Who had whispered?
Lucas approached her. “Sorry to keep you waiting. No one’s here. I had to check, sorry.”
Yes, something else was here, and it had caressed her like a lover. “I…I thought you were behind me.”
“Nope.” he undid his belt. “But I want to be behind you. Keep touching yourself.”
Were they really doing this? After what she’d just experienced? Mia nibbled at her lip with equal parts anxiety and arousal. When Lucas pressed himself against her back and his warm hand turned her face toward his for a deep kiss, she gave in to the intoxication of passion even through underlying fear that simmered beneath.
Frightened yet aroused, Mia’s senses were heightened by what someone or something had done to her a moment ago and what Lucas was doing to her now. This juxtaposition of emotions only made her skin more sensitive to his touch. Her body clenched with desire. Lucas ended the kiss and moved down her body, sliding his tongue down the groove of her back, her thighs, and finally turning her toward him to pleasure her with his mouth.
Someone watched them. The awareness pierced her increasing ecstasy. Even as she climaxed, Mia opened her eyes and looked for the interloper who dared to stare at her during her most intimate moment.
“Who’s there?” she panted as waves of her climax engulfed her and threatened to make her legs buckle.
“Just me,” Lucas said as he straightened and kissed her. He turned her toward the podium and put a hand on her stomach. With his other hand, he gently pushed her upper back forward so that she rested her forehead on the podium. He gripped her hips and entered her with a moan, and began to move with rhythmic thrusts.
Mia tried to focus on her body’s enjoyment and was successful for only a moment. Everything had become deadly silent. The lightning storm had ceased. An impenetrable blackness, so intense it felt palpable, filled the chapel. Her senses filled with foreboding. The air seemed to grow more oppressive. Suffocating. She closed her eyes but immediately opened them again, and lifted her head to look around the chapel and at the twin narrow windows flanking the front door. No one stood there looking in that she could see, but what was watching them didn’t seem to be human anyway.
Mia’s body chilled; she could see the goosebumps on her arms. Lucas, busy behind her, apparently had no inkling of what was happening.
Then, she heard something.
A creak of the old wooden floor. A sound of footsteps approaching. Mia strained to see who it was, but the chapel was empty.
Then came a grunting moan. It wasn’t the sorrowful, horror-story type moan Mia had heard in the movies. This moan sounded like whoever made it was in the midst of a superb orgasm.
Mia jerked backwards. Lucas gave a surprised shout. “Ouch! What the hell?”
“Lucas!” Mia’s voice cracked with terror. “Someone’s here.”
They became quiet, trying to listen through the sound of the rain on the roof. “I don’t hear anything,” he whispered after a moment.
The scrape of a chair on the old wood floor made them both jump. In the blackness of the chapel, Mia felt Lucas pull up his pants, then heard the click of his cell phone as he turned on the light and pointed it toward the chairs. Mia cried out.
A teenaged boy sat in the front row near the podium. His eyes were milky, his face bloated and gray, clothing torn. As the couple stared, he stood. His tongue pushed out and roved his fleshy lips. He shuffled toward them. He didn’t quite seem solid.
Lucas grabbed Mia’s arm. “Fuck!” he cried out. “We need to get out of here. Now!”
As Mia, sobbing in terror, snatched up her clothing, the boy reached them. His oppressive presence seemed to close in around them, trapping them.
The voice was feminine and thin, and came from directly behind the boy. A woman came into view and stood beside him.
Clutching each other, Lucas and Mia stared at the ethereal forms.
“Betty Dickens,” Mia said, her voice trembling.
“And Michael Bransley,” Lucas added in a half whisper. “Are you…ghosts?”
They ignored Lucas. “You were young,” Betty said to Michael.
“I just wanted to fish,” Michael said, his voice sounding far away. He indicated Lucas and Mia. “And to watch them.”
“And I wanted to wait for my children so I could say goodbye.”
As they spoke to each other, Mia pulled on her shirt and pants.
“You are done fishing,” Betty said to Michael. “And my children arrived too late. They have their own lives, you know. They live far away.”
Mia looked at the front door. Her intent was to make a wide swath around the ghosts and head out through the front entrance. “Come on,” she whispered. “This way.”
“No,” Lucas said. “Someone will see us. We should go back the way we came in.”
They began to creep toward the door leading to the stairway, trying to be quiet so that they ghosts wouldn’t notice them.
“I have not seen my newest great grandchild,” Betty continued. “He is very sick and may die.”
“The boat capsized. My father is sad,” Michael said.
Lucas and Mia had almost reached the door. “She sounds so nice,” Mia whispered to Lucas. “But he’s a creep. He stood behind me and pressed up against me. It seemed so real. I thought it was you.”
“What?” Lucas stopped and spoke to Michael, his voice sharp. “You messed with my girlfriend, punk?”
Michael ignored him and focused on Betty. They continued their conversation while Lucas and Mia stood in indecision, torn between wanting to bolt and the surreal experience of watching two dead people talk to each other. She could see them in the light of Lucas’s cell phone, ethereal shapes that seemed to shimmer and fade, and then return in almost solid form. Michael and Betty should both be lying in the refrigerator downstairs, yet here they stood as spirits.
“I went out to the lake by myself after my dad told me not to. There was a storm coming,” Michael said to Betty. “Am I really dead?”
“You’re both dead,” Lucas said. “You should go into the light, or whatever.”
Both ghosts turned to them, their expressions disapproving.
“You should not be here,” Betty said.
“You shouldn’t either,” Lucas said. Mia nudged him to be quiet. Lucas always did like to run his mouth when he was agitated, and sometimes it got him into trouble. He continued, “Ya’ll are rotting in the fridge downstairs with the power being out. I guess they haven’t put that formerhide in you yet.”
Michael turned his head slowly toward Lucas, and his opaque eyes somehow became darker. “I’m not dead. I can still feel. And I want her.” One hand rose and pointed at Mia.
Mia gasped, and her throat burned with the icy chill that permeated the chapel. She grabbed Lucas’s arm and they bolted to the door that led downstairs. Within a few seconds they were racing down the stairs, footsteps echoing loudly. Lucas’s cell light moved crazily along the walls as he ran. Mia’s heart pounded in her ears.
Reaching the bottom, Lucas’s fingers fumbled at the latch of the door. Mia stood beside him, her cell phone clutched tightly in her hand. The latch refused to budge.
“It’s stuck!” Mia cried out, her voice trembling with terror.
“Locked.” Lucas worked the latch, but the door remained firmly shut. Panic washed over them as they realized they were trapped.
“What do we do now?” Lucas whispered, his breath coming in shallow gasps.
Mia’s mind raced. “We go back up. We find another entrance in the back. Or we try to make it to the front door.”
They retraced their steps up the the concrete stairs, slower this time, hushed and listening, trying be keep their footsteps quiet. They reached the upstairs door and stopped. Slowly Lucas turned the doorknob and opened the door a crack. He peeked into the chapel.
“I don’t see them,” he whispered.
Mia looked. “I don’t either.”
“On the count of three, we run to the front door. If you see them, ignore them.”
“You too,” Mia said. “Don’t get into a squabble with Michael.”
Lucas counted in a low voice, and then they bolted through the chapel, past the podium and down the aisle. Mia’s gaze was riveted on the front door. No sound came to her but their pounding footsteps.
They reached the door and stopped, then looked through the window beside the door. A car drove past the building but then slowed and turned into the parking lot on the side of the building, the same side that had the door Mia and Lucas had entered.
“Someone’s here,” Lucas said.
“Open the door. They won’t see us from here.”
Lucas reached for the bolt, and for a second Mia was sure that the door would be stuck, or there would be a hidden lock, or the ghosts would come at them, or whoever had come to the building would find them and have them arrested.
The bolt turned, and Lucas opened the door.
Rain and wind greeted them as they stumbled out into the storm. Their clothes clung to their bodies, drenched within seconds, but Mia didn’t care. Being outside, away from the dead teen Michael’s resentful presence, was a welcome relief.
They ran through the rain, their feet splashing in puddles, until they reached the safety of Lucas’s truck parked down the block. With trembling hands, he fumbled for his keys and unlocked the door.
“Drive,” Mia urged as she got in, her voice trembling. “Just drive far away from here.”
Lucas started the truck and they sped away from the building, leaving behind the ghosts of Betty and Michael, and whoever had come by.
Two days later, they attended the memorial services of Betty and Michael. Call it morbid curiosity or wanting to return to the scene of their break in, but they each had their reasons. Mia wanted to see Betty in her open casket. The old woman, although sort of waxy looking, appeared as if she could open her eyes at any moment and get up to fix a batch of breakfast biscuits. Mia was glad to see that the power outage, which had lasted through the night, didn’t seem to have done any damage. The memorial service was warm and celebratory, and Mia was glad to hear stories from her children, grandchildren, and friends.
Lucas wanted to attend Michael’s service. The photo on the display table showed a dark-haired teen with laughing brown eyes. There were photos of him and his father holding up fish they’d caught, and photos of him camping and playing baseball. This service was much more somber and sad. Family, school friends, teachers, and others wept. Stories were told of his dry sense of humor, his willingness to volunteer in his community, and his love of nature. His father looked inconsolable.
“I like him more, now,” Lucas said to Mia when they left the service. “I needed to see that.”
Mia squeezed his hand and kissed him. “Babe, let’s take a break from finding places to do it, okay?”
“Yeah,” Lucas agreed. “Especially a funeral home. I’ve had enough. For now.”
Mia smiled. “For a little while. Right now, our bed will do just fine.”
This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, dialogue, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to a person, living or deceased, events, or locations is purely coincidental.
The idea for this story came from the notion that some couples, like these two darlings, are bored with the same old routine.