's 2017 Horror Write-off:

Coffin Jockey

Submitted by Jac R. B. (Jacobguy)

Im an aspiring mortician.

I cant exactly say what it is about being one that I find desirable, but i think its an honorable job to help make someone look their best for when they're laid to rest. Theres a lot i still have to learn for my job, but at least I've got old John to show me the way. Old John isnt actually that old, but hes definitely got an air of experience that goes years beyond how old he seems to be. Quick to crack a joke, and I've never seen him angry, he's probably the best trainer ive ever had for a job.

"When you work at the city morgue, you tend to see some weird things."

That was the first thing I think I'd heard out of his mouth.

Actually, scratch that, the first thing I'd ever heard from him was, "Graveyard express, Coffin jockey speaking"

He loved that one, everytime he said it he'd give you this cheeky little wink and nod. I dont think there's ever been a time he hasn't said that to someone, whether it was a professional call or a casual one between friends. Boy he loved it.

Anyway, I had trained under old john for a long time, even as I didn't need him anymore I preferred working with him. He had such a cheerful aura to him that really dispelled the gloom you'd expect in our line of work. Old John was a great man, but boy did he tell me strange things. Usually he'd just tell me stories of particularly hard to prep bodies or the one time he found a HUGE dead rhino beetle in one person's pocket, he said he left it in there "as a buddy into the underworld" he'd say.

But there was one story he only ever told me once. Once on a slow night, all by ourselves working on an old, old smoker woman.

We had opened her up, and we were getting the remaining "pulp" out, as John would say, to make way for the woodshavings. I pointed out how tarry and black her lungs were. "Must've been a smoker" i said, "Really shouldve watched herself"

It was quiet for a few moments. An odd silence uncharacteristic for old John. Usually he'd make some quip about her having enough tar to pave the highway, but this time he was usually grim.

"There are worse things you could have in your lungs" he said.

I was confused for a moment, but i considered how people get so many horrific diseases, or just get horribly injured and get a punctured lung.

He took a second before he spoke up again. "Did I ever tell you the story of the strangest thing that had ever happened to me?" I asked him if he was gonna tell me a beetle story again, but he shook his head.

"No I mean, the Strangest of all the strange things that had ever gone on down here."

Obviously he had caught my attention, and we had reached a breaking point on the person we were prepping, so we washed up and sat down. Old John started up,

"It was about when I had started. Just about where you are now, experienced enough to work on my own but still fresh meat to the rest. My partner at the time had something happen in the family and needed to leave, and I promised to cover him, so it was just me all alone.

It was late at night. The kind of late that made you feel like it would be dark forever. The wind was dead and the heater was on low, so there was a deep, bassy rumble all throughout. It was very ominous feeling to someone looking in from the outside, but to us it was home. We had only one person to prep that night, and I was sure I could handle it on my own. Before I could even start working on them, I get a call.

"New Jamestown Morgue, How can I help you?"

There was nothing on the other side, nothing save for a very soft static noise.

I figured a wire had crossed and whoever had called would call again if it was important, but as i hung up, i could have sworn they spoke up, though i didnt catch what was being said. A little odd, but you really distance yourself from ghost stories when you work with dead people for a living. So i ignored it and started to work on... Started to work on the body."

Old John had to stop for a moment. Something seemed.. Wrong? He had such a solemn expression, and put his head in his hands. He was so pale looking. I was about to ask him if he was alright before he suddenly continued his tale. "He was an average looking person. Nothing too remarkable or unremarkable about him in particular. Caucasian, brown eyes, red hair. I figured he must've died of disease or suffocation cause he was pretty young. I looked him over, and it was.. A little weird. He was pale, but he had no bruising at all. Usuly when they bring in a corpse there's at least some bruising from the blood pooling in the other side. But it's as if there was just.. No blood in this weirdly fresh corpse. It was as if it was already embalmbed before it had even come in. I went to cut into the corpse and the abdomen deflated like a balloon. Smelled awful, but like, weird awful. Different than the normal putrid smell of a corpse.

But that's still relatively normal, for an older corpse at least, but very odd to see in a relatively fresh one, though it did support my "Death by disease" theory. The strange part however, was how the abdomen was completely empty."

"Wait, what?"

"Yes, empty. It was as if it had already been worked on. At first i thought i had just gotten the wrong corpse by mistake and opened one back up. But then i realized 2 things; 1: there were no woodshavings or formaldehyde in it. And 2: it had never been cut into before.

So now im really confused and pretty spooked.

I put it out of my mind and fill it up with woodshavings. Then i moved to the chest.

All was normal in here, a heart and lungs, but that was about it. Thats all there was. And its not like this stuff was ripped out or anything, or if it were removed it was done surgically well because i saw no traces of anything that was missing anywhere. I started pulling out the heart when i noticed it was off."

"Off? Off how?"

"Small things. There were no veins or arteries anywhere on it except for the big ones, sorta like a simplified model that felt sorta real. Had the weight to it that a real heart did, and it was the same density as one, but it was veinless and smooth, not to mention that the back was also turning white."


"Yeah, white. Like if it were pure connective tissue. So I dropped that in the Jar to poke at later if no one caught me. Then i moved to the lungs."

He stopped again.

He wiped his forehead and sighed. I wanted to comfort him, but i didnt know how to.

He started again.

"By far, the healthiest lungs i had ever seen in a corpse. I could have sworn that these could have come from a living person rather than a dead one. I was gonna put these in the jar too, when i felt it. There was something hard inside of the lung. Something much more solid than a mere tissue mass. I took a break from the corpse finally to look at these mystery organs. First the heart. Completely single chambered. Had no other chambers or valves. Nothing. Just a hollow heart shaped.. Thing.

After that I nearly shredded the lungs up from how fast i was cutting."

He takes a deep breath in. And a long breath out. Sweat is beading down his forehead. I'm tempted to stop him if the story was too hard for him to go through, but my curiosity kept me listening.

"The lungs had this.. Thing in them. Completely black. It was like a jet black cube with roots or circuits growing out of it into the surroundings. I ripped it out. It vibrated softly in my hand as I held it.

Before i could even question the spectacle before me, I heard an unfamiliar voice speak up behind me.


I turned around, startled, and there it was, the corpse sitting part way up, addressing me.

"Hey coffin jockey, You need my ticket? "

Old John looked up at me. I was in awe. He took a few moments before trying to play off the whole thing as a joke, as if he set it up with only his most classic catchphrase as the punchline, but it just seemed so... Forced. The way he chuckled about it was so un-genuine it made me feel somewhat uncomfortable, but i chuckled along anyway.

He patted me on the back and urged us to get back to work. Ever since that story I've been keeping a close eye on Old John to make sure he's ok. Maybe he wanted me to know something but he was afraid i wouldn't believe him. Whatever it is, i dont know, but I do know that his recent cough has been very worrying.