Raphael Sweet

Every Rose Has Its Thorn

How long had it lasted for? Two Hours? Three? He realized that it didn’t really matter, and the reality of the situation was that this fight could’ve lasted until both he and his wife lay frozen in argument in their deathbeds. What had started out as a shy question of whether or not his wife had been cheating on him, had taken a turn for primetime TV, featuring WWF Manic Mania! From his or her corner, each wrestler yelled severe threats, and threw insults over the wrinkled white bedspread, tossed about by a brutal uppercut, which occurred a few rounds earlier. Once she had confessed to cheating with three “magnificent” men, he could feel his face grow hot and red. As the world began to spin all around him, his focus still lay on his wife, yet something about her was different. Her once beautiful face had morphed into a wrinkled, grey, countenance that seemed to be eternally in agonizing pain. Her soft, fair skin began to fall apart, and soft, flowing red liquid began to pour from every orifice she possessed. Finally, what he was seeing became too great for him, and he slipped suddenly into darkness.

Faded, neon lights danced within his closed eyelids. They seemed to come closer to him with every passing second, revealing flashes from his and his wife’s previous argument, yet when he would try to focus on them, they would only disappear. He had reached that state of mind between sleep and waking upwakefullness, where nothing was real, yet everything was real; everything moved in slow motion, and bright red trails followed every movement he made. As he looked around, the familiar sight of cold metal tables and bright white lights came into view. “Back at work? What time is it?” he thought to himself. Glancing at the clock, he was quite worried when he saw that the time was two o’ clock. Either he had missed lunch at 2 pm, or his wife was on the phone with the police at 2 am, filing a missing persons report. He walked over to the door that led to the “land of the living (outside),” appropriately named by the shady employees of the Moran City Morgue. Attempting to pull the door open, he found it had been locked from the outside. “Great, f***ing great!” he yelled, punching the door with his fists. The blood vessels in his hand broke open with a crack, and turned his hand into a rosy red mass of skin and bone. Angrily, he walked back and plopped down on one of the morgue's old, steel chairs, and began to scratch his balding head, with four thick, aging fingers. Yes, he knew that he was getting older, but, to him, 54 was a ripe age, not even halfway through life. “Ha-ha, yeah right,” he thought to himself, “108.” Looking down at his nametag, he began to laugh. “Nathan Jodeo,” shone brightly in the white light, giving him a sense of pride for his choice of occupation. At least it was “Nathan Jodeo the mortician,” and not “Nathan Jodeo the Burger King.”

As he continued to walk about the room, he suddenly stopped in his tracks. Breathing heavily, he inched toward the unbelievable sight in front of him. Lying on the previously empty metal observation tables, lay the bodies of three men, clean shaven, with three full heads of hair. “I don’t understand,” he said out loud, “I was gone for three or four minutes! How could anyone have brought those bodies in here so quickly?” As he inched ever closer to the first body, he began to hear soft whispers which rang throughout his eardrum, taunting him; whispers of the dead. He stopped and looked around him, but there was no one there. Coming to the conclusion that he must be crazy, he settled down, and sat beside the table on a chair.

As he sat down, the spinning sensation that he had experienced before kicked in, but he did not black out. Instead, the spinning sucked in all of his surroundings, and replaced them with a bar, laughter, spilled beer, and drunken businessmen. Rough, dirt-caked walls surrounded a multitude of drunks, attempting to drink the pain of their day away with a frosty, icy brew. The laughter and shouting of the men suddenly stopped when a loud gunshot sounded, echoing of the walls. A dark figure at the door screamed with pain, agony, revenge, and a thirst for blood. The bartender, who had been washing dirty glasses, glanced into the mirror at the back of the bar. He couldn’t make out the figure, but could only see the reflection of the nametag that was strapped to his jacket pocket; Jonathan Doe, it read. Suddenly the lights flickered out, and gunshots again rang out; three shots to be exact. When the lights came back on, the only figures still left in the bar were those of three businessmen. Their now lifeless bodies lay frozen in peaceful sleep, and in each or their cold hands, lay a rose petal.

Snapping back to reality, the faces of three dead men on metal tables came back into view. With a lingering fear, and a mass of guilt bubbling up inside him, he stood up, threw the chair across the room, causing it to smash loudly against the white wall with a loud clatterwall, and then he collapsed on the floor. Reaching into his pocket for his pills, he felt what he feared he would find. With shaking fingers, he brought his hand up, and opened it. Inside laid the remains of a rose; with one dying petal left on it. He exploded with tears, and collapsed in a heap, when suddenly, he heard a creaking sound. Peering across the corner, he saw what he thought would lead him to freedom, but what would now lead to his downfall. The door to the “land of the living” was open.


Copyright 2002-2006 Student Publishing Program (SPP). Poetry and prose 2002-2006 by individual authors. Reprinted with permission. SPP developed and designed by Strong Bat Productions.