- Heather McVea
The Slowest Increment of Time in Existence…
Albert Einstein said, "… the dividing line between past, present, and future is an illusion".
Now, I could get all sciencey on you and elaborate as to what that means in our day-to-day lives, but that would be another type of blog for another day.
I will just say that the feeling we have of time moving forward, or the sense of a past, is pretty much in our heads. It’s our brain’s way of keeping everything orderly. It’s also why some of us experience the passage of time differently.
I’m sure at this point you’re wondering where I’m going with this. Did you inadvertently subscribe to a PBS Nova blog, and not to the blog of a paranormal and urban fantasy fiction writer?
Bear with me, I’m getting there, I’m getting there.
On a personal note, I’m forty years old. There, I said it.
Like so many of my writing counterparts, a lot of the work I do involves sitting at a desk, researching, and typing all day. The sitting part is not so good when one wishes to live well beyond their forties. To that end, the wife and I recently bought an elliptical. It’s an uber gym quality elliptical, and it means business.
It also cost the same as a small car; so, we figured that would nudge us toward using it, lest we feel guilty about spending the money.
Good news, we are really using the shit out of that thing. Bad news, time on the elliptical is the slowest increment of time in existence. And there’s the tie-in you were waiting for… thanks for your patience!
I’m on the torturous device… that I paid to have in my house... every other night. I have come to realize the future, as Einstein theorized, is an illusion.
It’s never coming.
I’m just infinitely in the present when I’m on the elliptical.
It was during one of these never-ending sessions that, in search of a safe place, I began to retreat into my mind.
To distract from the muscles that burned in my legs, and the sound of my own hastened breaths, I distracted myself with thoughts of my upcoming book, Forgotten Elements.
And so it was, with the faint whirl of the elliptical in the background, I imagined the outline of a three-hundred plus page novel.
Perhaps it was the isolation, the absence of tablets or phones, or my desperate need to distract myself from the monotony of stride, stride, stride, stride, but Forgotten was just there for the taking.
In celebration of the ease in which Forgotten’s outline came together - and the much welcomed relief - I am sharing a portion of the unedited prologue with you…
Forgotten Elements (book three in the Elements series)
“I’ve completed my external examination of the body, and will now proceed to the internal exam.” Doctor Christina Olsen enunciated as she spoke into her wireless headset. “In addition to the previously noted anomalies, the following exceptions were observed: nasal passages were clear of fluid and inflammation. I would have expected to see evidence of inhalation of dirt, concrete, dry wall, and other foreign particulates. None were observed.”
Taking the man’s chin between her gloved thumb and forefinger, the doctor opened his mouth. “Traces of blood and tissue were found between the upper and lower lateral incisors and canines. Lacerations are present along the tongue and the palatum durum. Though, they appear to have begun healing; so, may have occurred several weeks prior to death.”
Doctor Olsen retrieved an evidence bag from the cart next to the autopsy table. She carefully slid the bag onto the corpse’s left hand. “The nails on both hands were inordinately brittle. More in line with what I would expect had death occurred eight to ten months ago.”
Stepping back from the table, the doctor lifted her clear face shield, clicking it into place on the top of her head. “Even though the body was found buried under fifteen feet of dirt and debris, no abrasions were observed on the skin.”
She stood, her eyes scanning the length of the man’s body. She had been a medical examiner for over ten years, and she had never seen anything like this.
With the exception of the dust and debris that had covered the man’s clothes, and clung to his hair when he was brought in, there were no outward signs of the trauma he had been through.
“You look thoughtful for one o’clock in the morning.”
Doctor Olsen looked up at the morgue technician as he walked through the automatic glass doors. Chomping down on an apple, the man offered the doctor a quick smile. “Bart, I told you not to eat in the autopsy room.”
Bart Gasse stopped mid-chew, his eyes wide. “Sorry.” He managed through the unchewed apple in his mouth. “I didn’t eat dinner.”
Doctor Olsen cringed as she watched the twenty-something technician slide the half-eaten apple into the pocket of his green scrubs. “There’s a salad in the breakroom fridge that I didn’t eat last night. You’re welcome to it.”
Bart’s smile broadened. “Thanks, and speaking of dinner, I went ahead and sent Alex on break.” His gaze shifted from the doctor to the body on the table. “He looks kinda of grayish. How long has he been dead?”
Doctor Olsen pulled her latex gloves off, and tossed them in the biohazard bin. “How long do you think he’s been dead?” She had worked with Bart for over six months, and the man was clearly intelligent, but he was, in her estimate, a little on the intellectually lazy side. The doctor had made it her mission to wean him off of asking a question in lieu of trying to deduce the solution himself.
Bart took a deep breath, and pursed his lips. “I’m not sure.”
Despite the technician’s obvious irritation, the doctor pressed on. “Well, let’s have a look at him.” She walked around the table, motioning for Bart to step closer as she handed him a pair of gloves. “What do you check first?”
Bart pulled the latex gloves on, and carefully lifted the dead man’s right arm. Taking the man’s wrist and elbow in his hands, Bart slowly bent the arm at the elbow joint before lowering it back onto the table. “He’s passed through rigor mortis.”
Placing his right hand at the small of the man’s back, and his left hand under his shoulder, Bart tilted the body upward. Peering at the man’s back, the technician frowned. “But there’s no signs of lividity.”
Chewing on his lower lip, Bart laid the man flat on the table. “So, he’s passed through rigor mortis, but not into the lividity stage?”
Doctor Olsen watched the technician carefully, hopeful that he wouldn’t begin guessing, but rather, would continue to examine the body.
Bart’s eyes widened, and he enthusiastically snapped his gloved fingers before walking around the table. “Maybe…” He picked up to the tablet lying next to the table, and began to scroll.
“What are you thinking?” Doctor Olsen pulled one of the metal stools over, and sat down next to the table.
Bart’s brow furrowed as he read. Looking up at the body, he frowned. “He’s cooler than the ambient temperature.”
Doctor Olsen nodded. “What does that tell you?”
Bart put the tablet down, and pressed his palms into the edge of the metal table. “I don’t know. He’s too cold to be just dead, but he hasn’t passed through rigor, which I would expect if he had been dead three to four hours, and yet there’s no signs of lividity either.” He looked up expectantly at Doctor Olsen.
The doctor stood, grabbed a pair of gloves from the nearby box, and walked toward one of two morgue drawers in the autopsy room. Removing the stainless steel pin that held the drawer’s door shut, she opened it, and slid the drawer out, a metallic scraping sound causing a chill to run up her back.
An opaque rubber sheet lay across the drawer, the outline of a human body rising and dipping beneath the sheet. Without a word, the doctor pulled the rubber sheet back, exposing the torso of a bruised woman’s body in the early stages of decomposition.
“This is Doctor Esther Page. We know because her car, along with her purse and wallet, were found outside the house where her body was.” Doctor Olsen took a step back, allowing Bart to examine the body more carefully.
“Why are you showing this to me?” Bart looked up at Doctor Olsen.
Sighing, the doctor covered the body, and pushed the drawer back into the cooler.
“Because she was found two feet from the gentleman on the table.”
Bart quickly looked back at the man’s body. “How’s that possible?”
“That’s what we’re going to try to figure out. Mr. Samuel Tynan was the owner of the house that evidently collapsed on him, Doctor Page, and a third woman, Doctor Joyce Sebille.”
“Three bodies?” Bart now stood staring down at the man’s body. “Does Doctor Sebille look like –” Hesitating, he looked toward the morgue drawer. “Her or –”
“I performed a cursory exam prior to signing for the bodies, and the two doctors’ injuries appear to be comparable to one another, and consistent with what I would expect to see when examining two people crushed under the weight of a house.”
“How’d that even happen?” Bart lifted Samuel’s lifeless arm, and examined his bicep and forearm.
“Not our job.” Doctor Olsen removed her gloves, and retrieved a clean set from a nearby box. “Let the police, and presumably an engineer, figure that part out.” She lowered her face shield. “Now, suit up so you can help me with the internal exam of Mr. Tynan.”
“How long were they under there?” Bart pulled a folded blue surgical gown wrapped in plastic from a drawer, and quickly put it on, along with a face shield.
Doctor Olsen retrieved a scalpel from the assortment of autopsy instruments that lay on the tray next to her. “Mr. Tynan and the two doctors disappeared over four months ago. The house was partially collapsed then, but, after what the police thought was a thorough search, they didn’t find anything and moved on to other leads.”
She glanced up at Bart. “Adjust the light, please.”
Bart pivoted the overhead surgical lighthead to the left, focusing it on the torso of the body. “So, they were in there, buried, the whole time?”
“That would seem to be the case.” Doctor Olsen ran her finger along the sternum. “A contractor was bulldozing the house, and unearthed the bodies.”
Bart cringed. “That’s weird.”
Doctor Olsen squinted as she pressed the blade of the scalpel into the grayish flesh. “That’s the least of it.” Frowning, she stood up and stared at the unblemished skin, and then at the blade of the scalpel. “That’s odd.”
Forgotten Elements will be available for pre-order on Amazon April 19, 2017, and released September 1, 2017. Enjoy!