Your Memory Forever Seen

rating: +13+x

Your Memory Forever Seen


Jess sat in her small, dimly-lit office, distant from the world and the whirring hum of her desk terminal. The machine barely got any use these days and most often sat beneath a growing stack of exhibit brochures, save for the odd bit of paperwork. For the last three nights, however, the neglected computer was alive with activity, chugging away while Jess stared out her window.

She glanced out at the nearly faded tire tracks to distant headlights, almost entirely swallowed up by the approaching winter squall. Jess had been told the coroner would soon be there to follow up, but after the weather alert that had screamed its way through the town that promise seemed less and less likely. It wasn't like she could just walk out of the museum in its current state. Hell, she wasn't even sure she could bring herself to toss a glimpse down the hall. The thought of coming across her coworker, or anything… left behind.

She turned her attention back to the computer, desperate for any distraction. Reports for minor graffiti from earlier in the week, missing research texts on taxidermy from a few months back, unrecorded returns for research materials from over a year ago, anything far from the most pressing situation of the past few days.

Click, click, click… clickclickclickclickclick

It had been a long night for the curator. Long nights weren't necessarily uncommon, and there still would likely be more to come. A slight tremor worked its way through Jess's fingers as she continued to type away, filling out sheet after sheet of information for the local department. It was slow going, especially since she kept stealing glances at every headlight that wormed its way down the street on the off-chance that it pulled into the museum lot.

She paused, leaning back in her chair and listening as the whistle of wind slowly overtook her computer in the unconscious battle for her attention. Her hand unconsciously fumbled with her coat pocket, reaching for something to take her mind off the night's events. Jess held the pack of cigarettes in hand and gave it a quick shake. Empty; probably for the better. There'd already been enough damage done to the exhibits. No need to add smoke exposure to the list. It wasn't like she'd be able to smoke outside anyways, judging by the continued creak of the windowsill against the cold and storm. She fiddled with the pack in her hands, trying to delay her inevitable return to the old alphabet shovel in an attempt to finish the mounting pile of paperwork.

A distant knock through the otherwise silent building cut through Jess's thoughts like a hot knife through considerably less hot butter. She moved to step out into the hallway before the phantom smell of iron hit her nostrils. However thorough she'd been, Jess wasn't sure if the smell would ever escape her mind.

"I'm in my office, the one behind all the fish. The, uh… everything else… is down here too." She just had to hope it was the coroner, otherwise she'd have even more paperwork over someone tampering with a crime scene. The sound of footsteps against linoleum slowly approached as she hit print on her report. It'd just have to stay incomplete until she could better wrap her head around everything. At least it was something for the books.

With a quick rap on the door, a man wrapped head to toe poked his head through the entrance.

"Ms. Horne? My name's Daniel, I'm here with the, uh, coroner's office." He said through the cocoon of layers. Guess the storm really was that bad.

"Jess is fine. I don't think I'm really capable of pleasantries right now." She gestured towards the printer, now emitting the same aged hum as her terminal. "You can take the printout if you want, but I don't know how much help it'll be."

Daniel let out a muffled sigh, snatching the paper and giving it a quick once-over. Even through all the clothing, she could tell it wasn't going to be enough for him. He sat down in a seat opposite her own, pulling down the snow mask just enough so it didn't sound like he was talking from three doors down. He then pulled out a pen and made a few notes near the bottom of the printout before setting it aside.

"I know it's been rough, and I don't want to keep you longer than I have to. I've just got some questions for you, then I'll try to get out of your hair."

Jess shifted in her chair before eyeing the pack once more. "Let's just get it over with."

The man reached into his jacket, producing an innocuous manila folder and passing it to Jess. "I just need you to confirm some things for me, if possible. I assume you were familiar enough."

Jess cracked open the folder.


Name — Terrance Tich

Born — April 23rd, 1992

Occupation — Research Assistant, Mortician

Previous Convictions — Fraudulent activity, practicing without a license.

Notable Characteristics — Blonde hair, brown eyes, requires glasses, missing left arm below the elbow (last updated June 17th, 2011).

Background — Individual has experience working with medical equipment as a mortician, and was previously convicted of practicing in the field of medicine without a license after they gained control of a funeral home belonging to their father. Due to the circumstances regarding their acquisition of the business, the normal sentencing of one year in prison was reduced to four months, under the condition that Terrance only continued operation once an individual with the proper qualifications could be hired, or Terrance themselves gain the proper qualifications.

Nothing seemed to be out of place. Far from it actually, it looked like they had even more information on Terry than she did. Jess furrowed her brow and tossed a look towards the man. If he recognized the glance, he didn't show it.

"If that's all correct, I'd just like to pick your brains about everything. I know, I know, it's just standard procedure. Anything we can get that could help us figure out what happened would mean a great deal to us."

"I don't know what else you want that you don't know already."

"How did Terrance start at the museum?"

"I mean, I think we all felt bad for them at the time. Terry had been helping their dad in the funeral home for as long as I've known them, but after Dr. Tich's passing and the whole license debacle, I don't think there was anyone who wouldn't want to give them a chance. I mean, what choice did the kid have at the time? It was either try to keep the business running themselves with only second-hand experience or just let everything sink."

Jess gave a halfhearted smile. "We all sort of pitched in, you know? Tried to help Terry however we could in the meantime. I just thought the least I could do was offer some way to help keep the place afloat while they scraped together enough for the education funds. Research assistant was just the best position."

"How so?"

"Well," Jess gestured towards the hall, where small shafts of blue light refracted from the distant marine life displays and onto the yellowing wallpaper, "having someone who at least grew up around embalming procedures sort of opened up a lot of possibilities. Most of our oceanic experience is their work." She let out a soft sigh. "Honestly it was the first time I'd seen them smile since everything that happened. The kid lived a tough life, but whenever they were working with the exhibits I almost couldn't pull Terry away, they'd just get so invested. I guess it just reminded them of the mortuary job, but I couldn't really say for sure."

The coroner jotted down a few more notes on the printout. He pointed to the next paper in the stack. "I'm guessing that's how this happened then?"


Full Name: Terrance Tich Date of Incident: July 14th, 2011 Time: 10:40 P.M.

Location: Halsbrook Museum of Natural History, 180 Wren Ave, Halsbrook, NH

Describe the Incident: Patient arrived with a severe laceration on the left hand, partially
detaching the index finger, and suffering mild blood loss on arrival. An accompanying witness
(Jessica Horne) claimed to have discovered the patient after she heard a loud yell from their
office, where she discovered said patient in their current state before rushing them to urgent
care. Patient claims to have not noticed the injury when it occurred, having been too
preoccupied with their work, and only noticed once blood began pooling on their workstation.
Patient was rushed to surgery where the wound was cleaned and operated on, with the hope of
saving the severed digit. Unfortunately, due to miscommunication between the patient and
hospital staff regarding the environment in which the injury occurred, lower grade
disinfectant was used and the injury became severely infected during recovery. Staff were soon
able to identify the bacteria causing the infection (likely caused by the handing of animal
carcasses) and stop the infection, but not before the afflicted arm had grown gangrenous and
required partial amputation. Patient is expected to recover within four to eight weeks.

The small smile Jess had grown talking about Terry immediately fell from her face. It felt like she'd just been hit with a sack of wet bricks.

"It-" she managed to get out, voice faltering slightly. She stopped, letting out a sigh before composing herself, at least a little bit.

"It wasn't Terry's fault. We wanted to update some areas before the end of year field trip rush, and the exploration of an ecosystem exhibit had just got some new specimens to preserve. Most of the high-quality pieces we put up front, so a lot of the more 'interior bits' as Terry would call them, we put those in the anatomy wing. Most of the time all they needed were some preservation fluids, but Terry still would take it upon themselves to make them look better than when they came in."

She pressed a hand to her temple. "Gods, next thing I knew, all I could see was Terry on the ground screaming, drenched in blood from head to toe. I thought they'd sliced an artery at the time — for all I know, they might have. I just remember screaming down the street to urgent care because I wouldn't have been able to live with myself if I just sat by and let them bleed out."

"You could just tell it crushed Terry afterwards. Even through everything they had at least been able to find something in making exhibits. They were able to get a prosthetic fitted a while after the recovery period but I almost never saw them wearing it. Whenever I asked Terry would just ignore the question or say they didn't need it. They'd even go as far as having me unlock our on-hand archives for them so they could learn how to embalm again from scratch."

Jess leaned back in her chair, purposefully angling herself so she could see the moon through the window, almost entirely obscured by snowfall. "I know it was an accident but I still kind of blame myself, you know? Maybe if I'd been there watching Terry they'd have been more careful. I know, I know, it's not my fault, but it still kind of weighs on me."

As the scratching of Daniel's pen ceased, Jess turned to see a new document sitting in front of her.



Misfortune struck last night at the local Halsbrook Museum of Natural History after Terrance Tich, town resident and research assistant, took their own life after a workplace incident. The twenty-two year old was noted by friends to have been spending extended nights at the museum recently, although nothing unusual had been observed until now.

It was only after Tich's employer decided to check on them did she discover the assistant in a state of severe injury, having harmed themselves in an apparent act of vandalism. Presumably fearing for her safety, the employer dialed emergency services before attempting to talk down Terrance.

Her whole body trembled as she slid the folder across the desk, feeling sick to her very core.

"I knew we shouldn't have brought in that fucking exhibit." She mumbled under her breath, holding her head in her hands.

"Which one would that have been?"

Jess only pointed to the pamphlets stacked high atop her terminal. All of them prominently displayed a leathery mummified human arm wrapped in a decayed fabric.

"It was supposed to be something to finally make us notable, you know? We had the first preserved bog body in the Northern United States. I honestly couldn't believe it at first."

"And I thought I was excited about it but… Gods, it was the first time I'd seen Terry excited about anything since their accident. I should have known. I really should have known. We weren't even going to have it for long, it was supposed to be picked up yesterday by another museum."

"You can't blame yourself." Daniel said, briefly looking up from the pamphlet, having taken note of its contents.

"I just… I wish I'd have figured it out sooner." Jess took one of the pamphlets herself. "Every night for the past few days they've just stayed behind to do work on it. I just never questioned it because it was the first time I'd seen them happy in months."

Daniel put down the tiny brochure and sighed. "What exactly happened that night?"

The two sat in a hanging silence, the chill in the air doing nothing to help Jess's already shattered nerves.

"I was clocking out for the night. Since I'm the only one with a key I have to be the last one out, so I… had to make sure Terry came out with me. I just… you know when something feels off, just slightly? I remember going to check on Terry and just… the sound of them working just echoing down the hall. I-I-I thought it was just normal work, something for an exhibit."

The first responders who arrived on scene were horrified to witness Tich attempting to surgically attach pieces of an exhibit to their body. Requests for further details were declined by medical personnel, although one member of hospital staff claimed that the victim was "unnervingly calm, especially given the large amount of pain they would have been in at the time."

"Then the, uh, the smell hit me. Terry's office never smelt 'good', but it was always the strong smell of chemical preservatives. Formaldehyde. This was rot and blood. Just… just filth…"

"I just remember looking in and seeing Terry hunched over their workstation, covered in blood. Blood and just… chunks. I tried to yell or scream or do anything but then the smell hit me again. Fuck, ugh, I felt like I was going to throw up the moment I walked in but I couldn't even will myself to do it because it would mean looking away."

Another shiver wormed its way through her core as she continued, not breaking eye contact with the folder's contents.

"I almost didn't notice the arm at first — not for long though. It… Terry only had up to the elbow removed, but the one from the exhibit was still attached at the shoulder. It just-it hung all the way to the floor, covered in blood and slick with some black liquid. Like it was melting up their body. There was something just so viscerally unnerving about it… even outside of it being a dead desiccated limb. It… Gods, I swear it was even moving."

"I don't remember how long I stood there, just listening to them cut away at their arm, a-and the rip of the string pulling taut. Something about it was just wrong. None of it was right, I know that, but… I don't know. They just kept hacking away at their arm while the, the thing kept writhing like a dying snake, like it still had life left in it. It took a while for Terry to even notice I was there."

"Did they say anything to you?"

"I-I don't know if they even could."

"How so?"

After attempts at intervention by medical personnel, Tich was seen fleeing out the rear of the museum and into the nearby wetlands. Despite severe wounds, Terrance was able to evade both notified patrol officers and pursuing hospital staff alike until reaching a construction dig site far North of the museum.

"There was just… nothing there. It was like Terry wasn't even in the room with me." Jess waved her hands in front of her eyes. "I don't know how else to describe it. I-it's like the lights were on but… Terry just wasn't home."

Silence once again, the din of the wind outside utterly drowned out by Jess's unspoken anxiety.

"I ran. I ran, I ran to my office and I hid. I called the hospital and locked myself as far away as I could."

"I thought you tried to talk them down?"

Jess shook her head, intentionally for once. "I hid. I couldn't do it. It fucking hurt to let them keep going, but every time I tried to leave the sounds of tearing a-and ripping and smell of blood would just creep further down the hall. Whatever was happening, it wasn't Terry."

"Even if Terry wasn't home, it felt like something else was."

Upon arrival, Tich was witnessed fleeing across the excavated marsh before diving into a large pool of brackish water. Fearing their safety, emergency services tried to rescue Tich, only to require rescue themselves after the large amount of silt and muck made pursuing them nearly impossible.

Responders continued to search the area throughout the night for any signs of resurfacing, although none were found. Due to Tich's grievous wounds, medical personnel have said it is unlikely they would have been able to leave the mire on their own.

"Was there anything leading up to the incident that stands out to you? Anything at all?"

Despite joint efforts between construction crews and local mortuary services, Tich's body has yet to be recovered.

Jess closed the folder, desperate for a reprieve from the memory plaguing her. The sound of Terry's skin being torn apart and stitched back together burrowed its way back into her brain. She tried her best to repress it, just for a while longer.

She knew Terry as a person of perfection, not one of foresight. Even so, the thought of them spending so much time with the remains beforehand just didn't sit right with her. They were no surgeon — they were an embalmer by trade and had barely even been practicing for a few years on animals.

"I still just don't know. How could Terry even…" The words hung in the air, interrupted as the cogs in Jess's brain began to click into place.

"Oh Gods, the taxidermy books." Her words just barely dribbled out of her mouth as she connected the dots. She'd given Terry access to the museum's small archive when they'd needed access to research materials after they lost their arm. She was the one who let Terry hold onto them well past their return period. Her resolve to not let her emotions slip cracked ever more as tremors continued to worm their way through her hands. She could no longer hold it — she'd was the one who'd given Terry what they needed, knowingly or not — and placed her head in her hands.

Daniel let out another sigh. Reaching around in his massive jacket, he fished out a pack of cigarettes and a lighter, passing them to Jess. "Here." Her resolve already broken, she only hesitated for a moment before pulling a cigarette out of the pack. She inhaled deeply before the tension in her shoulders finally released. Slightly. It took a few more seconds of silence for her to regain her bearings and crack open the window ever so slightly, storm be damned.

"You know I never left their side in the hospital?" She exhaled once again, icy wind quickly picking up and smothering the smoke trail into nothing. "I always waited for somebody else to show up and visit but they never did. I'm all Terry had. Fuck, I still try. I can't go to their house; the whole place has been cleaned out top to bottom. Them sending you out is the closest thing to even telling me they died — unless you count the endless calls by newspapers for my statement."

Daniel began to speak but went silent at the mention of Terry's death.

"I just wish I'd figured it out sooner."

Daniel slid the folder back into his inner coat pocket. "You couldn't have known ma'am." The coroner had since re-outfitted himself, once again wrapping himself head to toe in clothing. "You can keep the cigarettes. It's the least I can do for you." With that, he bid farewell, making his exit into the night.

Jess leaned back into her chair, contemplating the events of the night. Her terminal, alive with activity just a short time ago, sat cold and lifeless like the air outside her window. She watched the road, expecting to see the eventual headlights of the coroner drift off into the distance, but they never arrived.

She sat there, eyeing the road as the edges of her vision began to grow fuzzy. Jess rubbed her eyes and blinked — guess the nights had begun to take a toll on her. She turned her head from the road to her desk, landing on the pack of cigarettes provided by the coroner. She picked it up once more and examined the box.

It certainly was unremarkable, as she observed earlier, but even more so it seemed remarkable in its sheer unremarkability. The box was completely blank, a perfectly boring cardboard box. She leaned over her desk, glancing at where the coroner once sat. Searching eyes settled on a small scrap of paper, plain as the pack he'd left behind. A business card wedged just out of sight and slid beneath the seat cushion.

She grabbed it with shaking hands and quickly scanned it. Nothing really seemed to jump out at her — the glossy print all melted and muddled together into inky blots in her swimming vision — apart from one line that managed to slice through the mist.

Daniel, R.A.R.E.

Jess placed the paper and the carton back on her desk, glancing back at the window to confirm once again the lack of headlights. This didn't make sense; something wasn't adding up. She glanced down at the tip of the cigarette peeking into her vision, still placed firmly in her mouth, before swiftly putting it out.

She continued looking between her desk and the road, beginning to feel more and more uneasy. It began to feel harder and harder for her to focus, looking between the two objects began to become a chore. She needed to get out of there, something wasn't right, she needed fresh air. Stumbling, she hurriedly dressed herself before slipping into the cold night air. She continued to falter, thoughts trailing like glue as she fumbled with her car keys. She locked the museum, right? She must have, she must have.

As her eyes began to grow hazy, a buzz in her pocket was the only sensation she could make out clearly. Her head feeling full of a thick soup, Jess pulled out her phone and just barely managed to select a voicemail left for her just an hour ago.

She fell back into her car seat as a familiar and soon to be forgotten sight made its way down the drive — a solitary pair of headlights — fading into the storm just as all memory of the night faded to the tune of a distant voicemail.

"Hello Ms. Horne, this is the Carroll Country Sheriff's Office. We're just calling to let you know that, due to the inclement weather approaching faster than expected, we'll have to reschedule your meeting with the coroner until further notice. If you could just give us a call when you can so we can schedule a new date so we can just finalize our reports, we'll get back to you as soon as possible with the new date…"

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License