Being dead sucked a good deal more than I had anticipated.
I had a cramp in my leg and my body bag smelled like an old bicycle inner tube.
I lay hermetically sealed within a blue plastic bag which in turn sat atop a specialised hospital trolley for transporting dead people to the mortuary known as the Silver Bullet.
Once wrapped in their plastic body bags, the deceased were normally placed on top of ‘the bullet’ where a set of hydraulics lowered them down in to a secret compartment underneath.
A mattress, sheets and pillow was then placed on top by nurses to complete the illusion of an ordinary empty hospital trolley.
The seemingly empty silver-bullet bed was now able to make its way innocuously down to the morgue without flustering the shopping mall ambiance of the hospital foyer.
In a world so injected with images of death and dying, it is slightly ironic that a hospital, a place where many hundreds of people die each year, is perhaps one of the most death-sanitised locations in the western world.
To pull this off I was going to have to be even deader than I thought.
The old hospital trolley seemed to creak with every microscopic movement I made. The plastic laying inches from my face seemed to crinkle and crackle and fill like a spinnaker with even the slightest breath.
I felt the need to sneeze.
Greg had recently transferred to our emergency department.
He was an outstanding nurse, had a great sense of humour and looked like a young Bono from U2.
This combination made him nauseatingly swoon-worthy with the female nurses.
He was also an avid practical joker, successfully targeting me on many occasions. Making him popular with everyone.
But this time I would get him. Big-time.
I had spent the last few hours carefully setting up my prank. The wardsman was in on it, as was most of the staff.
Our concocted cover story was as follows: A 70 year old man had died of a massive heart attack despite our best efforts to resuscitate him.
The shift had been so hectic the staff had not yet had time to transfer him downstairs to the morgue.
All the relevant paperwork and resuscitation notes had been creatively forged and lay in a neat pile beside me on the bed. Greg had just come on duty and was asked to quickly transfer me ‘downstairs’.
Greg and the wardsman entered the room. I heard Greg pick up the paperwork and flip through it to make sure everything was in order. He leaned over me checking that the mortuary tag tied to the outside of my bag matched the details in the notes.
Yep, I was officially dead all right.
As had been arranged, the wardsman informed Greg that the hydraulics on the bed were not working and that I would have to remain on top of the bullet. They placed a cotton hospital sheet over the mortuary bag and we were off.
Its kinda creepy laying inside a body bag dressed in a shroud, traveling helplessly toward the coldest room in the hospital.
The service elevator took an age to arrive, which provided plenty of time for me to ponder the existential fragility of life, and the inevitability that one day this would be my actual fate. In fact everyone should spend a little time in a body bag whilst waiting for a lift to the mortuary. It brings great focus.
Anyways. Greg and the wardsman chatted on as we waited…and waited.
I had the alarming thought that if we didn’t hurry up I might in fact suffocate in this plastic sarcophagus.
That would be a pretty embarrassing way to go.
And then…I wondered if Greg had actually out-pranked me and knew exactly what was going on.
Perhaps the wardsman was a double agent, and together they would lock me in the mortuary fridge. Ha-Har!
Popsicle penance for impersonating a dead man.
The lift arrived with a clatter. It was one of those neat industrial service elevators with the doors that you have to pull open from the top and bottom. Once inside the wardsman signaled me by covertly tapping my foot.
Now, I had plenty of options here… I could have just let out a loud moan and lifted myself up into the sitting position al la: “The Return of Frankenstein”.
But no….I decided on the the far more subtle …..and infinitely more terrifying….. soft gurgle.
I followed this with a loud inspiratory breath and some subtle extremity twitching.
I couldn’t stand it any longer, and so with a loud gotcha! I sat up and fumbled the zip open on the body bag.
These things are not easy to unzip from the inside by the way, so it took a few endless seconds to extract myself.
Greg was as white as the sheet I had been covered with.
His gaze had diverged out on some place far away behind me.
His legs had long since left for a safer place, abandoning the rest of him to slide slowly down the door of the lift.
His mouth was agape, and a small birdlike noise dribbled down his chin.
He looked not the slightest bit like Bono.
I was beginning to think that this might not have been such a wise idea after all. But the prank had taken on a momentum of its own now, and I was just going to have to ride it through.
Slowly, his face re-booted. His gaze focused on me as the total realisation of what was happening squirted up into his frontal lobes.
His lips silently formed words. And the words were not kind.
In retrospect, it probably wasn’t such a good idea to spring my prank in the confines of a service elevator. Escape options were somewhat limited.
After a short 1-floor struggle, I heaved the door open and took off. Greg in hot pursuit, firing a hastily armed swathe of sidewinder expletives.
I ran. Dressed only in a white shroud, hobbled by my cramping leg, and with Mortuary tags flapping behind me on their strings.
I was being chased by a crazed rock star who had definitely not yet seen the funny side of the situation.
We rounded a corner, Greg closing on me, and found ourselves scampering through some sort of packed physiotherapy waiting room. It was way too late to stop. It was way too late to explain…..so we did neither.
Dead man running.