He watched as the colorless liquid filled the syringe. Slowly, the bubbles rose to the top and dissipated. He flicked the glass to dislodge those still lingering at the bottom, and waited.Intolerable moments passed and finally the liquid began to change—first to crimson, then to amber. When it was the color of pure honey, the components would be active.Alex was sweating. It was cold in the morgue, but he could not stop the perspiration from running down his face. A single drop of moisture stilled at the curve of his smooth, angled chin before falling free—spilling onto the stainless steel table under his sweaty palm.Crimson.He looked at the clock. He was running out of time. It wouldn’t be long before they figured out where he was. Drops of sweat blurred his vision, burning his eyes. Frantically he brushed at them with his sleeve, not wanting to take his eyes off of the sweet nectar of life he held in his hands. The answer to all his sleepless nights. An end to his torment. An answer to his prayers.Amber.One last transition. This was going to work. He had altered the components just enough to adhere to the stem cells. It would only be a matter of time before they realized he was the one stealing from the laboratory for his concoctions—if they hadn’t already—but he also knew that he held all of their futures in his hands. They needed him and he took advantage. Over the past few weeks he’d been careless, he knew, but he could barely contain the excitement surging through his veins as he finally discovered what had been missing all this time.One simple detail. One simple reconfiguration that could have saved her and kept her with him. Had he figured it out sooner, it would’ve been ready before the accident. The accident that had accelerated her sickness. Had he worked on the project alone, he would have caught it. He was mistaken to think that a group of college kids would hasten his long awaited results. They had set him back. Their incompetence had cost him precious time, and forced his hand to drastic measures.Honey.His breath caught, sharp and ragged. His chest seemed to fold in on itself. It worked. He tried to steady his shaking hands. Control his breathing. Rain pelted against the glass panes—the dark night lit up suddenly by streaks of lightning and the roar of thunder.Tick, Tick, Tick…The clock echoed like a gong in his head. The rain slashing at the glass like knives. The hum of electricity in the fluorescents overhead—that flickered with each boom of thunder. He looked up to the stainless steel wall of the dead. The hum of the tanks to keep the bodies cold was deafening. He could hear the whispers. He could hear it all.The blood in Alex’s ears pounded, making him feel lightheaded. He pulled at the neck of his shirt the top button skittering across the floor.“Alex! Alex help me!”He could pick out her voice out of all the others, but they grew louder, drowning out the pleas of his true love. He covered his ears, the syringe poised like a cigarette between his fingers. The voices kept coming, pressing in on him like an incessant tide, the waves of his sanity breaking against the fringes of his mind.“No. No! NO!!!” He raged. The voices fell silent.1282He walked over to the stainless steel drawer and with a swift pull he beheld her. He shook off his lab coat and covered her nakedness, and gently touched the long “Y” of the autopsy stitches.“We can fix that.” He whispered, staring down into her blue-grey face, her pale blonde hair fanned out. Lusterless. Lifeless.He lightly touched the side of the syringe. It was getting hot. Alex looked at the clock. Another minute or two and it would be ready to administer. It had to be just the right time and temperature. Not a minute more, not a minute less, or it would fail. This was his last chance. If he failed, she truly would be lost forever.The lights flickered then went out for a few moments before coming back on. He needed to hurry. He needed to use the paddles before the storm tripped the breakers.Now.Alex raised the syringe with both hands over his head, and plunged it into Anna’s heart. The glass splintered from the hot liquid and the amount of force.Not too fast.Alex steadied his hand as he slowly pushed the plunger all the way down. Just a little more…Agonizing seconds passed and finally the syringe was drained. Alex threw it away from him, the glass shattering onto the floor. He looked at the clock and counted.3…4…5…Alex looked back down at Anna, tears of madness and love spilling down his cheeks. He stroked her hair.“Almost there my love. Almost there.”He focused back on the clock. He had to be precise.13…14…15…Thunder peeled, shaking the foundation under his feet. Wind whistled eerily through the window sill where the caulking had fallen away. A small puddle of water began pooling on the white and green linoleum tiles.Pat…Pat…Pat…Alex hurried over to the other side of the stainless steel examination table and rolled the electric paddles over to where Anna lay. He peered down closely at her.Yes. The skin around the needle puncture was turning pink. He felt the skin across her breast. It was warm. It was working. It was time.Lightning crashed and the lights flickered once more, just briefly. Alex turned the switch to activate the paddles. The rush of electricity hummed through his arms and into his hands as the paddles surged with power. In one movement he plunged the paddles onto her chest, her body arching in reaction.He repositioned the paddles.Again. Anna’s back lifted off the cold steel table, the lab coat that covered her slipping to the floor.Again.“Come on! Come ON!!” Alex raged hysterically, tears pouring down his face. “ANNA!!”Again.What was that?He wiped furiously at his burning eyes. All went dark. The breakers tripped. He stood there in the darkness, panting. His ears were ringing. The paddles slipped out of his hands and onto the floor. “Anna…” He sobbed.A flash of lightning illuminated the room for a moment and Alex froze, his breath still in his lungs. Silhouetted against the dark and the light was the form of a woman, sitting up in drawer 1282.It all went dark as the lightning subsided. The rain was deafening against the glass.Pat…Pat…Pat…Tick…Tick…Tick…Alex stumbled backward into the examination table, spilling the tray of instruments across the linoleum floor with a crash.He was seeing things. Did it work? Why hadn’t the emergency lights kicked on?Alex frantically felt his way around the table.“Anna?” he called out into the darkness. “Sweetheart?”He heard rustling. It was coming from where Anna’s body was. Had he imagined it? Was he going mad?Rattling. The squeal of the metal.It was real. It had worked. That wasn’t his imagination—that was the sound of the metal drawer. Anna was alive!“Anna!” He called, reaching out into the dark, his eyes searching earnestly for her form. “Anna where are you?”He heard what sounded like Anna tumbling out of the drawer, and landing onto the cold, hard floor with a gasp. Alex dropped to his hands and knees and began to crawl over into her direction.“Anna, Anna!” he whispered. “Anna, it’s me.”He groped around in the darkness. There was silence. He held his breath and listened. Nothing.Why wasn’t she answering him?Just then the emergency lights came on, and Anna’s blood filled eyes were staring straight into his.He screamed.He had stopped crawling only two feet away from where she sat on her knees. She stared at him blankly. He pushed back from her, terrified. Her undead eyes watching him, unblinking.She was still. Her hair was awry and there were red marks from the paddle all over her chest and torso. She broke her gaze with Alex when she shivered.Alex let out his breath. He hadn’t realized he had been holding it so long. He blinked and rubbed his eyes roughly. This was happening. This was real. It was what they wanted, what they had agreed upon. It had worked. They did it.He dislodged his tongue from the roof of his mouth and when he found his voice it came out strangled.“Are you cold?”Anna looked up at him—blood filled the white parts of her eyes, making the green of her irises unnaturally dark. Tears spilled down her face. She said nothing.Alex looked around and saw his lab coat on the floor several inches away from where he sat. He pulled it over to him and held it out to her. She just stared at him.“Anna,” Alex said, trying to regain his composure. “Do you know who I am?”She shivered again.Alex slowly began to crawl over to her with the lab coat. She recoiled as he approached. He stopped and tossed the lab coat over to her, raising both hands in front of him to show Anna he meant no harm. She pulled the coat around her shoulders.“Amazing.” Alex muttered. She still had been able to retain some faculties despite being on ice, and brain dead, for over a week.As Anna pulled the edges of the coat across her chest, she caught sight of her autopsy stitches stretching down the length of her torso. She gasped, looking in horror at her body, and began to wail.“No, no! Shhhhhh!” Alex scrambled over to her and reached out to grab her hand as she traced the bulge of each stitch across her pallid skin. She cried out when he touched her and began to fight him off, unexpectedly strong. Alex withdrew surprised.“Must be the adrenaline,” he thought. “She was too sick and too weak before…”Alex stared at her in awe. Anna covered herself and pulled her knees to her chest, covering her scars. Silently she rocked back and forth. A small whimper escaped her, causing Alex’s heart to constrict.She had been sick for so long. The cancer had eaten away at her slowly—cruelly. While she still had her wits about her they had agreed for him to continue their work—their years of research. It was almost finished. Anna knew that she would not survive long enough to be able to see all their hard work come to fruition. She made him promise her that she would be the first.At first he was horrified at the idea. That he could try the serum on her after she passed. But she kept at him. Begging him that it was the only way for him to know for sure. He could have a clear conscience knowing that these were her last wishes. That she was giving her body to him one last time—for the sake of their research. He might never get the opportunity again.After Anna passed, he couldn’t bring himself to do it while she was in the hospital bed, after the nurses had left him to grieve. He warred within himself, his mind churning over the moral and immoral. The ethical and unethical.The leukemia had whittled away at her bones, yet her heart stayed strong even when her other organs began to fail. Anna was an organ donor yet had revised her wishes that her heart would remain with her, and the rest could be harvested. In the end, only one kidney could be salvaged.Alex remembered that night when she had told him about her heart. She wanted to keep it with her for their experiment. That was the night he promised her. That was the last night she was with him. She had held on, until she got him to promise.“Anna?”She looked up at Alex, her pupils large and dark.“Do you know who I am?”She nodded.“Don’t be afraid. It’s going to be alright.” He soothed, inching closer to her. “It worked, Anna—you were right.” Tears spilled down Alex’s cheeks as he broke out into a smile.Just then the lights came on and flooded the room brightly. Anna and Alex squinted and covered their eyes until they gradually adjusted.Finally Alex could get a good look at her. He reached out slowly and took her hand. She was clammy, but not frozen. Her skin was still sallow, but he expected it would be for the next few days until her organs began to fully function again. He was still surprised at the amount of strength that she had retained. She couldn’t even lift her head in the hospital bed on her own, and here she had managed to get herself out of the body drawer, crawl across the floor and briefly fight him off. With all the rats that they had experimented on, none had stayed alive this long, nor had even had enough energy to take a few steps. They had used healthy rats. Anna was sick before she died. This discovery was astounding. He was going to have to examine her. Take some samples. Find out for sure if it was in fact her brain causing her adrenal glands to secrete excessive amounts of adrenaline to cause her to rally like this.Alex reached out to touch her face, and she withdrew.Too fast.He smiled. Just like when they had first met. He put his hand down. He knew how it would go from here. They had been through this before.Alex stood up and offered her his hand. She took him in for a moment before she reached out placed her hand in his. He pulled her up.He helped her steady herself. He smoothed the hair out of her face, and she let him, still a little tense, but seeming to relax slowly but surely. He slipped an arm around her shoulders and squeezed.She shivered.“This is going to be big Anna—huge! I still don’t think I believe it. I feel like I’m dreaming.” An incredulous laugh escaped Alex as he turned to face his love. “You were the one that convinced me to do it. You were the one behind it all. Your idea, your base formula…” Alex pushed a shaky hand through his dark, wavy hair.“To think that I almost didn’t agree to it—to this! You wouldn’t be standing here in front of me right now—alive!” He pulled her close to him and kissed her cool forehead.Anna began to crumple against him, and he quickly got his arms under her. Her legs buckled and Alex quickly swept her up onto the examination table, and then wheeled the equipment over to check her vital signs. He had come prepared.Gently he pushed away the edge of the lab coat and attached the wires over her heart and chest. He exclaimed happily as the machines picked up her vitals. She really was alive! Under any other circumstances readings like these would be devastating. He had been through that. Indicators to the end. Ironically now, they indicated life—they weren’t strong, but he could fix that. He had already thought of that. Her heartbeat was weak though, no doubt from the trauma from the serum and the paddles. Anna looked down again along her torso and lightly touched the markings left by the paddle.“They will fade my dear,” Alex said patting her on the knee. “Your heart has had a bit of a strain, so you will need to rest. You may have to have a heart transplant if there has been significant damage.”Alex paused, impressed with himself for thinking things out so thoroughly. Having the undead re-enter the hospital system for a heart transplant would never work. Anna’s autopsy scar was enough to raise questions, but that could be taken care of. His gaze drifted away from the machines and over at the steel drawers lining the walls. He already had a fresh body waiting should his Anna need any replacements.Anna looked up with questioning, blood-shot eyes. He seemed to read her thoughts.“The serum has worked, but until we monitor you for a few days and see how you fare with this, procedure,” he smiled at her. “We won’t be able to know the effects it has had on your vital organs. Because of the paddles…”Alex trailed off, hoping Anna would get the picture. She nodded. She seemed to know she would most likely need the transplant.He pulled down her lids and checked her eyes. The blood was dissipating pretty quickly. He was beginning to see the whites of her eyes, and a golden color beginning to form around her irises. Interesting.He gave Anna his hand and began to help her off of the table, when he heard loud voices in the stairwell.They had found him.Anna looked up at him in alarm, fear clouding her face, her bloody eyes filling with tears. Alex looked for a place to hide Anna. The table that he was going to use to mobilize the body was in the corner covered with a sheet. He hadn’t expected her to recover enough of her faculties so quickly as to be able to walk out of here. He had only dared to hope for a pulse. He had gotten so much more!“Don’t worry, Sweetheart, I’ll get us out of this.” Alex led Anna over to the table and helped her up on to it. Her eyes widened in alarm as he stretched the sheet over her body.“They can’t know you’re alive Anna,” he said as the pounding began on the door. “I’m going to get you out of here. Just stay under the sheet until it’s over.”Angry shouts and demands could be heard on the other side of the door. Alex calmly pulled his glock out of his waistband, and racked one in the chamber.The door burst open and they rushed in. Alex opened fire, taking two men down before sliding across the floor behind a table.“It’s over Alex! Give yourself up!” Tanner called. “We’ve been to the lab. We’ve got confessions from every single one of those college kids and two from the residents at the hospital. We’ve confiscated your work. You’re finished!”Alex peaked around the side of the table and Tanner fired, nicking the corner. Alex withdrew, and then returned fire.“I can do this all night Alex!” Tanner called.Alex saw two men scurry behind the long counter by the wall, and repositioned himself to the other side of the table. About a foot away was the tray he had knocked over earlier, holding all of the surgical instruments. Quickly he fired two shots at the men and lunged at the tray, scrambling back behind the desk just in time for them to return fire.“Come on Alex, you’re done your clip.” Tanner chuckled. “No one else has to die tonight.”Alex racked the slide again, lifting the tray up to catch Tanner’s reflection. Although slightly distorted with small dents, Alex could see exactly where he was. He withdrew just in time for Tanner’s bullet to pick the tray out of Alex’s hand and send it skittering across the floor.Alex emptied his clip and reloaded. Sprays of bullets came at Alex from both directions. One man rushed out behind the counter and Alex clipped him twice, sending him to the ground. Tanner shouted to his only man left behind the counter to stay put and hold his fire.“There’s no way out of this Alex. You’re out-manned and out-gunned. The police will be here any minute as they were tipped off anonymously of some criminal mischief at the morgue.”Tanner chuckled as he slid in a new magazine—Alex heard it click into place. The room was suddenly still. Alex began to sweat. His breathing became ragged. All at once he could hear everything.He heard Tanner’s man shift into position. Tanner’s abnormally loud voice boomed in Alex’s ears. The rain puddle. The clock. The whisperings. The twitch of movement under the sheet in the corner.Anna.Tick…Tick…Tick…Pat…Pat…Pat…Alex covered his ears and roared. The blood pounded in his temples.“You’re not taking her!” he screamed, shooting off two rounds. Tanner cried out in pain then bellowed in anger, clutching his shoulder. He was bleeding from a nick across his cheek.“The only way you’re leaving this room is in a body bag—you hear me Alex?!”The other man darted out from the counter and Alex quickly emptied his last two rounds into him, bringing him down.“It’s just me and you now Tanner.” Alex called out behind the table.“You’re out of bullets Alex.” Tanner said between gritted teeth.“So are you.”Alex tried to shake out the deafening sound in his ears. Everything sounded muffled then amplified the next moment. He blinked hard to try to clear his head.“I still have a card to play.” Tanner chuckled. “I don’t need bullets.”Alex wiped his brow with his sleeve and peered around the table once more to see Tanner propped up and bleeding against the exam table.“We’re walking out of here Tanner. Don’t try to stop us.”Alex released the clip and shoved the gun back into his waistband.“I don’t have to stop you. You’re not leaving.”Alex eyed the distance to the door, finding Tanner directly in his path. He looked over to the table where Anna was concealed, to find it empty—the sheet crumpled on the floor. Alex looked frantically about for her.“See the thing is Alex,” Tanner began, his tone icy and even. “You failed to recognize one small detail in the case of replacing the organs of a dead specimen.” Tanner laughed loudly.Alex called out for Anna but there was no answer. Tanner continued to speak, as if he had Alex’s undivided attention. Sweat poured down Alex’s face and burned his eyes.“Anna realized it. Didn’t she tell you?”Alex remained silent. Where was Anna? This couldn’t be happening.Tick…Tick…Tick…Pat…Pat…Pat…“See I don’t think she did Alex. Want to know why?”“Shut up Tanner! Do you hear me?! SHUT UP!” Alex raged, clutching his head. The whispers grew louder. He couldn’t hear himself think. He stood up; glaring at Tanner crumpled on the floor, and scanned the room for Anna.“Where is she?!” he yelled.“The sad thing is,” Tanner continued, “You always thought she had your back.” He chuckled then began to cough, choking on the blood filling his mouth. He looked at Alex with a bloody grin.“Well, as a manner of speaking, I guess she does right now.”Alex whirled around, but not in enough time to avoid the scalpel that cut deep into his torso, puncturing his lung. His eyes widened in shock as he beheld Anna at the other end of the knife. Her now amber eyes staring right through him, unfeeling. Dead.Amber.“See you need organs that are fresh, Alex. It’s like restarting the body when you have cancer. You let the body die and with it goes the cancer—you do some infusions and transplants, and then you simply reboot!” Tanner waved his hand dramatically in the air with a laugh. “We already took care of the bone marrow,” Tanner added coughing. “Her sister is already prepped.”Alex gasped for air as the life slowly drained out of his body. Anna withdrew the knife for a moment, relishing in the strength and power rushing through her body. The serum coursed through her veins. In moments she would be at her peak strength. She felt her heart inside her chest begin to flutter. In her toxic rapture, she drew back and stabbed him again.And again. And again.He watched in horror as the colors in her eyes continued to change with each blow.Honey.“Why?” he managed as she held the scalpel up to his throat. Her blonde hair fell into his face and he could still smell the formaldehyde on her skin. She was panting from the exertion.“I need a fresh heart.” Anna said flatly; then slit his throat.She let the knife fall to the floor with a clang, as Alex’s lifeless body crumpled over the desk, a pool of blood collecting around its legs. She moved her foot as it expanded toward her, marveling for a moment in the rich color of his blood. It was so vivid.Crimson.“Help me with him.” Anna said fixing her bloody gaze at Tanner. “We haven’t got much time.”Tanner pulled himself up to his feet and staggered over to the body; Alex’s vacant blue eyes still etched in horror.The two of them dumped the body onto the table that Anna had just been on, moments ago. The sheet quickly blotted the blood and soon was soaked through. A smeared trail of blood followed them to the door.Sirens from the police cars cut through the air. Anna looked at him wide-eyed.“I thought you were taking care of them?”“Yes. They won’t be giving us a problem. They are expecting us.” Tanner stepped aside and pulled open the morgue door as Anna pushed the table passed him.“Where do you want to go first?”“The lab,” Anna said, flipping her pale hair over her shoulder. “I have to recover my notes and give them to the team.”Tanner spit blood out of the side of his mouth as they continued down the dimly lit corridor.“I thought so. They’re already there ready for the surgery. They’re expecting you.”“Good,” Anna said, her blue lips parting in a wicked grin. “As soon as this is all over I’m having a nice, long drink.”The double doors swung shut behind them, and soon the squeaking wheels of the exam table faded into the darkness. Yet in the morgue among the broken glass and blood, one could still hear the rain pelting the panes, the wind whistling through the sill.Tick…Tick…Tick…Pat…Pat…Pat… Even still, in the flickering darkness, behind the steel wall of death, the voices continued to whisper the death rhyme:The vein of honey does not run dry,When amber rims the undead eye--Soon the card that has been played,Takes the life from the hand not stayed--For in the wake of dark destruction,Tainted hands are branded crimson.