Writers (in order): Jo M., Nathan Duran, Xinyi Chi, Mary Francis, Adanna Todd, E.G.S., Sophia H, Mikul Wyer, Sofia Levorchick, Emily Hwang, Art Arrows, CL, Eman Hussain, Gisela Bunch, Kati Ann, Vani Madhur Garg, Melissa Huynh, Sarah Kennedy, Sherlyn M.B., Solenn Vincent, Nithya Desikan, Beau Rehm, Annabelle Shilling. Editor: Ms. Ja.

“Is it me or did a body just fall out of the sky?”

Typically the bodies rise from the ground. It takes a while but they come and soon they are reborn and it’s hard to tell the difference at first. You just need to look for the skin’s undertones—if it’s ashy, you’ve got a rene. Otherwise, you have a good old human, nothing special.

“I think I see it,” I reply. “Express delivery, huh? He’s trying real hard to get some extra efficiency in this office.”

She laughs and we head off to investigate.

This one is a bit off, as its undertones are purple; a closer examination proves that it’s just bruising. Drunk Examinations are never a good thing. There’s actually a sign up at work in the mortuary: “Never work sick, dead, or drunk.”

Grabbing the body, I start the Drunk Examination. I reach across my desk, grab a puzzle box, hand it to the patient, and start a timer. The patient has ten hours to open the box. Ironically, one pillar of our organization is efficiency. Personally, I disagree with the puzzle box idea; it is a waste of ten hours. Much better solutions could be made, like the ones humans pioneered a few years ago. They follow a finger with their gaze—if they succeed, they pass. Still, we stick to our primitive ways. If they can open a little puzzle box, they’re not drunk. Even if they smell strongly of human alcohol. The Organization of Reincarnation, Birth, and Sending, or O.R.B.S., is in charge of choosing which humans are to be reborn, which traits they are given, and who continues on to the Next Area. I am part of the Reincarnation division, employee 2591. I get to decide who gets reborn or who gets sent to the Sending division. When a body arrives in the FOG (Field of the Gone) I grab the folder in its hand—there’s always a folder—and read it to decide if he should be Reborn.

Click, the box opens. Huh, that was fast.

Next, I check if the body’s sick by offering it some human pills. Apparently, it cures all common illnesses in the species. The body does not flinch, not even once—its eyes blink with fright. The body is lifeless but simultaneously alert. It jolts up in a frenzy and stares at us with its ghastly eyes.

The body grabs my arms, gasping for each breath.

“Don’t send me back! Please! I’ll do anything! Trade me! You don’t know what they’ll do to me if I—” The assistant next to me sticks a sedative in the crazy person’s arm.

“That was... weird,” she says, putting the empty sedative away. I lower the body back onto the table, wondering what they could have been talking about. The analysis machine is quickly hooked up to the subject and starts to blink blue and red light, forcing the body on the table to jolt up and down.

“Retrieve and administer a vial of RD17, stat!” I call out to my Reborn technician team. As a team of professionals crowds around the body on the table, I quietly watch the Reborn techs force a vial of RD17 down the subject’s throat. The subject uses its remaining strength to combat the insertion of the drug. Its piercing eyes scream through its pupils. It keeps fighting us until it ceases activity completely. I am truly astonished at the result of the drug. The subject is alert, but stationary. Who knows how long that will last?

“Step back! All of you!” I command the technicians. The subject’s skin appears to be changing color. “What in the name of our maker is this?” It can’t be… can it?

Someone gasps. “The Black Death!” The body blinks, face twisted in concern. “I thought that was no longer a thing.” A technician types on the computer, and they flip the screen around to show me the information.


Plague symptoms:

If it looks like the plague, it is the plague.


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