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A Fire Alarm at Death's Door

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Calli has worked as a coroner for a while. She’s seen some stuff, morbid stuff, really sad stuff, even some utterly bizarre stuff, having to figure out why somebody died brought the odd balls around. The most recent one they brought it though was by far the craziest and most consequential. No family, no dental record, some steel toy-looking things that weighted heavier than they looked, and a few exceptionally well made fake IDs. The officers said she was officially named a Jane Doe, but Calli just went with the name on the cards: Takanashi Kiara.

She’d put the body on the table to deal with after she printed out a new observation sheet but while waiting for the copies to finish, the lab’s fire alarm started. Of course she immediately abandoned the papers, but upon investigation there was no smoke – no fire – nothing, so she turned the alarm off. The room looked exactly the same as she left it, not a thing out of place, except for the missing corpse.

“Fucking what?” Calli whispered to herself in disbelief before rushing into her office to check the security cameras. Dead bodies don’t just disappear into thin air. Somebody stole it. What kind of person steals a dead body from the morgue?

But after checking the recording, Calli could only really stare at her screen with her mouth open. Turns out dead bodies could just disappear into thin air. How was she going to explain this to the police? “Hey officer, remember that girl you brought in? Yeah, she burst into fucking flames. Sorry. Can’t do anything about that.” They’d think she lost her mind!

She took a deep breath in and leaned back in her chair, trying not to let her nerves get to her. Was there even an explanation for this? She’s heard of cases of spontaneous human combustion where people burst into flames for seemingly no reason at all. But in all of the cases Calli’s heard of, the aforementioned people were still alive when their bodies just set on fire. If there was a government agent watching her internet activity, she’s sorry she had to look up “can dead bodies burst into flames”.

Calli should call the police. She really should. But just before she could even lay a hand on her phone, the fire alarm in the lab started to go again and she had to go check on it. Once again, it was just as she left it, except this time, there was a naked woman on the table trying to reach the smoke detector and unintentionally giving the coroner a very good view of her ass.

What the fuck!” Calli exclaimed, startling the woman and sending her tumbling down to the floor with a surprised yelp. The coroner turned off the alarm remotely and carefully walked around the table. She was just hallucinating the naked lady, right? She was just imaging the naked lady that looked a lot like the dead body that just burst into flames earlier, right?

As soon as she turned the corner, the woman looked up and pouted at her, “You couldn’t have warned me you were there?”

“T-Takanashi Kiara?” Calli asked carefully, not sure how to proceed with the situation.

“Yup, that’s me!” Kiara tilted her head to the side and eyed Calli up, a mischievous smile immediately forming on her face, “And you are…?”

“Calliope Mori,” the coroner answered, “what – can you explain exactly what happened? Where did you even come from?”

Kiara’s eyes widened and she got up to her feet to look around. Her posture was immaculate, almost like a soldier’s, and even Calli couldn’t help but appreciate at the incredible musculature of her arms, abdomen and generous chest-

“I am so sorry, you must have been so confused!” Kiara squeaked, “Okay so, first things first, I’m a phoenix.”

What?

Kiara continued, looking around the room, “I got into a bit of trouble with a gang of demons and they sent someone to take me out because I killed their leader and all his men or whatever. Usually, police don’t get called to things like these but I guess my neighbor called,” she picked up a spare clean lab coat out of an open cabinet and put it on before fully addressing the coroner again, “Sorry again, this is all pretty crazy but I assure you it’s all true.”

Calli’s breath stuck to her throat. This was definitely a hallucination. Phoenix? Gangs of demons? A druid? Those were fantasy things. This lady was crazy, but right now, she had to get her priorities straight. “What the fuck am I going to tell the police?”

The crazy lady’s eyes lit up, “Oh, I know someone that can help you out! Do you have a phone I can borrow?”

“I – you can use mine?” Calli pulled out her phone and handed it over to Kiara in a daze. She was so getting arrested for this. Or maybe sent in for an extensive psych eval. Neither option was particularly appealing.

As Kiara started tapping away at her phone, she sat down and had to think. Does this make sense at all? Should she check the tapes again? If Kiara really was a phoenix, then the whole phoenix rebirth thing should probably match up with the fire alarm going. The first one was when her physical body burned up, and the second one was her body reforming.

“Hi Ame! I may have gotten into a little bit of trouble, can you come pick me up and explain what’s going on?”

Calli turned to watch her, preferring to stare at the woman over thinking about the impending doom that was about to rain down on her when the police found out. Oddly enough, the name Ame sounded familiar.

“I’m at a morgue… No, a regular morgue… I borrowed the coroner’s phone… Yeah, she’s still here... I’ll see you soon!” Kiara finished up her call and handed the phone back. “Here you go, Calli. This will all make sense soon enough!”

The coroner sighed and put it back into her pocket. “Please don’t tell me you called another weirdo.”

“Oh, no. I called Ame. You might know her as Amelia Watson?”

She froze. Then blinked. Amelia Watson? As in the Amelia Watson? The world renown detective that solved cold cases and all sorts of seemingly unsolvable mysteries: Amelia Watson? Always seems like she was just three minutes away from where she was needed, Amelia Watson?

“Wha-?”

Before Calli could say much more, there was a single knock on the door and the detective burst into the room, looking tired as all hell, with a mean looking syringe readied in one hand. “Okay, I’m here, where’s the coroner?”

Kiara pointed at her and the moment Ame’s eyes looked over, Calli’s heart froze. “Alright buddy, you got two choices. We talk this out right here right now and you keep a really big secret, or” - she pointed the needle straight at her - “you can pretend this was all a dream, and when you wake up, all signs of Kiara here will be gone. Pick.”

Calli gulped, looking between the two other people in the room. She doubted she’d get out of this situation easily, and she’d rather not take a shot of the infamous Watson Concoction. “I’ll listen, we can totally talk this out.”

“Good,” Ame smiles and puts the syringe away, “let the force know you’re closed for the day, this is going to take a while.”

 


 

And it did take a while. They weren’t even finished discussing the whole thing by midnight. Ame had to leave to get ready for something and told Calli to send her a message soon so they could talk more. Before she left though, she made a few calls and left a handful of documents so no one would question why Kiara’s body was suddenly gone. As for the phoenix-

“Do you want to go pick up something to eat?” Kiara asked, hopping off her seat and wandering closer to the desk.

Calli sighed and rubbed her face, not sure if she even had the energy to do much of anything after finding out that there was a whole other world existing just beyond her normal perception of the world. Just this afternoon, she thought she’d gone insane, now she had to come to terms that the world was much bigger and much more fantastical than she ever thought. She really needed a drink. “Why are you still here?”

The phoenix giggled and leaned over the desk, her chest practically spilling out of the buttoned lab coat. “I think you’re interesting, and I wanted to take you out to dinner.”

“Oh,” the coroner blushed, “I’m flattered but I don’t think I’ll be good company right now, and I’d honestly rather go home.”

“That’s okay,” Kiara flashed her a smile, “want me to walk you?”

“I have a car.”

“Can you drive me home then? I have no idea where we are.”

Calli chortled and stood, deciding that sleeping at home would be preferable than spending the night in her office. Besides, home was where the wine was, “Sure, where do you live?”

The phoenix’s home was not too far from her own house, about a 15 minute drive from work and maybe a five minute walk from Calli’s place. On the ride over, Kiara talked about the day to day lives of not-human beings, something that Ame didn’t cover, and Calli was pleasantly surprised how fascinating she found such a mundane topic to be.

“So the grocery store has portals in it?” she asked, tapping the wheel in thought.

Kiara hummed for a moment before shaking her head, “I guess you could say it that way, but it’s more of a transition into an additional plane of this reality, a ramp up into an overpass if you will.  But you need to know it’s there so you can interact with it. Kind of like how you need to know the way up to the overpass to actually use it.”

“Ah, okay,” Calli muttered, not totally understanding it but getting the overall gist of the explanation. She wonders if she’ll suddenly see it the next time she goes out for milk. “Can a normal human use those or…?”

The phoenix nodded, “Yup, no need for magic at all!”

They didn’t get to talk more before they arrived at Kiara’s home unfortunately, though they did part with a promise to talk more over a dinner some other time and arranged a quick meet up to show Calli around the other parts of the local grocery store. Before the phoenix closed the car door behind her though, she made a sound of realization and peered back in, “By the way, maybe I’ll see you in a couple of days again!”

“For dinner?”

“No, silly,” Kiara giggled, “demon gangs never strike just once. They’ll probably try to kill me again if I don’t get them first, and maybe my neighbor will call the police like she did last time.”

Calli stared at that radiant smile for a second, utterly dumbstruck. “Are you just cool with maybe being murdered again?”

The phoenix casually waved the concern away, “I’m a warrior phoenix, I’ll be totally fine. See you, good night!” With that, she shut the door and wandered into her house, leaving Calli to stare after her in surprise.

The coroner took a deep breath in, still finding it concerning that someone that looked like a human talk so casually about being murdered. She really needed a drink.