The moon never showed its face to the town of Mooresville. Every day, there was rain. Every night, there were clouds. And the only lights were the lamps that lined the dark streets.
On some nights, you could see the figure of Mister Robinson darning his socks by candlelight, or an officer making his rounds about the dreary town. But on this night, all was calm, and not even shadows danced in the alleys or homes of the many people of this dark little town.
The old clock tower had rung its midnight tune, with 12 hallowed rings, though nobody heard. Nobody, except Mirdoch. Mirdoch was an odd man, to say the least. He was the undertaker of the town, and a very grim man.
If someone said hello, he would turn away, grumbling to himself. Nobody knew much about him, except that he never smiled. In fact, he never laughed once in his life. He considered laughter to be an insatiable curse for the poor and stupid to make it through life. He was very solemn, and he liked it that way.
He lived in the shack by the graveyard, which was never even lit. Some said that he was a corpse himself; of course, this was a rumor. This night, he was in the morgue, the only place where he could find solace in this dreary town.
He had one more body to determine the cause of death of, which was usually old age, because nothing happened in this town. But what he found was most intriguing indeed. The corpse was of a young man, with a hooked nose, and a fine suit. His raven hair was greasy and long, and his eyes dark and sunken.
"Well, what have we here? No doubt, some interest?" Mirdoch said under his breath. He turned away to reach for the scalpel when the bell tolled its first of twelve rings. "Blasted bell, interrupting my work. Have that thing removed, I'll have it. Write a formal complaint, I will."
He muttered under his breath once again. However, when he turned back he was most surprised. The corpse had opened his eyes and was staring off into space. Mirdoch dropped his scalpel, only to realize it must have just been a post-mortem muscle spasm. These things happen often, when the body is as fresh as this fellow was.
The bell tolled its second ring, as he reached down to pick up his scalpel, when a chuckle made him jump, and hit his head on the table. "Blasted table!"
He cried in agony, patting his head as if it would make it feel better. He looked back up at the body, only to see that it had not stirred from its dead disposition.
The bell had tolled it third ring. He reached down to start cutting the cloth when he realized. This was not someone he had known, or someone anyone had known. No talk had gone about the town of his death, and with such a fine suit as this, he must have been a richer man. This would have made his death noticeable.
The bell tolled its fourth ring, and Mirdoch had just about started to cut the cloth when a high pitched, almost mocking voice rung in his ears. "Don't you dare cut that cloth, you old crone!" the voice said. This made Mirdoch spring up and look around the morgue, for the intruder.
He grabbed the revolver he kept on the shelf and peeked around the corner of the closet. "I'm right behind you, fool," the voice said once again. Mirdoch turned slowly to see that the corpse had risen to a sitting position, and was staring at him with his dark, sunken, eyes.
"My god!" Mirdoch exclaimed as he jumped from his position, shaking more profusely than an engine. To his right, there was a cross, which he grabbed in an instant. "I cast you out, unclean spirit, along with every satanic-"
"Shut up," the corpse said with a smile. The bell tolled its fifth ring now, and the corpse dusted himself off. He put his arms behind his back, walking forward one step at a time. Mirdoch raised the cross in front of him further, and backed away slowly. It was not often that a corpse spoke back, let alone walked.
The sixth tolled, and now the corpse picked up his pace. He grabbed the cross from Mirdoch's hand and said in a deathly voice: “You and I have to talk, Mister Undertaker…” With this Mirdoch fell to the floor with his hands clasping together, begging the corpse not to take his life.
“Oh Spirit, I do not know why you have come here, but please, please! Spare me! I have friends, a family-”
“Spare thee?” The corpse started laughing hysterically. “Why would I let such a lying creature such as thyself walk with the living, when thee can’t spare a passing glance, or greet a fellow mortal. What’s the point of living, if none know that you’re alive?”
Mirdoch at this point was in tears. The bell struck its seventh toll. “Oh spirit, what you say is true, I have no friends, but would you kill a poor pathetic creature such as I?” The bell struck its eighth toll, and the corpse reached down for the revolver. He cocked the gun and held it to the head of the undertaker.
“After the next toll of thine wretched bell, I shall count to three, and thee with me, shall depart from this world in agony,” the corpse said, with a wide yet wicked smile on his pale face.
The bell struck its ninth toll, and the corpse took out a pocket watch, and started counting. “One, for the pain thee shall see,” the corpse said with a chuckle.
“Please no! I can pay you, just please don’t shoot me!” the undertaker said in tears.
The bell struck its tenth toll. “Two, for the blood that shall fall upon our shoes,” the corpse guffawed.
The bell struck its eleventh toll. “Three, for burning in thy own wicked solidarity!” The undertaker covered his face and waited for his doom.
The bell struck its twelfth and final toll, and the undertaker was in tears on the ground. He realized after several minutes that he was not dead, and he opened his eyes to look around. There was no corpse on the table, and nobody was to be seen. He stood up to look around. It had all been a hallucination. The gun was where he left it, on the shelf, as was the cross.
He stepped forward, relieved to not be dead. But with one more step forward, he heard a crunch under his feet. There on the ground, was a solid gold pocket watch, of fine quality. The undertaker picked it up, and held it to his ear. It was no longer ticking, and the hour hand was stuck on twelve.
He began laughing, softly, a chuckle, even. Then began laughing uncontrollably. He laughed and laughed until the morning, where he was still laughing. He laughed as he was dragged off to the asylum, and kept on laughing, a smile permanently etched on his once solemn face.