I worked as a coroner ever since the guild apprenticed me at the age of five. By the time I was ten, I was master coroner of the entire police district, and nobody ever called me a child again. Being a coroner gave my eyes a glint, the strange lady of the street corner said, who people said could predict fortunes with uncanny accuracy. I never had night terrors from my job. Children at age 5 are too curious to be horrified, and children at age 10 who have worked in a coroner’s house for five years are too conditioned to feel much of anything anymore. Only the number 1837 ever haunted me, if anybody could use such a foolish word. We numbered all the bodies that came into this small police district. I was on the last body of the day when I found 1837, a man in his forties whose Caucasian features and everyday heart attack cause of death made him seem incredibly normal in comparison to the already normal people who wandered into this dismal place. He had absolutely nothing odd about him except a flap of skin on his neck in which someone, no doubt in jest, had inscribed “Pull me.” Unable to resist this somehow sad and absurd instruction, I carefully pulled. The man came apart in the most gentle way. Inside his body was nothing: no flesh, muscle, sinew, or bile. The man’s head fell off as he lost the support of his neck. I stepped back and hit my head on some jutting metallic albatross.
As I revived later, the 1837 was gone. The body IDs merely jumped from 1836 to 1838 with nary a blink in between. I walked home that day, alone as usual with my hands in my pockets, dodging autumn leaves. I never told anybody of the incident, and nobody thought to check the IDs with such obsessive carefulness as I did for the rest of my life. I could sigh and finger the small strip of paper in my pocket that read “Wrigley’s” that I had found dangerously earlier.