I roll onto my side, mindful to not rest too much weight on the cast around my left wrist.

I roll onto my side, mindful of not resting too much weight on the cast around my left wrist. With my good hand, I reach for my phone on the nightstand. When I tilt it, the screen brightens to show Walter’s close-mouthed smile gleaming underneath the time. At five in the morning, I’m unsurprised with how little I slept since Leanne and I came into Cape Crimson at 1:00 a.m. Since I need to meet her and Ava for breakfast at six, I don’t make an effort to fall back to sleep.

Instead, I start scrolling through recent photos of Walter. There’s one of him kissing my cheek on the bus to Cape Crimson. And one I candidly snapped of him with his disheveled black hair and a sun-kissed smile as he holds a spiky piece of orange necrocoral. It was an acutely memorable visit since that was when he and Ava completed their paper on resurrections being more likely if necrocoral are fed vital organs from the dead.

Necrocoral always creeped me out. But Walter knew I do like the intricate, fiery-orange, web-like protrusions that grow on them. He always made sure to bring home the most beautiful to show me. Given Walter’s passion for necrocoral, I insisted that the two photos I looked at were included in the slideshow at his celebration of life.

Three months since the SUV T-boned us, I sit up and toss my phone to where he should be soundly sleeping next to me. Walter and I usually stocked one of the two small fridges in the hotel room with food and drinks for Cape Crimson visits, but this time I only use the fridge for biohazardous materials. As I gaze to the spiky symbol on its door, I wonder if Walter would want his favourite chowder from Pearl’s Diner today. When I stop myself from asking him aloud, I feel the tears brimming.

I first met Walter ten years ago, when he was beginning his necrocoral research. Having lost his parents as an infant in a house fire, he revealed that he also passed as a result of smoke inhalation. Then his grandparents took his body to Cape Crimson to be Raised from necrocoral. He received a second chance at life, eventually leading him not only to me, but to becoming a respected name in necrocoral research. Our car accident sent a ripple of grief throughout the necrocoral community.

I crawl out of the covers and make it over to the fridge. A low buzzing, clinical-white glow and the words HUMAN ORGAN in blocky white letters on the red cooler box meet me when I open the door. After being unable to sleep with it on the room’s desk, I placed it in the fridge for the night. I kiss my hand and place it on the cooler box before closing the fridge. I ready myself to meet Ava and Leanne for breakfast, beginning the day that would start the process of Raising my husband from the dead, as he wished for in his will.

“Morning, bro,” Leanne yawns with her arms crossed as I take the seat across from her at Pearl’s Diner. “Ready for today?” she asks while tying her long grey hair into a high ponytail. Ever since dying it, she’s been encouraging me to also change my hairstyle; a small change to help me feel a bit different, she says—if not any better, the change could possibly help in some unexpected way. But I find it challenging to let go of the parts of the me that Walter was married to. If the necrocoral does what it is supposed to do correctly, I still want to be recognizable to him. He always liked my hair short, so I’ve at least been able to maintain one small ritual while moving through the motions of my days without him.

I find it challenging to let go of the parts of the me that Walter was married to. If the necrocoral does what it is supposed to do correctly, I still want to be recognizable to him.

“I guess I’m ready,” I yawn with a shrug. “Have you met Ava yet?”

Leanne shakes her head, then gestures to the throngs of people up as early as we are for the Greeting, waiting for a Keeper like Ava to guide them down the shoreline for the first low tide of the day, to meet their Raised loved ones. “She’s probably busy.” Around us, people are giddy with excitement, electrifying the chilly grey morning to life with a surge of liveliness much too early in the morning for me. “I’ve already ordered. Got you the chowder,” Leanne says. I smile and thank her as two boys walk by our patio table muttering in excitement about seeing their uncle again.

“Eli!” Ava’s voice shouts from behind me. “Good morning,” she says, approaching in her dark purple cloak, removing her hood. I stand to return the hug, nearly bending over to meet her. “It’s good to see you again,” she says, rubbing my back. “I’m so sorry about Walter. But when the Keepers were informed that his will instructs him to be Raised for next year’s Greeting, we were more than happy to oblige. And who is this?” Ava nods to Leanne, who stands to shake hands.

“This is my sister, Leanne. Leanne, this is Ava, Walter’s research partner. She’s the Keeper who worked with him to learn that the necrocoral—”

“Works best with an organ,” Leanne finishes my sentence, as if eager to impress Ava. “I’ve heard a lot about you and the Keepers through Eli and Walter. So nice to meet you.”

“It’s my pleasure as well!” We all take a seat, Ava declining breakfast when we offer, as she already ate. “Excuse my franticness, I’ve been pulled in opposite directions since 4:00 in the morning. Is this your first time in Cape Crimson, Leanne?” She smooths out her cloak while adjusting into her seat next to me.

“It is. It’s so lively already.” The server comes by to place two bread bowls of breakfast chowders between Leanne and I. I look down and am momentarily reminded that I can’t give Walter the carrots from mine.

“Leanne’s never seen necrocoral in-person before,” I say, unravelling my spoon from the napkin, already plotting where to scoop to avoid any orange bits.

“Is everyone here for the Greeting?” my sister asks.

“Pretty much,” I say before blowing on a spoonful of creamy chowder, successfully without any carrots.

Ava nods. “They were here last year with their necrocoral offerings. We will see this morning if the necrocoral accepted them.”

“Yeah. If,” I remark, pushing carrots around in the chowder. Despite my cynicism, Ava doesn’t appear to share it, even though Walter was taken from both of our lives. Being a Keeper instills in her an alternative understanding of the situation: Walter is only going through a temporary phase. I, on the other hand, don’t think I can bear the process of losing him again if he isn’t successfully Raised. It was already heart-wrenching enough when I had to decide to take him off life support after the accident.

As soon as I feel the air between the three of us cool even more from my pessimism, Leanne’s attention is turned to a group of tourists being led by another purple-cloaked Keeper. The Keeper says the name “Violet LaBelle” and Leanne immediately suggests we join the tour to learn more about the origins of necrocoral. “We’re already heading down for low tide for the Greeting. Might as well head down early for the tour?” she suggests.

Despite knowing this story already, I abide, thinking it could be a nice distraction from feeling so discombobulated being here in Cape Crimson, around the necrocoral and Keepers without Walter. After Leanne and I finish eating, Ava greets the Keeper, Celine, and we join everyone to head down towards the shore.

Ava and Celine stop ahead of us. We’re at the top of a slope overlooking the wavy lines on the dark sand revealed from the low tide. Sporadically dotted along the sand are large mounds of necrocoral: red and rocky-like with the squiggly orange tendrils protruding from them. Further out, where the water hasn’t fully receded, stands an immense statue of Violet LaBelle in a dress, petrified in barnacled rock. I always enjoyed seeing the statue. Even when the tide is in, Violet stands, unwavering against the waves.

“Cape Crimson started out as a humble fishing port,” Ava begins telling the group, “A seaside town plentiful in its ocean harvests as a result of the diverse life surrounding coral reefs.” I flick to Leanne who is intently listening. Seeing her enamoured by the telling of necrocoral, I can’t help but to catch myself smiling, forgetting what a miracle necrocoral can be.

“Then in 1868, a meteor streaked the sky and plunged into the waters,” Celine began, “It was considered an omen by many, but the well-respected LaBelle family was among the curious. A family of ecologists, Henrik and Mina LaBelle put together a small team, including their 23-year-old daughter Violet, to assess if the meteor affected the surrounding water somehow. On their way back, however, a storm rolled in, and sadly, Violet was thrown overboard. Henrik and Mina were forced to continue home without their only child.”

Leanne shakes her head, sharing in the grief that flooded the town two centuries ago—the awe that visitors today experience. I zip up what was once Walter’s puffy green windbreaker further after feeling the chill sneaking. Prompted by Celine, we all walk down to the water.

“This is crazy, I can’t believe I’m about to see necrocoral,” Leanne whispers.

“Yeah, but you’ve seen some of it before. Walter always had them out in jars and whatnot at our place,” I speak through my scarf as we walk through the field of necrocoral.

“True, but I’ve never seen a whole living one,” Leanne says, “those were just broken pieces Walter found. Didn’t he always bring home those orange things?”

When we make it down to shore, every group of families and friends are accompanied by a Keeper, settled around their necrocoral. People rummage through tote bags of clothes, blankets, and food and water to ensure that they have everything required to greet the Raised. The tour group stops not far from a woman with who I assume is her mother. They sit on a blue blanket with thermoses of steaming drinks, waiting with bated breath for the necrocoral before them to open. Ava continues her tour spiel.

“A year after the meteor fell into the ocean, Cape Crimson’s inhabitants saw these corals at a low tide,” she gesturing all around us. “Xenovitalus necrophormis, commonly known as necrocoral. While Henrik and Mina began preliminary observations, a necrocoral began opening, perhaps serendipitously. Almost on the anniversary of Violet’s loss, their daughter slid out of the necrocoral the same age she was when she was thrown overboard. The necrocoral Raised Violet LaBelle from the dead.”

A man behind me sighs in awe. By now, the water has receded as far as it can, leaving Violet’s statue on complete land, arms at her sides, elegant dress and long, wild hair captured in stone.

I look to it as Ava continues, “In the decades to follow, Violet and her parents continued studying the necrocoral. Though Raised by chance, Violet dedicated her second life to tending to the necrocoral, seeing its usefulness in saving lives. She founded the Keepers to act as facilitators in resurrection. And throughout the centuries, the necrocoral and us Keepers have helped Raise the wrongly killed, those taken too young, and more recently, even helped solve ongoing homicide investigations.” I shrink into the crowd as Ava looks to me. “We continue doing what we can by helping where we can, finding necrocoral with the best revival rate, given the circumstances of a death. However, an individual may only be Raised once.”

The man who sighed asks why someone can’t be Raised twice to which Ava responds, “It was attempted once before. In 1905, a 12-year-old boy died from illness. He was Raised a year later, only to pass again from the sickness that still lingered in Cape Crimson. When he came back the second time, he did not live for very long, unfortunately. The Keepers then decided that nobody can be Raised more than once.” The tour group is then instructed by Celine to disperse and explore the necrocoral up-close.

I swallow some apprehension, the reality that Walter may not be Raised for the second time starts to root further into my mind.

“Thank you for that,” Leanne says as Ava approaches. “I had no idea necrocoral is used in murder cases. And that not every necrocoral can Raise someone.”

“That was one of Walter’s last projects,” I chime in as Ava nods in agreement. “Figuring out why some necrocoral can Raise the dead and some can’t. He said something about RNA or something…—” I hold myself back, catching how much I was beginning to sound like Walter, feeling for a second like he is right here with us. “But I don’t know anything, really, about necrocoral. Walter had a bunch of stuff he was looking into … he never got to finish his research, though.”

“Yet,” Ava corrects. “I trust he’ll pick up where he left off once he’s back next year,” she smiles. “I believe he’s very close to finding out how to make more necrocoral Raise the dead. I wouldn’t be surprised if he cracked the formula. Since working with Walter, we’ve made more discoveries than ever about necrocoral! Who knows, after he is Raised, he could come back with more insight”—Ava looks to Leanne—“Violet would be astounded by what Walter has helped us discover—the numerous papers we’ve co-authored.”

“Papers! That reminds me, Walter’s lawyer said he had a letter or document sent to you? Apparently, he wanted it to be opened when Leanne and I arrived.”

I recall my first Greeting vividly: the pungent, briny fumes that burst into the air when the necrocoral cracked its exoskeleton apart, and what can only be described as a blood clot came sliding out onto the sand, eventually becoming distinguished as a person: a man back into the arms of his wife.

Ava opens her mouth, about to answer when gasps and shouts of excitement turn our attention to the mother and daughter on the blue blanket by the necrocoral closest to us. Celine stands with them now, but Ava motions for Leanne and I to follow her over, with Leanne more than happy to witness a Greeting for the first time. I recall my first Greeting vividly: the pungent, briny fumes that burst into the air when the necrocoral cracked its exoskeleton apart, and what can only be described as a blood clot came sliding out onto the sand, eventually becoming distinguished as a person: a man back into the arms of his wife.

“Who are you waiting for?” Ava asks the mother and daughter. The mother doesn’t shift her focus from the necrocoral.

“My sister, Billie” the woman answers. “Complications from surgery took her from us. We offered strands of her hair and some teeth to this necrocoral last year.”

After about a minute of squelching, the necrocoral splits. Steam flows from the fissure before a maroon liquid with a consistency reminiscent of honey oozes out. The mother kneels before it with glassy eyes and her blanket spread open, ready to welcome her daughter back into the world. Shortly after the necrocoral’s bleeding slows, a hand fists its way out. Billie’s mother begins to cry as the briny scent of revival burns my eyes and nasal cavities. In mere moments, a sound akin to bubbling molasses is heard and Billie’s naked body slides out of the necrocoral, shivering on the sand as her mother dives to blanket her. Billie’s sister kneels, joining her mother in tears, and together they wipe Billie’s wet hair out of her face as her eyes flicker open, adjusting to the light. I always wonder what the Raised feel when they emerge. I guess in about a year’s time, I could ask Walter. Maybe.

“The first to be Raised is well. This year’s Greeting is officially underway,” Celine says.

“At the second low tide tonight, we’ll give the necrocoral its next offerings.” Ava looks to me with a smile.

“He wants me to choose the necrocoral to Raise him?” I incredulously gasp while staring at the letter that Walter’s lawyer had sent to Ava’s office. Her office is decorated with jars of necrocoral suspended in formaldehyde, reminding me a bit of Walter’s office at home—the room I have yet to re-open the door to since he died. “I don’t understand…” I look to Ava. “You worked with Walter, Ava. Which one should I pick?” I ask, handing her the letter. “And is this even a good idea anymore? On top of me having to pick the necrocoral, you said that the little boy was not Raised properly the second time. What’s going to happen to Walter?”

Ava finishes scanning the letter. “You always know the right thing to do, Eli. See you soon xoxo,” she repeats Walter’s final words, before placing the letter on her desk. “It might work, Eli. What happened in 1906 was tragic, yes, but that little boy did live for a while. He just wasn’t … the same—”

“Not the same?” Leanne asks.

Ava sighs. “Our records tell that he was not all coherent. He spent days droning on and dreaming about green stars and the creation of worlds before passing in his sleep … but we know much more about necrocoral now. Walter was spearheading many of our strides in understanding it. He knows what he is doing, I believe.”

“At least you have an organ of his, Eli,” Leanne says. “Did he say anything that could help you decide which necrocoral?”

I embarrassingly shake my head, thinking that maybe I should have listened more intently to my husband on his late night, early morning spiels about necrocoral-related news while I was more focused on other things. Like what to get him for our fifth wedding anniversary. I went from looking at the best science-y gifts for him to funeral flowers in the span of three months.

Most likely seeing the pale hesitation on my face, Ava walks around her desk to me. “You still have six hours,” she looks to her wrist watch, “until we head down for the second low tide for the necrocoral offerings.”

“Let’s enjoy lunch and walk around the Festival a bit,” Leanne suggests. “Maybe it will clear your head and help you.” I nod, still skeptical. How will I know which necrocoral to choose, let alone doing it within the reality that if it works, my husband may not come back the same? The uncertainty makes it hard to know anything for certain to decide anything. But I do know that I miss Walter dearly.

Mainly a tourist attraction now, the Greeting Festival used to take on a more sacred meaning to welcome the dead back. But over the centuries, torches were traded for deep-fried foods on sticks—Leanne had no qualms about indulging at the Festival after we killed some time wandering the small city of Cape Crimson to sightsee.

While Leanne grabs almost every tasty treat she can get, I, on the other hand, walk the aisles of food trucks and vendors with a cloth tote bag in hand, carrying the cooler containing a part of my dead husband. Throughout my relationship with Walter, I have mainly been the one with the tote bag. It is fitting then, that even in his death, I continue carry Walter’s belongings. Despite the nerves that have been bubbling in me, I join Leanne in eating deep-fried cheesecake and an oyster po’ boy for dinner. The evening low tide is at its lowest at 7:25 p.m., so after finishing our food, Leanne and I start heading down to shore at around 7:00.

Ava meets us atop the slope and accompanies us down to the necrocoral. I feel them purposefully falling behind, allowing me to (blindly) lead them towards my chosen necrocoral. Walter talked about the most vibrantly coloured necrocoral being healthiest, but sometimes they don’t Raise the dead at all. Then there are the biggest ones, the oldest. While trustworthy, Walter mentioned how sometimes the Raised from the oldest necrocoral don’t come back as healthy. Indecisiveness floods me while around us people give their offerings to the nerocoral: an elderly man inserts a lock of brown hair into a bloody fissure, and two young children with their father offer a long black ponytail into another. For the first time since travelling with the organ cooler, I begin feeling the eerie weight of fulfilling Walter’s final wishes.

You always know the right thing to do. Walter’s words from his letter ring in my mind, but taking him off life support was the hardest thing for me to do to us. I’ve never been a confident decision-maker; Walter helped with that. Making another life-altering choice without him is starting to make me feel cursed.

Just as I’m about to turn back for advice, I see a necrocoral with a large amount of orange filaments protruding from its bumpy red surface. Some of them quiver in the wind that picks up. It blows in from the ocean, past the statue of Violet LeBelle who faces me, still against the dark clouds rolling behind her.

As I go back and forth with myself on whether or not the necrocoral before me is a good choice, I breathe deeply and push all of my doubts aside, making more space for Walter’s confidence in me to reach beyond death. “This one,” I gesture to the necrocoral. “This is Walter’s.” I kneel and brush aside some orange filaments to reveal the gaping red gash where someone must have crawled out of this morning. I gently take the cooler out of my tote and place it on the sand.

Ava smiles and exhales. “You’ve chosen well, Eli.”

“Proud of you, bro,” Leanne adds.

I lift the cooler open. Walter’s pale brain gleams at me from a bed of red-speckled ice. Gently, I take his brain in my hands: cold and firm, but not too dense against my palms as I slowly feed it into the necrocoral. Delicate, translucent tendrils stretch forth to receive my Walter, as if the necrocoral is eager to Raise him again. I withdraw my hands once I suspect the brain is held in place. The hairs on the back of my neck stand when I see Walter’s brain do what I can only describe as a shiver. More tendrils extend as the necrocoral self-stitches itself closed. Hopefully, in one year’s time, this necrocoral will bring Walter back to me. And if he is Raised different, we’ll rediscover who he is together. I look forward to hearing about his dreams of stars and far-off worlds, listening to his wonderful mind again.

“See you next year, Walter.”