Image by Christine Renney
The hardest part for me was the departure, turning from the body, walking away from my earthly remains. I lingered and I lingered and I knew it was dangerous to do so. I couldn’t stay there, in that room.
I stepped backward and gazed down at the body slumped on the sofa. I pressed the palm of my hand against my forehead but there was no bullet hole, and my hand came away clean, no blood. I did turn then and moved across the room and stood in front of the mirror above the fireplace. I looked the same. A little ragged, a little frayed at the edges but much about the same.
I wasn’t angry and I tried to make sense of how I did feel. I was shaken, a little taken aback by my indifference. I didn’t crave for answers and I had no desire for vengeance. I really didn’t care about the investigation and certainly didn’t want to be there when it began, when the authorities arrived. But it would be days, at least, and most probably weeks before anyone noticed my absence and reported me missing, but I knew instinctively that the longer I lingered the more difficult the transition would be.
I took hold of the body by the shoulders and shook it. The head slumped forward. The back of the sofa was a bloody mess of hair and skin and tiny pieces of skull. I pushed my fingers into the hole in the cushion and the fabric split and tore until I could get my whole hand inside and I began to grapple in earnest.
I took off my sweatshirt and wiped the blood from my hand. The bullet wasn’t what I had expected, it was a tiny misshapen thing. Pacing the room I set to work, polishing it, with the stained sweatshirt, on the front of my t-shirt and between my thumb and forefinger. But I couldn’t make it shine.
Eventually I did manage to step away from the body. I took to wandering the house, making a circuit, a quick sweep of the rooms. And each time around I found myself stalled in the spare room. It was filled with things from my life – mostly books, paperbacks, and my old record collection. Almost unconsciously I found myself sifting through it, sorting through those mementos and markers from my past. Searching for a particular book; not because I wanted to read it but simply to reassure myself, to know it was still there.
I flicked through the old albums and realised that I had re-bought most of them on CD. But if I wanted to listen to music, no matter how obscure, all I needed to do was tap a few keys on my phone. Suddenly I started to panic, and began grappling in the pockets of my jeans. But of course, it wasn’t there. My phone was downstairs on the sofa, with the body. I wondered if perhaps I should go down and retrieve it, bring it up here and leave it. A final memento, the last marker, but, shaking my head, I stepped from the room and closed the door.
I kept at it, stalking the house, prowling through its rooms. In the kitchen I looked in the cupboards, in the fridge and in the cooker. I searched every nook and cranny. I scanned the walls, moving from corner to corner, but I couldn’t find it. There wasn’t anything I needed, that I wanted.
I would take the bullet and that at least would create a little mystery. But it would be a puzzle that was solved all too easily and too quickly. How could they not conclude that the shooter had retrieved the bullet and taken it so it couldn’t be traced back to the gun. But of course, they would be wrong.