PC: Sonia Señoráns
Where the Dead Go When They Die
It was almost time to get off when the heart monitor began a high pitched hum. I immediately looked at where the steel cuff wrapped around the inmate’s wrist and then around the metal frame of the hospital bed. A nurse came into the room quickly, followed shortly by a doctor. They began talking rapidly. Someone brought in a defibrillator. I watched as Fernando Chavez’s body jolted. I could feel my skin began to crawl and I briefly thought the building would collapse from the pulsation. Then I felt my chest tighten. I couldn’t look away from the man’s clean shaven face. He had round cheeks and a short but thick grey mustache. His hair was mostly grey with specks of black sprinkled in. He looked a bit overweight and I wasn’t sure if a guy that looked so friendly could bash his wife’s skull in with a hammer. I heard the doctor call the time of death at 11:21pm.
Tremaine moves tirelessly through the darkness, cautiously avoiding the various shapes and sounds, diving deeper and deeper, frantically now, as he continues pushing though the darkness. After some time, when he knows he has found it, he can see his white turtle neck slowly begin to appear. A wave of relief washes over him as he slides his small body over the steel rail, paying no attention to the tracks stretching out into the distance and then disappearing into the waves of heat rising from the sun. He desperately searches between the wooden slats, until he finds where the ballast has washed away and a big white flower has nestled itself into the soft dirt underneath. He can smell the honeysuckle nearby and feel the heaviness of the stagnant summer air. He stares lovingly at the flower, following the delicate green stem as it lifts the yellow middle then giving way to a crown of white petals. He sinks his feet into the soft dirt and feels the earth shake and move below him. He wished he could stay here a little longer with his flower, so precious and sweet, growing among the trash and needles strewn about. But he knows from the sound of the train horn that it’s almost time for him to go. As the sun bears down on his face, the little boy closes his eyes and disappears back into the darkness.
I gasp as I sit up straight in bed. My chest feels heavy and I can feel the sweat that has pooled in the sheets. I briefly consider the possibility that I’m having a heart attack. But something else feels wrong. My ears sharpen. I hear something move in the spare bedroom. I try to even out my breathing as I pull the .40 caliber pistol from the nightstand. I stare into the darkness where I believe the door to my room should be. Silence.
After a few seconds, I carefully move across the hall and into the adjacent room, gun extended forward in a cup and saucer grip, just as I was taught at the academy. Silently, I stand just outside the closet door, where I believe the sound had originated. I carefully find the doorknob in the dark and then slide my finger down the trigger. Slowly turning the knob, I fling open the door, pointing the gun into the interior of the closet. But there wasn’t anyone inside, only bright white paint shining back through the darkness. I exhale deeply and feel my muscles relax and then tighten again. I stumble through the dark and into the living room, where I place the pistol on the coffee table and open a large window. As gust of cold air blows in I stare out into the darkness. I could smell the burning wood from the neighbor’s fireplace and ever so faintly, I thought I heard something. I lean towards the window. Silence.
As the wind blew in another gust of wind, I heard it again. I froze in place as a wave of anxiety swept through my body. It was a train horn blowing in the distance. Something was coming. I slammed shut the window and slouched down on my couch, where I immediately felt the barrel of a gun being pressed to the back of my head. I spun around, but nobody was there. Turning back around, I could feel the barrel again, pressed firmly to the back of my head. Then I heard the trigger click and the smell of sulfur, as the bullet ripped through my skull. I rolled off the couch and onto my stomach. I rubbed the back of my head and was relieved when I didn’t find any blood. As I went to get up, I could see in the small strip of space between the floor and the couch, a small body in a white turtleneck. Tears began to stream down my face. I crawled back onto the couch and tried to gather myself by slowly pulling my knees up to my chest. “Pull it together” I repeated, until I felt the floor move away and I was back in the hospital room. I could feel the room shake as the doctor repeatedly tried to revive a man in the bed. I tried to escape, to run away, but with every movement the hospital room shook harder. I flailed my arms until I found the cloth of my couch. I looked around the room, terrified, as the walls slowly came back together.
The next morning, I snapped up from the couch and looked around the empty house. My body ached. I noticed the sunshine cascading in through the big window and I watched as the swaying tree limbs cast shadows across my living room floor. I considered going back to sleep, but my heart was racing as too fast. So, I showered and dressed for work, as the shadows danced across the floor.
About The Author - Yousef Allouz
Yousef Allouzi is an author and data analyst who currently lives in the Pacific Northwest. He holds a BS in Economics from Oregon State University and a Master of Public Policy from the same institution. His previous writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Scintilla Magazine, openDemocracy, Atticus Review, Malarkey Books, Pidgeonholes, and Blue Cactus Press. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter @j_allouzi where he discusses literature, politics, economics, and sports