LIVING THE LIFE XII

‘LIVING THE LIFE’ is a series of more short stories that take place in the year 2020 in a fictional State named Callisto located in the Northern part of the United States. In Callisto, life is the same, yet different, because no one outside the State really understands anything about what actually goes on here. Along with the location; the characters, events, and conversations, are completely made up and you’re not meant to find morals, or meanings, or signs; But neither I, nor anyone else, can tell you what you think. Here we meet a tension filled police office, whose heart is beating out of her chest. In this, the second last chapter, imagine her heart is beating rapidly the entire time.

LIVING THE LIFE, CHAPTER 12: The Room That Fell Down

As the sirens from the ambulance and police cars wailed from the street throughout the doomed woods; causing flashes of red, white, and blue to fly across the darkness; feeling nauseous, cold, but at the same time hot, with her head spinning, Shirley stood, finding it extremely hard to keep standing upright, as she tried to keep her knees from shaking out of their sockets. Trying to remain professional and calm was a whole different challenge in itself.

If you recall, a while ago, Shirley convinced a friend of a friend, Tracy, who she only met that one time, to do cocaine, and by the end of the night she was dead, and Shirley and her two friends dumped the body in the river. Unfortunately, for Shirley, that river turned into the creak dozens of officers were leading yellow tape around right now, and Tracy’s body was pulled out from it and was placed on top of a blue tarp spread out over the drenched grass. And it was still raining. 

The air smelt putrid all around; the body was rotting, and hardly recognizable, but the moment Shirley saw it she knew who it was. She almost fainted, and she would’ve if Anthony hadn’t been there to keep her up. She’d been in the forest ten minutes now; more experienced detectives were assigned to the case, but it was her responsibility to question the witnesses; as it turns out, the witnesses, the people who found the body and called it in, were Jackson and Jonathan, the boys she and Anthony met at Triple C weeks before with the strange man Borgo Szoros. They were also with another person, who she figured had to be the man she spoke to on the phone to set up the meeting.

Shirley told her superiors that she was giving the witnesses time to settle down, taking into consideration that they found a dead body, but the truth was she couldn’t stop looking down at it, with paranoia jabbing around her head like vultures around a dead carcass. Still overwhelmingly uncomfortable she had to do her job, so she forced herself to look away from Tracy’s body, and made strides towards the witnesses who were huddled up in the background observing the crime scene, but not before she noticed a sly, dark gray coyote also watching the scene from a distance with its beady orange eyes.

The sound of the gusting winds and the pouring rain, and the vast darkness of the forest caused Shirley to not only believe that she was hearing things, but seeing things as well. Boy, was she going through a difficult time. Approaching the trio, she told herself it wasn’t real, and that she needed to stay here, in reality. She took in a deep breath. 

“So,” she began, eyeing Jackson and Jonathan. “We meet again.” She eyed the third person. “I don’t know you, though. Are you who I talked to over the phone?”

“No,” he said. “My name is Alonzo Hawthorne.”

“I see. So you guys found the body. What were you doing here?”

“Sometimes we like going on drives to this part of the State. You know, the outskirts. And we just walk through the woods.”

“Like once a week,” Jonathan chimed in.

“So you guys are telling me that you went for a walk in the forest, two hours from the city, in this rain, and stumbled upon the body?”

You did it. Confess to what you did. Turn yourself in. 

Shirley swung her head around to where those voices came from. All she saw was the officers and paramedics continuing to investigate the scene. She turned back to face the trio and spotted the coyote still watching her. She didn’t hear Alonzo’s response and asked him to repeat it.

“It wasn’t raining when we left our house. Actually, it started to rain as soon as we got out of the car.”

“We came this far, and we weren’t just gonna drive back. Plus, it’s not raining that bad inside here.”

Of course Shirley knew that these young men weren’t involved in this murder, but she had a feeling that they were lying about something, or not telling her everything about why they were there.

“Whose Mercedes is that parked on the side of the road?” 

“It’s mine,” said Alonzo. “Listen, Officer, we just randomly found the body and as soon as we did, we called the police.”

“And we’ve been here, outside in this terrible weather for hours.”

“What are you saying?” Shirley asked. “You want to leave?”

“Well, yes. But we’ll stay to answer any questions so we don’t have to later.”

“You’re going to have to answer more questions. I know you guys get up to shady business. Are you sure you’re being honest about why you were here?”

You’re the one not being honest. Confess to what you did. 

Once again, Shirley quivered. She knew she was hearing voices. Shirley desperately wanted to leave the forest.

“Yes, Miss. We are.”

“Alright. I guess we’ll see,” she said. “Hold on, I’m going to tell my bosses who you are and what you said and see if they want you to stay.” 

So Shirley did that. She walked, briskly, back to Tracy’s body where the police chief stood along with a couple of senior detectives. They were talking about coming back tomorrow to canvass the forest and the surrounding areas with hopes of finding evidence. They weren’t able to identify the body yet; the clothes were mangled and there weren’t any pockets to search through to find a license or credit cards. Shirley broke into the conversation.

“Sorry to interrupt, Chief. I’ve questioned the witnesses. I don’t think they’re suspects in this case, but I think they’re withholding something.”

“Then how do you know that they aren’t suspects?”

Because you did it. You did it. Confess to what you did. 

Shirley looked at the body and its eyes were open. She flinched, and gasped, and covered her face, all in front of the Chief, but when she looked again the eyes were closed and appeared normal.

“What’s the matter with you, Shirley?” The Chief insisted. Shirley began to glance around the woods like she was looking for something. “Huh? How do you know they aren’t suspects? And what makes you think they’re not telling us everything?”

She tried to get composed. “Their story seems plausible. And remember when Anthony and I dealt with that weird case a few weeks ago and we met some people at the community center? It was those guys. I felt like they were being secretive then, too.”

“So what do you think we should do?”

“Let them go for now, but call them to the station in a few days when they aren’t suspecting it.”

“I agree. Go over and tell them then you and Anthony can return to the station and clock out. You seem a bit shaken up.”

The Chief was right, Shirley was more than a bit shaken up. In a quiet, innocent voice, she gave her thanks to the chief, respectfully acknowledged the senior detectives, and went back to the trio still huddled up some yards away. Shirley felt especially soaked now, like a wounded dog stuck outside in the rain, looking for a way in, with no one to help because no one knows. Her socks squished with every step she made. The trio, who she knew always tried to act cool, even looked somewhat uncomfortable and tired. 

“Alright, you’re free to go. I’ll need your phone numbers, though, just in case we need to talk again.”

“That’s fine. We’ll be happy to talk again,” said Alonzo.

Shirley took out her notepad and pen, and tried to find a spot to take down the numbers where the pages wouldn’t get damp. Alonzo, Jackson, and Jonathan each told her their numbers, then she told them thank you and that they’re officially free to go. Now she had to locate Anthony so she could go. She was unsure of how free she really was, though. 

It was around 8PM now, but it looked like it was three in the morning. Anthony was by the creak, taking photos of the scene and setting down markers with some other officers. Shirley saw him and began to walk in his direction. 

“Hey. Chief said we can get out of here now.”

“Damn, Shirley, you look lousy as hell. You okay?” Anthony asked, concerned. By this time, Shirley was absolutely sorrowful. 

“It’s just been a long day. I don’t believe that rain agrees with me. Also, a dead body. Are you ready to go?” 

“Yeah, I’m done here. I’m exhausted, too.”

The scene was still lively, but mostly everyone was beginning to wrap up for the night. The Chief was still by Tracy’s body, talking to the autopsist as the paramedics gently lifted the body and laid it down on the gurney like it was made of glass. Nonetheless, the body was still rattling around as they rolled it out of the forest. Shirley and Anthony followed them. Pretty soon, the lights from the scene were far behind and the only source were the police sirens still spinning round. Every time Shirley looked in the direction of the light, the bright colors made it look like figures forming in between trees and branches. The wind howling through sounded like the eerie whispers she was hearing before, all saying the same thing: confess. She knew that it wasn’t real; But how could it be so audible? Was it real? Was this sudden rainstorm, which was not forecasted at all, caused because of this? Shirley had to stop walking to grasp onto a nearby tree but she wanted to leave this mournful forest so she quickly let go and started walking again. They were almost there, the way out was in sight, she wanted to run but it was too dark, she would probably trip and fall flat on her face. Finally, they escaped the woods and an immense amount of tension was released from Shirleys body, but she hardly felt any better, just glad to be out.

“We made it,” said Anthony. 

Now that they were completely out, though, the rain began pounding on them once again. Without saying another word, they ran towards their cruiser. As you know, Shirley is the one who normally drives but she was in no such shape, so she ran right for the passenger side, and Anthony to the drivers and they settled in. Shirley was shivering uncontrollably.

Anthony started the cruiser and turned the heat up. “You’re okay, Shirley. Warm up now.” He turned the windshield wipers on full speed but didn’t start driving right away. “I’ve never seen you like this before. Are you sure it’s just the weather? You look distraught.”

“I think I might be sick.”

“You picked the best time to get sick then,” Anthony joked. “Just when we get real work to do.” Shirley, her shivers slowly getting less violent, didn’t respond. Anthony began to drive now. “Let’s get back to the station. Take a nap if you need to, it’s a long drive.”

The sky rumbled greatly again, and in-between the wipers going 100mph and the rain being swept off the shield, they saw a tremendous bolt of lightning strike down in the near distance. Then Shirley gave in to her drowsiness and shut her eyes.

Shirley woke up standing alone on a narrow dirt road in an unrecognizable location. She gazed around, not knowing where she was, but not feeling threatened, or paranoid, or scared. As a matter of fact, she seemed to be cheerful. The scene she found herself in was bright, like day time, only, the color that was emitting wasn’t yellow like you’d get from the sun, but a shiny, silvery hue. She directed her eyes up to the sky and saw a full moon, larger than any full moon she’d seen before, and it was lighting up everything around her. Then she looked behind her and saw a brick wall, blocking any way back; she had to start walking. So she did, following the dirt road. 

After a couple minutes of walking, she crossed a bend and, in the far distance, she saw that the road ended at the top of a hill, where there was a remote cottage. Once again, Shirley looked behind her, and there was the brick wall, again. When she faced forward, she laid eyes on a figure, it looked like an elderly woman, limping greatly up to the cottage. Shirley surmised that the woman needed help and ran up to her.

“Excuse me, Miss,” Shirley said once she caught up. “Are you okay? Do you need any help?”

The old woman had a wrinkly face but also friendly, welcoming, eyes. “Oh, dear, thank you. You are very kind.”

“What happened to you? You seem badly hurt.”

“You’ll see when you’re my age,” the old woman laughed. 

Hearing that allowed Shirley to let out a short sigh of relief. She held her arm out and the old woman grabbed onto it for support and they walked together up the dirt road. 

When they finally reached the top of the hill, where the cottage was, Shirley could smell freshly made bread and stew coming from inside. It was irresistible. As a thank you to Shirley assisting her on her journey home, the old woman invited her inside, saying that she has all this food for herself, it would be unholy for her not to share with a person who so kindly entered her life. There wasn’t a chance that Shirley was going to refuse. 

Inside the cottage was much bigger than perceived on the outside. Although it was only one floor, there was a large, tidy living room with nothing but a stone fire place, with logs currently burning, a rocking chair with a plaid blanket on the armrest, and a one seater brown suede couch. There was a kitchen, which wasn’t very modernized at all; an ancient electric stove, which had the pot of stew on top, and 3 loaves of bread in the oven, was all there was, save for cabinets and drawers. There was also an open window over the stove, with lovely curtains that had spirals of various sizes and colors patterned on them. Shirley and the old woman were sitting at a large, wooden table inside the dining room, where they were enjoying the appetizing stew that tasted better than it smelt. The warm dough from the freshly made loaf of bread went perfectly with it, and in no time, Shirley was asking for more. The old woman told her to help herself: ‘eat until you’re full, dear.’

When Shirley was satisfied, the old woman told her that there was something she wanted to show her in the backyard. The old woman led Shirley through the suddenly gloomy hallway, that whined with every step, and out the back door. The backyard was confusingly plain; the grass was yellow, as if it were burnt and dying, and there was nothing to see but the edge of a cliff. Shirley wondered what the old lady expected her to look at. She began walking towards the edge and told Shirley to follow. 

It was only a few yards away but they seemed to be walking dramatically slowly.

“Look,” said the old woman, who then pointed her finger directly downwards.

Shirley looked. It was hard to tell what she was looking at at first, but then she shrieked; around fifty feet below, splattered in every which way was a body, Shirley’s body.

“What’s this! What’s happening!” Shirley yelled at the old woman.

The old woman frowned at Shirley. “Confess to what you did, my dear.” Then she sent Shirley plummeting with a quick, hard shove. 

It was a dream, but when she awoke, disoriented, she could still feel the old woman’s hands on her. She gasped. Then she realized it was only Anthony, trying to wake her up.

“You slept the entire ride,” said Anthony. “We’re back at the station. Were you having a nightmare?”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” said Shirley trembling. Her heart was pounding, she was sweating. She looked outside and it was still raining, just as hard as it had been the entire day. She wanted to cry. 

“Are you sure? Since we arrived at the scene you’ve looked dreadful. No offence, of course. But are you sure you’ll be okay? Especially driving home alone in this weather.”

“Seeing that woman’s body today affected me more than you can imagine. But don’t worry,” Shirley tried to smile. “I’ll be fine. It’s a short drive home.”

“If you say so.”

They opened the doors of their cruiser and ran inside the police station. Covered in her own sweat, and rain, completely inconsolable, and unresponsive, Shirley walked right by Wanda, the secretary, who tried greeting her. Anthony had to tell her what happened. Shirley, pretty much jogging now, went to her office, grabbed her car keys, and shut the door behind her. She didn’t acknowledge anyone on her way out, back into the rain. 

The lights on Shirley’s blue Mini blinked when she unlocked it, while running, then she yanked on the door handle and slumped into the drivers seat. Finally alone, Shirley thought to herself, was that good or bad? She didn’t feel any better, and wondered if she should go back inside the station and ask Anthony or Wanda for a ride home. Shirley realized she walked by Wanda without uttering a single word, without even making eye contact with her. She took a look back at the stations front doors and contemplated. She chose to start her car and begin to leave; it wasn’t worth going back into the relentless rain. Now she had to make it back to her condo, which was a fifteen minute drive away, on a regular day; on a day like today, though, a day where she was hearing things, seeing things, and entirely not herself after finding the body of a person she killed, and a day where the biggest rain fall in history was happening, she was unsure how long it’d take. She was unsure if she’d even make it back safely. Nonetheless, Shirley made a right out of the station and was on her way. 

She thought about her dream, which she remembered so vividly. What did it mean, an old woman pushing her off a cliff? And her body was already down on the rocks below, dismembered. Why was the old woman amiable at first, then so quick to change? It was daylight, but there wasn’t any sun? Instead, the moon was out? Not to mention the solid brick wall following her on the dirt road. Shirley thought that if she was going to have a nightmare it’d be about being in the forest, or Tracy’s body resurrecting and chasing her down to exact revenge. What was she going to do now? Starting tomorrow, her fellow officers were going to begin the search for answers, and then it would only be a matter of time before she was caught; they were going to do an autopsy and discover the cause of death, they were going to figure out who Tracy was last seen with; it wouldn’t be hard, especially if Shirley’s colleagues did their jobs even only half well. Then they’d come knocking at Shirley’s door to read her her rights. Shirley’s friends were sure to be done for, too. Her friends; she hadn’t even thought about Maria and Mellissa until now, still probably unaware that the body was found, they were guilty, too, although there was no question that Shirley was the leader; she was the one who convinced Tracy to do cocaine, she convinced Maria and Mellissa that they couldn’t save her, that they had to dump the body, she is the one who stole the car in the parking lot at Astros. Shirley had the most to worry about and all the worst case scenarios were rolling through her mind like the thunder during this stormy night. 

Before the events of the day unfolded, Shirley spent the last month hoping to make amends by discovering who committed the gruesome crime at Galaxy Mall, and she thought she was getting close after interviewing those boys Jackson and Jonathan. She knew, in her heart, that they had valuable information and that they were protecting someone, she just couldn’t prove it, but now she was running out of time and her chance at redeeming herself was slipping away by the second. Even if she was able to expose the murderers, she too was a murderer, so it wouldn’t matter one bit. Shirley made it to the gates of her condo and typed in 031920, imagining the Galaxy killers being taken away in handcuffs and her right behind them, also detained. 

The gates opened up, and she drove through, then made her way to the back of the condo to the underground parking lot. Finally, a dry space; it wasn’t raining inside, but she wouldn’t have been surprised if it was. She found her parking spot and took multiple tries to reverse park in. Then she shut the engine off and sat in the chilling silence. 

She closed her eyes. Breathe in… Breathe out… Breathe in… Breathe out…Open the door… Get upstairs… 

She blinked…

Then darkness flowed through the parking lot. Shirley looked to the left and right; pitch black. The only light she could see was from the flickering fluorescents by the elevator. Shirley pinched herself, she had to be dreaming, again, but she wouldn’t wake; this was happening now. 

Breathe in… Breath out… Breathe in… Breathe out…

She reached at the handle and slowly opened the door of her car. It slammed behind her. Step by step, she pictured the way to the elevator; the buzzing light, fighting hard to stay lit, gave her the way ahead. It wasn’t a long walk but it seemed like a mile away, and every step that got her closer was like going in the opposite direction, but she finally found herself standing underneath the elevators flicking light. The bright red ‘up’ arrow was glaring hard in her face; there was only one way. The lonesome craft let out a chime to signal it was there and Shirley took a single step forward. She pressed down harder to ensure that it wasn’t going anywhere; she eyed every wall, the ceiling, the mirror, and saw her reflection looking back at her.

You’re okay… Get a hold of yourself… you know what’s coming. What are you going to do about it?

She didn’t even notice she pressed 6. The elevator doors shut and thus began its ascend. To what? It’s funny, Shirley thought, this structure carrying me up while everything is crashing down. What did she have up on the 6th floor? Nothing. She realized now, as it released another chime indicating that she reached her pre-destination. Everything looked the same as it always had, no body knew what she held inside her, all she had to do was walk. She did, and she made it to her wooden front door that kept it all inside. Short of breath, and after struggling to find her keys, she unlocked it and stood alone, in silence, inside her apartment. The only thing she heard was her faint breaths. She found the switch and the lights turned on, thankfully, but something was off, she could sense it. Then the floor and the walls began to tilt, Shirley tried to grab out to something but she missed. Her belongings fell off the tables and slid down across her apartment, along with the rest of her furniture. Then finally, Shirley fell; she collapsed to the ground and tumbled towards the glass door leading to her balcony. She hit it with a thud and tried to get up but everything was still tilted. She grabbed the couch and used it to get herself up, slowly. Never being this scared in her life, Shirley couldn’t think about what was going on to contemplate what to do, this was unfathomable, she could only act. It wasn’t ending. She looked through the glass and saw the rain falling over the darkness below, then her eyes lost focus, and she saw her faded reflection in the glass. Suddenly she remembered her dream and thought of what it meant, and thought about what the old woman said, and thought about the similarities between the dream and now: she looked at her reflection I saw myself on the rocks below the cliff and now I see my reflection here; on the other side of this glass is my balcony, six floors up, around the same height as the cliff. She slid open the screen door and walked out onto the balcony. The wind and rain hit her hard, she held on tightly to the railing and got closer to it. It’s a long way down. Am I supposed to jump? Would jumping be confessing? Or should I confess to the police? Either way, this will end; jumping or turning myself in. Either way, I’ll be dead, literally or figuratively, because what’s the point of living if I can’t live? If I’m not free? Shirley looked down Would it be instant from six floors up? Then she lifted her leg over the railing; holding on as tight as she could, she brought her other leg over. 

Shirley was completely over the balcony, facing the view, with the wind and rain pelting at her. All she had to do was let go and all this suffering would be over. She was trying to will herself to do it but her fingers wouldn’t budge. Why? Then she began: 

I can’t jump!” Shirley said aloud, still over the balcony, in the harsh conditions. She continued to stare down; she couldn’t even see the ground, it was so dark. “I refuse to jump, and I refuse to confess! There was no other way for my friends and I..” She trailed off. “I don’t even care about my friends; there was no other way for me to escape the mess of Tracy dying, and I had to convince my friends to go along with it. What else could I have done? Turned myself in? Left the body there? At least I had the decency to move it. I doubt her parents would want to hear that their daughter was found dead in the bathroom at Astros. And, when it comes down to it, I did, I’ll admit it! I did convince Tracy to try cocaine, but she could’ve said no, couldn’t she? I didn’t force it up her nose! Others may try to persuade us, or tempt us but it’s up to ourselves to make the final decision on what to do. Right or wrong. I didn’t let Mellissa or Maria convince me to call 9-1-1 or get help; it was too late anyways! but I made the choice to take matters into my own hands and did what I had to do. Yes, they found the body, but I survived this long, and I’ll continue surviving, and I’ll continue to fight!” She took a breath. “You know what? On second thought, I don’t regret anything; everyone dies, right? My parents, my friends… one day, I’m going to die, too…” The thunder rumbled across sky. Shirley turned her head around, away from the view of darkness, and saw that everything in her apartment was back to normal, how it should be, no longer tilted. Did all that happen in her mind? She saw her reflection smirking back at her, then looked back into the darkness. “But not today.”

With all the care in the world, Shirley climbed back over and landed safely on her balcony. She slid open the door to get back inside. It was so warm. Her heart stopped racing. Her mind was clear, free from paranoia and voices, and she felt better than she ever had. She went to her bedroom and got the comforter from the bed and cloaked herself in it. With nothing on her mind, except being happy to be alive, realizing that every day alive is a great day, and that she wasn’t going to end her own life, like Tracy practically did (she really thought that), she took a seat on the comfiest part of her couch and turned on the T.V, ending her day at peace. But she knew, when the time comes, which it would, she’d have to deal with the consequences. 

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