Twisted neck, mouth half-open, eyes rolled back too far. The body was draped over its bicycle that was twirled and turned in ways that undoubtedly would affect its further functioning. It was an impressive image – not a spat of blood that spilled from out of its skull onto the grass, yet it was no more than sensible to assume that the man was dead. His limbs were all wound up in uncomfortable directions yet his suit wasn’t disheveled. An accidental death, unplanned, unexpected, and unprepared for. A man having fallen from his bike and broken his neck early in the morning, alone when taking his last breaths.
I zoomed in on the art piece to admire the little details. The painting was utterly recognizable: the hints of a sketch still underneath, as if it was created in a bit of a hurry, with colors that made the morbid scene appear peaceful instead of tragic. I quite liked the style.
I scrolled up to glance at the description, but no such thing was there – only the title, “Death Without Murder”, and the artist’s name, C. Madsen.
I looked at some more pieces, my attention slowly seeping away a bit. Most scenes portrayed death. Sometimes in the eyes of a strangled woman, up close, and sometimes in those of an old man in bed peered at through a window, distanced from the scene. Only a few regular portraits were there. This didn’t surprise me too much, for Ana had always enjoyed horror nearly as much as dragging me onto chat sites to converse with strangers. Being sent an artist by her meant that the likelihood of morbidity was high. She knew that I liked art, and she liked gore, and sometimes, these two crossed paths. It was how we became friends, actually.
I shut off my phone once I noticed I was no longer focused on the screen. Then I opened it again to peer at the time.
With a small sigh, I hopped out of bed and began putting on my clothes. I checked my schoolbag, and as all my books appeared to be present, I swung it over my shoulder and made my way downstairs.
I never liked cycling much. The road that I took didn’t have too many passengers – and on one hand, such made me feel grateful, but on the other, it made me bored during mornings. I continued forward, repeating scenarios in my head to keep my mind occupied, as you do. It was a sunny morning, there only being very little fog, which admittedly, was somewhat of a miracle. Usually, April mornings required headlights not only for safety, but also very much for the sight that one was robbed of at such an hour by the lingering mist.
Perhaps it was because of that that I saw it. I might have never noticed it any other day. Perhaps, no one would have ever found it, then, and then it would have rotted until the smell spread and alarmed passengers. No matter what, it suddenly was just there.
I glanced at the road tiredly, my eyes roaming the asphalt that lined in a single streak through the wide fields of nothing but grass, and… Then I saw it in the distance.
A little beige mess, scattered half on the pavement, half in green. I narrowed my eyes and carefully stepped off of my bike, getting closer slowly.
Twisted neck, mouth half-open, eyes rolled back too far and ants crawling over them. The body was draped over its bicycle that was poking uncomfortably into its torso as if they were one. Not a spat of blood spilled out of its skull onto the grass – but the corpse was a battlefield nonetheless. Ash gray and pale and sticky.
For a moment I believed to be imagining it. Everything would have been better if I’d imagined it. Because everything about this was so very wrong, wrong wrong – a vague kind of nausea reached my gut but not my brain. For a moment I believed I might faint.
I couldn’t move. I could only hold on tightly to my bike, eyes stuck on the body as my head ached and ached and ached. Colors seemed off. Realization didn’t quite hit until what felt like an eternity of standing there, incapable of doing anything but stand on an edge and if I realized I would tumble off and fall into a pit of horrors that I could not yet face, and-
And then it flooded in.
I grasped at my phone and with shaky hands I dialed 911.
If I could have told them of the painting, I would have. I probably should have. I certainly felt that way, anyway, but once they arrived, my mouth blocked all the words aside from the minimum and all I could do was shake. Shake and cry and cry and cry until my head ached even more and the world was spinning. The woman who spoke to me appeared not to mind – her voice had been soothing and sweet even though I was unsure what exactly she was saying. It was comforting.
I don’t remember much else.
Days can turn into a soup without clear limits very easily when you string them together with solitude. I tried to puzzle with knowledge, unable to do much else as my thoughts kept returning to bugs eating hollow eyes. I didn’t visit C. Madsen’s blog – but I certainly thought of it. Trying to solve the questions repeating themselves in my mind was my only way of finding any bit of order in the destructive chaos. Chaos that would probably leave, perhaps in a week, perhaps in a month, perhaps longer than that – but as long as it stayed, I could not breathe.
There was a possibility that the artist had killed the man. Actually, such a thing was rather likely – why else should they not call the police when happening upon the body? And how else would they find it so soon, without any effects of death taking place yet? When did these effects begin?
I felt sick. I should have shown the painting. I should have shown the painting. I should have shown the painting. It was foolish of me not to have done it – but no matter what I did, I couldn’t bring myself to contacting them again.
But then again – perhaps the artist had not killed the man. The ethics of their work were certainly questionable in that case, and it remained a mystery as to why they created such a piece, but it was not worthy of punishment. It could be considered rude, unsettling, and appalling – but not murder. And something about that uncertainty… It made my chest heavy with guilt. I might not have made the right decision, and if a killer was left at large, then this was undeniably my fault.
I had seen the painting! I could have told the police!
But I didn’t, and I had no excuse for it.
I let my head rest in my hands and stared blankly at my desk. I should think of something else.
‘Hey, are you okay?’
I looked up. Ana had tilted her head, pen near to her lips, wearing worry in her eyes.
I blinked a few times. ‘Hm?’ I processed. ‘Oh, yes, of course,’ I then quickly mumbled, slightly embarrassed at how long it took me to respond.
‘Are you sure? You seem a bit pale,’ Ana said, ‘If you want, I could walk you to the nurse’s office. I don’t want you to faint or something.’
I laughed softly at that. ‘Really, I’m good,’ I assured her, ‘But I appreciate the sentiment.’
‘Well, if you’re sure.’ Ana turned a bit and let her eyes rest on her book. Her voice was kept low to avoid attention from the teacher. ‘You’ve been seeming a bit out of it lately. If anything is bothering you, you can always talk to me, okay? I’d pick up any call from you, no matter the timing.’
‘Suppose I’ll do such during your math test next week, then,’ I joked.
‘Oh, I’d kill you so violently if you did that.’
A smile found its way to my lips. ‘How supportive.’
Ana laughed and twirled her red hair around her finger. ‘Say, now that I have your attention,’ she then began, ‘I still have that cafe I mentioned earlier that I wanted to show you, but Spanish classes keep abducting me after school ends for you, and it’s very evil. When can you hang out?’
I snickered halfheartedly and considered. ‘What about Saturday?’
‘Oh, that’s when I’m finally meeting up with Carter, sorry,’ Ana said, ‘Is Sunday good too?’
I leaned back a little. ‘Oh, yeah, sure,’ I agreed. I paused for a moment, and then carefully asked, ‘The Omegle guy, or…?’
‘Yes, the Omegle guy,’ she confirmed, ‘Don’t worry though, we’ve called plenty of times before this. He’s cool.’
I felt that I probably should ask more about this, but my brain was making everything a bit blurry and distant, so I didn’t. I simply smiled at her. ‘Ah, hope you have fun. See you on Sunday.’
I stared at corpses at night on my phone. Drawn corpses, from C. Madsen’s blog, and this time, I did not lose interest before I was too tired to keep my eyes open.
‘Sweetheart, are you awake?’
A warm hand shook me lightly. I slipped further under the covers, scrunching up my nose and wearily opening my eyes to meet my mother’s gaze. I was not familiar with the worry in it.
‘What?’ I muttered, voice still thick from sleep. I brought up a hand to shield my eyes from the sunlight wavering through my curtains.
My mother gave a very, very brief smile before speaking. ‘Ana’s mom just called me,’ she said, ‘And informed me that Ana did not come home last night. You don’t know where she could be, do you?’
I blinked a couple of times, information landing slowly. First, the question came in. The loading of it did not, so I answered, honestly, with, ‘No, I don’t.’
‘Could you keep an eye on your messages for her? We’re a bit worried.’
I hummed, still dazed and unable to be as alarmed by her words as I probably should be. Nothing felt all too real lately.
Mother’s words somewhat escaped me.
Before I knew it, she left my room, and I was alone. I lied quietly for a while.
Then, I picked up my phone to check my messages with Ana. I received none.
I habitually opened my browser instead, still opened on the tab of C. Madsen’s blog. It reloaded – apparently they had posted something new when I was asleep. Unable to tear my eyes away, I stared, the title coming first, the image still processing.
“Leak (w.i.p.)”, with the brief description of, “I probably won’t finish this one. Feeling a bit burned out lately.”
The image appeared, then. There was a young girl to be seen. A very familiar young girl with freckles and red hair in the dark with red coming from her stomach and pooling up around her.
My heart sank. The thing that terrified me the most were the lifeless eyes that stared at me from the screen, large and grey and hollow and…
And undeniably Ana’s.
Credit : Cynical Teetheater
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