Estimated reading time — 24 minutes
Soft beeping from my alarm work me that morning. The same sound as always, a pulsing of noise that was like a heartbeat. Over the years, I’d grown used to the noise signifying another day at the station. I was positive about my lack of work, but I could just feel some new and horrific case would be looming over me soon. Turning my clock off to prevent it waking my slumbering wife, I pulled myself out of bed and got dressed. I had breakfast and read the news; old cases printed on the cover. Almost in sync with my need to get up and head over to the station, a knock came at my door.
“Back to the grind,” I hummed as I kicked my shoes on.
On opening the door I found my work partner, a spry woman in her late thirties with curly red hair pulled back into a pony tail. She wore a light brown coat and a sweet smile.
“Morning Harrison,” she chirped before pushing a coffee into my hands. “Boys want you over at Saints Lane apartment block. Seems they’ve found a body.”
I took the coffee from her, same one she gave me every day, and sipped it. “About time we got some more work.” Smiling, I closed the front door and headed to her car. Sharon Wittingham, to give her full name, was a detective like me. I trained her and was expecting her to move to a new city once she was trained, since she had the skills to go far – but she, like most people who live here, stayed.
Within half an hour we’d arrived. The complex we found ourselves at was the kind people tell of in ghost stories; old, damp and half empty. It was once a low-cost housing ideal from about fifty years ago, but the only thing it kept after countless contractors had pulled out was the low cost. A few squad cars where already outside, their lights flicking on and off rhythmically.
From what Sharon had told me, we knew the body was that of a young male, about twenty-three years old. We were trying to hunt for his family, but as yet didn’t have many leads. I ran through the notes in my head as we ascended the four flights of stairs, up to room 307. Yellow and black tape was hung about the place, stopping the other dozen residents of the complex from getting in. The door had been broken in by our own forces in an attempt to see what the source of the foul smell in the complex was. Little had been disturbed in the apartment itself; a few things like pillows were on the floor but nothing to suggest a struggle. Sharon headed into the bedroom of the apartment and nodded her head towards the body.
Grimly I followed her in. There, lying naked on the bed was a young man, with black hair, green eyes and a few studs. His body was a mess. Most of his chest had been pulled open and the lungs and heart partially removed, clawed out by long nails. Though his death looked horrific the young man had a peaceful look on his face.
“What a sorry sight” I commented, walking over to the body to take a closer look at the gaping wound in his chest.
“That’s what I said” Sharon nodded, looking around the bedroom. “This case looks like an odd one, I mean just look at this room. It’s immaculate, not a thing out of place. It doesn’t look like there was a struggle to me.”
I nodded in agreement before looking at the man’s side table to inspect it for clues. I pulled some gloves on and started to leaf through his possessions.
“Has anyone reported hearing a disturbance here in the past few weeks?”
“No, the kid hardly made any noise, it seemed. He moved in a few years ago. Didn’t go out much or have many people over.”
“Do we have a name?”
“Um…yeah, I think so. He called himself Joshua Brown. He was working near here, at a restaurant as a waiter.”
“I see.” I moved back from the small bedside cabinet, making note of a framed photo by the lamp. The image was of the boy, Joshua, in his late teens with another boy with long white hair, snowy skin, and a pink jumper. They looked happy together. Just as I was about to stand I noticed a few empty packets of contraceptives on the floor. I picked them up carefully and placed them into a clear plastic bag before showing them to Sharon. “Do you think he knew his killer?”
Sharon eyed me for a moment; she always said I had an odd way with words. “Well, he could have done it with his killer before he met his maker, so to speak.” She pondered for a moment before spotting the photograph. “If we look at it from that angle it’s totally plausible. We should try to see who he knew, who his friends and lovers were. Unless it was a one night stand, of course.”
I nodded and wandered around the room some more. “Get someone to look into his mobile phone records, computer and whatever other communication device he has. That’ll be a good first lead. We should also be able to get some DNA from this place, if we need to identify.”
“You talk like such an old man sometimes.” Sharon smiled. “If we get this to court we should be able to prove who did it – we just need to find the one who did the deed.”
I stifled a chuckle. “You talk like a teenager sometimes, Sharon.” I knew full well my come-back had no effect. “Let’s hope we can get whoever did this.”
“As if we ever let them get away.”
I smiled at her optimism and continued my search.
As expected, a good number of DNA samples were recovered and sent off to the lab while Sharon and I spoke to his neighbours to see if anyone knew Joshua. They all said the same thing; as far as they knew, he was a very quiet lad, though his appearance may have suggested otherwise. He was kind, didn’t talk about himself or his family much.
We were still finding it hard to get in contact with his parents – or the boy in the photo, whoever he was. The few photos around Joshua’s flat where almost all of the albino teenager and we guessed they’d probably been partners at some point. Working on that assumption, we’d started to construct a story that the two had probably split up or moved apart but had met up again recently and the albino had, after intercourse, killed Joshua. It was a little flimsy but we had to start somewhere.
It was long after eleven that night that I finally took a taxi home. In the heat of the moment I’d lost myself in work and I’d lost all track of time. Only when I saw it was so late did I at last leave. I arrived home and was met by my darling wife. Even now, forty-three years after first meeting her at college, she hasn’t lost her looks in my eyes. Even after she had her first stroke, I still loved her looks. They do say love is blind after all.
“Good evening love” I said with a soft voice. You could say that me and my wife, Annabelle, were the ideal model of what an old married couple should be – still as close as ever. Though I now had a full head of silver hair, I hadn’t retired. After my wife’s first stroke she’d wanted our lives to stay the same. She stayed at home and rested while I went to work. I loved my work and the money it brought in helped to pay the medical bills.
“Evening” my wife replied after a short pause. “How was work today?”
I embraced her and smiled, not giving her an answer other than a happy moan. Annabelle hugged me back, smiling. I hated telling her about my work – the death I saw – so I hid it from her.
For the rest of the evening we simply ate dinner and watched TV, before falling asleep at about one am.
The next day started the same. My alarm started softly to raise me from slumber and then I left to greet Sharon. She filled me in on some of the developments that had happened since we spoke last. The body had been moved from the apartment and we were now free to do a deep search. Joshua’s laptop had been found and was in the lab, being pulled apart for information. I needed confirmation that nothing had been missed, so I rode with Sharon to the apartment. The place was quiet as we went in, the smell of damp stronger than ever now.
On entering the apartment we found that little was out of place, thanks to the hands of our experienced team. I started to look about, first going through the kitchen and then the living room, followed by the bathroom then the bedroom, looking in more detail than I had done before. I made a note that the kitchen was poorly stocked to feed two people and that the only clothes belonged Joshua. Sharon and I quickly came to the same conclusion – that he was living alone at the time of his death.
My gaze turned back to the bed; most of the covers had been taken away but there was still some dried blood on the mattress, outlined by tape to show where the body once lay. I looked at Sharon who was rummaging through the dresser to the right of the small window that gave light to the room. On top of the dresser there were a number of small trinkets including a photograph of the albino boy, a free-standing cross with a rosary hung about it and a copy of the Bible. “See anything Sharon?” I asked, slowly walking over to look over her shoulder.
“Well, he was into his religion, but it looks normal enough.” She pondered, tapping the side of her neck in thought.
I nodded in agreement, coupling this with a small noise to signify I thought she was indeed correct. “I’d like to know who the albino boy is, he looks to be a bit of a theme here.”
“I can’t be sure until we find him, but it’s within reason.”
I picked up the photograph and removed it from its frame. For a moment I studied the image before noticing something as I held it to the light. Dark patches. Careful to not damage the deceased’s possessions, I turned the image over to see writing on the back. It read like a love letter, short sweet and simple. “It was sunny that day, like the sun, you light up my day, my angel.” I quoted aloud.
Sharon looked back at me in puzzlement for a moment before realising I was reading something. “Is there something on the back of the photograph?”
With a nod, I handed over the image. “No name sadly.”
Like me, Sharon studied the writing. “At least we know now that the two of them were dating. A bit tacky if you ask me.”
I chuckled. “When you find love you’ll learn that there is no such thing as tacky.”
“You know full well I have no intention of finding love.” Sharon responded flatly. She’d explained to me before that she wasn’t interested in any kind of relationship that wasn’t work of friend based; she enjoyed her solitude.
“We’ll see.” I smiled back before going to inspect the other images. “Let’s try and find the name of the albino boy, that’s our first task.”
Sharon agreed before hunting about for more photos to see if any others had messages on the back. Sadly, we were out of luck.
After collecting a few more of the young man’s possessions, we headed back to the station to try fit the links together and to wait on the labs to give up more information. It was past four when I got a call from the station’s pathologist, a towering blond haired man we all lovingly called R. He was from Russia and had one of those very tricky names with a great number of K’s and V’s in it. He told us he had news about the body and asked us to come over as soon as we could make it. I told Sharon and we headed over to his lab, on the other side of town. R was a workaholic like myself, and often pulled all-nighters, against his better judgment.
We headed into the small clinic and were buzzed into the main lab by R’s young receptionist. R greeted us at the entrance to his lab. His long blond hair was pulled back into a pony tail that often sat on his shoulder; his eyes were a soft blue and he wore a long white lab coat. On his right wrist he had a small gold bangle which I’d never seen him remove. His skin was very white, and he often wore a somewhat blank expression; the kind you see on the face of someone who’s lived with death for many years. I saw myself in R sometimes.
“Harrison, Sharon, glad you could make it over here so quickly.”
R smiled, holding out a hand. I took his hand and shook it. “Well, you know what we’re like, eager to get things done. Good to see you again.”
R had worked for us for about a year now. Before that he was a GP; a very good and caring one too, but after a tragedy struck his family he started to work here.
Sharon also shook R’s hand before heading towards his lab. R smiled in my direction to thank me for the pleasantries. I knew he wasn’t a talker. I followed and looked over to a metal table that presented the body of the victim, covered with a thin white sheet.
“What I found was pretty interesting really. A bit of a sick case though” the doctor commented, before pulling the cover down to reveal the upper half of body, folding the cover just under the wound in his chest.
“What do you mean?” Sharon asked, walking over to look, while I admired from a far.
“As I see it, his ribcage was pulled open and then most of the ribs removed followed by the consumption of the lungs and heart.”
There was a dumbfounded silence.
“You mean someone’s eaten him!?” Sharon shouted, a little too loudly for R’s liking as he was very sensitive to sound.
“Yes, eaten.” R responded, a little agitated to have had Sharon shout at him. “There are both large claw and bite marks on the remaining tissue.” He signaled to a mouth-sized bite mark, consisting of many needle-like holes that was uncovered at the bottom of the ribcage.
I felt a little ill just thinking about the notion of one human eating another.
“Those aren’t human though, I mean look at them!” Sharon exclaimed, as shocked as I was.
“Well, these bites come in sets of two and they’re the right proportion to be human. Say the one doing the eating had possession of some kind of adapted weapon? Humans are strange creatures, you know.” R’s eyes, peering over his glasses, remained on the body.
I paused, he did have a point after all. Maybe this was a far more twisted story than I’d first imagined. For the rest of the meeting, R filled us in on what else he’d worked out about the body and gave us his full report.
After reading through the case notes, Sharon and I both headed home. Annabelle met me at the door and we chatted about our day, though I made sure to cut out as much of the gore as I could. I picked at my dinner and avoided mention of food for the most of the evening. Honestly, I was shaken by what R had told me, so much so that I could hardly respond to my wife. Around ten, I went to bed although I couldn’t sleep. With the case on my mind, it was hard to think of anything else; ideas rattled around my head.
I arrived at the station by seven; a little early for me but I felt like walking. There’s something about walking, to arrive before anyone else, that’s strangely enjoyable. By lunch-time Joshua’s journal was released from the labs, with every page copied and recorded. Sharon went out again to ask around about the young man while I stayed put to read the journal. It was a few years old, but I thought it would still be in the right time span to possibly include information about the albino. I was right to assume it would.
The journal was nothing special; it went from the teen’s fifteenth birthday and stopped at his sixteenth. It started with the boy describing what he got for his birthday – a phone, the book he was writing in and a few trinkets from one of his friends. He spoke highly of his friend who I gather was known as Lyet. If Lyet was the name of the albino boy, then it should be easy enough to find him; after all, there can’t be too many kids called Lyet in the US. For the next few hours or so I focused on nothing but the journal, making sure to take notes on pretty much everything about the teen’s life that he wrote about. To my disappointment, there wasn’t much of interest apart from a few briefly mentioned cases of bulling, some underage sex between the young Joshua and Lyet and a few small social events that he and Lyet had attended. Joshua seemed to be very close to Lyet; he seemed to love him deeply, although it was mentioned that the boys never told their parents. The journal told of how Lyet was badly bullied at school and suffered depression as well as some other health problems. He took a lot of medications; an amount I’d consider to be unsafe. As the journal went on things remained the same, the two lads to date in secret and they kept their heads down at school to avoid attention.
Slowly, I closed the journal with care before noticing that Sharon had come in.
“Hey Harrison, how’s tricks?” she inquired, coming over with some lunch.
Gladly, I took it from her. “Well, it looks like we have a name to match a face now. It seems from the journal that Joshua was dating a boy named Lyet, around the age of sixteen, and it looks like a long term relationship to me.”
Sharon picked up the book and started to skim it, along with my notes.
“Reckon we’ve got our suspect’s name?”
“Well then, let’s put it into the computer.”
Triumphantly Sharon collected the notes from the desk before heading over to the computer.
Though my old legs had fallen asleep from the long time sitting, I raised myself and headed after her. By the time I arrived Sharon had sat herself down at a computer and was punching in her login. Before long our files were open and the hunt was on. As expected, it didn’t take long at all, although what I saw filled me with disappointment.
“Lyet Penheart, a white haired male from a small town in Texas, was found guilty today of Murder-Suicide. The youngster, aged seventeen, shot dead his father, the town’s resident priest on Monday 17th of February. The verdict of the court can now bring answers to those effected by the event.”
Sharon sighed deeply, reading aloud the article that was before her. “Looks like we went down the rabbit hole on this one chief.”
I nodded, although I remained transfixed by the article. It was simple, with little detail, but there was a mention of three older brothers, a mother in her forties and the cause of death for both Lyet and his father. His father was shot in the chest and later died at hospital while Lyet shot himself in the head. “Poor thing.”
“Yup… back to square one it seems.” Sharon commented.
“We’ll find other leads you know, we can do this.” I smiled, knowing this had probably knocked the wind out of Sharon’s sails. She has this habit of sticking to one idea in a case, and only gives up on it if she is proven wrong.
For a moment she just pretended to read the article before stopping herself, leaning close to the screen.
“You reckon Joshua would have known Lyet’s brothers?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, Joshua’s boss told me he was a bit of an introvert. He never really went out and hardly ever talked to anyone. Since the other residents in Joshua’s complex never saw him with anyone, is it safe to assume that he knew the killer, since he wouldn’t really invite a random stranger in. Say one of Lyet’s brothers came to town, Joshua offers them a place to stay, and then the rest is history.”
Sharon knew herself this could be a little bit far-fetched but I knew she’d look into it.
“Find the family then, see if we can get more information” I suggested.
On that, Sharon started to dig into our computers for more information about the family while I simply went to work organising the files for this case, hopping to see a fresh trail.
I arrived home at seven again that night; I greeted my lovely wife and sat with her at the dining table. Though her mind was sometimes muddled and she wasn’t always entirely there, I could see she was pretty excited today. Interested as to why this was, I slipped it into conversation over our beef stew.
“How was your day then Annabelle?” I smiled, happy in the knowledge that she seemed better today than she’d been in a long time. The doctors had warned of another stroke if she became stressed or was too active, so she often confined herself to the house, doing very little at all. It was as if she’d been prescribed loneliness – but some days she was happy, happy to live like this.
“Oh, my day was lovely.” She smiled, looking up from her meal. “A very nice boy came over today, he was collecting for charity.”
“Did you give them anything?” I asked back, knowing my wife was a very generous person.
“Well….” she said after a little pause, “he was looking to collect clothes so I gave him some of the shirts that are too small for you now, as well as some change. I tried to invite him in for cake and sandwiches….”
Her mind trailed off for a moment before she smiled. “I invited him in for tea, but when he came in, he didn’t eat anything, though he did say he was hungry… odd boy.”
Often my wife would repeat her sentences, forgetting what she’d just said.
“That’s nice. I’ve been meaning to get rid of thought shirts for a while now.”
I smiled. There was something about talking like this that always helped me get my mind off work. I allowed the conversation to continue until we’d finished dinner then we watched TV and went to bed, just like most nights. It was a simple life style but I wouldn’t ask for any other.
For the next few days nothing happened of much note. All three Penheart brothers had alibis for the night of the murder and so did the now single mother. Joshua’s parents told us that their son hardly ever spoke to them, but they would come and collect his body soon. We found a few more leads, though they all ran cold sooner or later. The IT department was still working on the computer and the phone of the deceased.
It was late, few lights were on in the city but I still burned the midnight oil, working through statement after statement about the young man. Every one of them said the same thing; Joshua never talked to anyone, never had anyone over and pretty much never left his apartment, apart from when he went to work or went shopping. I was at a loss.
“Knock, knock.” hummed a familiar voice, baritone and tinted with accent.
I looked up and saw R in the door way, holding a few files. Like me, he was burning the midnight oil, though it was a little odd to see him in my office. I welcomed him in.
R came in, sitting across from me at my desk, before taking my notes to read over them. “Shouldn’t you be at home with your wife now?”
“Though I’d love to, I’m at a loss here R, I’m not the man I was thirty years ago.” He smiled.
I watching him read over my notes before taking a look at the file he’d brought with him.
“Didn’t expect to see you here so late.”
“I wanted to hand over these notes. I’ve found some bits and bobs.” He paused. “Where are you with the case?”
I knew full well that R would not be willing to tell me anything about his finds unless I told him mine; he liked to trade information, it was one of his many odd tricks.
“Well, we’ve closed the case on trying to find the albino kid. Turns out our top suspect has been dead for years. We can’t find any new leads, this job looks like it was done professionally R, and I’m starting to wonder if we can solve it.”
I knew full well I was putting it on thick, being a pessimist, but I wanted to go over the top.
“The albino kid? Sharon mentioned him over some drinks, she was so hyped up about finding the supposed killer so quickly, I didn’t want to tell her.”
“Tell her what?” I asked in response.
“Don’t you know? I thought you looked into the Penheart incident?”
“No, I thought it was an open shut cased. Was it not?”
R smiled knowingly; he always revelled in knowing things that others didn’t.
“Not totally. The trial was a shambles, evidence was lost, statements pulled out and reports rejected. Originally it was going to be presented as a case of retaliation – an act of self-defence -with the remaining parent standing trial for domestic abuse, but it was not to be.”
Closing the files he was reading, I watched a rather smug smile creep across the tall doctor’s face. “Lyet’s body went missing.”
I paused, half annoyed that I hadn’t been told, but then also confused.
“Went missing?” It sounded foolish, but R didn’t usually lie.
“Yep, I knew the pathologist who was going to make an assessment of Lyet’s body before laying him to rest but the night before she was going to make the report, the body just vanished; gone without a trace.”
“That’s total fiction!” I exclaimed. “A body can’t simply get up and walk away.”
R nodded then opened the file he was going to deliver to me.
“Up to you whether you believe me or not. Me and some work friends called it the body snatcher.”
When opened the file I saw some of the latest DNA traces found of Joshua’s body, along with long strands of pure white hair. I couldn’t think of what to say, I just sat silently, looking at the report. The hair was about the right length and colour to belong to the albino’s, but how could that possibly be?
“Your welcome” R hummed, standing up before leaving my office.
Left alone with my thoughts, I felt my stomach turn over. I’d seen the reports from the other crime scene; the boy lying in a pool of his own blood and brain tissue, clasping a small revolver in one hand. It could have been the lack of sleep … things no longer added up in that case; nothing made any sense to me. Theories buzzed and nagged at me. What if the death was faked, what if the body was stolen, what if ………….
I stood up quickly, holding my head before groaning. “The dead don’t walk around Harrison, get a grip.” My lack of sleep was clearly apparent now. Pushing the files into my desk drawer, I headed home, annoyed at R but also deeply puzzled.
My alarm did little to wake me the next morning, although the pounding at my door did.
Sharon, who was far too peppy for this time of day, had just gotten news that the laptops files had now been copied and were free to read. I hurriedly got myself dressed then left to join her. On the way in, she told me that they had found a full electronic journal, with the last entry being the day of Joshua’s death. She was hopeful that this could be our route to finishing the case; even if it was lacking detail it could shine some light on the story leading up to the young man’s death.
Sharon pretty much sprinted to my office where a hard copy of the journal had been placed. Instantly she fumbled for the last entry. I – slower at my age – arrived just as she found the page. Sitting down in my own chair, I took out a note pad and waited for Sharon to read what it said.
“OK, March 26th…” she paused to find her words before a very puzzled look crossed her face.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“…. Nothing …. Let me just read it.”
I could tell she was composing herself. Taking a breath, she started to read.
“I know God must be smiling upon me, my prayers have been answered and I have him back. Robbed from me, I’d given up hope that we could be one again, but we will be; he doesn’t know what he is now, but I don’t care. He’s an angel now, the moonlight shows his true form. It scared me at first, but I know this was meant to be; I’ll become part of him. I lie with him now as I type this, his skin is so cold and pure, like snow. He’s yet to wake up from last night. He bit him pretty badly from animal instinct, but he’s starving, my angel is starving. Tonight I’m not going to fight him. We can make a thing of it before his mind is taken by the moonlight. If anyone finds this … finds me …. just know that I wanted this, I wanted to save my angel from his hunger.”
There was just silence left between Sharon and me as she finished reading. Slowly she placed the papers down, looking a little ill.
“He let this person kill him? What in the world was he going on about ….. an angel?”
Pulling my gaze away, I stumbled upon the file I recognised from last night. I bit my tongue then struggled to form a sentence, “I want to know everything – who Joshua knew and who his friends were, those who went missing and those he moved apart from.”
In reality I felt numb; this couldn’t be real, could it?
Sharon was as confused and disturbed as I was.
“Yes Harrison, but what do you think he’s talking about? He doesn’t seem to be stable, I mean, the way he talks here is ….. well, it’s odd to say the least. What in the hell was going on!?”
I remained silent for a while, “I don’t know… I’m going to ask around town and see if I can learn anything….” I paused, “…. alone.”
Sharon just nodded, knowing I was as perplexed as she was about the whole business.
Taking my coat I left, planning on walking over to R’s place to chat with him, to see if he could talk some sense into me. The walk across town was long and laborious and I held my head down for most of the way. Moving my way through the waves of people, I drew closer to the building where R worked. The sense of dread that had hung over me ever since last night, which had strengthened after reading the journal, felt so much greater now. The face and form of the young white haired man was etched into my mind. I quickened my step onwards.
Pushing the door of the clinic open, I started to head over to the front desk to call for R, but that was when I saw him. Alone and sitting on the furthest most chair from the door sat a young boy. His clothes where tattered; his hair long and white; he looked like a ghost. His skin was marble. I felt a sharp inhale of air enter my chest.
“Harrison, what are you doing here?” R called, walking around the corner.
I snapped from my trance and grabbed his arms, trying to get him to listen.
“There, look there, I ….”
As I turned to point to the boy, I saw that the chair was empty, as though I’d simply imagined him.
R gave me a puzzled look, “a chair?” His accent sounded a little stronger than normal as he muttered, “are you OK?”
No words came out of my mouth, but I nodded, letting go of R.
“Let’s get you some coffee and give you a place to sit down, OK?”
Without waiting for a response, R led me into a small conference room and got me to sit, before walking off to get some coffee for both of us.
Taking long breaths, I tried to control myself.
“Don’t let the stresses get to you.”
I tried to breathe slowly. Perhaps this was just a stress-related episode, but the only thing I could think about was Joshua and his killer, who in my mind was the white-haired teen.
Before long R came back, a folder under his arms, along with two steaming hot cups of coffee. I knew the man had an addiction to coffee and would offer or accept it at any opportunity. Passing me my mug, I felt myself start to relax even before I started to drink. R sat across from me, placed his work down then also started to drink.
“What happened out there?” he asked after a short pause.
“I don’t know, I think the stress is getting to me” I responded flatly, hardly concentrating.
R sighed then smiled.
“How old are you Harrison? You’re in your sixties now, shouldn’t you be living at home with your wife, retired?”
I glared at him for a moment.
“Doctors’ orders, you need to rest Harrison. Look, I know you enjoy this and your wife likes you to keep busy but this job, this style of life, really isn’t too good for you, considering ………”
My face softened and I nodded a little.
“This case in particular, why don’t you leave it to Sharon and the other boys at the station? They’re all up to solving it. I just don’t think you should be working with a case like this, not after….. well, you know.”
“I’ve accepted what happened R and I don’t want to retire, this job keeps my mind working.”
“No it doesn’t Harrison; I can see it in your eyes. I’m saying this not as a doctor but as your friend. You should stay with your wife and rest for a few weeks.”
R’s voice had gotten softer; he knew my wife’s time was short now.
Finally, I nodded and agreed.
For hours I just chatted with R about life. Looking back, I guess I did need to cut down my work hours and spend more time with my lovely wife. Night was falling as I started to walk home. People were buzzing around, migrating back to their homes from their long work days. I felt better about life, more relaxed. Passing by shop fronts and restaurants, I started to instinctively look at people, blocking out the bad images with nicer ones.
A couple were courting in the park under the old oak tree; one of the town’s resident homeless was sitting at a bus stop with his large headphones on, tapping his foot in time with an unknown song; a proud giant of a man was walking home with his young son, carrying a bag of football kit; a young woman in a blue dress was exiting a small store named ‘Transformer’ – I reassessed her gender shortly after.
I found myself smiling, feeling the tensions of the case melt away. A girl selling roses, a man going to work at a restaurant, a white haired teen in a light purple jumper looking over at me with dead blue eyes.
I stopped abruptly and looked back, the teen had gone again, vanished into the crowds. My mouth felt dry. This was just stress, right? I quickened my steps, feeling my body pump with adrenaline.
A cab sitting at red lights; a scruffy man walking down back streets; the white haired boy again, his neck purple like it was bruised. I walked faster still; the sky was orange as the sun set; the building to my right had five floors; the dumpster around the corner house three bin bags; the white haired boy again, his face wet from tears and pure white hair stained crimson. My eyes darted forward, away from the crowds and fell on him again. One eye was golden and seemed to be ruptured while the other was soft blue, his body looked so cold. I staggered back, but he’d vanished again, in the blink of an eye.
Panicked, I started to run to the warmth of my home, my whole body shaking now.
Breathless, I flew down my small street and fumbled for my keys before pushing the door open. Inside I tried to catch my breath, taking lung full after lung full of air. Exhaling heavily and looked around; the money pot that stood on a small table by the doorway to the living room was smashed on the floor. So too was one of the lamps, a picture frame, keys.
I felt as if time had stopped as I became aware of the sound of erratic breathing and gasping. I ran around the corner into my living room where I saw my wife convulsing on the floor. Her eyes were unfocused, one half of her face slumped to the side, her mouth half open. She was having another stroke. Lunging forward I went to take her into my arms, but that was then I saw it.
“So …. hungry”, he murmured, one soft blue eye locked on my wife. He was thin, pale, cold. Moonlight poked its head out from behind the clouds for a moment, showing his true nature; vast wings of pure light and a halo; bloody white claws on both his hands and feet; bloody neck, head and mouth, adorned with hundreds of sharp teeth. As soon as the clouds covered the moon again, he reverted back to the corpse he was.
My eyes were locked on it, the angel of death that sat and watched as my wife died. It was as if something had taken over the body of a young man and now wore his skin, like a well-fitting glove.
“What are you!?” I screamed.
Its eyes remained fixed on my wife, stiller now, “hungry ….. starving …..”
I turned to my wife, taking her in my arms.
This seemed to confuse the angel, puppeteering the body it called home. It moved towards me and my wife. The moon shone on it again; the smell of rot was stagnant in the room.
It didn’t listen, simply moved closer, licking its long claws. “…..I want it..” For a split second it vanished out of sight and my world went dark.
I awoke to a pounding pain in the back of my head. I forced myself upright, before promptly clasping a hand over my mouth at what I saw. The starving angel was crouched over my wife’s body, or what was left of it, pulling away at the chest mindlessly, pushing flesh and muscle into its mouth. I thought I would vomit but grabbing for my hand gun I took aim. His dead eyes looked at me through bloody white hair, not seeming to know or care what I was doing.
“Get off her!” I screamed, before shooting all five round into its head. To my horror, the angel took every single one, reaction-less. Every bullet fell back out the hole it had made, bringing a pungent smell of rot with it, before closing up. Though it was futile I continued to click the trigger of my gun, though nothing came out. I shouted and screamed but it just continued to eat.
The neighbours arrived a short time later, reporting that they found me with the body of my wife, crying and screaming at monsters. Sharon and the rest of the police force arrived shortly after and took me to hospital and my wife to the morgue. No trace of the angel was found, but I know what I saw; I saw him at the funeral, at the side of my wife’s grave, by the road side, watching the world and all its death.
Since that night, I’ve retired from the police force and live alone. Stress is causing me heart problems and R keeps warning me I could have a heart attack if I continue to live the way I do, but I know I don’t have much time left anyway, since the angel is back, and he keeps telling me he’s hungry. I lie awake at night, the glow of his wings illuminating my room. If there is a God, he is nothing more than the monsters he has created. I can feel my chest getting tight as my heart fails me. I watch as the starving angel lifts his head and watches me with hunger in its eyes.
CREDIT: ObsoleteGoat (formerly EmTheSmall)
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