Was it minutes, hours or days later? Or…what an odd thought…a century earlier? Karen shivered, but felt no cold. She didn’t feel her own shiver either; it was strictly metaphorical. Was she standing, sitting, or lying down? Karen didn’t know. Were her eyes open or closed? Karen didn’t know that either; she only knew she wasn’t seeing anything, not even light or darkness. It was as if she was struggling to see through an infinity of glass windows with nothing behind them. The good news, Karen figured, was that she no longer felt any pain. Not from that glass shard she’d been bleeding so profusely from for hours. Not from Frank’s lethal punch, aimed for Martin, that she’d intercepted. The bad news, Karen figured, was that she must be dead.
It was then that the screaming started, but of course it wasn’t really screaming and was as silent as the absolute silence that would have been ringing in her ears…if she still had ears that functioned. How welcome even that ringing would have been.
Dead. Next the crying that wasn’t crying started. For Karen could neither scream nor cry about it…or anything, she figured…ever again. But wasn’t the one, the only goddamn advantage of being dead supposed to be that you wouldn’t even know it?
He’d fucking killed her, she was dead, and she still couldn’t stop thinking about him?
But she suddenly felt something, and to feel anything was divine, and what she felt was Frank. His presence. That voice. His surprisingly formal words, saying… Saying not “Karen, how could you?” but “Karen, how could I?” over and over again.
But then she felt something else, like a mist somehow, and she suddenly remembered a color: green.
A summer’s day…
Where’d that come from? Light! Bright light! Karen had never yearned for anything more than she did for that light. She strained to reach it. Lights, more than one. Illuminating a stage. A magnificent man on that stage, dressed like a Shakespearean actor. Reaching out to her. His words, elegant and melodic. She could hear…
“Again, sorry, officer…”
No, not that voice. Karen could feel herself shiver this time. Rats. She could envision them with their beady eyes, just like Irwin, the creepy guy who managed the storage space.
“I…I don’t like to mention this but…” Irwin’s voice oozed through Karen’s consciousness. “But you see, officer, I have this disability. It explains my not quite getting this mess in the hall cleaned up from last night but…really, officer!…I can assure you there was no murder here last night!”
Murder? Karen’s mind screamed again. So, she really was dead? Or…
Had Frank succeeded in killing Martin after all?
Or was this all a last dream of the dead. Kind of like the fingernails that still grew in the morgue.
Dimly, Karen thought she heard another voice, farther away. Something about an anonymous tip from their violent-crime hotline.
“Oh, no, officer!” oozed Irwin, who seemed to be closer. “I can absolutely, positively assure you there’s nobody here, dead or alive, this early in the morning!”