9 – Bravo…

First, the lights. Then, the clattering voices. After that, the confirmation…

As I was swaddled away, safely within the confines of my apartment, an invader came. No, not a burglar nor a robber. It was not the entity of man that had entered my apartment – it was the hollowed echoes of voices from outside my door. Before that, it was the spastic nictation of cardinal red that bled in from my window and painted itself throughout the walls of my failing fortress.

The lights were boasting from a parked police cruiser from outside my window. They we joined by the aberrant flicker of an ambulance. The voices were baritone whispers from uniformed men. They stood in a gaggle outside my door and just inches down the hall. As my ears perked with intrigue and intent to listen, they were slapped by the unmistakable growl of an idling engine from a vehicle of heft – a firetruck.

The weighted footfalls of men donned in bunker gear slammed against the walls of our apartment hallways, inviting itself into the homes of all who would listen. I was listening… I heard the fornication of metal against metal as the jagged teeth of a key slid into an awaiting lock of a door. My neighbor’s door. My dead neighbor’s door…

You read that correctly, my next-door neighbor was… is… dead. Don is gone.

Now, I’m not going to spin for you a fable that I knew, Don well, I didn’t. I knew him about as well as any other city dwelling neighbor, really. Thing is, last week I walked by Don’s door and said softly to myself, “You’re dead, aren’t you, Don?” Paramedic sixth sense…

I’m not sure why, but I just knew… Perhaps it was the unclaimed flyer sticking out from his door frame, or maybe it was the lack of subtle noise coming from his apartment, or the cessation of his incessant fire alarm going off at least once a week, or maybe, maybe it was that I had seen many apartments like this before, and I just knew what lurked from behind its closed door. Maybe this is the reason that I have been smelling the dead as of late? Maybe…

There was just something about his absence and knowing him and how he seemed to live that gave birth to a growing suspicion of worldly departure. And that smell… that God awful smell…

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I was unsure if it was my weary mind forcing me to recall the dead that I have held in my own hands, or a smell in the real that had been following me throughout my apartment. Truth be told, I still don’t know…

What is certain and without contestation, is that Don is dead. And I was right… a week ago… A fucking week.

Continuing to hear the clamoring voices in the hallway, I retreated to my nightstand, and withdrew my headphones. I buried their buds deep into my ears and pressed play on the first bit of artificial sound that I could find. A hard metal rock song that pushed the sound of the world away from me. But that did little to combat the distress that my nose was currently facing at the hands of a repugnant olfactory intruder. I closed my eyes tightly and demanded that this all go away… it didn’t.

When the song ended, and before the next began, my ears fell victim to the now sorrowful sounds jostling around from just outside my door. The wailing sounds of grief – the family had arrived. Now, I could smell the dead, taste the rot, picture the corpse and hear the bereft… My apartment had become nothing short of a fucking prison overrun by inmates of memory and happenstance.

I felt trapped. I hadn’t showered yet, nor had I gotten dressed or eaten anything (luckily on that last part). Caring little for what I would look like to passersby, I spun into a frenzy of man, gathering a pair of pants, a shirt, some socks and boxers, seemingly putting everything on at once, then reaching for my boots before sprinting to the door where my jacket hung in wait. I grabbed the jacket, skulked hurriedly into the hall and both slammed and locked the door behind me before ascending the main stairs towards the back-entrance. I fled my own sanctuary. It had been poisoned.

Even now, out of uniform, the Reaper follows me… He has taken the innocent, the young and the lived from me. He has forced me to watch as my brothers in uniform have fallen to him. He has stolen from me my own mother, my sanity and my worth. And it would appear as though the Reaper remains unsatiated. So now, he steals from those beside me. Those I barely know. The Reaper refuses me rest of any kind. No respite. No reprieve. Just take, take, take…

As I sit here, writing this, the uniforms and the dead man remain next door. My nose is packed with coiled columns of Kleenex. I breathe in and out using only my mouth. Futile, really – because although I mitigate inhaling the dead, I still taste it. The dead next door has joined the damned of memory and experience. My medic’s mind is bleeding. I am dying without nearing death.

I am not mourning the loss of the man. I did not know him. I am however mourning the loss of ‘A’ man – me! Healthy, unburdened me. I am now a man living with ghosts. That is who I have been for many years prior to this day. I fear that the vile, nauseating stench that my senses are so anathematized by is both real and ethereal.

The only fortunate news that I have to share with you is that the grieving wails of family have left. All that breaks the barrier of my door now is the metallic muffle of voices emanating from the officer’s radio, and the hushed confabulation they share with one another.

Where I come from, the world I once operated in, this day, this call, would be called: Nine-Bravo – obvious death.

They await the coroner. Me? I am awaiting the return of normalcy and the ability to use my nose again.

Do you recall a post I wrote about a dinner for one? Well, if you do, you’ll know that tonight, it’s dinner for none…

The Reaper calls, Checkmate…

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