Love, death, and the horrors in the in-between.
Continuous sounds are said to soothe, they conjure rainfall and a lover’s heartbeat or your mother’s womb. Strange then, he thinks, that this sound should so unnerve. “Good morning, nice to see you" was once heard in every corridor, by those who say hello without breaking stride. Now the building's chatter is replaced by something worse, a wretched reverberation that permeates several stories of wall-to-wall carpet; still, he prefers this to half-hearted hellos.
Myra—a neighbor—visits every Friday, she’s dreamy-eyed with wisps of brown hair that are in constant states of flutter around her pale face, like they’re caught-up in a little wind that she keeps just for herself. The windswept woman was a dancer until a clumsy accident disabled her career; her family died soon after. Every Friday Myra treks the long corridors from her apartment to his, stealthiness and a can of Lemon Pledge are her only protection. The lightfooted lady’s hurried pitterpatter is hardly heard against the obscene sounds percolating up the stairs, the noxious noise irritates her sallow skin. Today Myra’s powdered that yellow skin, she’s applied blush and glossed her chapped lips…she has something to confess (unfortunately, he has something to confess too.)
The back of the building isn’t a direction Myra typically travels, it’s darker there, the halls are deeper and shadows longer. But today she’s led astray by some scuttery sound, and too dopeyheaded from dehydration to realize it’s only a raccoon. The animal is one of many that quietly traipse in and out, just as bike messengers or rent-a-maids had years earlier. “Hey, are you down there?” she power-whispers this down a second hall. There’s no reply, but—with the silent feet and buoyant knees of a cartoon prowler—she sneaks on.
This hall has twice the garbage and half the light of its predecessor. The garbage—knee deep in some corners—isn’t the refuse you’d find in recycling bins; these items weren’t discarded, they were lost. Lost in pursuit, lost in altercation, lost in death.
“Dang it!” her slipper slips on something slippery...it’s best not to inspect the pile further. She grabs hold of a wall’s empty fire extinguisher box to stabilize her instability but cuts a finger on its broken glass. “Double dang it.”
Evidence of the raccoon is everywhere, if you know to identify the libraries of paper it clawed. There is evidence of a young family that lived here too (back before the pretty, pale-tone walls were made unevenly, unnervingly dark with the accidental smearings of stumblers-by), a combusted box of economy-quantity diapers makes certain this was the hall. The white diapers illuminate the sooty scene, like unexpected pockets of moon-reflective virgin snow in an otherwise anthracitic landscape.
Here and there are aerosol cans, Myra used to give them a shake but they were always empty. Clothes are everywhere. If you’ve seen Filene’s Basement after the ‘Running of the Brides’ sale—it’s like that, only with slacks and socks strewn instead of the unloveliest of the department store’s heavily discounted wedding dresses.
There’s money on the floor, maybe from a toppled purse or an emptied slacks pocket. An ankle bracelet shines too, its silver reads “Cheyenne” for the young gal who lived in one of this floor’s smallest units. As her name suggested, Cheyenne was one-sixteenth American Indian; when she ironed her hair and wore a decorative wooden necklace, you could almost see it. Myra tiptoes to the end of this corridor, to take a peek into the next. She hears something which I happen to believe is not a raccoon, but there’s definitely something down that hall.
The Loving Dead is a dark, droning, half-bruised, supernatural mystery between a credulous young woman and a dislike-minded man that considers what unthinkable things two people would do to undo loneliness.