This is a story about a recording of a dead boy’s voice, and an homage to the woman who told me the tape existed. It has haunted me for much of my life. I’ve been tinkering with it over the decades and it is finally going to see the light of day at The Piltdown Review (date to be determined).
Despite the grim and chilling subject matter, it ends on a very optimistic note.
Here’s a brief excerpt until I’m able to post a link to the full story.
“Don’t go in there.”
I remember the exact tone Ryan used when he said that to me. Ominous and foreboding. I was just on my way to school; what could he possibly mean?
“One of the students died. It’s like a morgue in there.”
“Anyone we know?” I asked.
“No, some girl from grade ten.”
“Jesus.” That meant she was fifteen.
That’s how I was greeted, coming to school on the last day of May – the day before my final month of high school. I had a spare first thing that Monday morning, so it was past ten when I arrived to find Ryan and Ben sitting on the stone steps of Grey Gables.
“She died yesterday. They mentioned it on the announcements but everyone already knew.” Ben’s voice was hushed and respectful. I wasn’t used to hearing him speak that way. He was the loudest of us all.
“I heard it on the bus on the way in,” Ryan added. “People were crying.”
“Do you know how she died?” I asked.
“Drowned in her swimming pool,” Ryan answered.
It was a little early for the swim season but warm temperatures drove many outdoors over the weekend. Ben, I noticed, was already tanned.
“So, how long have you been sitting here?”
Ryan said he’d been there all morning.
Ben joined him twenty minutes earlier. “I asked Dwyer if I could go to the washroom. When I went in, these three guys were bawling about it, and I decided I couldn’t go back to class.”
“Are we going to sit here all day?” I asked.
“It’s too depressing in there,” Ryan said. “I can’t face it – and I didn’t even know her.”
“Well, I might just go see how things are.” But I changed my mind as soon as I spoke. Dreading the sepulchral hallways and mournful faces, I took a seat next to Ben.
“What do you bet Irene will come out between classes?” Ben asked Ryan.
“I’m surprised she isn’t here already.”
With warm sunlight on my face, I leaned into the shadows to appreciate the solemnity of the moment. Gloom encircled, swirling as menacingly as wisps of smoke from Ryan’s cigarette. I imagined the same gloom infiltrating classrooms, getting into everything, touching everyone.