After the death of his wife, Det. Peter Valis is having more than a little trouble moving on.
The house had been on the market for two and a half months. It was a good deal— so good, in fact, that many of the people who inquired about it (mostly out-of-towners) were inclined to ask with a cynical smirk, “All right, so who died here?”
In response, the Realtor would giggle uncomfortably and lie through her teeth.
He’d only been in the house once since her death, about a week later, to take a look around and figure out what he was going to do with all their things. His initial impulse was to set fire to the whole house, so he decided to pack his things and call her side of the family and suggest they take over. He threw a couple of movies, a half dozen shirts, two pairs of slacks, and a fist full of underwear into a suitcase, grabbed his uniforms and got out of there, leaving behind a perfectly good shaving set and a used-once toothbrush in the bathroom because even though it was no longer a crime scene, he still couldn’t bear to go in.
The house had gone up for sale within the month. They’d been thinking about selling, since, well, before. The company she’d worked for had laid off its entire HR department, and she’d been afraid she was going to be next. They were all ready struggling to pay the mortgage, and besides, she’d said, it wasn’t like their family was ever going to “grow into” this house, anyway.
So the only difference was that instead of moving to a smaller house in town with his wife, he was moving into a furnished apartment on the iffy side of town by himself. No big deal. He’d gone back to work, and to his face it was all condolences and glad to have you backs, but when they thought he couldn’t hear them it was the latest rumor about her death and how, he wasn’t looking so well, and did you hear that she might have been, you know? And every time he closed his eyes he saw her face, still horrifically lifelike despite her unnatural stillness. She’d put on make-up, for some reason— done her eyes and lips, and he couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen her made up, dressed up to go out. By the time he got home from work, or sometimes not work, her face was scrubbed clean and there was dinner in the refrigerator, try not to make too much noise when you come to bed, dear.
The church told him that she was in Hell, burning for her sin. Literature elaborated, explaining that she was now one in a field of brittle trees, rattling in the fiery winds, wailing when their branches snapped.
It had been a long time since he’d been to church. Hell, it had been a long time since he’d been in a library.