Reilly put a hand on the table to steady himself, but his knees still swailed as if all the bones in his legs had just suddenly disintegrated and he was held aloft with only gusts of hot air. Images and memories ravenously attacked his consciousness: good times and bad, both vying with the sight of the grotesque form which now assaulted his eyes. After a moment he realized his breath was locked away in his throat, but when he exhaled he wound up mostly coughing and gagging again.
The dead woman's head hung at a peculiar angle to her shoulders, owing to the fact that her throat had been slit almost to her spine and the majority of her tissue had been severed. Her head hung back limply like a nightmarish Pez dispenser, her blood-caked mouth agape and that single milky eye examining the ceiling.
Reilly moaned again and ran one hand through his hair. It did nothing to steady his stomach. The first thing he thought of, ironically, was not of Muriel so much but of his ex-wife. Ironic because Grace had left him after walking in on him and her sister Muriel in bed, both naked, both incredibly sweaty. That night will forever be etched in Reilly's memory, a permanent image in the landscape of his mind, filled with anger, filled with guilt. What hurt him most was that Grace had not been angry with him, almost as if she had kind of expected it.
But her rage toward Muriel had been frightening; there had been several moments where Reilly thought Grace might completely lose control and end up killing her sister.
And now, with his hand over his mouth as he circled the corpse, Reilly thought, Now here she is, really dead. I can't believe it.
His hip vibrated and he jumped and cried out. Jesus Christ, my phone! He had completely forgotten that he had stuffed it into his front pocket before he'd left the apartment, and now its sudden re-emergence brought him back to reality with a jolt. His shaking hands fumbled to retrieve the little Nokia from his jeans, but he managed to punch the ANSWER button with his thumb and bring the phone to the side of his face. His voice trembled more than his hands, and he struggled to say anything. Finally a horse “Hello?” croaked from between his lips.
It was the emcee, of course. His voice was both loud and quiet, like a recording of a man shouting through a megaphone but then played at a soft level. Nevertheless, it bounced around the inside of Reilly's skull, echoing and pounding against bone, “Say there, Reilly! The viewers want to know: what are you gonna do with your prize?”
Reilly nearly dropped the phone. He dropped to his knees and kept his stomach from releasing yet again on to the floor. He asked one tiny question, “Why?”
“Well, it's your reward, silly. See, you decided to toss away your marriage for this little trollop, and it ruined your life. You were going to spend the rest of your days living a miserable existence until the day you eventually faded out. But it doesn't have to be like that, Reilly. This is the chance you've been waiting for.”
“To murder somebody?”
“To fix your life! To tie up loose ends, to start living again!”
“She wasn't a loose end, she was a person!”
Quietly, the emcee responded, “Not anymore. Now she's your prize.”