Vacancy. Room 18 is still vacant. Everyone knows about it but nobody sets foot inside. I don’t think anyone can. Why don’t they tear it down? Folks come from around the world just to see the door. The town’s never been the same since that night, what, seven, eight years ago now? Still seems like last year. I remember the cameras from the news stations. Suited people from all over, moving a thousand miles an hour. I’d go get a coffee and there’d be a crew of them, hostile with one another but pleasant, like siblings who hate but love each other. They were indifferent to us locals, mobilizing to yet another place where something terrible had just happened. A routine day at the office. Make no mistake—those people are hunters, packs of wolves. At night you see their eyes glow in the distance, then a minute later they’ve surrounded you, camera lights like suns. They are tireless. And then they are gone, the sated beast shuffling away in the dark.
Fleeing. Home he fled at age seven. He remembered the vividness of the dead person in some bushes near the busy avenue. He thought it a strange place for someone to sleep but upon closer inspection saw the man’s eyes were open and drained of life, insects all over him. He returned home frightened and changed. He didn’t know where he was running to, anyway, guided only by an internal voice that told him to leave. He withdrew from family after that, told his mother he didn’t want to see her. She laughed but acknowledged the seriousness of the situation after he locked himself in his bedroom all day and night. She went to console him or offer her apologies but his indifference shook her. The next morning she found him dead in the basement, an apparent falling accident. Toxicology results indicated he’d consumed bleach from a bottle spilled nearby. It was a terrible tragedy, by all accounts. No one dared to ask aloud why the child would do such a thing.
Relics. Ornamental blades lined the old man’s walls. His house was a relic and he was a relic, old and retired so long that he retired twice more. Then he retired from life. His daughter spoke at his remembrance, she herself old. My father never meant to hurt anyone, she said. He outlived everyone he knew and angered everyone else. Ha ha. But he had a good heart, he was misunderstood. The daughter looked out to the seven people assembled in the front yard of the old man’s house. She held a hand at her brow to block the morning sunlight. Her dress was handmade. Thank you all for coming, she said. Then everyone shook her hand and departed but the daughter remained, beginning the momentous task of leafing through the house’s cabinets and boxes, crates of paper, closets, bookshelves. She found a note her father wrote to her when she was a child and a pair of her dead mother’s diamond earrings. She found sandwich baggies with locks of hair, children’s teeth, personal letters, old photos. She found tucked in a kitchen drawer an oversized envelope filled with 20 thousand dollars cash.