Guest post by Josh Newhouse
I walk amongst the corpses shrouded in black sheets. I gingerly lift the corner to have a peek at the face like a waxen mask on an unreal body.
I continue my trek through the valley of death to the next body. I take a peek.
I continue through the room pausing at each mound of flesh to check. My brother is not there under any shroud.
I keep on walking, checking every face, holding my breath as I see none I recognize.
“He’s not here.”
I sigh. I walk out of the morgue, and I collapse against the wall. I want to laugh, and I want to smile. I hold it in as I stumble to my feet.
I make it out of the building before I throw up. My vomit slides down the side of the wall like blood and entrails, chunky yet smooth.
I want to dance. I want to sing. I give myself permission to smile. I call my wife.
“Good news” I crow! I can hear her sobbing with relief on the other end.
Then I see them looking at me. They look pale like ghosts as they leave the building. I see their faces like the walking dead. I feel them judging me.
My smile disappears. I feel sick again. I cast my phone into my pocket. It sits like a tombstone against my side, cold and hard.
I wonder when it became okay to celebrate on a day when so many lost love, lost life. When had I become so jaded that “another mass murder” became acceptable? When did I lose empathy for my fellow person?
The gun in my baggy coat pocket feels heavy. I want to take it out and discard it. But it makes me feel safe. It makes me feel powerful. If my brother had been there, then what...
Would I have waged war like the Punisher on the ignorant and unwell? Would I have turned it on myself? I think about my brother. Would he want that?
My brother, he who disappeared from my life 10 years ago. My brother, whose gayness had sent me running. My fear for his loss is echoed by the feeling I have lost him.
Is hate easier when it’s against your own family? Does it take losing your family to lose your hate? I feel them staring at me. All of them. Those disembodied souls and the ones they left behind.
If I had his number would I call him? It’s a moot point. I don’t even know if he still went to that dance club. If he’d been here, would he even have spoken to me?
I turn to walk to my car. I turn to walk back to my life. Then I see him.
For a moment I think I am hallucinating. His face is gaunt, and he looks so tired. Is he a ghost? Did I miss a body as I checked the corpses lying on their table pyres?
The spectre is walking closer. He is staring at me, and it feels like I am melting.
It’s barely a syllable but it slips down like a rock from my mouth pulling me down to my knees.
I hear a voice I never thought I would hear again. It sounds like an icicle trickling into my brain. The apparition stops in front of me.
For a long moment he just looks at me. Then as if satisfied, he pivots and walks away.
I stand there staring. I can’t speak. I can’t move. My brother is alive, and it should be great news, but it feels like he is dead. He disappears into the shadows like a shadow himself. The shadow of my brother. Living but dead.
This is where I should run after him. This is where I should have the courage to tell him I made a mistake. I have another chance. He’s alive. This is the part of the story where I redeem myself.
I just stand there.
It’s been a day of good news.