A gang of sad people wear their most expensive frown, and then meander inside Beyond the Horizon Funeral Home. Fiora sits by herself. Jonah, Kyle’s brother, leans against a podium. He catches a burp inside his hand, then tucks in a sweaty shirt. Jonah wobbles as a portrait of Kyle leers at anyone who’s willing to look into his dead eyes.
Jonah wiggles the podium mic’s neck. “Is this thing on? Can you hear me? Hello? Hello? Uncle Gregory? Is that you?”
Kyle’s cousins nod their heads.
“My brother…he was a great man…my best friend…anytime I needed a few bucks…he was there…to help…when you stingy fucks claimed to be broke! Damn it. Why, Kyle? Why?”
Jonah eats a mouthful of air, then swallows some snot. “Yeah. Kyle will be missed. If there’s a quality that defines a great man…Kyle had them all. Yup.”
If expressions could talk, Fiora’s would say, “What a bunch of bullshit.” Locked gaze. Deflated emotion—stale like a piece of forgotten bread.
Jonah salutes an imaginary ghost.
Uncle Gregory guides him away from the podium as if he were a life-sized doll. He wraps his hand around the mic’s neck. “Kyle reached his next phase, just like rainwater condensing into a cloud…he’s up there…”
Fiora’s eyeballs roll inside their irritated sockets.
A room full of hungry mourners stuff their dry mouths full of cake and cheap wine. Jonah sways on his heels. “If there’s anything you need, Fiora, please let me know.”
The mere thought of needing his help socks her right in the stomach. A pool of acidic vomit boils inside her twisted gut. He may as well talk to a brick wall. Jonah stifles a burp. “Excuse me.”
Fiora can’t remember walking home.
The gunk that’s supposed to be inside Kyle’s head sticks to the hardwood floor. She sits on the bed as flashes of memory illuminate the void. Investigators taking photographs and notes…asking questions…each memory glows like a dying firework. There’s one thing they forgot, or never cared to find.
Fiora slides a hand underneath the bed and exhumes Kyle’s revolver.
It’s now past 2:25am—Fiona walks east toward Shaded Avenue—the type of place sane people avoid during the day. Shaded Avenue is the city gutter…clogged with destitute souls, diseased addicts, cheap hookers…and other forms of unidentified bipedal mold. A neon sign blinks: Roman’s Rooms.
She dumps a handful of money onto the counter. “Give me a room.”
Someone sits between a vending machine and noisy arcade game. Their face is hidden behind a tabloid magazine. Big red letters sprawl across the glossy cover: ‘Crazed Circus Bear Refused To Ride Bicycle’.
A crusty old man stuffs the money inside his pocket, then slides a key toward Fiora. “End of the hall.”
She journeys down the hall and unlocks the motel room, for a moment, Fiora thought she stepped inside a swamp. The musty atmosphere tastes like decayed hope.