CW Prompt: Ritual

You arrive at the house. You’ve never been here before but you’ve driven passed dozens of times. You’ve wondered what it looked like inside and if you’d ever get the chance to see. You wanted the chance but you didn’t at the same time.

You open the thin screen door and announce your presence to the unknown number of occupants. Someone yells, “back here!” You pull the handle wide enough for you and your partner to enter. He’s carrying the candy-red AED pack by the black handle; you forgot yours in the car. You clumsily stomp to the back bedroom, your thick boots attempting to navigate unfamiliar terrain. Beads of sweat fall down around your brow and into your eyes, the salty sting lingering momentarily until you blink, flushing it away. Your black undershirt clings to your back, moist and heavy but still soft.

As you approach, the unmistakable stench, although not yet as ripe and pungent as you’ve experienced, engulfs your nostrils. You wished you would’ve grabbed the white surgical mask and dryer sheets in your car for exactly this reason because the last time the smell didn’t leave your nose until the day after.

The bedroom opens up before you and your eyes immediately go to the lifeless body on the ground. The female corpse lies on its side, resting on its left arm with its right leg curled up over its left. The skin sags and the dark violet bruising shows on the side closest to the floor, lividity and gravity taking effect. You’ve seen this before, more times than you’d like to remember, but now your mind knows how to file it under “common occurrences.” You know there’s no bringing the corpse back but feel obligated to make it look like you tried.

The female family member is standing over the corpse. Her hair is light brown and her skin is tightly stretched over her body. She only wears makeup on her eyelashes which now form gray streaks running down to her neck, the rest of her face revealing natural beauty despite a couple scars and dents from a life lived. Her long fingers were visibly shaking as they tightened around the phone they held. She looks to be around your age. You guess she’s the granddaughter of the corpse. You think of what it would be like to date her but figure this probably isn’t the time to ask.

You motion to your partner, who slowly drops to one knee next to the corpse. He shakes its shoulder and the rest of the body stiffly shifts with it. You know there’s nothing more you can do. You escort the probable granddaughter out of the room so she doesn’t see your partner mark off the room and begin collecting “evidence.” Although you’re certain no crime had occurred, you know the routine. You know your partner is scouring the room for blood spots he knows aren’t there, for the dozens of prescription bottles the corpse was sure to have, and for anything that might identify just who the corpse once was. You hear him radio for the ambulance, not for treatment but to pronounce.

You were right. She’s the granddaughter. She says the corpse had lots of medical issues. Bad heart, bad lungs from forty years of inhaling smoke, and bad joints from decades of sitting hunched over at a desk.

The paramedics arrive, bringing in their bags and walking passed you and the granddaughter. They do a brief check and call the doctor who pronounces the body. The time is 0646 hours. The on-call detective arrives, indifferent as he was coming into work already but he gets an extra hour of overtime now. You call the evidence technician to process the scene and take pictures. You know it’s not a homicide but these are always treated like one until it’s determined to be natural. You call the coroner now because you know from the previous times it takes them at least two hours to get anywhere.

The granddaughter asks why there are so many police and if you think it’s a crime but you say it’s just procedure. She understands but doesn’t take much comfort in it. Your belt feels heavy and your shirt clings tighter to you. It’s eighty-five degrees in the house and the air hangs heavy and sticky. It’s one of the worst days of her life, so much emotion and loss. It’s just another day in yours.

The gist of this was to write in the second person and describe a ritual or process in which you describe aspects in grave detail. I hope you enjoyed it and let me know what you think!

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