Glimmering like sunlight on ocean wavers under the allowance of the moon’s luminescence and his flashlight. Mentis slowly walks towards the figure. Taking big strides to try and reduce the noise from his oversized feet and leather shoes. He doesn’t want to scare them. A little closer and he can make out the figure of a female. This is what he came here for. A potential sighting of Miss.Simms. It could be her. The 5’2 petite frame and dark hair blowing in the ocean’s breeze match the description down to the last detail. Edging closer until he’s just a few yards away, he’s so sure that it could be Miss.Simms. It’s someone short and he’s seen enough girl’s arses over the years to know that the figure is female. He’s close enough to touch the girl now but he hesitates.
Why hasn’t she noticed him? Even though he’s tried to be so quiet he must have made some noise, maybe not from his shoes but certainly from his overexerted breathing and it would be impossible to not notice the light of the flashlight currently being shown, and yet, the figure remains still. Head steered toward the open ocean. Now he’s closer he can see that she’s wearing little clothing. Ragged material hangs from her body as if they have been through a shredder. Long like a dress down to her ankles but unconnected like a seamless piece of fashion. Then he notices the smell. It’s resonating from the girl in putrid waves, carried towards him in a sudden strong gust of wind. It’s like nothing he’s ever smelt before and he has dealt with some gruesome things in his life. Dead bodies coated in maggots is ecstasy compared to the smell his nostrils are detecting now. Layers of body odor doused in rotten food that coats a deceased rotting corpse. It’s almost too difficult to bare, but, bare he must if he’s to help the poor girl.
“Miss.Simms? Is that you?”
He addresses the shadowy figure. Best not to mess around. If it’s not Miss.Simms, then at least she will turn around either way. Or that’s what he thought. Instead, the figure doesn’t move. In fact, he doesn’t recall seeing the silhouette move since he laid eyes upon it. Mentis begins fearing the worst. Maybe she’s too drugged up to even know where she is. Or, maybe she’s to messed up mentally to even know what reality is anymore. Maybe the smell is a sign of her rotting flesh after months of decay. Mentis notices that the smell is less potent now though, turned into more of a hesitation on the nostrils. Who knows where she’s been the past six months. He decides the best approach is to stand to the side of her rather than to possibly make her jump if she has unpredictable behavior.
Edging a few steps forward he does his best to slowly take a long stride to her right-hand side. He never looks her way and instead gazes forward so as not to startle her, making sure to point his flashlight towards the ground. His shoes don’t protect his feet from the sharp edges of the uneven rock surface at the cliff’s edge and his thoughts distract him for a moment. He’s going to need to buy new shoes after tonight. Layers of mud, excrement and grass coat his shoes like a 3-tier cake. That and the now protruding sharp rock edges are creating second-hand shoes. Guaranteeing they will spend the rest of their days in a garbage pile or on some homeless soul’s feet.
Remembering where he is, Mentis turns his head slightly to try and catch a glimpse of the woman, pointing the flashlight at her feet in the process. Pushing his eyes to the furthest corners of his eye sockets he can make out the outline of grubby bare feet and scraggly legs and arms. Her hands grip his attention most. They are swaying to and fro in a slow angelic motion similar to a ballroom dancer’s gracefulness. With the way she’s swaying them, you would think she was skipping but she’s still motionless otherwise. Moving towards her head his eyes float across her body and the clothes she’s wearing. They look very similar to the ones she was last seen in. A long white plain cotton nightdress down to her ankles, chestnut hair cut to the top of her shoulders, naturally straight and worn down. No shoes were reported missing and no bags so she left with what she was wearing which crossed off the possibility that she might have run away. Even the most idiotic runaways would take the essentials on their backs. The other possibility would have been kidnap but the family had no enemies and there had been no other evidence towards this and certainly no demands. Mentis had been baffled by the case and the lack of evidence towards any possible conclusion to her whereabouts. In his mind, everyone was a suspect because there had been no push towards a certain individual. If it’s not Miss.Simms, then it’s certainly someone who has stolen her clothes.
Mentis’s eyes pull into focus on her head. It takes him a moment to realize that she’s now turned slightly and is focusing on his plum shaped forehead. This isn’t what makes him step back in horror though. It takes a second for it to come into focus but when it does Mentis is repelled by what he sees. It looks like Miss.Simms. The facial features, height, and weight all match. She’s even wearing the same clothes. Her eyes though, it’s her eyes. Or lack thereof. You see where her blue eyes once were there are now two large sunken holes. Dug into her skull with what looks like the shape of a spoon, rounded on the edges like a barber’s clean shave. Once life there, all that is left is the muscle tissue that connected them. Unapproachable signs of torture and death tug at Mentis’s consciousness. It would be impossible for her to see and yet she seemed to stare straight through Mentis. It was unnerving and he didn’t have the expertise or the know how to deal with such an outlandish situation. Mentis does his best to keep his professionalism but his instincts rage war with his commitment to his detective title. Ready to run at a moment’s notice. His feet on the verge of betrayal. For the first time in a substantially long time, he is bullied by the sight that befalls him. Possibly even scared. Forcing his shoulders into a more relaxed stance he stands a little further away.
“I’m Detective Mentis of the GreetWood Police Department. We’ve been looking for a missing girl. Francesca Simms?”
A knifes edge silence fills the atmosphere. She doesn’t utter a word or even signs of a breath. Both Mentis and the girl stand like this for what seems like a long time. Mentis remains on edge but he does get a chance to look her over, shining his flashlight on each precise part without the worry of it being noticed. Hair sits in a deranged form on her scalp. Bunches here and there like unwilling flowers in a perfect bouquet. Mentis idly takes a moment to appreciate the color, a reminiscent shade to his favorite whiskey. Deep in color with undeniable tones of ash. As well as the various matted textures and knots, Mentis also notes the woodland extremities embedded within the layers of the hair, leave and twigs decorating her scalp like a forest floor. He avoids focusing on her eyes just yet as they will draw the most attention. Instead, he takes the time to embed the rest of her facial features into his memory – in his haste, he never thought to bring something to scribble on in case she makes a run for it and he wasn’t about to try fiddling with the phone in his pocket. Concentrating on the rest of her face. She has an elongated Roman accented nose with small nostrils. Either side, there is a red swelling of flaming cheeks, almost like she’s embarrassed or is covered in a rash. There’s a small black mole – just like the information from the case file – that sits outwardly above her thin, blistered, white rose lips. Taking a couple of steps closer and towards her front allows Mentis to shine the flashlight on her nightdress. A shameful layer of cotton covered in unrecognizable stains hangs from her feral skin, holes bigger than the material itself. Mentis feels a sudden overpowering feeling of sorrow towards the undoubtedly pained girl in front of him. She must be too afraid to even speak. Moving slowly towards her he reaches out a chubby aged hand so it’s the first thing she feels. When he’s only a few steps away a raspy voice protrudes from the woman’s throat forcing him to stop in his tracks.
“How long has it been?”
Her voice is poisoned with withered distress and a lack of fight. Her hands, once swaying now stop in their motions at her side.
“Are you Miss.Simms? Why don’t you come away from the edge”?
Silence befalls once again. Mentis is becoming increasingly agitated about her being so close to the edge of the cliff, especially if she can’t see.
“Miss.Simms has been missing for the past six months. Is that you? ” Mentis calmly states. Perfectly formed eyebrows sit above the girl’s empty sockets, all most like an unfinished doll. They raise slightly when she hears this information and her lips quiver as if holding back tears.
Deciding enough is enough he reaches out towards her, in hopes of grabbing her to pull her away from the edge. His actions are too late though. In a moment of what seems like clarity. The young girl smiles a heart-wrenching smile of life lost. Then she turns her head back towards the ocean and steps over the edge without a moment’s hesitation, stepping as if she’s stepping onto lush grass. Mentis is quick to react but not quick enough. He reaches for her and falls to the ground in dire hope but she’s already gone. He can only watch in a moment of horror as she falls into the dark water below. A single sorrowful tear falls onto the surface of the rock as Mentis accepts her fate.
Copyright, Charlie Wright. All rights reserved.
To continue reading head to Chapter 3 here.