I didn’t feel the knife at first, the swiftness as it sliced through my coat and punctured my skin took me by surprise more than anything. Then, the pain, like nothing else I had ever felt before. My nerves, blood vessels, veins, pierced through in a matter of seconds as the knife slid deeper into my body. The pain was so intense, so severe that it took my breath away.
My scream ripped through the night. It reverberated through the air, bouncing off the rain soaked walls of the dingy alleyway I’d found myself in. My throat was on fire, my voice gave out and I slumped back against the rough brick, tears rolling down my anguished face, torn in agony.
I heard the clatter of my MP3 as it fell from my grasp and bounced on the uneven and broken surface of the ground. Were they cobbles or brick, I briefly wondered. Whatever they were, they looked old and disused, moss covered and slimy. I felt the pop of my earpiece as my assailant grabbed my MP3 and ran off. The sound of running feet pounding heavily away faded into the noise of traffic that passed by on the busy road not more than ten yards away. Did he take my bag as well? Could I reach my phone and call someone for help?
I was in a haze, pain spread through my body but it felt far off and unreal, like I was sensing it through a wrapping of cotton wool. The ground was close to my face, I was lying awkwardly on my side, driving rain soaked my clothes, plastering my hair to my face. Rivulets of blood streamed out from underneath me, staining my mac a dark red, mingling with the rainwater that collected in puddles on the ground.
It had been an odd day, one of those days where things constantly go wrong; the sort of day you wish you could start again and do everything differently. From my broken alarm clock which never went off at the time it was set for and which I had always been loath to replace for sentimental reasons. That morning, it had fallen off the bedside table onto my bedroom floor in spectacular fashion, landing on the floorboards face first, the bell ringing feebly as if in its final death throes. Still, I put it back in its place with a mental note to get it fixed properly.
My shower was lukewarm, my flatmate, Sophie had clearly taken advantage of my tardiness in getting out of bed and taken all the hot water for herself. I cursed her loudly as I scrubbed, goose bumps prickling my skin.
Ten minutes later, I was dried, dressed and hastily made up. My eyeliner had broken, mascara had dried into sticky gloop and my blusher was clinging onto the edges of its pot for dear life. By the time I left the flat stress and panic enveloped me in an extra layer, Sophie would say I had an extra “glow”; I would call it sweat and hot flushes.
The rest of that day continued in the same theme, my train was late, then terminated half way through the journey. I stood on a drizzly, cold platform with other disgruntled commuters awaiting the next overcrowded connection to get me to work.
The buzzing of my phone provided the only glimpse of sunlight that day. I pulled it out of my pocket, unlocked it and smiled when I read the message.
“See you tonight, wear your dancing shoes :)” Alfie, my unofficial dancing partner at my weekly salsa class was my official date for the night. I’d always thought he was gay until one night, he stole a kiss as we practised earning a telling off from our instructor and giggles from the other dancers.
Our date was to be at a salsa club in a part of town I was unfamiliar with but which Alfie had assured me would be worth the journey. Sophie had scoffed at the idea saying he should have picked me up with a bunch of flowers and taken me there, she’s ever the traditionalist. I prided myself on my independence, I’d always meet my dates at an agreed point, bought drinks, split the bill and didn’t drive myself crazy if the man in question didn’t text or call me for a couple of days. I had no idea if that contributed to my success rate, I dated but was still single so who knows?
I had hoped that the text would mark an improvement to my day but it was not to be. My heels caught in the pavement grating outside my office and left unsightly marks on the material, my boss blasted me (unfairly) for being late, I spilt coffee on my trousers and realised at lunchtime that I had left my lunch bag on the overhead luggage rack on the train.
By the time 5.30 rolled around I had seriously considered calling the date off, going home and snuggling on the sofa with a mug of hot chocolate and some trash TV. I am always true to my word though and Alfie was definitely my type plus I couldn’t face the embarrassment of turning him down only to face him at our next class. If the date didn’t work out we could still be friends.
Instead, I lay dying in the grimy alleyway I had ducked into when the heel on my shoe started to feel a little loose. Why I hadn’t chosen a shop doorway escaped me as much as my life did. I could feel my life force ebbing away and as I blacked out into the welcoming darkness the faint sounds of people shouting as I was discovered came to my ears.
The old adage is true, “If I knew then what I know now.” If I had known that morning when my alarm clock had broken that I would be sitting at the back of a church watching my own funeral, seeing friends and family in various states of distress and shock I would have stayed in bed and vowed to throw the damn thing away once and for all.
I feel slightly miffed that my coffin is one of those brown wooden ones with the gold fittings; I would have chosen white and silver. Still, I’m being cremated which my parents knew is what I would have wanted and my favourite flowers, pink lilies, adorn the church. Some people have pink lily button holes which is a nice touch but aren’t button hole flowers just for weddings?
I laugh as I realise that even in death I still ponder the most mundane questions as I did in life. As if flowers and button holes have any importance! I see my families’ pallid faces; my sisters’ tear streaked make-up, the look of shock in my fathers’ eyes. He was never one for emotions so it’s odd seeing him like this now. I wonder if he knows I’m here?
I don’t stay long, just enough to hear some people speak about me. The vicar gives a nice sermon and mentions some of the things I achieved in my life; mostly certificates from college and university which don’t mean much now.
“It’s strange isn’t it?”
I turn to see who spoke and see a woman sitting next to me; she’s dressed all in black, very stylish and elegant.
“Are you talking to me?” I say. “You can see me?”
“Of course I can my dear,” she replies. “I’m dead too.”
“Oh,” I smile at her, she seems nice.
“What happened then?” she asks, very directly.
“I was murdered,” I reply. Saying it out loud sounds very strange.
“Oh dear,” she says with a frown. “Who did it?”
“Some lowlife opportunist,” I say. “He was caught running away covered in my blood with my music player and purse.”
“Wrong place, wrong time,” she says.
“Looks that way.”
We fall silent, after a few moments the curtain has closed, my coffin has disappeared from view and the congregation begin to make their way out of the church.
A small girl stops at the end of the pew and looks towards us. It’s one of my cousins. She smiles at me and waves, shocked, I wave back but then her mother gently pulls her away and they leave the church.
My companion stands, and looks at me. “Are you ready?”
I look around me one last time and feel a strange sense of contentment. I might be young but this is my time. However it’s been decided, fate, destiny, some higher power led me to that alleyway and it was there I met my end.
© Grace McGowan 2015