TW: murder, mental health, implications of suicide
I stood at the banks of the Neva River, waiting for the moment I died to arrive. Safe to say, it never did.
I stood like that for at least 20 minutes, just staring into the water with tears pouring down my face. The people watching me must have thought I was crazy as they quietly warned their kids to stay away from me. Nobody tried to stop me.
The cold air had pretty much frozen my tears the second they started to slowly leak out of my eyes and drip into the river reminding me of the scene in Disenchantment when Luci started crying in heaven and God was like “Ah, happy sobbing, wonderful. That’s what feeds the river of joy.” I could feel my subconscious as it eye-rolled itself into the next dimension over.
Sorry. It's not my fault I joke when I'm nervous. It’s better than what you do to soothe yourself.
How dare you! I've told you multiple times that singing is a form of therapy for myself and others.
Not when it sounds like a pterodactyl screeching.
Ugh. you know what, I’m done with this. Call me when you want me to send a signal to your hands.
Why in hell would I want to do that?
So you can pick up the thing that one of the kids threw at your head.
I reached up and felt my scalp. Sure enough, there was a gash about three inches long near my hairline. I cursed myself as I felt blood begin to run down my forehead. I reached into my purse and pulled out my emergency pad and held it to the gash. Don’t judge me, it was all I had. Any of you would have done the same.
I reached down to pick up the current bane of my existence - an old roll of film.
Ooh shiny! We should get it developed!
I briefly contemplated throwing myself into the water to finally be rid of this voice, then decided against it. For once, my subconscious was right.
I dried my tears, pocketed the roll, grabbed my sandals, and began the trek back to my Mercedes.
Once inside the safety of my car, I took some proper bandages along with my antiseptic and tweezers, just in case a part of the roll had decided it liked my head more than the roll which thankfully, didn’t happen.
The sting of the alcohol reminded me of the sting of constant rejection.
Once the wound was clean and bandaged, I set about finding a photo store that could develop the film for me. I was curious as to what the film contained, and the voice and I spent the better part of the ten minute trip to the store speculating over the contents of the roll.
I’m guessing it has incriminating evidence and the parents gave it to their kid in the hopes that said kid would lose it.
I smiled at the thought.
I was inside the photo store, waiting in line to get the roll – which my subconscious had named Inky, short for incriminating evidence – developed. The woman in front of me was chatting – I use the term “chatting” lightly, she was screaming in the hopes that anyone would listen – with the clerk would look ready to either punch her or himself about the new romance novel she was writing.
There is a time and place for relentless self-promotion and lemme tell you something - this ain’t it. Also, why is this place giving me major Walgreens vibes even though it's not?
You are not wrong, subconscious.
I’ve told you this before, I go by Ruksa!
The lady finally leaves, leaving me to try and persuade the clerk to develop my film instead of going on his lunch break.
“Hi, I would like to get In- this roll of film developed please.”
“Of course. May I have your name and phone number so we know who to call?”
“Yeah it’s Vröia Zoien, V-R-O-I-A Z-O-I-E-N. My number is XXX-XXX-XXXX.”
“Thank you. We should have it done by this afternoon. Anything else?”
“No, thank you.”
I stood in line again, waiting, this time, to receive the photos that Inky contained.
“Number?” This was the thing I hated about Walgreens-esque stores – the clerks tended to cut people off. Like, I know that you already have that information and are great at processing but do you have to cut me off? Their audacity was admirable.
“Thank you. For safety purposes, I have to ask if you are taking any medication for anxiety/depression and/or can keep yourself safe.”
“Yeah, I’m taking meds and can keep myself safe. Why?”
“The photos in the roll you gave are likely to be a trigger so we need to make sure.”
“Oh, ok I see.” I thought about what my subconscious had said earlier – was it possible that Inky contained evidence against the child’s parents and that was why they gave it to their kid to play with?
I was now at home, turning over Inky and the envelope that contained the suggested incriminating evidence. I inhaled sharply.
It’s now or never.
That’s not exactly true. If it's not now, it could be in ten minutes or–
I lifted the flap of the envelope and pulled out the photos.
Moment of truth.
I flipped them over. The photos showed
I gasped, dropping the photos as I felt bile rising in my throat as a response to the images of bodies and body parts. Each of them also had a date on it, like 28 февраля 2020 г.. I managed not to vomit all over the picture and my Turkish rug as I beheld the photos that described a murder from start to finish.
We have to find the person that did this.
Quick! What were the kid's parents wearing?
The dad: black beanie, blonde hair, blue eyes, suit. The mom: sundress, sunglasses, same blonde hair and blue eyes.
It's the middle of winter! Who on earth wore a sundress and glasses in the middle of winter!
I can’t believe you’re worried about their clothes.
I was back at the banks of the Neva River, preparing to ask the patrol if they had seen the suspects.
“Здравствуйте, мне интересно, видели ли вы мужчину со светлыми волосами, голубыми глазами, в костюме и женщину в сарафане и солнцезащитных очках?”
“Да, на самом деле, у меня есть. Мистер и миссис Каллакс, я могу дать вам их номер.”
“Да, это было бы отлично. Спасибо."
“Их номер ХХ-ХХХ-ХХХХ.”
I set about calling them right away, asking the patrol for their address when they didn’t pick up.
The door to the Calleks’ residence was one of my favourite colours – Prussian blue – and complimented the grey exterior quite nicely, turning the outside from cold and unfeeling into warm and inviting. My knuckles knocking against the wood made a heavy sound, almost as if someone were leaning pressed up against the door, waiting for me to knock.
It opened a moment later, revealing Mrs Calleks in all her sundressed and sunglassesed glory.
“Ah, you must be here for AC repair, no?” her accent was thicker than I expected.
What did you expect?
I don’t know, maybe for her to sound like she was well travelled, not coming back home from the mines.
“No. I’m here because I need to talk to you and your husband about something. Is he here?”
“Да, Да he is here. Mikhail!”
“Да?” Mikhail Calleks was a pretty nondescript person in the flesh, but a quick internet search said otherwise. A newspaper tycoon that had a habit of dumping toxic waste and other materials into the Neva River. He denied all of what I said, but I had proof.
While Inky did contain photos of the Calleks’ burying a body, it also showed them dumping sulphates – a necessary element in the paper-making process – into rivers such as the Neva.
“Are you sure this isn’t you?” I pointed to a picture in a recently published article that talked about the Calleks and their harmful practices. Looks like I wasn’t the only one with questions.
“How did- yes, yes I am sure. I am with Fyodor, not at the river.”
I had managed to figure out that the body shown in the pictures was buried near the river, somewhere close to where I had been standing, judging by the wet soil and the way it appeared in the photo. However, I had deduced that the soil was a part of the bank of the river through careful examination. That being said, how else would he know where the picture was taken?
The sound of police sirens interrupted me.
“Give it up, Mikhail. Everyone knows what you did.”
He was at my feet in a moment, sobbing hysterically while his wife watched helplessly and Fyodor – his 12-year-old son – stood in behind her. I could see the triumphant smile that stretched across his face even from far away. I smiled back as the police came through the door and arrested the Calleks.
“Where will you go now that your parents are gone?” I asked Fyodor as the cars drove away.
“I have an aunt in Sochi who will take care of me. She was more of a mother to me than my mother ever was. She's over there,” upon noticing my confused expression he added, “I asked her to come as soon as possible when I saw you pick up the roll.”
“That’s good. Keep in touch, ok? I know it can be hard to witness your parents go through and do something like that, so let me know if it starts bothering you.”
“I will, and thank you.”
“Never mention it.” I hugged him close and pushed him towards his aunt. “Stay safe. До свидания”
And with that, he was gone, his dreams made reality, his goals fulfilled.
Can we get ice cream now?
Ah, I was wondering where you were. You have been quiet through all this.
I wanted to give you space. Also, I went out on a date with your amygdala.
Nice, do you think you both might have a future together?
Eh not really. I mean, I like your amygdala – I call her Amy for short – but she’s way too touchy-feely, y’kow? And I’m not that type of person. Also, I didn’t get an answer on the ice cream.
“Yeah, we can get ice cream.
Yes! My prayers have been answered!
Since when are you religious?
Since yesterday. Get with the times, Vröia.
Alright, alright. What flavour do you want?