art by Shothot Designs
by Ari B Goelman
Later, Martin couldn't say what had awakened him. A sound maybe. Or maybe the smell--his bedroom was full of a strange smell. Rich and green. He and Laura had hiked in a rain forest when they had visited Vancouver a few summers before and it smelled like that. "A massage for your lungs," Laura had said.
Whatever it was, Martin rolled over. Still half asleep, he reached out to touch Laura's hip, before he remembered. Almost three months now. He closed his eyes, wishing he could go back to sleep. Since Laura had died, sleep had become Martin's favorite activity. He lay there for some time, hoping that he could fall asleep again, but he just became more and more aware of the forest smell. And a sound downstairs.
He opened his eyes and glanced at his alarm clock. 3:14 a.m. "Damn it," he muttered and sat up. Now he'd have to go downstairs and make sure there wasn't an intruder. Not that he was seriously worried. They'd moved to the Maryland suburbs specifically because they were so safe. But getting up and checking was a habit he and Laura had gotten into when they lived in D.C.
His eyes were still half-closed when he opened the bedroom door, padded to the top of the stairs. The house was a three bedroom split level--way too big for one person. It was supposed to be the house where he and Laura raised a family, and he just hadn't had the heart to sell it yet. "No sudden changes," all the grief counselors said. As though there was a recipe to getting over this. As though it was possible at all.
"Hello?" He called down the stairs. No answer, but he heard another sound, clearer, coming from the basement, he thought. And the smell was even stronger outside of the bedroom. Martin grabbed his portable phone before he walked down the stairs. He dialed 9-1 and left his thumb hovering over the 1 key, in case he needed to dial the final number quickly.