I step into the gloom of the darkened hallway. My eyes struggle to focus on the shadowy shapes and outlines before me after coming in from the bright sunshine outside. Its been a warm day for a change, one of those days when you just want to chill and relax in a park with your loved ones and forget all of life’s woes.
Before my eyes have chance to adjust to the ambient light filtering through the chink in the curtains, my nose picks up the distinctive smell that permeates everything in this place. Its an all too familiar smell for me, the first time was almost twenty years ago, and it does,nt change. I carefully tread ever more slowly to find the source.
Through the kitchen I can see the outline of another door, and I notice the smell is getting stronger. Through the gloom I notice that everything seems tidy, in order with things where you would expect them to be. I pause at the door…knowing that on the other side I will find the reason for my being there, the reason for the smell, the reason neighbours have called for help after noticing a strange aroma emanating from next-door.
The door moves slowly open with the hinges protesting loudly against the silence all around. I step inside the room and again I struggle to make out anything solid within the darkness. All I can see are black, dark grey sillouettes beneath a beam of sunlight sneaking through the top of the curtains lighting up a million dust particles disturbed by my opening the door. Outlines begin to take on a familiar shape…a chair, the fireplace, a bookcase in the far corner and to my left…a settee.
It takes a few seconds for the image to make sense in the gloom….sat on the settee, upright, head held high, hands on his lap looking straight ahead. And very still. Very dead. I have found the source, his skin is mottled black and dark blue, his features swollen with the build up of gas from within his decaying body. He is at peace. He looks as if he will wake up if the curtains are suddenly thrown open or the light switched on. But I know he wont.
I call up on the radio for control to stand the crew down and to inform the police that we have a sudden death. Soon after, I hear the footsteps in the hallway and the crackle of a radio as a police officer joins me. Quickly I explain what I have found whilst waiting. Nothing suspicious so far, mail, letters, newspapers are piled up behind the front door…going back two weeks! No medications lying around to indicate any previous medical history. But why should there be…he is only 24.
The police officer reels back at the sight of his body and the smell which sticks to your clothes and nestles inside your nostrils. She goes outside and is sick in the garden. It is her first sudden death in these circumstances. It is not my first, and not my last unfortunately. Soon more police officers arrive and one by one I show them through to the young man and one by one they leave to find fresh air outside. I find myself having a one way conversation with the occupant. Apologising for the intrusion and asking about relatives, friends? Someone must have missed him?
He was last seen more than two weeks previously which would tie in with the post piled up behind his front door. A friend was located via a telephone number scribbled on a post it note stuck to the fridge door. He confirms that no-one has seen the young man for sometime, that he was fit and well and to his knowledge did not use drugs recreational or otherwise. He knows where the family live and will contact them. More footsteps in the hallway and a police inspector comes into the room as it needs to be certain that foul play can be ruled out.
Sometime, about two weeks ago, this young man had come home from work and sat down on his settee. He then died. And since then he had been waiting, on his own, in the dark with only the occasional phone ringing or the door bell disturbing the silence now and then. Sat there waiting…and waiting………and waiting………….for someone……me…..to find him. I step outside into the bright sunlight and breath clean air which seems better than it did an hour ago. I make a mental note to go to the park tomorrow.