The Luminescent Rope
The body of the victim had been hanging, still and lifeless, for approximately 11 hours.
The newly framed house was open to the world, the smell of fresh wood and sawdust floated in the air. There were no walls yet, just the frame for a house that would presumably hold a family, their memories, their tragedies and their future.
There had never been a fence around the new build, even though there should be, the rules in place to mitigate workplace accidents or passers-by injuring themselves on a stray piece of equipment. The fencing would have helped in this case – or maybe not.
What were her last moments like? Was it pure madness without rational thought? Or was there a method joined to the madness – a deadly combination of desperation and intent, driving someone right to the brink and then nudging her off?
She had not gone far. Only a block and a half from her parents’ house, the house in which she still lived. A 35 year-old woman, struggling with demons and holding on with her last fingernail. Holding her parents close, or perhaps the reverse, to keep her on track.
The rope was from her house. Her father’s rope. Her father had noticed it gone the day before when he had been in the garage. He knew it the moment the police told him his daughter was dead. The luminescent rope. The one that glows when he is working in dark and scary places. Where could it be, he had thought to himself.
When the police arrived at the door, he had assumed his daughter had been taken to a hospital again. Not this time, they told him. And with that, the sound of the world became an echo and words’ meaning ceased to exist.
He desperately wanted to know where it happened. The police advised him that it was best he did not know: their way to protect him from never again being able to walk down his own street. His world in chaos, his only thought was I should have listened more, blaming himself for an act without a living rationale. His daughter had hung herself of her own accord – madness or no, there was nothing her father could have done. The decision had been made.
Below his daughter’s hanging body, the remnants of a second noose lay to the side, with frayed edges … broken edges. Evidence that she was resolute. Determined. Sick. In pain. In need. Alone with no way out. The final act in a string of psychological breaks, to which there seemed to be no cure.
If that first noose had been weak, the second was strong. Tied with extra force, with a focus and determination that would achieve its purpose. The second noose did its job.
The body hung inches from a still standing, old wooden ladder. The opportunity had been there for her to change her mind and step back on the ladder. No instincts kicked in, though, when the air started to leave and the pressure became too much. She waited it out. She needed this to happen. She finished it. Once and for all.
An officer stood with her lifeless body, guarding the scene. Looking. Wondering. Imagining the final moments as he traced the sandwich wrapper from her last meal, to the broken noose, to the ladder. She must have been in so much pain to tie that second noose so well, without wavering.
When the property owner arrived, she looked … perturbed. The house had only been under construction for a number of weeks and, after what was likely several months of applications for permits and wrangling for construction crews, it was clear where her priorities rested.
We have crews coming tomorrow, how long are you going to be? she asked, not more than 90 seconds after turning off her white BMW and meeting the group of officers ready to help her through this strange and unsettling experience.
Her response, though, caused the officers to stop short. Their job dictates they see horrible things, day after day, but nothing is more horrible than the drenching callousness of humankind in plain view. In one swift moment, her character-defining question removed all empathy from them and she received only the information she needed to know before they asked her to leave the area. Nothing extra in the bag. No special treat. No extra time. A human like that is allowed no more effort than is required and will not take from the already drained well of police officer empathy.
Time moves forward. The family grieves. The body is removed. The officers move to the next. Construction continues.
Her body will hang there in the back and front of the minds of those that were present forever, perhaps the property owner most of all. When she is quiet. When she is falling asleep. When she experiences her own tragedy. She will always wonder what price she paid for being the example of human selfishness, of giving in to the basic instinct of survival over all others, of losing her humanity in that moment.
We are animals. Horrible animals. Undisciplined monsters.
That is why our victim will hang there forever. On the luminescent rope. Suitable for jobs in dark and scary places.