Julie yanked the phone away from her ear at the explosion of noise. She pinched her thumb and forefinger to the bridge of her nose and willed herself to calm down. Her contractor Joel was on the phone, panic-stricken, and talking just this side of hysterical. He had been installing the new flooring after a week of waiting for the materials to arrive, but there was a problem.
“You what? Joel, I can’t understand you.”
“Bodies,” expletives spewed from his lips across the phone line.
“Two of them.”
Blood drained from her face.
“What! What bodies? Where?”
“Under the floor!”
White dots danced in front of her eyes, and someone turned the volume down on the sound around her. Oh. Oh God. Bodies? Her legs buckled under her slender frame. She sat down hard. Bodies?
“We – we.”
The phone slid out of her hand. A noisy squawk came from her thighs. Joel’s voice barely registered in her mind.
The sound was muffled, drowned out by the pounding in her ears.
“Julie! Julie are you there? Julie!”
She shook her head to clear the fog that had settled behind her eyes. She swallowed dried spit, and she tucked a loose strand hair behind her ear.
Her thick mane of blue-black hair had been pulled into a bun on top of her head, and the cool late October breeze from the open French doors of her apartment ruffled small wisps around her face. The cool air chilled her already cold blood.
The sound of her own breathing, rapid and shallow from a distant place, echoed in her mind. She thought of her grandfather and sighed. He would know what to do. Now it was up to her. Her mind slid back to a week ago. Back before the devastation of Hurricane Florence and her grandfather going into the hospital. Before her world was turned upside down.
“Yes. I’m here.”
“Jesus. What are you doing with dead people under the floor!”
Reality crashed back with a thump. She stood up and gripped the phone tight.
“This is not funny, Joel!”
“Jesus lady! I nearly touched it!” More expletives flew out of Joel’s mouth along with incoherent babblings of skulls, dead bodies, and hardwood.
Oh, God! He’s serious! She placed a hand over her mouth to keep the sick inside.
Suddenly, she found his illogical ramblings humorous and began to laugh hysterically.
“Are you laughing? What the hell! This is not funny!”
Her laughter turned to sobs.
“Dead bodies. Under the floor.”
How long have we been walking over their corpses? The smell must have been horrific. She buried her face in her hand.
“Julie, are you there?”
Sniffing, she took a deep breath and released it.
“Ye – yes. Um, have you called the police?”
“What? Yes! The bones were just there. I nearly stepped on them. Who are they? I touched one of them. I thought it was just a blanket that some animal had dragged under the house. Then the skull… Oh, man!”
“Wait. Bones? So not a body but just bones?”
The shudder in his voice scared her as more unintelligible rantings filled the airwaves. She couldn’t blame him. She was on the verge of a total meltdown or out of body experience. This can’t be happening.
Swallowing back the bile that had risen again, she finally began to get a grip on herself, and the fog started to lift.
“Okay. Okay. Joel, calm down and keep – keep everyone there until the police arrive, I’m on my way.”
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