I learned two things that day. First, falling can be deadly for elderly mortals. Second, I am not good in emergencies.
Gods and goddesses are old. Older than dirt as mortals would say. Ancient in fact. But the nice thing is we still never really age. Immortality is a gift.
Mortals have forever sought a fountain of youth, but fortunately have never found it. We’ve hidden it well. We do not need the competition, but I digress.
Late Monday, I rested my eyes for a minute, only to be disrupted by Dugo, the neighbor’s cat. I still had not discovered his entry point, and I’d nearly given up trying.
He leaped onto my hip bone with a meow. His strong paws kneaded me when I did not instantly react.
I reached out to pet his thick fur. He uttered a low meow and thrust his head at my hand. I stroked his ears. Insistent, he pushed hard against my hand. Another meow. Another headbutt.
“You’re awfully needy today.”
He meowed and jumped to the floor, landing on soft paws. He ran to the door and gave a short meow.
I went to let him out. He passed into the foyer and paused, waiting for me. I followed him into the elevator and pressed the button for Mrs. Batchalder’s floor. Dugo and I walked down the hall together. The door to 237 was slightly ajar.
Dugo pushed his way inside. I knocked and called out, but there was no response.
“Mrs. Batchalder?” I called again.
I followed him inside. I scanned the room. Her living room looked like it was out of a magazine. The Epònimo sofa caught my eye. Beautiful. Nothing looked amiss…at first.
Dugo stood near the end of the turquoise sofa. When I looked again, I saw a bare foot. Pale. Bony. Motionless.
I knew she was dead. A sudden fear gripped my chest. I did not want to find a dead person. There were only a few times I’d even seen a dead body, and it wasn’t pleasant.
It seemed silly, really, for a goddess to be afraid of a dead mortal, but there I was…scared.
My mouth went dry and my breathing became rapid. I worried I would hyperventilate.
Okay. Take a deep breath. Calm down.
Dugo walked in circles, rubbing against that still foot.
I thought about shoving him away, but figured it wouldn’t matter.
A phone sat upon an ornate buffet that was adorned with several framed pictures of Mrs. Batchalder.
“It’s okay, buddy. I just need to make a call,” I said to Dugo.
I steeled my nerves to walk around the couch in order to get to the phone.
Mrs. Batchalder sprawled on the floor in front of the sofa. Her white hair snaked out in every direction; a mass of curls surrounding her blank face. A frail hand rested across her chest, her blue eyes stared at the ceiling, and her mouth gaped open, slack and horrible. Urine pooled beneath her body and the strong smell permeated the air.
There was no real way to know how long she’d been down, but the fact she was still dressed in a nightgown seemed to indicate that it had been at least most of a day, if not more.
Panic rose in my throat.
“Mrs. Batchalder?” I called, my voice sounded tinny in my own ears.
She was dead.
Tightness spread through my chest. I could barely breathe.
For a moment, I thought I could actually hear my heart beating outside my body in the quiet apartment. Tomb. I realized the sound came from the wall in front of me. A kitschy clock in the shape of a large black cat hung on the wall, completely out of place in the highly-designed living room. The kitty-kat clock swished its tail and ticked loudly as its bulging eyes shifted back and forth.
“Tick-tock,” it seemed to say, smiling its obscene smile. “We were waiting for death to come, but you’ll do instead. Won’t you entertain us?”
Stop looking at it.
I reached for the phone. As I started to dial 911, I tried to calm my heart.
Don’t look at the clock.
A cold hand grabbed my ankle. Bony fingers pressed upon my flesh.
My scream could be heard several floors above and below (according to later reports).
I scrambled away, shaking my foot in a frantic motion. The phone flew several feet in the air. I landed on the couch, huddling in the corner with my arms covering my head.
“Mmmmbbllgghh,” a faint mumbling from Mrs. Batchalder.
Oh dear gods, she’s not dead.
I jumped over her and plucked the phone from the floor. My shaking fingers could barely dial, but I managed to punch in 911.
Mrs. Batchalder’s hand tapped the floor in a slow rhythm. Her mouth opened and closed with each labored breath. Her eyes remained unblinking, staring.
At the clock?
I could not bring myself to touch her, but I pulled a throw blanket over her to provide warmth.
“It’ll be okay,” I said, trying to assure both of us. The dispatcher gathered our information and I hung up. “Help is on the way.”
Is it? Why don’t you help her? the cat clock asked.
“D…d…d…du,” Mrs. Batchalder started.
Her mouth wasn’t working on one side. Her tongue lolled with sloppy unfinished syllables.
I looked around for Dugo, but did not see him.
“I will take care of Dugo while you’re in the hospital.” I said.
Thankfully, she stopped trying to speak.
Still shaking, I kneeled down near her and took her godawful cold hand in my own.
“Is there anyone I should call for you?” I asked.
“No…no one,” she breathed.
I heard the wail of sirens as the paramedics arrived outside the building. When six men entered the apartment, the feeling of relief brought me to tears.
After minutes of flurried activity, the medic team rolled Mrs. Batchalder out on a gurney, heading to the hospital.
I bent to pick up the stray pieces of packaging from medical instruments along with the torn-off readouts from the heart monitor. I found Mrs. Batchalder’s keys in a Chihuly bowl on the end table. I wanted to grab Dugo, lock up the apartment, and get away from that creepy clock.
Now it’s just us.