Hollow

By Erik Suchy


John didn’t hear the grating chime of his phone blasting next to him until after the third ring cycle woke him from his nap. Initially, he was annoyed as his consciousness stirred. The state of his nerves had kept him alert and agitated throughout the majority of the week, so much so that he nearly caught himself passing out during an incredibly stressful boardroom meeting only yesterday. By now, he was desperate to keep up on his much-neglected sleep schedule from anywhere he could.

As he checked the call screen, he saw it was Detective Muldoon attempting to reach him. He tapped the answer button and brought it up to his ear.

“Hello?”

“John, hello, how are you feeling?”

Like nothing short of a zombie who can’t get in his 7-8 hours to save his skin.

“Well, I-I just…” he began, letting his voice travel off until he felt his will to answer disappear with it. He couldn’t tell if it was due to his deprivation or general sense of unease.

“…I understand, John,” Muldoon replied. Highly doubtful. “I know this week’s felt like a ride through hell and back for you.”

“So does this mean you’ve got good news?”

Only silence, occasionally broken by a slight crackle of static interference, spoke to John. It seemed to go on forever in the span of a few seconds before Muldoon’s reply answered his empty ears.

“Unfortunately, no,” he said at last. “There’s just no sign of her or any of her belongings anywhere. It’s almost as though she just–vanished right off the face of the earth.”

John shivered as the statement entered and tightened around his head like a boa constrictor. The only sounds emanating from his shaking mouth were short, labored breaths as he felt his throat go dry and lock up.

“We last saw her car parked outside Harrod’s next to the Mississippi,” Muldoon continued. “The passenger door was wide open, and the inside of it was empty from the front seat to the trunk. From how it looks, we think it’s likely she may have drowned herself.”

“Oh my God…” John choked.

“We’re sorry you’re going through this incredibly difficult time right now. Do you know if she had any suicidal tendencies or some kind of substance addiction that would’ve led to her wanting to do this to herself?”

“I-oh God, no, none that I’ve ever been aware of. I mean, yes, we were fighting a lot before she stormed off, and that being the last I saw of her, but no, she never talked about wanting to kill herself. And no-I-she never had a problem with abusing drugs or anything, so, I-I honestly don’t know why she would do this to herself.”

Muldoon’s tone hardened, and it spoke in a voice that bothered John significantly. “You say you two were constantly fighting before she got up and stormed off?”

He hesitated to reply, but the silence encompassing his living room was deafening, and it scared him even more than the stern temper resounding from Muldoon. He swallowed thickly before answering.

“Yes, quite a bit,” he replied shakily.

“What about?” Get out of my head, you fucking little weasel.

“What the hell does any of this have to do with your little state-wide search party? I just want to know if my wife’s been found and not get drilled with questions like I’m a fucking ‘Nam prisoner, for Christ’s sake!”

“We’re just looking for any motive she could’ve had to want to do this to herself. Any information you could give us to aid in our search would be incredibly helpful.”

“I-I don’t know!” he screamed. “We were fighting all the time because we didn’t love each other that much anymore, alright?! Is that the kind of answer you and the boys in blue down at the station want to hear?!”

John remained rigid in his chair as the reverberating echo died into stillness, heart pulsating uncontrollably and veins eager to pop from his skin and spray the room with blood, hot with fury. Sooner than never, he knew he’d get served with a complaint from someone across the hall who loved their peace and calm almost as much as he enjoyed not being treated as though he was under threat of torture with a power drill if he didn’t spoon feed the answers he knew Muldoon wanted to hear. If he tried to poke the cobra with a stick, he should expect to get bitten.

“Y-yes,” Muldoon stammered from the other end. “Well, I’m sorry, John. Obviously, I’ve called you at a bad time. We’ll keep in touch, and should we hear or find anything, we’ll be the first to let you know.”

“A-alright, um, well, thank you for calling,” he replied half-calmly. He began to lower the phone down.

“Oh, and John?”

“Yes?” Would you kindly mind PISSING OFF ALREADY?!?!

“You should try and get some sleep.”

“I’ll try, detective, thank you.”

“Goodbye.”

He hung up and let it slide through his fingers, clattering amongst the empty bottles of Smirnoff and Crown Royal that littered his coffee table. Some ancient rerun of Shark Week was blaring on the television where a Mako was grabbing a mackerel while it squirmed to free itself, blood gushing into a red cloud before it ceased to struggle and fell limp in the great fish’s jaws. John watched as it gulped down the remains of its prey into its stomach until it vanished from view. Briefly, he wished he could be like the poor bastard on-screen, albeit without winding up as fresh prey if he wasn’t going to have a say in it. He could almost imagine the conversation that would follow if it were just him and said Mako roaming about in the middle of the ocean’s abyss:

Hey pal, can you help a poor little fish like me out?

What do you want, you little dweeb?

Well, you see, I’m in a bit of a dilemma, my man. My wife’s missing, I’m lost and alone, and I can’t fall asleep any better than I can stop getting drunk as a skunk to hide my regret over what I did with her body, especially with my nerves being too shot to doze off! So do you mind kindly opening those big, hungry jaws of yours and stuff me down your gullet, so I don’t have to wake up anymore in this hellhole of mine called life?

He moved his tongue up around the roof of his mouth; it felt dry and cracked. That was a sure sign the alcoholic relief he’d poured himself earlier in the day had worn out its effect too soon. A glance at the digital clock on the adjacent side table beamed 10:30 pm in flashing green neon text. Time was every bit as irrelevant to him as was his will to feel actual and alive in an unkempt, tiny apartment, bed built for two but now only currently housing one.

Yeah, she was the one that got away. The one I had to make go away.

Then, it dropped on his shoulders with incalculable speed.

Guilt. Responsibility.

“Whose stains are these? Whose?”

“Maybe I had to see someone, John! Maybe I had to see someone who would fuck me the way I deserve to be satisfied because I’ve never felt any goddamn stimulation from you in the past five years!”

We should’ve talked. We should’ve done that instead of allowing my anger to let me slip on that pair of fingerprint-less gloves and throttle her until she went limp in my arms.

Maybe I should’ve just turned myself in right there instead of sneaking out past midnight to drive her car down behind Harrod’s, where I shoved her into the river and caught a taxi back home.

Why didn’t we seek intervention?

Why?

Why, you stupid, miserable, fuck?!

“Shut up!” he screamed, slamming his eyes shut. Throwing them open seconds later, he looked towards every seat and corner around him, as though expecting someone to be casually seated next to him and listening to his inner rantings like a telepathic psychiatrist. Even in just partial silence, he still felt the voices sneer at him in volumes as he slumped into his chair.

Are you happy now that you had to go your own way?

“No,” he mumbled. “I regret it.”

You don’t sound like you’re taking in regret as well as you think you could, John.

If you can’t speak to anyone else, you let the bottle talk to you so it can help you not speak at all.

“I have to. I can’t afford to say anything about her to Muldoon.”

Not true, John. You can feel it rising, can’t you?

Feel it? Feel what?”

Don’t keep shoving yourself down in denial anymore. Every little confession you’ve wanted to tell is going to pop from that hole at some point.

“Shut up. Please just shut up.”

They’re going to drag the waters tomorrow, John.

They’ll find her, rotten and bloated beyond description, but you’ll always know it was you.

“Shut Up”

All because you couldn’t just talk to each other.

Don’t you wish you could find him too, John?

“SHUT UP.”

Maybe hunt him down and hack him up into a sweet old revenge meat pie?All because you can’t keep your hands tied to your sides like the good Catholic mommy raised you as?

KILLER.

SLUT SLAYER.

PIECE-OF-CRAP-HUSBAND WHO CAN’T KEEP HIS WOMAN IN LINE WORTH A DAMN?

He sprung up, kicking some bottles off the table while hurling others against the wall where they exploded into puddles, glass shattering the floor below. Clenching his fist, he shoved it knuckles-first into the television, sending shards everywhere and feeling it hurt with the hellfire of a thousand suns. Bloodied but numb to the pain, he retracted it, storming to the kitchen and thrusting down plates, cups, and silverware onto the tiles. The earsplitting crashes of them shattering on impact formed an orchestra of boisterous, harsh vibrations as he moved on to the dining room, flipping over the table and hurling chairs towards the sliding glass door on the opposite end, smashing it and knocking over a nearby flower pot.

He made the bathroom his next target, rushing inside and driving his other undamaged fist into the mirror. Toilet paper rolls, Febreze containers, and bottles of shampoo were sent flying high in various directions, some out into the hallway and others in spots that weren’t already covered with reflective fragments strewn about. He yanked the shower rod off the wall and kicked open the bedroom door, swinging it like a drunk caveman and using it to make contact with anything he could drive it into. As more objects, either family heirlooms or small, unopened anniversary presents, were sent soaring towards opposite sides, his sight crossed paths with a picture frame sitting on top of his nightstand. He grabbed it, feeling his temper boil over further as he stared at its subject.

The spectacle of her cheerful smile as they both posed in front of the Grand Canyon shook his aching body while his fingers, seeping with red, gripped the frame tighter and tighter. He longed to do something incomparably worse to her as the voices began screaming again, now repeating on an unending cycle.

KILLER, KILLER, MARRIAGE RUINER

KILLER, KILLER, MARRIAGE RUINER

KILLER, KILLER, MARRIAGE RUINER

He charged out and back into the kitchen, shuffling through plate bits and discarded cutlery as he grabbed the largest steak knife from its slot in the holder. It all began to seep into the blade while it hovered over her image; suspicion, betrayal, and hatred. The nights shared weeping over an annoyingly sappy Nicholas Sparks film, equally as they’d spent laughing over a dirty joke at the restaurant table as the other diners glared in confusion, felt stagnant to him following last week’s discovery and resulting disposal.

For a moment, there was nothing in the world to him but anger, pressing against his face, hot and full of ferocity.

Then, the blade was brought down into its target, and John felt little else but the life dragged from his soul as he stabbed it down harder, unwilling to let up. The motions continued to penetrate as he staggered into the remains of his living room, trashed beyond restoration until finally, he collapsed onto the carpet, innocence and sincerity fading away as he brought his head down next to an overturned chair.

He thought he heard someone knocking from the door, possibly coming to tell him that the racket’s intensity from inside was concerning and had decided to call the cops.

“I’ll try and keep it down,” he muttered before he felt his perception cut to black and his consciousness go dark.


(Bio: Erik Suchy is a student majoring in creative writing at Metro State University in St. Paul, Minnesota. His dream is to become a small-time author and entertain the masses with his ideas and stories. As such, he looks forward to continually crafting the kind of stories he loves to tell best.)

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