I used to be a likable person. A person, always happy, loving everything and everyone around her, trying to make others as happy as myself. The only thing I absolutely hated were wind chimes. Hate may be a strong word, so let’s say I disliked them. The sound they made in the wind, might sound like jingle bells to some people, but to me, it has always been a strong disturbing jangle, that stays in my mind for a very long time since hearing it. I never knew that this dislike, this jangle, would one day change my life forever.
I remember going on a grocery run with my roommate, on a calm night. I lived in a more or less friendly neighborhood, the residents mostly minding their own business, a peaceful and silent environment throughout the block. We were talking, laughing, making fun of each other and other people from our college, indulged in our own small world when I heard it.
It came from a house I had never noticed before. The house gave out a feeling of darkness and sorrow. The roof was covered in moss, the garden full of weeds, a single chair on the porch and no lights. I looked around me, expecting other people to notice this jangle or the house, and saw my roommate walking away, unaware that I had stopped. I looked back at the house and took a step back, startled.
She was sitting in the chair, calm and peaceful, looking into my eyes as if to convey some important message. Her dress impeccably white, she was unworldly, a siren that could make people fall at her feet, begging for whatever she wanted them to beg for.
“Hey Liz, don’t stand there like a fucking rock. Let’s go!”
I came back to my senses and realized that my roommate was calling me. I took another glance at the house and a small sound of surprise escaped my throat. An ordinary house stood there, all newly painted, kids playing in the lawn and the adults lounging in the chairs on the porch.
“Can I help you with something?” the mother asked.
“N-n-no,” I said, flustered and scared at the same time. “S-so-sorry.”
The chimes jangled. And then I ran.
A week had passed since the incident, and I was back to my normal self. The hectic schedule of college and the late night gatherings had put the incident at the far back of my mind, until that night, when I heard the chimes again.
I went to sleep but woke up around 2 am, wide awake. I went and sat on the porch with my favorite book in my hand. As I turned the page, the chimes sounded. I raised my head and saw the girl standing outside my front gate, staring at me, smiling. Like a flash, the entire memory of that day came crashing down on me. But I didn’t feel afraid. It was something else, like a dream, a sensation that she was calling to me. The book fell on the ground as I stood up and walked to her. She turned around and started walking, and I followed.
Suddenly, I was at a party. Not a party of teenagers or college students, but a party of sophisticated couples, businessmen and entrepreneurs. I moved around the throng of people talking and laughing with each other, to find the girl standing by a door. I went through the door and found myself on the front yard of another house, this one different and at a different location from the previous one. A set of wind chimes were jangling on the porch and from afar, I could see some liquid tracing a line down the small flight of stairs in the front of the porch. As I moved closer, I realized it was blood. I turned to run when I heard a big thud, as if someone threw a rock against the wall.
“Told your brother to stay away. He didn’t listen. Now you pay for his mess.”
I stepped on the stairs and to my left, a man was hunched down, holding a head in his one hand and landing punches on the face with the other. I stood there, watching, as punched rained down on the face and a small gasp came out of the person being hit. It was a girl, her hand twitching with every hit on her face, until her last breath escaped her mouth. The twitching stopped. The man stood up and stepped aside. I saw in horror the face of the girl, the same girl I had seen sitting on the porch that night, the same girl that I followed tonight. Her face caked with blood, her whole body shapelessly twisted, her eyes vacant. Before I could register the entire scene in my mind, the man turned around and I saw his face.
It was one of the billionaires in the party, dressed in a black suit at the party, but a black jacket and denims on the porch. He was looking around, as if to check if anybody was watching. The entire street was dark, and so were the houses. He couldn’t see me, standing in front of him, making sense of everything I was seeing.
I watched in horror, as the girl stood up behind him, her bones falling back into places with loud cracks, her eyes on him, an expression of fury on her face. And then she looked straight into my eyes.
I woke with a jerk and found myself in my room, no wind chimes, no dead girl on the porch, no strange man punching her face for some mess her brother had created, just me. The clock read 9 am, Sunday. I got out to the porch to pick up the newspaper, and felt the world disappear as I read the headline.
“Billionaire Found Dead in an Alley; No Suspects Identified”
Underneath the headline, there was a picture of a mangled body, with a small photo of the person in the corner. It was the same man I had seen on the porch, punching the girl, but that was not all. The body was shapelessly twisted in the same way I had seen the girl, an expression of pure horror on his face. The report read that the preliminary examination showed that the man had been punched to death. No weapons involved, just punches.
I looked at my hands and saw the faint marks of blood on my knuckles. And suddenly, I remembered everything. I remembered how I knew where I could find the man, how I came back home and dressed to go to the club, how I went and seduced the man, got him drunk and took him to the alley, how I punched his face again and again, with a strength I didn’t know I had, how after killing him, I took off my dress and put on the dress I had hid behind the dumpster before entering the club, how I burned the dress with blood stains on them and cleaned my hands, how I walked out of the alley into a pizzeria, ate and came back home to sleep it off. I remembered it all.
My breath stuck in my throat as a police car approached my house. Two policemen got out and walked to the porch. My roommate came out and stood beside me.
“Good morning ma’m, just want to ask you a few questions about yesterday night.”
I told them I slept the whole night, and my roommate corroborated the story. I could not make out if they were satisfied by my answer but they went away and I, very numbly, went back to my room.
Years have passed since the incident. I got married, had two beautiful children with the man I loved. I had a good job, a good husband and a good family, but everything fell apart over time. My husband divorced me, took full custody of our kids, and the firm where I worked fired me. Everyone gave me just one excuse – my instability. They advised me to see someone. But I don’t need to see anyone. I am still the likable girl from that day. I still love everything and everyone around me. I don’t dislike wind chimes any more. In fact, I hang a set just outside my window. I am only able to sleep when I hear their jangles. Because if the jangles stop, my heart will stop.