November 6, 2014: Red House, White Chalk

When I left New York it was raining.
It’s stopped raining here in Seattle.
Small miracle.

Back on the murder beat, I’m outside of a little red house on West Comstock in the Queen Anne neighbourhood of Seattle.

The police have begun to tape off the house, pushing everyone back.
A lone man sits on the curb, playing with his keys.

I’ve been gone for a while. Three months. Maybe more. I don’t know, man. I didn’t expect everything to be the way it was…but, my key doesn’t even work. When I broke in and saw what I saw…

He throws up on the street and starts playing with the keys again.

The information from our contact was vague. All he passed on was something about bodies turned into chalk. A modern-day Pompeii.

I was able to sneak into the backyard of the red house from the 4th Avenue West side. The police hadn’t blocked it off, and there was no one standing guard.
Fine white powder blows through the screen door.
I could see a family sitting around the kitchen table. White and cracked.
A cop, probably checking for signs of life, touches the neck of the largest  person, causing their shoulder to quickly crack and the arm to fall off and shatter.

I don’t even know what to make of it. I touched one of them, hoping they were alive. I mean, I figured they weren’t…but when her arm fell off I screamed. I ran. I threw up. I’ve never seen anything like this before. It’s not natural.

The man on the curb is humming to himself. A deep, resonating tone that shifts from mono to stereophonic phasing.
I start to feel dizzy.

The emergency crew bursts from the front door into the yard, coughing and rubbing their eyes, covered in chalk powder.

The man on the curb walks to his house, running his fingers over it, leaving long white chalk streaks.
It creeps slowly up his arm, turning his dark skin pale, until he stops moving. Fully chalk.

We watch as the house becomes chalk, then the grass, then the sidewalk. One unfortunate EMT was caught on the lawn, his leg turning into chalk.
A police officer was able to break his leg off with his baton before the chalk could creep up even further.

Thank God he did that. I’d rather lose my leg than turn into that and just fall apart.

He spits out chalk dust as I take pictures, the wind blowing away everything.

I make my way to the bus stop on Queen Anne Avenue, dusting chalk from my hair and wrapping a scarf over my mouth.
I can taste chalk.


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