Sean Paul Murphy, Writer

Sean Paul Murphy, Writer
Sean Paul Murphy, Writer

Sunday, December 25, 2016

RESTINGPLACE.COM: Chapter Eleven

Welcome to a preview of my new novel.  Please read the earlier chapters first.

Click here to read Chapter One.
Click here to read Chapter Two.
Click here to read Chapter Three.
Click here to read Chapter Four.
Click here to read Chapter Five.
Click here to read Chapter Six.
Click here to read Chapter Seven.
Click here to read Chapter Eight.
Click here to read Chapter Nine.
Click here to read Chapter Ten.





CHAPTER ELEVEN


S U S P E N D E D



Monday.

The alarm clock buzzed at seven o’clock as usual. I didn’t hit the snooze. Instead I slowly inched my head up and looked around my bedroom. Under the bright, morning sunlight pouring in through my windows, the events of the previous night seemed utterly implausible. 

Maybe I had dreamed it all. A wave of relief swept through my mind and body with that thought, but I quickly pushed it aside. No. Lenny, or whoever he was, was right. Even if everything I had experienced was only a dream, it was a twisted dream that hinted at mental illness. And I knew I wasn’t mentally ill. I was completely sane, only my circumstances were insane. For some reason, a dead woman wanted to kill me, or, more precisely, wanted me to kill myself. I had to keep my guard up, but it was difficult for my rational mind to maintain that attitude in the light of day.

What struck me most about work that morning was how ordinary everything seemed to be. In all honesty, I found my job repetitive and boring, but today I reveled in its normalcy. The smiles and nods from my co-workers as I walked toward my desk were so reassuring, as were the bagels left over for us from an early morning meeting and the constant ringing of the phones. This was heaven compared to what I experienced over the weekend. My first goal at work today was to log onto RestingPlace and delete the Kostek memorial, but instead I allowed myself to be lulled into complacency by the warm camaraderie of the office. 

To make things even better, I got a call from Bob Burgess, one of my oldest friends to set up a male bonding lunch with Mike Phelan, another one of our old schoolmates. Mike recommended the Cheesecake Factory in Harborplace, Baltimore’s touristy Inner marketplace, which was close to his office in the World Trade Center. Bob, who was a buyer for a supermarket chain, said he’d pick me up on his way downtown. Great. I wouldn’t have to pay for parking. Things couldn’t be going better. I managed to put the battle out of my mind completely until I got a text from Teri. It read: “Your Kostek memorial is getting some hate.”

I didn’t respond to her immediately. I needed to see what she was talking about. I turned to my computer and went to the RestingPlace website. I was surprised by what I saw. The landing page of the website looked different. It took me a second to figure out why: I had been logged out. That was odd. I was a very frequent user. I kept myself logged onto the website on every device I used. I clicked on login and typed in my username and password but they were rejected. Thinking I mistyped my password, I tried again. Once again I was rejected. Anxious to see what Teri was talking about, I moved off the login page and went to the search page. I typed in Elisabetta Kostek and brought up her grave. I was shocked by what I saw.

RestingPlace allows users to leave digital “flowers” on memorials, usually accompanied with a message of condolence. The memorials of famous individuals were flooded with such flowers. The memorials of veterans, particularly those killed in action, were sought out and honored by a number of organizations. The memorials for police officers and fire fighters were equally honored. Generally, however, the vast majority of graves received no such recognition. That’s why I was so shocked by what I saw on my Kostek memorial. In less than two full days, she had received fourteen flowers, which was more than any of my other memorials.

More surprising than the numbers were the messages of condolences. They were negative. People called the memorial “an abomination,” and pleaded with me to “take her down” because “she’s evil.” I was dumbfounded. I had never seen negative comments about a deceased person on the website before. In fact, they were a violation of the Terms of Service. All of those people risked the termination of their accounts with their comments. Still, the messages soothed me on one level. They proved that I wasn’t alone. The photograph of Elisabetta Kostek seemed to be adversely affecting everyone who saw it.

I picked up my phone. Rather than text Teri I decided to call her. She didn’t pick up. I got her answering machine. I left a quick message: “Hey, this is Rick. Thanks for the heads-up, Teri. I think I’m just going to delete the memorial. Call me later. Bye.”

I winced as I hung up. “Call me later?” Geez, it made me sound needy.

Returning my attention to the computer, I went back to the login page of the website. After checking to make sure the caps lock wasn’t accidently pressed, I slowly and carefully typed in my user name and password. I was rejected yet again. Frustrated, I hit the “forgot your password” icon. I typed in my email address and opened up my email. I was surprised to see an email from RestingPlace already waiting for me.

“That was fast,” I said, but I quickly realized the email had nothing to do with my password request. The subject line read: Terms of Service violation.

I opened the email. It said my RestingPlace account was temporarily suspended pending the results of a Terms of Service investigation resulting from complaints about the Kostek memorial. That was total bullshit. I knew their Terms of Service rules inside out. There were three things the website would not allow: Defaming the dead, the use of copyrighted material without permission and photographs of corpses or human remains. 

Strictly speaking, I violated the terms of service all the time. I always included at least an obituary or death notice with the memorials I created. Those items were, technically speaking, the copyrighted property of the newspapers where I found them. One could also argue that my use of photographs of the deceased that I found on funeral homes webpages and social media were also copyright violations. However, there were no copyright violations on my Kostek memorial. Zero. It featured only her name and her dates of death and birth, and photographs I took myself of a grave in public view with no expectation of privacy. And, although Elisabetta Kostek was dead, the photograph was obviously taken while she was alive.

I hit reply on the email. Instead of arguing that I hadn’t violated the terms of service with the Kostek memorial, I simply apologized for any misunderstanding and offered to delete the memorial as soon as my account was restored. After I hit send, I looked at their original email again. It had been sent at 10:23pm EST. I smiled and shook my head. Had I signed on the website immediately when I got to work, the memorial would have been deleted and my account would have been suspended. But I got distracted. She had beaten me again. 

“I’m playing checkers, and you’re playing chess,” I said aloud with disgust.

“What?” Annette said from the next cubicle, thinking I was talking to her.

“Nothing,” I replied. “I was just talking to myself.”

“Well, don’t make a habit of it,” she said as she turned back to what seemed to be a game of Solitaire on her computer.

Talking to myself was the least of my problems. This was all freaking nuts. Over the course of a single weekend, I had gone from being a perfectly happy rationalist to not only believing in ghosts but even believing that a ghost could manipulate a website in order to stop me from deleting her memorial. Huh? Even if you acknowledged the possibility of her existence, why the hell would she even care about some stupid website? The flowers at her grave showed she was already getting more than her share of attention at the cemetery. 

It boggled my mind. I could see what Lenny meant, if, of course, he really was Lenny. And what the hell was up with that? I never had dreams like that before. And I never sleepwalked before either.

My cellphone rang. It was Teri. As I answered, I stepped away from the prying ears around my desk.

“Hi Teri, it’s me,” I said, wincing at both my informality and the functionality of my words. I know we weren’t, and wouldn’t be, dating, but couldn’t I have come up with something wittier?

“Sorry I couldn’t answer when you called, but I was giving an exam,” she replied.

“In June?”

“We’re making up for some snow days. We have these girls imprisoned until Thursday,” she answered before continuing: “Did you delete that memorial?”

“No, I couldn’t. My account has been suspended.”

“Why?”

“Because of complaints about the Kostek memorial.”

“No offense, but I can see why,” she paused for a long time. “There’s something wrong with it. Really wrong with it.”

“I know. I want to delete it but I can’t. It’s like something always stops me.” I hated hearing those words come out of my mouth. I was venturing a little too close to the border of Crazy Land.

Silence. “I had the worst nightmare last night,” she said.

“Did you dream about someone who died?” I asked, although I had no idea why. The words just tumbled out of my mouth on their own volition.

“Yeah, my uncle Hank,” she replied quietly.

“Did he kill himself?” I asked again, having no idea why. It wasn’t like me to pry into someone’s personal life. Not at all. Especially a near stranger.

“Yes,” she said after some hesitation. “Why did you ask?”

“I don’t know,” I replied. “But I’ve been having these really vivid dreams about my brother Lenny since I first saw that picture. He killed himself, too.”

“I’m sorry,” she said.

“I’m sorry about your uncle.”

Silence. Then she added, “Hey, I gotta go, but we’ve got to talk again later. Okay?’

“Okay,” I replied.

I hung up and looked at the clock. It was almost time to meet Bob on the street outside my building. Good. I needed some fresh air.

To read the next chapter, click here:  Chapter Twelve.



Copyright 2016 by Sean Paul Murphy.  All Rights Reserved.

Be sure to read my memoir The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking with God.

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