What comes after

Mid March 1993: Third Meeting

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Two weeks later with all that having happened there is another meeting. Everyone gathers at their chairs, a cup of coffee in hand. And before anyone has a chance to speak up Janice says she would like to share. “For the first time in over two years of organizing these meetings.. It’s been that long but I think it’s time for me to share too. You know, hearing everyone here, sharing as you do, It’s always done me a great deal of good. You really can’t imagine. This has inspired me to devote myself to the right things. The things worth doing and.. There’s something that I need you all to see.” Janice reaches into her purse, pulls out a small pistol. With a steady hand,a loud bang. The shot runs loudly through the church. The blood is everywhere, hanging about the room like a thin mist for a few heartbeats. The grisly sight of her shattered face is imprinted on everyone’s mind when she slumps off her chair.
There are screams, there’s wailing after, there’s cursing. Darren sits in his chair, frozen in shock. Fear takes over Stewart who scrambles to the door of the church, he immediately heads back home. Dereck is the one to take the initative “I”m gonna call the cops.” While Stanislav has already headed towards Janice, hands and shirt covered in blood. Knowing there is nothing he can do. He appears to relive more than one kind of trauma as he sits there.

Outside Dereck quickly finds a payphone. When he finally gets a 911 operator on the phone Dereck’s voice is broken. “Hello? This is Dereck we’re at the First Methodist Church. Someone just committed suicide. She.. She shot herself through the head. I think she’s already dead but.. But I’m not sure.” Squad cars get send, the phone call to the coroner is placed, the woman on the other end of the phone tries to keep Dereck calm. Before long everyone is back inside again, except for Stewart who’s nearly home. There’s one officer who sticks around after his colleagues realise that there is nothing to be done here until the coroner arrives. Nobody has anything to share tonight.

By the time they have Janice zipped up the police officer asks “Does anyone know her name?” Dereck speaks up “Janice, she always called herself.” “Sir, I need a last name or a date of birth.” “This is an anonymous support group, sir. We don’t know any last names.” The officer tries to think of a solution. “Alright, I get that. If nobody knows than can I get at least on contact information of one of you. You can keep it anonymous, I just need someone to contact. A full name and a phone number” It is Dereck who gives his information to the officer who accepts it gladly. “Al right, then we will contact you if there’s any updates. If anyone else wants to be involved..” He looks at the crowd. “Well, he will be contacted.”
Dereck proposes to meet again in two weeks but the officer reminds him that it would be proper to have a funeral before then. “I’ll be in touch.” The policeman says before he leaves the church.

Stanislav walks up to Dereck and pushes a paperslip with his phone number into the man’s hand. “I’ve known Janice for years, please contact me with anything. Anything you hear, call me. I’ll get answering machine just in case.” Stanislav leaves, hands and shirt still covered in blood.
The rest of the group relay their information and leave, all except for Darren who hasn’t moved since the shot. When Dereck nudges him the first thing Darren can do is mutter “I’m so sorry Joey.” after which he snaps out of his shock. In the end he leaves Dereck his phone number as well.

After witnessing death so close, Darren decides to choose life. When he gets home he sabotages their birth control and seeks comfort in the arms of his wife.

Eventually Dereck’s phone rings, he gets to greet the police officer from earlier. “Janice Dorothy, age 35, no known family. In her apartment the police found a note describing word for word, her exact intentions, including both the events at the support group meeting and the detailed description of how she ritually slaughtered her cat. It lastly quite explicitly mentions that she urges anyone who, and I quote, witnessed her death should, come to her funeral. One for which she had ascribed a date and left funds for in cash. So, it will be arranged for tomorrow and I’m counting on you to reach out to these other witnesses as per Janice’s intentions.” Dereck agrees and receives a date and time for the funeral. “Did you say she ritually slaughtered her cat?” “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you. I shouldn’t have said anything.” “No, it’s allright. It’s just a bit hard to process. I’ll reach out to the rest.”

Dereck calls the other members of the What Comes After support group but can’t reach Stewart. Stewart however knows where Stanislav lives (they drank together one time and he had to bring himself home.) and decides to visit him two days after the incident.

When Stewart sits down in Stanislav’s appartment he comes to a shocking realisation when the old man informs him of what happened the day before in his thick accent. “Yes. They buried her yesterday.” “That’s kind of quick.. Shit.” “There was no family so state made expeditious arrangements.” It’s hard for Stewart to process “So it was just the group? Just us?” “Yes, no family.” “I’m so sorry I couldn’t be there. I was just too scared, too much of a chicken.”

“It’s understandable. Would you like drink?”
“Yes, anytime.”

At the ascribed day the members of the What Comes After support group, the priest and the police officer who was at the scene gather for Janice’s funeral. The officer expresses his condolences, which feels awkward because he was right there before. He goes on to point out the headstone exactly to the detail she had commissioned in her letter, which doesn’t do anything to make it better. And then everyone gathers around the casket which is already readied to be lowered. After a moment of silence the priest looks around and starts talking about grief in life. But then he stumbles a bit after he mentions family before remembering that none of Janice’s are here. He recovers by talking about regret in life, that those who remember her life would do justice, what little there is to be found in these events, by being mindful of mistakes.

Stanislav finishes the priest’s speech in his thick accent “…and also to be mindful of what you regret. Acting before it’s too late. Before your regret consumes you.”

The priest briefly looks around. “Does anyone have any words prepared?” Dereck steps up and takes out a paper from which he reads. “Well, Janice it came to us that you had no specific family other than us. So now it must come to us to speak at your funeral. I can say, I can confidently talk for all of us that we in our bi-weekly meetings. We managed to stay strong as a group, we managed to support each other. There was crying, there was a lot of cursing, there were fights even but all worked out well. All these meetings, they made us stronger. So thank you, Janice. For organizing these meetings.”

“And then the man, I should not say colored man but he is a colored man. He said nice words. He said we were strong because of Janice. And I agreed with him.” Stanislav tells Stewart who is slumped and uncertain. “But what now? No more meetings?” “No!” The immigrant says “No, we keep doing meetings. I will be there in two weeks time.” “I will be there.” He repeats determined. “Did you tell the others that you will still be going?” Stewart asks. This gives Stanislav pause. “I had not thought about it. It is habit.” “Tragedy or not. This must go on.” He declares, defiant of all that has happened. Stewart promises him that he will be there.

There is one thing about the funeral that Stanislav has not mentioned however. For he did not witness it. As the casket is lowered into the ground and in that long moment, Derick and Darren see something that none of the mourners do. For a brief moment the polished surface of Janice’s gravestone seems to fog up, with the imprint of someone’s hand and then it is as if a finger traces across it. Spelling three letters; S E E. Before the wind blows away any trace and the message evaporates. This image will haunt the two for the rest of their days.

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