Editor’s note: Riya Gupta writes the first ever fictional short story to be published on The Woodstocker. Her writing is inspired by several works from the collection The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami.
Sitting on top of the hospital bed, I told my wife to get me my trunk. This trunk had all the important case files of my life. I opened the trunk and took out my case file that was marked Koharu. I opened it and started reading it.
It all started 20 years ago.
I woke up to the news of her disappearing in the morning. Got up at 5:16 am. Put my feet in my parallel placed slippers. I got up and made my bed. The best way to make the bed is to first remove your blanket and pillow and then tuck in all sides. I then took my blanket and neatly folded it twice and placed it on my bed carefully avoiding all wrinkles. I then did the usual. Brushed my teeth from left to right going from top to bottom. I took a shower for exactly 5 minutes 15 seconds. Then went to the kitchen. I took two slices of bread from my pantry and the newspaper from the front door. I hate it when they throw it on the ground. I then cut avocado into two equal slices and put it in between the bread. I took the milk out of the fridge and poured it halfway through the glass.
I was reading the newspaper in the manner I like to do everything. From left to right, up to down, I read about her death. There was a 4 X 4 picture of her. She looked pretty good. If she wasn’t dead or missing, I would have liked her. Her hair was falling in her eyes. Wow, she is so hot. Why didn’t I get this case? If I found her, I could ask her out.
I got into my car, put on Mozart and drove to my office. As usual, it smelt like coffee and everyone was busy working. As soon as I reached, I went straight to my head Detective’s office. I asked him point-blank that I wanted to handle the case of the missing girl and he told me he’ll get it for me because I was obviously the best detective. I got back to my desk and started cleaning it like I do every day before and after working. Usually, I am happy while cleaning but for some reason, I couldn’t focus this time. I kept thinking about the girl: What would happen if I had found her? I could imagine going to office parties together and my hands being around her waist. We could live and cook together and complete all my fantasies.
I was sharpening my pencils and keeping them perpendicular to my right arm for easy accessibility when my head detective came towards me and slammed the file on my desk and told me that I should start working on it right away. I opened it to find more pictures of her. Her name was Koharu. She was 18. Good, she is not young. Just 10 years younger to me. Maybe 12, but same thing. She was literally perfect. I looked at her parent’s official statement about the last time they had seen her and they seemed to know nothing. They didn’t see her after they sent her off to school.
She was last seen at her bus stop. Apparently, she missed the bus because she wanted to walk. That’s weird. Somebody who never even goes 2 blocks by not walking, went walking more than a mile:1st suspicion.
I got up and pushed in my chair and made sure it wasn’t touching the desk, and ran to my car. I went straight to Yamamura high school. There were three buildings attached by big and green gardens. I knew my way around. I had come here often for many cases. In one of my cases, I even had to arrest someone right in the quad itself. Classes were in session. I went in and asked to see the class she went to.
Everyone knew what this was about. It almost looked like the school had prepared the students to say what they were told to say. There were more than 50 people so I decided to ask her friends to stay. There was no one. So what. Did she not have any friends? A guy came inside quietly and asked to talk to me.
He said he was afraid to admit it but he knew what had happened to Koharu. He said something was unusual with her that day because she didn’t eat grilled sandwich for lunch. Now, what is weird in that right? Turns out she had an obsession with doing everything right like me. She always got the same lunch, made the same hair, color-coordinated everything the same way. Second suspicion.
I went to visit her family too and then decided to investigate her room too. As soon as I stepped in a gush of jasmine came to me. Her room was white and spotless. Everything was exactly how I would have kept it. The wall behind her bed was filled with polaroids of her family and dog. I couldn’t get myself to check her room because for some reason I knew that I can’t find anything.
Over the next few weeks, I kept researching on her and interviewed people to get to know her. Turns out she didn’t have many friends. Just a few acquaintances. She wasn’t hated or liked. But on asking why no one hung out with her students said that she irritated them. She always raged if something wasn’t done on time. This felt familiar. It was as if I knew who she was, why she was doing all this. Had I found my alter ego?
Many new theories started coming up. The office assigned me a new case of a stolen car. But I couldn’t focus. I kept thinking of the girl. Some people even came forward to take the reward which was kept on informing the whereabouts of the girl but they were all fake. I started stressing out and often used my time to clean the house or my desk. I even found out a better way to coordinate my clothes. Maybe when I found her I could teach her. I just couldn’t figure out what had happened to her.
3 weeks passed and no one came forward. No new evidence or suspects. The school went on as usual. People forgot about her. I began to lose hope. Her parents gave up but deep inside they still had hope. Was it a suicide or murder? Did she leave the town or drowned herself no one would ever get to know.
As soon as I reached the last page my wife entered with a bottle of hot water and said, “Are you looking at my file again honey? I think you should burn it or something. Why are you so obsessed with it?”
Riya Gupta is a staff reporter
Photo by Janvi Poddar
Edited by Navya Sethi