This story unfolds right on my birthday as I approach the latter half of my twenties.
Dusk was settling in—or rather, night was about to fall—as I staggered through the narrow, grimy alley, the drizzle steadily soaking me through.
I groaned, clutching at my stomach.
It hurt. Of course it hurt.
I’d been stabbed in the side, after all.
Deep and now gaping since the blade was yanked out, the wound continued to bleed profusely despite my best efforts to stem the flow.
My white shirt, now stained a sinister shade of red and black, the color ominously reminiscent of death.
Am I going to die?
In this dark alley, it’s unlikely anyone would find me.
I tried to muster all my strength to reach the main street, bustling with people, clinging to the walls as I walked. But my legs tangled, and I fell.
As I lay there, muddied and soaked, the rain mercilessly stole away my body heat.
I moaned, realizing my limbs were stiff like boards and wouldn’t respond.
How did things end up like this?
Well, the reason was pretty straightforward.
I had screwed up.
I thought that thug was just a poser, but who would’ve thought he was high on drugs?
Witnessing a deal go down, only to get stabbed by a jittery target—it’s almost too pathetic to be funny.
Marlowe, Philip Marlowe, wouldn’t have ended up like this. Or even Columbo.
Detective work… it just wasn’t for me.
I had to admit it to myself, something I had only been vaguely aware of until now.
It’s cold. My body is so cold it doesn’t feel like my own.
Ever since I was a child, I’ve loved books.
Mysteries, in particular. Holmes, Lupin, Ellery, Poe, Edogawa Ranpo… you name it, I’ve devoured it.
Cold. My body doesn’t feel like mine.
I can’t help but laugh, even as death stares me in the face, even as mud and rainwater fill my mouth.
Indeed, I was the quintessential mystery geek.
I would proudly recite Knox’s Decalogue and Van Dine’s Twenty Rules to my disinterested friends. My college thesis was on “The Later Ellery Queen Mysteries.”
I read true crime novels and police procedurals, steering my career path toward the police force—it all felt so natural.
And so, I became a cop. But the disconnect between my ideals and reality proved too much to bear, and I ended up running away.
I fled at the first sign of hardship.
The rigorous training, complicated relationships, mundane daily tasks—all things I had braced myself for but which were not written about in mystery novels and which felt irrelevant to my dreams—left me feeling desolate.
Realizing that there were no hard cases to solve, no strategy meetings, no investigations that required a blend of logic and intuition—this all added to my despair.
The me now, it’s not the real me. It’s a provisional me.
My real place is not here.
With such excuses in mind, I contemplated quitting the police force, procrastinated, and eventually resigned after only two years.
And then, a detective.
I joined a detective agency, thinking that this time, I would finally be able to showcase my true abilities.
Of course, most of the work involved investigating infidelity. I knew that. Detectives solving murder cases like in the novels were just not a thing. But still, I thought I could be myself here.
I believed so.
The result is before you now.
I smiled wryly, drenched in the rain.
What a sight.
The only thing I was ever praised for was my report writing. Everything else was a disaster. My tailing skills, communication with clients, and ability to think on my feet—everything.
“You were a cop, so we had high expectations, but we would have been better off hiring the part-timer we took on six months ago.”
These were the words the agency’s director sighed out just last week.
I had no retort. He was right.
I lacked intuition. I was incompetent. I was timid.
I read books and imagined myself in those detective roles, but a chasm between the imagined me and the real me seemed insurmountable, even with effort.
When faced with something that effort alone cannot overcome, what should one do?
That’s what Marlowe would say.
And so, I did.
I endured, continuing to work as a low-ranking detective.
And this is the result.
It’s almost laughable.
The real me, the place where I can genuinely showcase my abilities, it never existed.
I’m not cut out for the hard-boiled life.
I want to be rewarded for my efforts. I want to achieve my goals. I want strength—physical, financial, intellectual, political. I want it all.
Most of all, I want talent.
With these pitiful thoughts, my consciousness began to fade.
So, I’m going to die, damn it all.
My vision narrowed, and the sound of rain grew distant.
I tried to remember my parents, but all that came to mind was the mystery novel I had been reading. As I lay dying, I couldn’t help but laugh at the irony.
And so, I died.