After is available as an Ebook! Download to your computer or ereader for just $1.99. You get a neatly formatted copy of the story to read at your leisure, and help to support the author. Click here to buy a copy.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Thirty-Eight

 We pick a spot just short of the trees. Close to the house, in among the long grass. With shovels from one of the sheds me and Lisa begin to dig. At first we work away at two trenches, one alongside the other, but then we join them together and dig a grave large enough for the bodies to share. It's hard work, cutting down through soil that's riddled with roots and stones. After an hour the pit is still too shallow, and we're both exhausted. We take a break to eat and drink, and then return to digging. The day is fading by the time we finish. And then there's only one thing left to do.

I tie a towel over my nose and mouth, pull on rubber gloves and wellington boots and go to fetch the bodies.

Since the Creatures came I've seen a lot of terrible things. A lot of death, a lot of horror. But never have I been this close to it. Before when I came across bodies while searching for supplies I would skirt around them, or move on to another house, or even just avert my eyes. That's what I want to do now. I don't want to have to look at those poor dead things, to smell the stink of their decay, to feel them in my arms.

But it has to be done. And there's no way I'm asking Lisa to do it. She shouldn't even have to see these horrible things.

I push open the door to the bedroom and the stink hits me in a hot, vicious wave. Do it quickly, I think, before you have a chance to chicken out. I stride across to the bed and, trying not to look, reach down, gather up the loose bedding and use it to scoop the cadavers up in my arms.

It's not as bad as I thought it would be. They're incredibly small and light, and there's no blood or fluid. Something scuttles as the sheets come away from the bed, but it's gone before I can see. And then I'm simply carrying a big bundle of blankets through the house and out into the garden. I lower them as gracefully I can into the hole that we've dug, then stand back a ways and peel off my gloves and boots and mask. I've never felt so unclean.

I move to pick up the shovel, but Lisa holds out a hand.

"We should say something. Don't you think?" She looks at me pleadingly and I nod. We bow our heads and after a moment Lisa starts to speak. "Our Father, who art in heaven..." I listen as she recites the Lord's Prayer all the way through. It takes me by surprise. Before the meteors came I never really believed in God. And even if now, in this newly-damaged world, I might find myself hoping occasionally, praying even, I know that there's nobody up there to hear me. I thought, until now, that Lisa believed the same.

But now is not the time to question her. With my head bowed in the cool afternoon sunglow I feel Lisa's words pass through me, bouncing off the stillness. Almost a melody. And I think of those poor people lying there in the ground, and then inevitably of Sharon, and of my mother and father, and my throat closes up a little, and I keep my head bowed for a while after Lisa finishes speaking.

After a long silence, we each take a turn to throw a loose handful of earth down into the grave. And then we pick up our shovels, and fill in the hole.

3 comments:

catalyst2 said...

A very difficult moment, well described.

Kitt Moss said...

Thanks Catalyst. I was wondering if I got the balance right :)

leroy miles said...

digging a grave for the two people shows David and Lisa are good folks to give the unknown home owners a decent burial. Most would have just dragged the bodies a couple of hundred yards away and left them to rot.