He longed for the birds to sing, to give away their hiding in the matted hedgerow. A distant car answered his agnostic prayer; the whole boundary awoke; swooping, hollering, the masses set a darkness against the precious remaining light of the afternoon. As it all started so it all soon settled to passive chattering of dominant females, the greenery again alive and he the keenest eavesdropper.
He smiled. In every correctly tabulated column of his notebook he wrote time, distance, echo and delay. He plotted and cross referenced. He marked his location on his far from rudimentary home-made map then made his way toward the railway cutting.
Swathes of green gave way to slate grey rock chipping, however, the foot of the cutting was banked by forgotten grasses; wild bushes and overhanging trees with their exposed root systems piercing the eroding soil bank. The oil stained stone tunnel mouth swallowed all the light that dare to venture more than ten yards in.
It was the remains of the long stolen tracks that led his eye to a slumped, seated outline in the shallow light of the tunnel, an ungainly location to fall asleep so he approached with military caution. The more stealth he applied the louder his footsteps on the gravel. He stood politely silent for a moment for he was all to aware of the shock of being rudely awoken. He straightened his jacket, pulled hard at its hem to snap a crease back into the material. He looked to his boots and quickly balancing on one leg, rubbed his scuffed toecap against his calf covered sock. He announced his appearance with a deliberate cough.
The bag of rags never stirred, nor was it ever likely to for upon closer inspection revealed itself to be a coat, a poachers coat, thickly waxed like tarpaulin. From underneath poked one shoed foot. He stepped a little closer and coughed once more with intent. The coat remained indifferent to his presence but worse still he realised he had polished his shoes for nothing. With his mothers’ disdain ringing loud in his ears he reached for the corner of the coat pulling hard enough to disturb its bulk.
The heavy material cut theatrically through the air. No Matador cape this, no jewels glinting in triumph only the remains of a youth soaked in the remnants of an ill fated struggle. The eyeless head, although crudely bludgeoned to a jaw-less pulp still sat precariously in its rightful place if only by a single crossed wire stitch. Each finger, devoid of a fingernail, pointed in its own unnatural direction. Puncture wounds mingled with every size of bruise whilst octagonal lacerations circled the lower abdomen. The skin on both knees had been removed in perfect surgical symmetry. One foot missing, the stump ragged in removal.
Distracted briefly by his internal monologue he gathered his thoughts and knew exactly what to do. He dropped the coat at more than an arm’s length so as not to catch his un-noticed boots then patiently removed his pencil from his notebook and drew two lines across the days’ proceedings.
He loathed how it spoiled the layout but he was not given to wasting a full-page. He begrudgingly wrote the date, time and location and in capital letters, “DEAD BODY”. He grieved for the intrusion, the inconsistency, the entry, juxtaposed to all his prior comments wasn’t neat to the border or aligned with any other text, it didn’t fill all the columns nor fulfil any of their criteria.
He turned his back on the remains of the scene snorting in despair at the sight of all those incomplete columns. “What a waste” he thought to himself.
From the map around his neck he made a reference north-easterly then set off across the cutting. He would have to start another column in his notebook but he knew the petrels would, at least, be a noteworthy addition to his day.
© D. Archer 2012. I found this in a notebook in my bottom drawer. Time does not seem to have improved it but as I don’t have a lot of fiction on here I thought I’d give it a whirl. Not quite flash fiction, not quite a short story but definitely not very good.