Yours is the bleakest of evenings and yes, I do know who you are. Thin-lipped, unsmiling, resting your head in your hands. You offer me nothing, not even a candle’s flicker from your shuttered house. I lit my last match after the sun fell, then climbed your land’s fence, carrying this weight. Nearer, I rested a while by those hedges, so ragged they seemed culled by a scythe of hate. There was the tool itself, lying in a ditch, so I slid it under my belt.
Now I’m crossing your field. I will not stop again. I will stride over these ice-rock clods you’ve cleverly scattered to twist me, to topple me. Yes, how clever you were to think ahead, and try to bring an early end to this. But my bare feet are strong as clubs. I will arrive soon.
Ah, is that you stirring in the shadow of the oak at your gate? I cannot wave, sir; my hands are burdened — see? Look. Look at the weight, sir! You will look, won’t you? You cannot resist our strangeness. See how her rag-doll spirit is gone. See her full, wide-open eyes — white as the callous moon over that distant fell.
I want to shout to you, this corpse — this shell — take it. Please take it from me, I beg you. These were my thoughts. But I know this is no shell — it’s rotting flesh, which I cannot leave. I have no place to go. She has no meaning now. This is the leftover matter. And I see you have gone back inside and locked your door. Perhaps you could smell her? I push open the gate and stand at your door. I hear voices, the trickle of talk, a television set turned low. ‘Darling, do turn it off. I can’t bear to see it all again. Every night it’s the same … [muffled words] … bombed homes, [muffled] babies.’
I chuckle and knock lightly with my foot as I prepare my speech. I shall sit by your fire, her body rigid on my lap, and begin…
‘Sir and lady, this is not a framed picture on a set or stage. There is no commentary. No curtain will draw. You can leave of course, but go quietly. Although I cannot follow, all the eyes you’ve ever dreamt of or dreaded will watch. Certainly, you needn’t honor this death here; her ghost left days ago. She had already witnessed the screaming fires of the city for too long, the ash-slumped, blunt-limbed, the blinded.’
Yes, it’s a good speech, but neither of you will open the door.
I call out. I hear you stumble to bed. I lay my burden at the door. I cannot leave, I cannot hide, I call again, but you do not answer. I dig the blade into the ground — too solid for a grave. She is here and she is gone. I would howl like a grieving, fallen king, but no howl comes. I write one word on your door, scrape it and scratch it with the tool. Perhaps one day you will notice it, or us. Because I’ll be here forever — there is nothing else for me but this.
Liz Miles is a UK writer and an editor of books for adults, teens and children. Her work covers a wide range of subjects from traditional tales to dinosaurs. She lives in an old riverside town on the salt marshes of eastern England. Miles’ latest titles include an adaptation of The Jungle Book (OUP), Changing Land (Collins), and Dive! Dive! (OUP). You can find more of her original work online at liz-miles.com
The Carrier is a 2016 Fiction War Fall Finalist entry. Please do not reproduce without permission from the author. Originally published at fictionwar.com. Image credit: @hoachld