Estimated reading time — 4 minutes
They were on their hands and knees staring into the large gash in the ground. Mallory gripped the loose gravel at the lip of the hole under his calloused fingers, and his nose flared up from the rolls of dust cascading up his snot sloshing nostrils. Charcoal caked their faces. Benjamin’s was blacker than the canopy of darkness over the splintered out barn roof. The sky’s hue shifted like a panther’s fur rolling in the shadows of fanning jungle leaves.
And Mallory nudged Benjamin with his dirt matted shoulder again, which Benjamin ignored again, and a loose board fell from the buckled open barn ceiling again. Water had collected over its white painted roof and soaked into its boards, eventually causing its ceiling to cave, smashing two cows dead, and one pig unconscious. The floor was wet.
The barn animals ignored the two men.
Benjamin said to Mallory, “Your arms are larger.”
Mallory said, “What has that got to do with anything?”
“Means you’ve got more of a hulk of muscle,” Benjamin replied. “Logic, logic: so you creep down there.”
Mallory shook his head.
They were staring at a pair of glowing maroon orbs moving around deep in the belly of the hole. The orbs vanished in a blink, and would reappear in another. Mallory shifted his soggy knees in the mud.
“What are they?” Benjamin asked.
“I told you when you asked last,” Mallory said, “I haven’t the foggiest clue.”
“What do you suppose?”
“I don’t suppose anything,” Mallory’s feathered eyebrows scrunched down and the creases at the edges of his mouth fell into a bulldog’s frown. “Supposing never got any guy anywhere.” He supposed that was true.
Benjamin scratched at a flaky scab stinging behind his ear. The two continued to sit there like tables, their palms in the dirt, knees in the mud, and rears asking for a kick into the maw of the hole. Benjamin scratched behind his ear again. His muddy fingers were stained mahogany, and he supposed the back of his ear probably looked something like a seeping volcano. At this moment, the scab was infected.
“How big do you suppose it is, Mal?” Benjamin asked.
“I told you, I don’t suppose anything,” Mallory snapped. “Haven’t you got a revolver in your truck, boy?”
Benjamin shook his head and said, “Just the roofing materials.” Benjamin placed the base of his palm against the oozing scab behind his ear and squinted from its sting. He held it there for a while. “Why are you so scared, Mal?” He asked, and glared at the dripping plastic brim of Mallory’s hat.
“It’s dark down there. I’m not risking my hide if those globes turn out to be a pair of cuddling fireflies,” Mallory said. “I guess you shouldn’t either, in that respect.” Mallory lifted his hat for a moment and pushed his water wrinkled fingers through his thinning hair, which was sopping with a mixture of sweat and rainwater. “But what if they’re valuable, like gems, or whatever?”
“Or whatever?” Benjamin asked.
“Luxuries,” Mallory smiled for a moment, showing a silver tooth at the corner of his mouth. “And what if we let them slip when they were right at our fingertips.” He shoved a hand down the front of his pants to fix the way his clothing clung to his legs. “The only thing worse than death is letting good things fall into less deserving hands than your own,” Mallory said.
“Then you’re going down?” Benjamin asked.
“In what sense?” Mallory replied. He burped. “Never mind,” he quickly added, then continued with, “You know, kid, you ask a lot of questions.”
“That’s the best way to learn, isn’t it?” Benjamin replied. “From questions?”
“It’s the best way to learn how to dig yourself your grave.” Mallory showed his teeth in a grand smile and said, “Bring me that nail gun in the back of the truck. You remembered to bring it, right?”
Benjamin did remember, and reluctantly, he brought it to Mallory.
“You wait at the lip of this hole, you understand?” Mallory said, testing the nail gun on one of the wooden wall panels of the barn. The animals glanced over at Mallory and sighed.
Mallory slipped down into the hole and some pebbles followed him down for the first few steps of his descent.
“What happened to this one?” The doctor asked one of the nurses.
She explained, “He was found on the side of the road with his head buried in his steering wheel and the horn blaring.” She knew he was staring at her tightly covered breasts. They were frequent clients to each other’s novelties. “And he was unconscious,” she added.
“Well of course he was unconscious,” the doctor laughed and smiled a bit. “So what specifically killed him? Trauma from the accident, or what?”
“Look here,” the nurse said, and turned the corpse on its side. There was a large pulsing crater on the back of his head. “Sepsis.”
“Um,” the doctor said, and his eyebrows rose. “Interesting.”
“Yes,” the nurse replied and nodded after a short, awkward moment of silence.
“Well, I want to take a closer look at this one,” the doctor said, and gripped the side of the metal gurney. “Oh, and bring me any identification, or belongings that this man may have had with him.” And he began rolling the corpse on an almost-expense-free ride down the white blanketed halls of the hospital.
“Doctor,” the nurse said. She was still following him. “Aren’t you interested in the other one?”
“Other one?” The doctor said. “Well, wheel him in,” he said. He rotated his wrist around in an almost mocking way, signaling to the nurse to ‘hurry up’. “Time isn’t at our disposal to waste, dear.” The doctor winked.
“You’ll have to come down and see him where he is,” she replied. She stuffed her hands in either of her coat pockets. The intercom blared.
“What?” The doctor released the gurney from his grip and frowned at her. “Why?”
“Um, well,” she said, “he’s sort of been divided into many, many pieces.”
Credit To: Ian Hudick