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Friday Flash – The Maw of the Dark Dry Earth – Friday Flash Fiction

He lay in his coffin, some six feet under the dry compacted earth. He couldn’t remember when he had been buried let alone the date of his death. It was now of as little consequence as his birthday. He could hear and feel the worms as they moved around what remained of his brain and nostrils.

Slowly, and with some discomfort, he raised his right hand. Even in the pitch black he thought he could discern the green putrescence as it slid off the bones that were once his elegantly manicured fingers. No more playing Chopin he thought as he wondered why that image had crossed what remained of his mind. But then, what else did he have to console himself with but the ironic and rapidly fading memories of a life that had long deserted him? Where they even memories, or simply fantasies that he created to accompany his eternal vigil? Could he even tell the difference now, and what did he care anyway?

Why was death so dull he thought, as he lay on his back. He had room to move around, to stretch a little if he wished to alleviate the boredom. He was not a tall man nor was he fat, and the coffin was originally crafted for someone taller and wider. He realised his relatives had gone for the cheapest burial possible and wondered whose body would have originally graced this wooden box before the visit of the grave robbers, who would have sold not only the body but the cask in which it had been interred.

Yet he chose to remain still, contemplating how long he would remain conscious as his brain slowly disintegrated, encouraged enthusiastically by the host of worms that had colonised it. Some of these had now grown into iridescent black beetles, which were happily consuming his flesh, engaged in their amours as they bred new copies of themselves. The remnants of his fat and dried skin were a happy hunting ground. Scarab beetles, he wondered? Hell, he couldn’t even remember what part of the world he had died in. Soon he would be bone and nothing else. And then what?

Would his thoughts disappear and fade away, or would they haunt his skeleton like ghosts in a ruined abbey, forever seeking the peace of oblivion and perpetually denied their rest? The part of him that could feel things shuddered, then a smile played around his rictus of a mouth. What was that he could hear above him? The coffin began to vibrate as the noise became louder and louder. He could hear the earth being removed from above him, the sound of the shovel as it hit the top of the coffin. A muttered curse from one man, and what sounded like a laugh from the other.

There were two grave robbers. Well, there wasn’t much left of him of any value, he thought. So they must be after the coffin. Although his throat was dry, he began to laugh, just a quiet, barely discernible rattle. They wouldn’t be able to hear that, not yet. He had always been possessed of a keen sense of humour, and now he decided to play his last practical joke.

He could hear the sound of the nails being prised from the wood, and eventually the coffin lid was removed. He could see the baleful but bright light seeping into his temporary home. It was almost blinding, even though the dry orbs in his eye sockets had long since turned to jelly. It amazed him that despite the atrophy of most of his body, his optic nerves and visual cortex still functioned. It was full moon that night, so they clearly were not that superstitious.

Not yet anyway.

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