Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Flash fiction: Predator

A soft rain falls through the trees. It patterns the ochre dust of the forest in strangely precise circles and ovals, until at last the earth reaches saturation point and becomes a thick, rusty mud the color of old blood. It touches on granite boulders and softens them to a flat grey. It washes every leaf of the deciduous trees, revealing a spring green so vivid that they seem to glow softly from within. And it falls on the body lying in the tall grass in the midst of the clearing.

The body is new to the forest -- it has been there for less than an hour -- and it is still slightly warm, still rich with the sharp and unmistakable tang of human life upon it. But the rain has already started to work on it, to fade away the alien warmth and scent, to commute it into something the forest can claim as its own. The sun, the wind, the snow, and the hunger of scavengers and fungi will do their work as well, transforming the presence foisted on them into something that can be at home, at rest, at last.

A crow soars low over the clearing, fluttering to a dry perch in a tree. He cocks his eye curiously at the body, not daring to come too close, for beings that look and smell like this have often chased him away or thrown stones after him. But this one is very still, and it does not move to chase him. He caws, a sharp hoarse sound, to see if it will react, but there is no movement. Still, he does not dare to approach -- and will not for several days, until the unmistakable scent of food has had time to develop in the sun. Then he will have to fight the coyotes for his share of the feast.

The rain, the trees, the crow do not know or care how the body came to be here. They cannot know that the body which lies so still was once a dark-eyed girl who never stopped moving. They do not know her name, which was Sharon, and they do not know the man who saw her walking home from school alone in the rain. (Sharon did know him, though not nearly well enough.) They might recognize the look of the man's eyes as he invited her into his car, for the forest also has its share of predators. But they would doubtless be puzzled at what he did next. Forest predators stalk and kill to eat. They do not drop their kills uneaten in the middle of the forest, to rot and be scavenged. That is an unnatural act.

And so the rain falls softly, washing away the unnatural, drop by drop. By nightfall the warmth of the body will fade, and in a week there will be nothing left of the weird scents of soap and perfume and terror, all subsumed by the reek of carrion. The crows and coyotes will feast, and the flies will pick the rest clean, and whatever remains then will be one with the forest, silent and still.


Douglas Cootey said...

Macabre. Evocative. Nicely done.

Soozcat said...

Thanks, Douglas. I was just typing along and suddenly there was a body in the clearing, so I went with it.