The road became a river. The rain didn’t fall, but hurled itself at the land as if it would drown it all, the village, the hill, the grave – mounds. The water rose up to my waist. Underneath it, roots tried to grab me and pull me down.
I saw an open door and I took it; A hollow tree, a shelter with enough room for most of me if I pressed my face tight against the rotting wood.
I didn’t hear anything scuttle, or creep, over the storm.
I didn’t hear it until it grabbed me and pulled me in.
I want to know what those ancient trees have seen. I want to know what sort of men they’ve let pass under their arms, what kind of violence those fallen leaves have quietly buried.
Well. If they care they’re keeping it to themselves.
I stamp on the back of the shovel with my boot, and dig the hole a few inches deeper, getting down into the black, wet soil. She’ll rot quick, down here.
She is wrapped in black sacks. There are five of them; I can’t remember which bits are where. I slide them all in and push the mud back over the pile.
Above me, the trees watch, and rattle their hands.
On the way back to the road I hear voices. Shouts. Barks. It’s dark already, too late for walkers, and the police wouldn’t be here, not with their dogs, not unless they’d found her car.
There’s rope, and bin bags, and bloodied clothes, in her car.
I leave the path, stomping over the roots and the brambles as quickly as I can without tripping, followed by the crying and snorting of dogs, the buzz of walkie – talkies, the slamming of van doors. I drop the shovel and run.
It’s her car. I stride over a ditch. Nothing connects me to it, nothing of mine, no fingerprints. I wade through wet ferns. If I can get out of here and home without being seen, there’s nothing to connect me with her at all. I stamp in a puddle. I could even go to the pub. I should go to the pub. I should sit under warm lights with a beer and the laughter of old locals and the click- tap of snooker cues and forget about her and act normal.
A root catches my foot and I’m thrown to the ground.
It takes a minute to realise why I can’t get up, why the inside of my coat is damp.
I’ve been impaled on a stick. I can’t feel it yet but I can see it’s tip, peeking out just below my ribs, red flesh clinging to the splintered edge.
The dogs are running, over pathways, over mud, calling their handlers closer. I can’t do much but lie here and look up. The tree above me waves its fingers happily.
Well. Perhaps they do care, after all.
The roses are rage-red, some bright, some wilted, all shaking in the summer wind, thorns long and sharp and slick with rain. Every year more blooms emerge, bursting with their bloody colour, every year.
I tried to stop it once; sick of being told it was pretty, I hacked at the many-headed thing like a righteous knight but it did no good. Every year more blooms emerge. I lost a battle with a fucking plant.
Some idiot online wrote that rose petals were good for sweets, face masks, and love spells. I knew mine better. I hid nine thorns in the centre of a bud. I carved a slip of wood with a name. I reddened both with blood from thorn-pricked veins and buried them, not in my own garden, but under the fence, sneaking under the boundary of that old warlock next door. I won that one. I watched him wilt and fail until he fell and broke his hip.
Not so pretty now is it?
I stepped out from behind the stone, straight into the party. They were drumming, dancing, chanting, drinking, crawling through the old tomb with their candles and their music and their ribbons and cut flowers, as if the sarsens were a portal, a doorway to the new summer. The sky was still bright and red and warm. I sat on the dry grass, between thistles and the leavings of sheep, and offered a bottle to the man next to me. He nodded, drank, and winced as he swallowed, his brittle and bleached dreadlocks trembling as he shook his head and handed it back. The lines on his forehead folded and he leaned towards me, questioning.
I stood, and smiled.
A woman in a long, patchwork skirt threw glitter at me as I passed her the bottle. She drank, and laughed, and whirled away.
I stood, and smiled.
When the new summer came, the valley was decorated with glitter and blankets and colourfully dressed corpses. I poured the remains of the bottle into a hollow on a stone, and watched the lichen there wither and die, before I stepped back behind it, back where there is only one summer, and it is always mine.
The little people danced. They had such glamour and grace, lighter than shadows, bluebells clinking as their wings brushed against them. One played a folded blade of grass as a long pipe. Another combed her hair with her fingers, and pinned it back with gooseberry thorns.
I pointed the camera down to catch them, and the way they flickered as they spun in the breeze.
I wouldn’t know if it had worked until the film was developed.
I reached out, pulled them off their wires, and tossed the paper fairies into the stream.