Place: Jan Turk Petrie

What Remains

Must be twenty or more out there on hands and knees digging up our once beautiful garden right down to the ochre subsoil; no stone is to be left unturned. Orderly, I’ll give them that. A human line – heads down, backs overheating in the sun, with only an occasional glance up into that bright, clear sky as they inch closer and closer like ants. 

Such a waste of precious time.

When one of them finds something of note, a cry rises and then there’s a kerfuffle, a crowding round. I’ve identified their leader – he’s the one who goes over to assess what’s been unearthed. Everything he deems significant is bagged up as evidence.

Shadows are lengthening and, though weary and muddied, they’ll be back with the new day and the one after that, creeping inexorably towards the end.

Yesterday, someone unearthed my missing earring from the spot where the hedge used to be. Pear-shaped carnelians set in solid gold; sunlight glinted off the stone for the first time in years. The day I lost that gem, the weather had closed in. Still how I searched and searched soaked through to the skin to no avail. Its twin lay on a velvet cushion quite forgotten – rendered quite useless without the other.         

If he were here, Marcus would be beside himself over the mess they’re making. Nothing’s sacred to them. It’s only a matter of time before they come in here – into our home.

They look weary; I see it in their hunched shoulders, the sparse smiles that mask a growing disappointment with their haul. Ha, they won’t find any remains here if that’s what they’re searching for. The bodies are buried further down the valley – interred beneath towering trees that whisper only to each other when the wind combs their branches.

There were murders; I’ll admit it.  Some were unjust; I see that with hindsight – always a fine thing. Those were different times. We Romans weren’t bound by their practices. We made a show of respect by affording them proper burials – after all we weren’t the barbarians.

Some Celts carried on with their old ways – chopping off the heads of the dead to release the trapped spirit into the afterlife. Don’t I wish now they had performed that simple act on me.

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Jan Turk Petrie is a former English teacher with an M.A. in Creative Writing. As well as writing short/ flash fiction, she’s the author of the near future Nordic thrillers series – The Eldísvík Trilogy. Set in 2068 in the fictional city-state of Eldísvík,volume one – ‘Until The Ice Cracks’ – was followed by – ‘No God for a Warrior’ – and finally – ‘Within Each Other’s Shadow’. As a complete contrast – ‘Too Many Heroes’ – Jan’s latest thriller is, set in 1950’s London.

Steven John – Senior Fiction & Features Editor