The Dead ThingWet leaves fell like sticky, silent rain over the surrounding hills. Lizzie looked up. The sky was grey with low hanging clouds. She held the dead thing in her arms. Rugart stopped too quickly and she almost ran into him.
“What the hell?” she moaned. Her foot slipped on an algae covered rock. But she caught herself before falling.
Rugart did not reply. The only sound he made was a grotesque slurping as he shoved red things into his mouth.
“More damn berries! Get going, you stupid---“ but her voice trailed away as she regained her footing. The dead thing had fallen. She looked down with immense sorrow.
“Beety. Oh Jesus, my Beety.”
It lay amongst dirty leaves and scattered stones. But there was little time for ceremony. The dogs howled in the distance. A gunshot whizzed over her head. Rugart screamed like a child. In the instant before Lizzie could push herself up, her mind flashed on a distant childhood, with a tiny boy sitting on a swing beside her.
“Lissie, I fall!” he said. Then her mind returned to the present. Rugart lay in a heap in front of her. His voice was small and weak. “Lizzie, please…help me. They’re coming.”
Seconds later she had lifted him to his feet, but not before noticing the blood streaming from his leg. She held the dead thing tightly, pushing her brother before her.
“Run, damn it! Run!”
Another bullet grazed her arm, sending a shockwave of pain through her mind and body. She did not stop. Seconds later they were at the end of the creek. A tiny boat was lodged among the rocks. Water trickled slowly, and then steadily into a larger body of water that wound between trees. In the distance was an opening into the main river, and freedom.
Rugart stared at the boat. He turned a blank look towards his sister, who pushed him down until he tumbled into it. She grabbed an oar and began paddling. A distant shout, now nearer, made her muscles tense. She quickened her strokes. A tree obscured their pursuers.
“We made it Rug,” she said. Far away gunshots echoed around the bayou. “You hear? Rug? We made it!”
As she paddled, the dead thing lay before her in the bottom of the boat. The open river was so close. They would make it. But they did not. She let out a breath of relief only a second before staring at Rug. Why did he look that way? He slid sideways, and crumpled over the side. She saw the blood streaming from the side of his head.
Lizzie’s grip tightened on the oars. Her brother disappeared beneath the dark waters. She watched him vanish from her sight, and from her life forever.
“I’m sorry, mama,” she muttered. Then she continued on. Seconds later, the river opened up before her. A quick current took her away from the overhanging vines that had sheltered the tiny access from which she had just emerged. Soon the barking of the dogs was lost in the fog, far behind her. She was alone on the great river with just the fog, the sound of her oars, and the dead thing.
Tell me what you thought the dead thing was.