I built it deep in the woods. Far enough from the road to avoid fumbling couples at night, drivers caught short by day. So far in no human eye would look on it before hunting season. By then it would be over.
To the casual eye it might have looked like a wood store, or some kind of bothy, but what I was building wasn’t for shelter, wasn’t to preserve or protect; it was to witness an ending.
I was almost done.
There was enough space inside for a grown man to stand upright, a shelf of books, a simple fold down cot for the nights. Eighty-seven of them; that’s how many I calculated it would take. Almost three months of gradual thinning, diminishing; an unbecoming.
I took a final sweep round outside, covering my tracks, laying branches and creepers. Fat drops of sweat ran down my back, between my shoulders. Others navigated the longer route over the bulge of my belly. Dick they called me at the yard. It took me almost a month to understand it wasn’t the insult I thought it was. I overheard Todd Carson calling me The Great White Whale to one of the drivers and realised what it was short for.
I wanted to kill him, kill them all, every single one of them. Take a baseball bat to their stupid skulls or lock the doors in the loading bay and pick them off with a rifle. Sometimes, during those long afternoons in the woods as I dropped stone onto stone, I imagined the slack weight of bodies hitting concrete. It felt good. But that wasn’t the answer. I’d never held a gun in my life, let alone fired one. Anyway, there was only one person I could rid myself of to end the heat of shame, the sweat of embarrassment, and I had him firmly in my sights. His time had come.
My shirt rode up as I squeezed in through the final gap, rough stone scraping my belly. I tested the battery-operated lamp and the backup torch, counted the water bottles that lined one wall, checked my tiny store of rations was dry. I couldn’t put it off any longer; there was nothing left to do.
I wiped my forehead and took a drink. Then I lifted a stone and set it on mortar. I lifted another, and another, till a thin strip of light was all that remained; a gap too narrow for me to fit through.
I hung the tarpaulin over it to keep out the rain and took another drink.
Then, deep in the woods, I sat down and began the long wait.
Matt’s stories have appeared in The Bohemyth and Boston Literary Magazine and been shortlisted for the Doire Press International Fiction Competition. He was once second reserve goalkeeper for Chorley and district under 11s and has a degree in Pop Music. Funny how life turns out.
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