The Final Burial
By Daniel Lind
The smell of iron lingered in the air. A wounded man lay by the wayside, blood-soaked clothes torn into shreds. I watched him run from his assailants for days: killing one or two. But the hunt had come to an end.
Excited voices and grunts rumbled through the brambles. They would see their prey any minute if he didn’t start moving.
“You need to go, Sean,” I whispered in his ear. “The Taulians are almost here.”
As if hearing my voice, he turned his head and made an attempt at crawling. The arrow in his leg burrowed deeper into his flesh and he cried. He knew, as I did, this could be his final resting place: the last human on Earth would rot in the English countryside.
Then they came: two tall, slender, creatures. Their leathery skin reflected the afternoon sunlight, casting long shadows upon nearby grassy hills. One carried a bow, the other a sharp spear. Both wore an expression of elation on their faces.
The hunter carrying the spear growled and pointed at Sean. His comrade lifted his bow and aimed.
“Don’t do it,” I shouted. “He’s the last one.” I tried to stop him from releasing the arrow, but my hands went through him.
The Taulian released the arrow a moment later, cutting through the silence and hitting Sean’s neck. He moaned and dropped his head.
A crow cawed beyond the trees. A swarm of flies gathered.
The Taulians approached the corpse and the alien with the spear poked it. He then released a guttural laugh, and the other chimed in with sounds that pierced the air. The sun hid behind dark clouds.
“Do you reckon they’ll bury me?” said Sean, standing next to me with his arms crossed.
“They’re savages,” I said. “But they honour traditions just like the humans used to do.”
The pain and the fear had left his eyes. His scarred face had turned silky smooth.
“You should all have stayed hidden underground. They would have never found you,” I said. “The Taulians picked you off one by one.”
A third hunter appeared. This one had a slack jaw with jagged teeth sticking out from the corners of his mouth. He carried three shovels.
“We didn’t have much choice,” said Sean. “They would have found us sooner or later.” His voice played with the rustle of the leaves, scattering in the damp air when the first drops of rain fell on the ground. “Supplies were running short.”
The three hunters shoveled the mud, digging a deep hole in the ground. They moved stones and branches out of the way. Slackjaw grunted and threw a punch at the two others.
“What are they arguing about?” asked Sean.
“They can’t decide if your body should go face down or not.”
“Why is that a problem? They got what they wanted.”
I sighed. “Honouring traditions isn’t always straightforward. You’re the last one of your kind they’ll ever worry about.”
Sean grimaced. “Not quite.”
I straightened my coat and checked my notebook. The rain fell heavier, washing the pools of blood aside, and turning the grave into a drenched pit. The three Taulians grunted louder as they heaved the corpse into the hole. The hunter with a bow spit, and received another blow from Slackjaw.
“I don’t have more names on my list,” I said. “Yours was the last.”
“My son didn’t receive a name before I escaped,” said Sean. “He’s still underground with the other nameless children.”
Clever humans, always finding means to avoid their inevitable fate. I had failed to protect Sean, but this could be my second chance.
As the last shovel of mud covered the hole, and the stones and branches were placed upon it, the rain stopped and jagged shades dissipated through the bushes.
“Where are you taking me now, Angel?” asked Sean.
“The Other Side. This isn’t your world anymore.”
Sean’s spirit nodded. His body rested beneath the muddy ground. Maybe one day his son would find the grave, but Sean wouldn’t be there to see it. It was time for him to go, and I needed something to drink before I started looking for the children.
Written by Daniel Lind.
Daniel is a prolific writer of flash fiction and has stories published in Flash Fiction Magazine, Pidgeonholes, and Elbow Pads Literary Magazine.