My back aches. I’ve been shoveling for a while, and the repetitive motion of bending over, scooping dirt, and tossing it aside has wreaked havoc on my spine. I stand up straight and try to stretch and align my vertebrae back into place, but my efforts are fruitless.

“Hey, Reginald? You mind takin’ over for a while? My back can’t take much more,” I say to my drunk partner who is trying to nap against the iron wheel of our wooden cart. His head is slumped down on his chest, and I can see a tiny stream of saliva intertwining between the bristles of his unshaven face. In one hand, he holds his shovel, and in the other, a half-empty bottle of cheap scotch he stole from the pub before we left on tonight’s job. I kick the bottom of his worn-out boot and startle him awake; his erratic spasms tip the bottle over and its contents spread on the ground.

“Oy! Ya daft fucker! That’s me medicine you just spilled!” he gripes as he quickly picks up the bottle and peers inside at what remains. “Fuckin’ arse…”

“It’s your turn to shovel, mate,” and I sit down beside him, forgetting about the slurry of  dirt and alcohol, and it soaks into my pants. “Just for that, gimme the bottle. Now dig.” I take a huge swig from the bottle, the horrible, vile liquid singeing my mouth and gullet as it seeps into my stomach and burns a hole in my gut.

“There bett’r be some o’ that left for me, you miserable twat,” Reginald curses as he starts his shift digging. He grunts with each motion and sweat is building on his thick brow. After an hour of his continuous bitching and cussing, he strikes his shovel against a hard wooden casket.

“Davies! We got it!” he yells from inside the grave. “Throw me some light, will ya? I can’t even see my balls in ‘ere, it’s so bloody dark.”

I grab the lantern from the cart and lay down on my stomach next to the grave, my top half hanging into the hole in the earth, dangling the light near Reg’s head. He’s kicking away loose dirt from the top of the casket with his dusty boot.

“It’s pine, mate. Should be easy to bust into.” Reg wipes the back of his hand across his broad forehead, smearing dirt across it. “Hand me the ax, boy. We’ll have ‘er out in no time.”

I return to the hole with the ax and lower it down to my partner. He starts hacking away at the flimsy wood of the casket, splinters landing in his hair.

“Check mate!” he yells up at me. I bring the lantern down once more and he is straddling the sides of the coffin having chopped the lid to bits. A figure wrapped in muslin lays in the bottom. “Go grab the ropes so we can lift this cow outta here.”

We tie the rope around the dead person’s shoulders and ankles, heave ourselves out of the grave, and hoist the bodyup.Ourmovements have caused the shroud to expose the face of the figure.

“Sweet Mary, looka that face…” Reg whispers.

I am. She is the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. The glow from the lantern is casting a soft light on her delicate features, and she looks like what I think an angel would. I hate to think about why we dug this woman up from her eternal resting place, and the money we took for the job seems tainted now. If I had known she was going to look like this, or the sudden overwhelmingly strong feelings I would have about her, I never would have accepted the job.

“Too bad the wench had to die,” Reginald says. “I’d ‘ave given her a few pumps if she were alive,” he chuckles. “As a matter o’ fact, I might just do that now. I bet I can make this cunt come alive,” and he undoes his belt, dropping his dirty trousers to the ground. He starts to unwrap the shroud to expose the woman underneath so he can have his way with her.

Fury builds inside and I shove Reg off the woman before he can defile her perfection.

“The hell is the matter with you, you fuckin’ wanker?!” I yell into his face.

“Me? The hell’s the matter wit’ you, you piece of bullocks!” Reginald is struggling on the ground to pull his trousers back up. When he does, he stands quickly and faces me, his nose less than an inch from me, the bristles of his chin scratching mine, and the putrid stink of his scotch and cigar breath filling my nostrils. He shoves his chest into mine and I waver backwards. “You wanna fight for ‘er, you sniveling brat? Is that it? Okay then, take your shot. Hit me, and hit me hard so you have time to run before I fuckin’ kill ya.”

I stare into his blue eyes. For such an ugly man, he has beautiful eyes. Reg is still half drunk and watery on his feet. I know I can take him, and I have a plan.

“I don’t want to fight you, you stupid old man.” I push him backwards and he falls to the ground. As he’s down, I reach for the ax that’s a few feet away, grab it, and swing at Reg’s head. It makes a sick cracking sound as it splits his skull. Reg is left on the ground in a pool of his own brains and blood.

I drag Reg’s lifeless body to the grave we just dug and shove him in.

I go to the woman and kneel beside her, stroking her face.

“There, there, my love. Now no one can keep us apart now.”


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