Content Warning: Death
“What should we do with the body?”
A voice echoed in the fog above Alicia. She didn’t recognise it.
“I don’t know man. This was your fault!” A different voice. This one sounded familiar. Something kicked Alicia’s side and she tried to squirm away, but everything felt heavy, unmoving. It prodded at her again as two hands snaked their way under her shoulders and half-hoisted her up. Her arms flopped down limp by her sides.
“I know! I know. Just help me move her.” There was a resigned sigh in response and then someone else grabbed her feet and she was off the ground. Alicia could feel herself swaying slightly, her hands brushing against the gritty pavement, as the two men moved what she now assumed was her rapidly cooling body from the grimy alleyway she vaguely remembered passing earlier. This had been an unfortunate turn of events. A hand grasping her leg slipped and her foot came crashing down on some discarded boxes, sending them tumbling.
“Fucking idiot! Do you want to get us caught?” whispered the voice by her head harshly.
“Sorry. Sorry. My bad.” The hand grabbed her leg again and she was once more swaying. “She’s heavier than I thought.”
Bastard. This had not been how she had expected her evening to go. She was hosting a dinner party later that night. She was supposed to be buying dessert. Getting mugged by two idiots had not been part of the plan. She could remember it now. It had been a bit of a blur but one of them had grabbed her purse and pulled her into the alley. She fought back, scratching him violently across the face, but the other must have snuck up behind her and hit her with something large and hard. She’d been dead before she hit the ground, which was probably for the best considering how dirty that place had been. Obviously, they were trying to dispose of her body now. Internally, Alicia sighed.
“Wait here.” said the voice at her head, and she felt herself be lowered back to the ground. Alicia was grateful he hadn’t dropped her, but she wasn’t sure it would have hurt if he had. She wasn’t sure about a lot of things right now, how she was still able to think being one of them. Was she a ghost? A disembodied soul? The last dregs of consciousness firing through rapidly slowing neural pathways? It didn’t really matter, nothing did anymore. The guy at her feet dropped her legs as soon as he was told, sending a shockwave up to her knees. Well, she could still feel that. “I’m going to get the car. Move her out of the way until I get back.”
More resigned sighing came from her feet as she heard footsteps walking away. A pair of hands gripped her ankles and started pulling her somewhere, scraping her head across the ground. The good news was that it didn’t hurt. The bad news was that every time her head went over a bump, even the smallest bit of gravel, it made a really unpleasant grinding noise in the back of her skull. Alicia felt herself get propped up against a wall and a soft material was thrown clumsily over her head. There was a muted thud as the man flopped down next to her.
“Can’t believe I’m stuck babysitting the body.” He grumbled, his voice coming from the darkness somewhere to her right. His was a low voice, scratchy and raw but somehow with an air of pathetic resignation about it, like it belonged to the kind of man who’d go to The Bar with The Fellas and spend the whole time complaining about The Wife and Dammit couldn’t she just let a man watch TV in peace without nagging him to-do-the-dishes-tidy-up-look-after-The-Kid. The voice belonged to no one Alicia knew, thankfully, as she was sure she would’ve found him insufferable, but she recognised him as the guy who had tried to mug her.
There was a pained intake of breath followed by “Fucking bitch.” Alicia assumed he had been exploring the scratches on his face and had found a particularly tender spot. Good. She was quite proud of that, although she had been aiming for his eyes. It didn’t matter though. DNA was DNA and now his was all up in her fingernails. Hopefully, someone finds her body and if so, that DNA would be a great help. No one could say that Alicia hadn’t gone down fighting.
This hadn’t been how she had wanted to die at all. She had hoped for a nice peaceful death, fat and lazy, surrounded by kids and grandkids as she faded gently into that sweet, sweet night, her last moments filled with love and joy. Or some kind of dramatic bungee jumping accident which would have made a great story for family gatherings. Bludgeoned to death in a shady alleyway over a knock-off Dior handbag that contained a water bottle, a reusable shopping bag, £5.50 in change and a bank card holding her entire life savings of £200 seemed like such a waste. If only it had been interesting. Then maybe her death would have made it onto one of those true crime shows she had loved but no, she was stuck with a boring run of the mill mugging gone wrong done by two morons who hadn’t even remembered to pick up the aforementioned bag. It was still sat in the middle of the alley where she’d dropped it. Such a shame really.
The sound of a car reversing towards them pulled Alicia out of her reflections. The man next to her, who she decided was called Dave, he sounded like a Dave, groaned as he clambered to his feet. The bang of a car door closing was followed by footsteps coming near, and then the clunk of a hatch release and the boot opening. Of course. Put the body in the boot. Very original.
“Alright. Help me put her in.” She couldn’t tell much about this guy yet, his voice sounding boring and generic, if a little stressed thanks to the predicament he had put them in. Alicia decided to call him John, the most boring, generic name she could think of. She felt Dave and John pick her up again and there were a few more seconds of swaying until she was dropped unceremoniously into the boot. Hands arranged her limbs to curl around her, fitting her into the snug space, and then the lid slammed shut above her. Although Alicia couldn’t see, she could feel the metal all around her, pressing in. There was a smell, chemical and unpleasant, that Alicia couldn’t place and a vaguely sweet, citrusy, sticky patch under her cheek which she guessed was some kind orange fizzy pop. She faintly heard the car doors open, then close, and the engine started up, jerking them forward and throwing Alicia around as a small wave of debris, a collection of beer cans and fast-food wrappers if the smell was correct, tumbled over her body. It had felt cleaner on the alley floor. The faint sound of some radio song floated through the air, but it was hard to make out what it was over the sound of the road beneath her.
“So. What now?” Dave asked. The radio got quieter.
“I’ve been thinking.” Was the somewhat unrelated answer from John. “We’ve killed a woman.”
“You killed her. I didn’t do that!” Dave’s indignant reply interrupted him.
“Shut up. You’re an accomplice. You as good as killed her.” There was a sigh. “Anyway. WE killed a woman and now we gotta get rid of her before anyone finds out. And what’s the best place to get rid of a body?”
“Bury it in a graveyard?”
“It was a rhetorical question. But that’s not a bad idea.” There was a moment of contemplative silence. “No, we’re gonna dump her in the woods. There’s nowhere else she can go around here. We don’t live in a prime body dumping location.”
“Yeah, you have a point.”
“Anyway. I say we drive her to the woods, find a nice cosy spot and then just kinda leave her there? Bury her under some twigs and crap and hope the animals eat her.”
“Is that the best plan you have?”
“What other plan is there? I don’t see you coming up with anything.”
Dave stayed quiet. Suddenly the music got louder, and the voice of the radio presenter enthusiastically announced that they were listening to The Top Hits of the Eighties so buckle up and enjoy the banging tunes! A song started, some ballad or another from before Alicia was born, and she lay in the boot, body jolting over every pothole as they drove away.
She didn’t know how long she had been in there before the car came to a sudden stop, but it had been long enough to go from number 34 to 26 on that Crazy Countdown of the Hits of the Eighties. If Alicia had to listen to Phil Collins do one more song that sounded like it was from the Tarzan soundtrack, then she was going to metaphorically scream. There was commotion from inside the car and the doors opened. Then the boot lid. The damp scent of the forest filled the air and sunlight fell against her skin, its warmth stirring a sadness inside her that Alicia hadn’t expected. This was it. She was dead. Her body is going to left out here to rot. Her parents. Her friends. They would be heartbroken. Alicia would have cried if she could.
“Come on. Get her out.” John said.
“Why am I doing all the work?” Dave grumbled as he ungracefully flopped Alicia out of boot and onto the woody floor, “You’re the one who killed her.”
“Quit bringing that up. What’s done is done.” The response was terse. Hands grabbed at Alicia, lifting her up and sending her swinging again. “Let’s go.”
They made slow progress in the woods, the uneven ground proving difficult to navigate with Alicia hung between them like a human hammock, her hands dragging two dirt trails through the woodland floor. Her clothes kept getting caught on errant branches and bits of foliage, and at one point a patch of brambles ripped such a large hole through Alicia’s sleeve that it nicked her skin, leaving droplets of blood behind. They weren’t being very careful. Alicia was pretty certain John and Dave hadn’t noticed though, they had been too busy arguing about who’s fault this was, about where to put her, about what to do if the cops found them, about how John had flirted with Dave’s wife and how she had flirted back, Dave!
After a while, they thankfully grew silent, and Alicia was able to enjoy the sound of the woods around her. She had always been a fan of the idea of the outdoors. Not hiking around in it per se but sitting on a bench in a local park admiring it. Listening to the sound of the birds singing above her, that sad, lonely feeling came back, and Alicia allowed herself some time to wallow in it. It was healthy to wallow right now. She had just been murdered after all.
“This’ll do.” John said, coming to a halt.
“Finally,” Dave abruptly dropped her feet and with that her wallowing came to an equally abrupt end. “My back was killing me.”
“We’re not done yet. We gotta hide her still.”
“Gimmie a minute man. This is the most work I’ve done in months.” Alicia could hear him breathing heavily. “Where do you wanna put her?”
“Over there? By the rocks and stuff? That way it’ll look like a fall.”
“Yeah. That works.” Alicia felt their hands grab hers and she was dragged along the ground until they reached a hard patch of land which she assumed was the rocks and stuff spoken of. The sound of running water, seemingly quite close by, provided a beautiful soundtrack to a morbid event. Alicia had to admit, it wasn’t a bad plan. Leaving her on some rocks with a cracked skull by what was maybe a stream really would’ve made it look like an accident. There were flaws though: her lack of hiking gear, aversion to exploring the wilderness and the suspicious drag marks through the woods to the very spot she was now being arranged in to name but a few. The men laid her out gentler than she expected, careful to not damage her body more than they already had. When that was done, she could feel then standing around her, staring down.
“Shame really. She was kind of pretty.” John spoke.
“Man. She’s dead. Don’t make this weirder than you already have,” came the exasperated reply.
“I’m just saying.”
“Well don’t.” Dave sounded like he’d had enough with everything about today. “Lets just get out of here. Throw her purse in the river or something so it looks like it fell in, then we can leave.”
Alicia would’ve sworn she felt her blood freeze if it wasn’t already coagulating in her veins. Her purse. They had remembered it. No. That was her main hope of being found. No one would even notice she was gone. She was going to be left here, a tragic accident, until her body decomposes and some kid playing in the woods came across her skeleton and pokes a stick through her eye socket, lifting it up to show his mates, causing a lifetime of therapy appointments and some clear trauma surrounding the words “Dude, look at this!”
“What purse?” John responded. Oh, thank God these guys weren’t criminal masterminds. The relief Alicia felt was immense.
“Her purse.” Dave paused. “You did pick it up right?”
“I thought you did!”
“No. I was trying to put her body in the car. You mean you left it there?” Another pause. “We have to go get it.”
“We can’t go back there.” Protested John. As Alicia lay there, she heard footsteps walking away.
“Well, we can’t leave it there either. It has my prints on. Which you have now tied to a murder.” Dave’s voice got steadily further away. “Come on!”
John startled into motion and hurried away after his accomplice. Silence fell over the woods. Alicia listened to their footsteps until she could no longer hear them and then she listened some more. The water trickled slowly by, birds sung in their trees and the occasional bee buzzed past. She knew she was slowly becoming a home for insects, that her body would be food for whatever scavengers came across her, but there wasn’t exactly much she could do to stop it. She just lay there, listening, hoping that when the first crow came to feast, she wouldn’t be able to feel it. Time passed and yet for her, nothing would ever change again. She lay there. Quiet. Listening.
A sound gradually got closer. A wailing high noise that pierced the peaceful deadness of Alicia’s existence. She didn’t know how long she had been there. It grew louder. Sirens. Voices. Footsteps. “This way!” “Over here!” “We found her!” She felt people surround her. A gentle hand found hers. “Thank god. It’s over.”
About the Author
Ciara Armstrong is a student at Northumbria University in Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK, where she is currently working on her BA undergraduate degree in English Literature and Creative Writing. She is a big fan of true crime and horror and enjoys blending these morbid and macabre topics with dark humour in her writing.
Find me on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/armstrongciara/