Six Feet Blunder | Audio
By S.E. Batt
S.E. Batt loves to write the strange, silly, and downright hilarious. He writes for all lengths, from flash fiction to full novel pieces, and has a blast doing so. He gives all who like his work a digital thumbs-up, and hopes he can make you sigh and shake your head at another story in the near future.
Out of all the places that Louis had awoken after an accident, he'd put his own grave high on the list.
He couldn't tell he was in one straight away. Sitting up from his position, he rubbed the spot of his head where he had made a brief and somewhat brash introduction with a lamp post. He could tell he was in a ditch, but never had he been in one so small, and so claustrophobic. In fact, it looked like it had been recently made especially for him to lie in. He went to stand up in order to escape his containment, when he realised he couldn't move his legs. Looking down at them, he saw a sizable mound of dirt resting atop of them. On cue, an additional batch of earth landed on his legs from above.
He looked upwards. There, clear in view, was an old lady. He had never met her before, but he could instantly tell she was the kind of woman who got jobs done, given that she was very hard at work trying to bury Louis. He had assumed she must have caught him lying on the street and taken him for dead. Nothing a little evidence to the contrary can't fix.
"Excuse me," Louis said, in a calm voice that didn't suit a man currently being buried alive at all. "I think there's been a big mistake."
The old lady cast two wide eyes down at him. "Sharrap," she said, with a voice as if sandpaper could speak, and chain smoke for that matter.
"I'm sorry?" Louis said, over the sound of a second payload of dirt being delivered.
"I said 'sharrap'," the lady repeated. "Dead people aren't supposed to talk back, you know."
"I was actually trying to tell you that I'm not actually dead. I was just knocked out."
The lady raised an eyebrow. "If you weren't dead, then why are you in a grave?"
"I was hoping you'd tell me that," Louis said. "I didn't exactly put myself here, you know."
"Look," the lady said, sticking the shovel's head into the ground, leaning on its handle. "Back in my day, people lived their lives, had a bit of an accident, died, and then kept their bloody traps shut for the rest of their rotten existence. People these days, no bloody respect. Think they can talk back to you once their time has come. I could have fed you to my dogs if I wanted. God knows it would be cheaper than dog food." The lady picked her shovel back up. "Probably better quality meat to boot, with the bollocks they're putting in it nowadays. Now lie down and sharrap."
"Listen," Louis said, dodging a third load of dirt that was aimed at his head. "You're making a grave mistake."
"No I ain't," came the reply. "I'm pretty sure this one's yours. I even put your name on it. Checked your wallet for it and everything."
"What I meant was that you're burying someone who isn't dead yet. I am not dead yet. I refuse to sit here and pretend to be dead."
"I'm sorry lad, but nobody has a bloody say if they're going to die or not. Either fate takes you, or it doesn't. If I could sit the Grim Reaper down and negotiate a few extra years for a cup of tea and a biscuit, I wouldn't be doing cardio."
"This is ridiculous," Louis said, dragging his feet out of the pile of dirt. "I absolutely refuse to be buried. I'm simply not ready."
"I can see that," the lady said. "Sitting up, talking, arguing with me. That's not how a man goes about being buried at all. If you did that at your funeral, your mum would have your bloody hide for this. Look, budge over."
Louis blinked. "I'm sorry?"
"Move, get out of the grave. Let me show you how a real corpse acts."
Louis climbed up the side of the grave, hauling himself out. "You don't have to do this, you know--"
"No, no," the lady said, climbing into the grave. "I can't have you leaving this place thinking you can run your mouth something chronic when you die. You be the one burying me, and I'll be the dead one. Happy now?"
"I can't bury you here," Louis said. "The gravestone you made out of wood has my name on it."
"Oh, never mind that," the lady said, waving a hand. "My husband never says my real name in bed anymore anyway. Now pick up that shovel and do a good day's work. I trust you can do that without much whining."
"Well, can I at least know your real name so I can do a proper job?"
"Meredith," she said, sitting in the dirt. "And make sure to say nice things about me in the funeral."
Louis took hold of the handle of the shovel. He was in one of those situations where he didn't know whether it was better to carry out the act, or to run for the hills. He feared for Meredith's health, what burying her alive could do to the poor old lady. Then again, Meredith seemed very happy with the procedure, lying on her back with her arms crossed against her chest, her eyes closed. Her skin was so pale, she looked just the part.
"Are you sure about this?" Louis asked.
Of course. Corpses don't 'run their mouth', as Meredith herself said.
Louis started feeling sheepish. Taking a tiny nodule of dirt with the shovel, he helped fill the grave with a quantity of dirt that wasn't sufficient to bury an ant. Perhaps if he just took his time, she'd finally lose her patience and get out again. The last thing he wanted to do was make the grave have a use.
Another speck of dirt landed on the pile. Still no movement.
Louis was beginning to feel worried now. Perhaps she actually meant it? Perhaps she was going to applaud him for a job well done after she had six feet of earth bundled on her, at which point there probably wasn't even enough room to clap. At least nobody was watching. That would be too much to bear.
"Someone died here, young sir?" a male voice asked.
Louis turned around. A man with a straw hat was watching him. He was, presumably, Meredith's neighbour, given that he rested his arms atop of the fence that cordoned off the garden from the house next door. The most worrying part was how cheery the man appeared to be to oversee a real, live burial in the back of someone's garden.
"Me? Oh, no, the gravestone says my name, but I'm actually burying Meredith. No, actually," Louis went to say.
"Meredith?" The man said, cutting off all possible explanation. "Good gracious, she pop her clogs already? I'd have put at least five more years on the lass before she puts her feet anywhere near a bucket. Sad to see her go, I am. Name's Carl, by the way," he said, with a tip of his hat. "Nice to meet you, despite circumstances."
"Louis," he replied. "Good to see you, I think."
"Aye. So, I see you're getting your name out as a murderer. I hear that's good these days, all them 'social networkings' and such."
"The callin' card, young sir."
"The what? Oh, no," Louis said, covering the gravestone. "This grave was originally for me, but Meredith is in there now, pretending to be dead."
"Pretendin', is she?" Carl said, followed by a chuckle. "I know you murderer types, always makin' up excuses, resistin' arrest and all that good stuff. Don't you worry, young sir, you don't have to sugar coat nothin' with Carl here. I've got me own share of secrets hidden away, I do."
"She's not actually dead, though. She's still alive."
"Oh, aye?" Carl said, leaning over the fence for a proper look. "Because I thought alive people were more talkative and full of energy. She's not saying a word and lying very still."
Louis looked down at Meredith. She, unbeknownst to Carl, had opened one eye to stare into Louis' own, with a glare that simply said 'I told you so'.
"You see that?" Louis said, pointing. "She just stared at me."
"Can't say I saw anything, young sir. Methinks you're taking this excuses lark a bit too far."
"I'm serious, she's not actually dead. Come on, Meredith, say something," Louis said, crouching next to the grave. "Tell him that you're not actually dead."
Meredith didn't say a word. She merely tilted up her nose and adjusted herself in the dirt bed that she had made for herself.
"Oh, don't you fret on tryin' to make yourself out as the innocent party," Carl said. "S'alright, really. I'm not about to judge a man for what he does in his spare time. In fact, you know what?" Carl looked both ways, checking if anyone else was listening. Then, he leant forward, covering his mouth as if to whisper, his eyes glinting. "To tell you the truth...now that the old codger's gone, I reckon I've got a chance at takin' her house for my own."
"You think so?" Louis said, making a nervous glance at a red-faced corpse that was gritting its teeth in the most covert way possible.
"Aye. Always thought it was a waste on the crone, to be honest. I see meself having much better use with it. When I get my hands on that property, the first thing I'm going to do is covert that rotten bedroom of hers into a special suite for me pet pig. After that, I'll--"
"Oh no you're bloody well not," Meredith screeched, popping out of the grave with a speed that would make bats out of Hell blush. Running towards the fence, she slammed her hands down against the top of the fence, leaping over it with an agility Louis didn't even know she had. Carl appeared not to know, either, as he took her acrobatics as a hint to run like the blazes himself. Louis watched as the two got caught up in a hurdles race over the fences of neighbour's gardens, the screeches of having built her house with her own two hands getting quieter and quieter.
Louis sighed, resting the shovel into the earth. Some secrets were meant to be taken to the grave, it seemed.