Monday, 31 October 2011

The Catch

by Tom Dunn

 The boy was cycling at the time. It was pure chance that he turned his head; as he came out from a canopy of knotted oak branches, the sun slammed into his eyes and he jerked, almost skidding as the front tire followed the whim of the hands on the handlebar. He turned his head away, and through his half closed eyes the naked mass, resting on the bank, joined with the floating dancing black dots and the light punching from the stream. He slowed a little, his heart skipping slightly, and looked properly. It was lying on the grass edge with the mud and a few washed up stones. He gently eased his bike down the slope, off the dirt path he had been riding on, and entered the bank. He wondered for a second if he should be thinking of it as ‘it’. He’d seen the photos and heard the news; he knew who it was, the body looking up at the sun and not blinking or turning away like he did, mouth agape so slightly, as though it didn’t quite understand why it was able to stare into the sun either. But the yellowing eyes held only a reflection of the world. For a second he imagined what he might hear if he put his ear to that mouth, but all he could think of was the soft ringing before you faint, and he realised this was stupid. It was silent and empty. Waterlogged and blue, amidst the greens and yellows and browns; the dancing colours of the riverside on a summer’s afternoon of fluttering leaves and bending branches. The boy pictured the scene on tomorrow’s front page, headline proclaiming the body found, the mystery of the disappearance one step closer to being solved, and the autopsy underway. But again he looked at the mass and could not register with it; it was not the person its features mirrored so perfectly. He wondered if he should feel something more than a detached curiosity. That was a lie; he knew this was stirring some morbid thought that he often toyed with as he went to sleep also. He supposed this was enough. Would there be a reward? An interesting prospect, though the repetition of the event in the playground for the days to come would bring its own enjoyment. At once he quickly glanced around to make sure no one else was around to claim the prize, stared at it again, now uninterested in the mass itself, and pulled out his phone, dialling the police. He wondered who would play him on Crime Watch.