The old man sighed. It was really a very long sigh. He looked in a dirtied, dull mirror that did not replicate what it was reflecting very well. Even still, he did not want to linger with it. He rested his face in his hands. He turned on the bathroom sink and let the water run. I can let this water run forever, he thought. I am the master of the universe.
William stalked back downstairs to the bar. He scanned the room, which was looking much better. It was looking much better, and no one really cared all that much. He passed that woman; he thought her name was Margaret. Behind the long bar, he fixed himself a tall drink. He did not look to see which stout he poured it from. He just drank it down and noticed the fellow from before still dead in between the bar and the cabinet.
“Oh, come now,” he said. He finished what he thought was ale and stopped looking at the body. He was very disgusted by it. He searched with his eyes for Margaret.
“Molly,” he said, remembering at the last second, “I have a special job for you. Something I think even you can do.”
Molly looked up from her sweeping. Her eyes were tired. They were filled with a fire. “You are an old bastard, do you know that?”
“And you a dullard. Molly.” He pointed to the ground before his feet. He was smiling. She came. She protested. She ran hands through her red hair and pulled at her apron and protested.
“Yes, William. Yes, yes, William?”
“Take out this cadaver, would you? Well, you will if you want the silver. If you don’t want to go back out there.” He nodded toward the wall, where a few men were nailing up the last boards to seal the dragon’s gap.
“Revulsive!” Molly said. “I dragged the bulk of the dragon. And I swept the floors. And made the men calm down. And you ask me to carry the dead?”
“It suits you.”
The old man was smiling.
Molly had him hoisted on her back, carrying him like you would a child, with his arms and legs wrapping around her. He was heavier than he looked. She was strong, but he was heavy, and the heat from the midday sun was making her sweat. She carried him through the streets of the parish, and no one cared very much. They passed around her. A few waved and offered conversation. But she did not want to talk. She was carrying a body. Quite a heavy body. She did not care that Mr. Aburn’s potatoes were doing so well. And she knew she could get dry goods at the dry goods stores.
It’s the monsters, she thought. They make people crazy. They get redundant. Not like you, cadaver.
She gave his bulk a heave, strengthening her grip on him. You didn’t go out nicely, did you? she thought. You and me are really the same, you know that? We’re the bottom of the barrel. We take all the slack and get none of the thanks. I guess it’s only right I’m lugging you around. Mr. Cadaver, don’t tell anyone, but I think it’s all quite strange.
She trudged past the sheriff’s station and the town hall. She had never been in either of them. She thought she should visit them sometime. It was hard to say why. She thought maybe there were important things in there.
It’s the heat, she thought. It gets to people. Makes you go soft in the head. But I’m stronger than that. I can lug this man around.
In the cemetery, she dug a deep hole. It was deep and wide enough for a good-sized man. She took the body back up, heaved it over her shoulder and tossed it down into the grave. It was unceremonious. But she was tired. Not in her body, but of the task. She took the shovel and began adding the dirt back. She had replaced about a foot of it when she slowed and strange thoughts began.
Why am I so strong? she thought. Was I always this strong? I’m not complaining, it has its benefits. But it is a nice oddity of life, isn’t it? I did better than this fellow.
She looked into the grave. Not much of the dead man was still visible. His nose and lips peeked through the dirt.
Yes, I’m not like this man, she thought. He wasn’t all that strong. He was afraid at the end, I heard.
There was a cackle in the mountains. It was something large. Something not human. Something they had not seen before. She felt a little weak.
“It’s the heat,” she said. “It makes you tired.”
The shovel dropped from her hands. The sky rushed into a spinning frenzy and she lost her vision. The darkness of the grave took her.
She was still very much alive and fighting when the bartender began shoveling the dirt back over her. “That’s two,” he said. He peered at the sky. It was midday, but he did not squint. “I didn’t like these ones, you hear!? You hear me?! Try again!”