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A Dismemberment of Corpses - Short Story by Richard Barr

‘Sure,’ I said, pulling on the wheel and u-turning the motor.

A late-Autumn evening drew in and darkened the treetops as we descended the steep hill into the forest. I parked up and Shaznie took a couple of old shopping bags from the back seat.

‘We’ll split up, but don’t go too far,’ said Shaznie.

‘I don’t know this place at all,’ I said, ‘so I won’t get outside of shouting distance, for sure.’

We walked for a while until we reached a wide, lush clearing.

‘Ok,’ said Shaznie, cracking his knuckles, ‘it’s been raining lately but the air’s quite tepid now, it’s mild. Good conditions, good conditions. Take a bag,’ he said, handing me one, ‘that patch there, under the sycamore tree, that’d be a good place for you to start. And you know what you’re looking for, don’t you?’

‘Magic Mushrooms? Course I do!’

‘Just checking,’ he said, tee-heeing.

I collected around three dozen, left the patch under the tree stripped of them. I also foraged among some bushes around the tree, and along a path that ran up behind it, but found no more. It seemed like a good half hour had passed, so I returned back into the clearing to show Shaznie what I’d got, but there were no sign of him.

‘Shaznie?’ I went, slightly above talking volume, then louder, ‘Shaznie?’

I waited a moment or two, listened to hear if I could hear anything. ‘SHAZZZZNIEEE!’

I strained to hear even an echo, but could make out nothing save for the glum cawing of ravens somewhere far off. Moments passed, and the still and pure silence that had now crystallised, however briefly, were not interrupted. Finally, from what I guessed were an easterly direction, the sharp, dry crack of a stick broke the quiet. Sweat surfaced on my brow. I put my head down and marched quick as I could toward the sound. I reached the trees, stepping over a broken bough half buried in the mud. I stopped, stood still, listened again. A hardly-there breeze moved through the forest and what leaves were still left on the branches rustled softly, before silence reigned again.

Then, a scream. It came from behind me, unexpected as fork lightning on a sunny day. A scream, so high pitched, it bordered on the glass-shattering. The scream were male’s, and adolescent, perhaps, god forbid, younger than that even. I skipped back over the broken branch and ran back into the clearing, arriving to find Shaznie appear from the trees opposite with twigs and leaves sticking out of his hair.

‘Where the fuck were you? Fuckin’ hell... was that you screaming there?’

‘Me? No. Kids. Horsing around back there. Got a tree swing back in there. Dangerous looking. I’d’ve told them off if I’d thought it would do any good. Sorry, Danny.’

‘You’ve blood on your shirt cuff,’ I said on noticing it.

‘Oh yeah, cut myself,’ he replied, though on taking a quick look at his hands I didn’t spot any gashes or anything. ‘So you got me some then,’ he said, nodding at my bag.

‘Around three dozen,’ I replied.

‘Good stuff. I got around the same amount, give or take. We’ll brew up some concoction with this, I’ll say. But later. In the meantime we’ll get down to that wee club, get you your drink, hey?’

‘Lead the way,’ I said, waving him on.


Shaznie directed me down a side street off the Donegall Pass. We got out the motor and he led me down a long narrow alley that opened out onto a small enclosed courtyard. The club, from the outside, looked like a Salvation Army hall; like a place where the WI would meet every fortnight.

‘Here we are,’ said Shaznie.

‘My motor gonna be OK parked up on that street?’ I asked.

‘Sure it will. Nobody round here fucks with a car they don’t recognise. They assume it belongs to somebody that’s a member of this club. And you don’t wanna go messin’ with somebody that comes to this club.’ He approached a wire mesh screen door and buzzed the intercom.

‘Alright, Shaznie,’ came a static-heavy voice. ‘Who’s that you’ve got with you?’

‘Friend of mine. He’s cool,’ said Shaznie. ‘He’s got a bit of a thirst on. Wondered if I could bring him in for a drink? Was down in the forest there, too. I, we, collected many pickings, which we’ve brought with us.’

A small box above us buzzed and both the outer door and the heavy corrugated iron main door behind it released and gave way, leading to the dark rooms beyond.

We walked along a short, dimly lit hall. 3 doors ran up either side. Framed pictures of men dressed in military regalia from what looked like different armies lined the walls between the doors. There were other pictures that showed the same cut of men—square jaws, prouder looking than they maybe should’ve been—and they wore robes and aprons bearing strange symbols while in their hands they held evil looking objects, things, on looking at them, I could not fathom the use for.



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