Saturday 24 June 2017

'The Devil is in the Detail' by Emmaleene Leahy

The package was large. Brown paper tied with string, very unorthodox. I could smell turf. It was dripping. A pool of liquid like wet ink gathered under it. I presumed my boss put it on my desk. It was there when I came back and she was gone. In a hurry, she probably forgot the paperwork. Rather than bother her, I’d use my initiative.

Normally I knew what I’d be working with. There’d be a meeting, documents and an inventory. I had no idea how fragile the contents were so I took extra care. Using my nails, I delicately untied the string.

I shrieked. Inside was a perfectly preserved human body. Everything was the same burnt umber hue as if he’d been dipped in tea for hundreds of years. 

My cry had drawn attention. Over my shoulder, three pairs of eyes watched. My monochrome man wasn’t something that we mere museum employees got to see every day so I shared my bounty.

The cause of his slack jaw raised some debate. Someone said that it looked like he was smiling.

“It’s creepy. Like it’s laughing an evil laugh.”

“I think he looks like he’s coughing.”

“Maybe he choked.”

“Or drowned when the bog sucked him under, consumed him.”

“No, he would have been buried after he died.”

“I think his mouth is open so wide because he’s shouting and roaring.”

“Roaring in agony I’d say.”

“Don’t be morbid.”

“It’s consistent with the broken ribs. I think he died in battle.”

“A battle he lost.”

As excitement subsided, I examined him in more detail.

I could see that he’d been immaculately preserved. I’d never seen anything like it. Not only were there tufts of hair still on his head but I could see individual hairs on the back of his hands. I could even still see the ridges in his fingernails. The tint of the bog water seemed to highlight details of him in a way that wouldn’t be visible in a living person. It seemed to get inside the cells and show the structures.

The other three were already gone home by the time I had finished cataloguing the front of the body. It was only when I began to move it that I noticed something strange about how this creature was jointed. It began at his elbows, an extra appendage.

As I rolled him over to inspect his back, a plastic pocket with a piece of paper inside floated to the ground under my desk.  Assuming it was the missing paperwork, I didn’t pay it any attention. I was too occupied with the frame-like structures coming from the man’s back. I gently unfolded them and something seemed to come loose. Was it a tail? My heartbeat amplified as I realised he had wings. The focus of my eyes spiralled down to read the note at my feet.

The devil liked to use his initiative. Look at what happened to him.

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