Haikasoru

 

Space Opera. Dark Fantasy. Hard Science.
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SUMMER, FIREWORKS, AND MY CORPSE — OTSUICHI

by Haikasoru

“Hey, would you just forget about it?” the cop with the cigarette was saying. “We’re done for the day, and everyone’s waiting with the cars. We’re supposed to go out for drinks tonight, you know.”

“Don’t be like that,” the taller one replied. “I mean, that girl…What was her name? Satsuki, right? I know she was probably kidnapped, but…doesn’t something about this area strike you as odd?” He gestured at a section of the forest—right in the direction of my body.

Ken’s mind was racing. What did he see? That ditch should have been completely hidden by the dirt, like just another part of the forest. But the boy’s face remained confident.

“Not particularly, no.”

“Look, see over there? There’s a bunch of markings in the ground, like from cleats. Children’s cleats. Probably ones for playing baseball.”

Ken hadn’t thought of the consequences of wearing cleats to climb down the slope. He kept silent as he listened to the two detectives talk, but his eyes began to work back and forth as if he were measuring something in his mind.

“Yeah, but we’re looking for a girl, right?” the smoking cop said after a drag from his cigarette. “Besides, the mother said she was wearing sandals.”

Disregarding his partner’s lack of interest, the taller man walked over to where I was hidden and stooped down to inspect the dirt.

Yayoi, frozen with overwhelming dread, could only stare at the scene unfolding in front of her.

“Besides, we’ve quit for the day,” the disinterested cop continued. “It looks like we’re all going to have to come out here again tomorrow. Dig all the holes you want then. Come on, everyone’s waiting for us.”

Ignoring his partner’s protests, the man closer to me brushed away a layer of dirt with his gloved hand, revealing the gray slab of stone beneath. “Hey, there’s concrete here. A small waterway, maybe? Hidden under the dirt.”

“Come on, hidden? Look around you. There’s dirt everywhere. That dirt probably accumulated over time until it was just a part of the forest floor. It’s part of nature.”

But the taller one wasn’t buying it.

He slowly lifted one of the concrete slabs.

Yayoi gave a silent scream.

“See? Nothing there,” said the smoking cop, flicking ash to the ground. “Well, I don’t know about you, but I’ve had enough of crawling around in the dirt for one day. I’m leaving.”

Beneath the lid was only a dried-up empty space. The detective was standing just a little bit down the ditch from where I was hidden. If he had lifted up the tile three to the left, he might have seen my toes.

“Don’t be in such a hurry.” The taller officer’s voice was firm. “We’ve got decades left to drink before we die.”

He moved one tile to the left and lifted. One tile closer to me.

“Bzzzt!”

“Would you shut up!” The policeman at the ditch was indignant. “Go ahead, have your laugh now, and just see if I let you borrow any money from me ever again.” He put his hand on the next slab. Just one more after that…

“Brother!” Yayoi was crying now, unable to withstand the terror any longer. “We need to get out of here! Run!” She tugged forcefully at her brother’s arm. But Ken made no signs of moving. His eyes, fixed on the two policemen, were sharp and cold, not those of a weak child.

The cop with the cigarette said mockingly, “Sorry, sorry. Keep going, who knows, maybe there’ll be something under the next one!”

“Yeah, yeah. You’ll be sorry, all right.”

The next slab lifted, and a slash of sunlight fell across my big toe, delivering the living warmth of the summer heat to a part of my cold corpse. If the policeman had just lowered his head a little, he might have been able to see the tip of my toenail. But his face showed no signs of recognition. Just one more, and even a complete fool would notice me.

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