Endings

Endings

In my end is my beginning

These are often more fun than beginnings, just as funerals can be less depressing than weddings. Some endings could be accidents. Sarah recalled delivering several binbags of belongings to an ex’s house, only to have the bags collapse on the pavement and deposit several pieces of incriminating detritus - vibrators, peep-bo brassieres - in front of his neighbour’s door. Or another time when she ended a love-affair by shoving some old love letters through his post-box, only to find she’d got the address wrong: it was his bank manager’s house. Those endings were comical, because they bore the tincture of revenge. This ending however was different. It seemed more final, and more catastrophic.

This ending had to do with finding the bodies. They appeared everywhere she went. She would walk through a wood, and there was a soft “thud” as birds fell from their branches: she would be in the middle of a conversation with a friend, and they would glaze over and topple from their chair: she would be walking along a road, and find whole serried ranks of corpses in the gutter - foxes, badgers, cats. Sarah began to feel like Typhoid Mary. What was going on? Was she in the middle of a one-woman Holocaust? Was it her presence that hoisted the Grim Reaper into service? She rather hoped not.

Things got worse as the weather became warmer. Sarah noticed that there were two categories of putrefaction: wet and dry. The wet sort was more malodorous. It seemed that some of the bodies were melting and becoming part of the alluvial flow. Noxious liquids seeped from every orifice and ran downhill into a primordial soup. Other bodies became progressively drier till they resembled cardboard: lips drawn back in a snarl, tendons taut like knicker-elastic. Those dry bodies could be stacked up in an ante-room, waiting for the moisture to come.

And yet - and yet... Sarah could not, surely, be the only one left alive? If this was fast becoming a dead star, her future was not rosy, to say the least. Some action was required. Some balancing. She would reverse the processes and see what happened. Accordingly she took one of the cardboard corpses (it was light, she could lift it with two fingers), laid it on the ground, and slowly trickled warm water over it. The tissues began to look less dessicated. The shrunken, pendulous dugs plumped up into round breasts, the stringy tendons became flexible. She left the water coursing over the parchment skin, and turned her attention to those bodies that were in a melting state. With a peg on her nose, she dragged two of them over to her house, and played a cool electric fan over them. Gradually they started to dry out. To be sure, there were traces like snail-trails over the place where they lay: silvery, viscous. But no matter. As the bodies lost their effluvia, they became more limber, more shapely, more lissom.

She laid them side by side, the wet and the dry. They were still. She had to do something more, if she were not to spend the rest of her life surrounded by the dead. She began to hit them hard with the flat of her hand, to shout at them as loud as she could. Her pummelling and wailing seemed to go on for a long time.

And it worked. At first Sarah saw the fox draw breath, his red flanks rise and fall. The man, the woman stirred a little and struggled to sit up. The little birds, who had been reduced to bone and beak, fluffed their feathers and began to sing. It had been a miracle, performed not by her but through her. There had been something that looked like an ending. But it had been a temporary one, after all. Endings were beginnings too.