Creek was standing amongst a handful of spiny saplings on a small hill slope. I glanced back and saw we had excellent cover from the road, even thought I could still see my car lights flashing. Dry twigs and leaves, cracked under my boots, but I wasn’t trying to be quiet. I selected a spot nearby and slipped the hacksaw to the ground.
I felt Creek’s eyes on me, so I stepped a little further into the tree cover. An owl hooted somewhere and I could hear whooshing coming from the motorway as night lorries went by. This area seemed as perfect as I was going to get. Thank you, Mistress Moon. I tightened my grip on the handle of the shovel and walked straight up to him.
‘I’m all most done,’ he said as if guessing the question on my lips.
He zipped up and as he turned towards me, I raised the shovel. Aiming for the side of his head, I bought the full weight of myself down on top of him. There was a loud banging and grating sound. My ears told me something had gone wrong.
I looked and saw that the shovel had impacted the wet rocky soil. Creek’s left foot was next to it and he was lying, thrown across the ground. Breathing deeply, I yanked up the shovel and came at him again. He back crawled away from me, his hands desperately searching his pockets for something.
Following him, I tried to get into a good position to hit him, but couldn’t find one. I stopped and let him scramble to his feet. Getting his breath back, I expected a torrent of words, but instead he showed me the item in his hand. It was a long knife with a black handle. It looked sort of like the ones used in kitchens, but not. Creek held it steady and shuffled his feet on the slopping ground.
‘Neither of us can be trusted,’ Creek gasped out in-between breaths.
‘What’s that supposed to mean?’ I asked.
‘I knew there was something off about you back at the services. But you never noticed there was something off with me too. You’re getting old,’ he ended in a short laugh.
I half lowered the shovel and took a good look at him. However, the dark cast too many shadows on his face and body. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to be looking for anyway. A glimmer of myself?
He stepped more towards me, still pointing the knife in my direction. He seemed taller, mature and no longer the tried teenage I had mistaken him for. Control seeped out of him and there was a hungry in his face. Twigs snapped loudly under his boots and he began to circle me, as if I was now the prey.
Clutching the shovel pole to my chest, I ran through my mind what to do. It was odd through, as I began to think about it, I had never had anyone stand up to me before. My work was swift and clean, not sloppy as this boy had now made it. I could talk to him, districted him with some mundane or I could fight him.
Grinning, I let him get close then swung the shovel out at him. The iron edge caught him in the knee and he cried out. Rapidly, I went for a head blow, no longer caring if I did kill him out right. However, his arm shot up and his hand hit the shovel, blocking it. Grunting, I tried to throw him off, but he didn’t let go.
‘Yeah, you’re old,’ he hissed and began to tug the shovel out of my grasp.
‘Who are you, really?’ I cut in.
‘They call me the Ox Creek Killer. And you, I knew who you were the second I saw you. You’re the Slaughter Street Murderer,’ he declared.
‘Clever boy,’ I whispered and twisted the shovel from him.
He jabbed out at me with the knife, but I easily stepped backwards and wacked it away with the head of the shovel. A metal on metal chiming sound echoed, as if someone had just rung a bell to end the first fighting round. I came back again, swinging tighter this time and slicing across his stomach.
Creek doubled over, steeping back, hand across his middle, ‘you want to know something?’ he screamed, ‘I was thinking we could team up. Become unstoppable.’
I shook my head, ‘I already am. Unstoppable,’ then moved in and brought the shovel down on his head.
Creek crumbled to the floor, laying spread out and with the knife still in his hand. I breathed deeply and dropped the shovel. I looked down at him and waited for the normal rush of feelings to cloud me, but nothing happened. Rubbing my stomach, I sniffed and smelt the danger still in the air like the stink of a skunk.
There was nothing for it, I thought. I’ll have to just bury him.
Selecting a largish patch between the trees, I began to dig. The soil was soft and wet because of the rain, but still easy to move. I piled the top dirt off to one side. There had been a gap in the rain from when we had pulled up, but now I felt the first few drops hitting my head. I moved the soil faster, just wanting this to be over.
Something sharped poked my side and I went to turn around, thinking it nothing more then a branch.
‘Don’t move. Keep digging,’ Creek’s voice rushed into my ear.
I looked over to the where he had been laying in the ground and saw nothing but a flattening of grass. I became strongly aware of him behind me and the knife he had wedged in my lower back. My sweaty hands sort a better grab on the wooden handle. I could easily swing at him again.
‘Keep digging, Teddy,’ he snapped.
I lowered the shovel and did as he asked. I scooped the soil and dropped it on top of the small mound I was making. My mind turned, plotting. Creek’s breathing was harsh in my ears and as I stole some glances over to him, I saw a red line across his t-shirt. It also seemed like he was struggling to breath and there was a splodge of blood on the side of his cheek.
‘What am I digging for?’ I ask calmly, though I already knew the answer.
Creek sniggered, ‘You’re making my life easier. Maybe I’ll get all my next ones to dig their own graves too.’
‘This hole was meant for you!’ I yelled and swing the shovel around.
Creek brought up his hands to block and the iron point shot across them. I heard him curse loudly and he started jabbing blindly with his knife. I easily dodged his blows, but as I stepped back, the soil behind me loosed and I tripped into the shallow hole I’d made.
Before I could scramble out, Creek jumped on top of me, his legs almost wrapping around my middle and one of his hands on my throat.
‘I read about you and your pretty boys in the newspaper,’ Creek blurted, ‘is that what you were going to do to me?’
I didn’t reply, but a chocking noise escaped me.
‘I prefer ladies myself,’ Creek added and brought his knife close to me.
I felt the blade against my cheek and a tingle of pain.
‘Death is beyond us. For we are the bringers of it,’ he recited and slashed across my cheek.
Laughing, he scrambled off me and grabbed the shovel. I felt for something to grasp to pull myself up with, but there was only the damp soil. My cheek was wet with rain and blood.
Dirt flew at me, landing on my chest and bouncing into my face. I could hear Creek laughing wildly as he went for another shovel-full.
I tried to get out, but for some reason I had become like a turtle stuck on its back. Shovel-full after shovel-full of soil rained down on me and I began to accept my fate. I flopped over and tried to get on my knees, but I was all ready half-buried. I felt the dirt moving around me and decided to become still.
My lungs hurt to take a breath, but I remind calm and imagined I was in water and I could come up at any time, I just didn’t need to. I heard Creek yell out a goodbye and my shovel hitting a sapling. I couldn’t hear his footsteps but, I did hear the roaring engine of my car.
Without giving the soil time to consume me, I fought through it and back to the surface. Above me the clouds were black and weirdly, I wished my first view on re-birth had been of stars.