by Nod Ghosh
Danielle found a shoe in our garden when the snow began to melt. She complained and badgered me to go take a look. That was on Monday morning. I was cocooned in bed and didn’t want to move, but my wife wouldn’t let it lie. She stood at the door in her dressing gown sipping her tea, puffs of steam escaping into the white-cold air.
‘Get up,’ she said, ‘and take a look at what’s going on.’
It was no use arguing. I had to obey her.
The cushioning stillness of the winter sky pressed down on me. My slippers grew dark drawing in moisture from the ground. The semi-frozen slush sucked all the warmth out from my feet.
The shoe looked like something my granddad would have worn; beautifully made, and well worn, with a long leather tongue and rugged laces.
It belonged to a right foot.
I picked it up by its dense black heel, and a line of fluid streamed onto the dead-looking grass that poked through the remaining patches of snow. A pale fungal smell hit me. The shoe slipped out of my fingers and thudded onto the ground.
I kicked at the sleety whiteness, to see if there was anything else underneath. Perhaps I’d find a left shoe to go with the right. I had a shadowy feeling I might discover something horrible, but all I found was wilted grass and blackened leaves.
Time was shooting by, so I went back inside. I’d need to leave for work soon.
It was hard going cycling through the mush. I was wet through when I arrived. I forgot about the shoe until I returned home in the evening. There were no lights on in the house. Danielle wasn’t home. Removing my cycling footwear reminded me of the shoe in our garden. The inky sky shielded everything from view. I grabbed a torch and plastic bag from the porch. The light beam cast long shadows on what was left of the snow revealing two shoes where there had previously been one. I threw both into the bag, and didn’t give the matter much thought. Guess I must have missed the second shoe that morning.
I mentioned it to Danielle later that evening.
‘Someone’s pissing about,’ she said, her knitting needles clicking. ‘Mark my words, they’re up to no good.’
Tuesday morning, I glanced across at the lawn whilst attaching my bicycle clips.
The shoes were still there even though I could have sworn blind I’d thrown them into the wheelie-bin the night before. There was a wilted shape near them, so I went to investigate.
A pair of serge suit pants lay with their legs draped at impossible angles.
Back into the house I found a couple of sturdy bin liners, then double bagged the shoes and trousers, and put them into the giant red wheelie-bin.
On Wednesday morning, I was eating toast when Danielle’s screams drew me to the garden. The last of the snow was gone. My wife pushed me back into the house, and wouldn’t let me see. The phone trembled in her hands as she dialled emergency services. It was only after a policewoman had calmed Danielle down with tea and platitudes, that I went out to have a proper look. A stout police officer was tying crime scene tape between the gateposts. I ducked through a gap before he could stop me. Butter yellow crocuses had come up between blades of damp grass. I threw my toast up over them, struggling to take in what I saw. The police officer walked over to me, put his hand on my shoulder. I gaped at the dark shapes that suggested objects I didn’t want to think about. Next to my feet, there was half a human leg; its ragged stump caked in congealed blood. There was something else clotted and visceral lying next to the leg in the twisted grass.
The limb was dressed in blue serge, its stockinged foot bent at ninety degrees, as if ready to strike out and kick someone. It was a right leg.
And next to it was a black leather shoe.
‘But,’ I said, as the officer tried to steady me, ‘I threw that shoe away. I swear, I got rid of it.‘
‘Really sir,’ he replied. ‘And what did you do with the rest of him? The grip on my shoulder tightened.
Nod Ghosh lives in Christchurch, New Zealand. Publications include a novella-in-flash ‘The Crazed Wind’ (Truth Serum Press July 2018), inclusion in anthologies Sleep is A Beautiful Colour (U.K. 2017 NFFD), Landmarks (U.K. 2015 NFFD), Love on the Road 2015 (Liberties Press) and various online or print journals. Further details: http://www.nodghosh.com/about/.