- Vol. 07
- Chapter 05
It was warm that Halloween. The grass and trees had a fried, omelettey tinge and the lake was as still as held breath. No footballers, no kids, no walkers, no dogs. No one at all.
Except for one figure. He had a lopsided gait and his appearance had changed a lot over the years. This time, he wore a sky blue polo shirt and stonewash jeans. He looked faded, like an old tea towel.
That’s what Rima thought. The teenager was at her bedroom window, surrounded by cardboard boxes and taking a break from unpacking, when she caught sight of him. He was stooped, scouring the ground, something held under one arm. Rima couldn’t tell what, so she grabbed her phone and zoomed in. He’d had her back to her, but then he turned.
“Rima!” her mother called at the same time.
Her mother was at the foot of the stairs. “What are you doing up there in the dark? Turn on the lights and draw the curtains, it’s dinner time.”
Hands shaking, Rima did as she was told.
At the table, she barely looked at her phone. Her brother, Rayhan, noticed. “What’s up with you?”
“Yes, you’ve barely touched your rice,” said Mum.
Rima poked a piece of curried chicken. “Mum, you know the park behind the house...”
“Oh, I found out something about that,” said Rayhan.
“Park? I thought it was private land, the landlord never said anything.”
Rayhan scoffed. “That’s not it. The kids in my class told me – some guy got murdered there!”
Rima dropped her fork with a clatter.
“Good grief, surely not.”
“It’s true, and the best part is–”
“That’s enough. You’re scaring your sister.”
“I’m not scared,” said Rima, only a year younger. “But you might want to see this.” She showed them her phone.
“Is that a duck? Funny looking thing, looks like he’s wearing a wig.”
“Who’s the dude holding it? What if he thought you were taking a picture of him?”
“Don’t you notice anything else?” said Rima.
“He’s got shit clothes?”
“Sorry. Oh I dunno,” said Rayhan. “Why’d you zoomed in so much, can’t see his face.”
When their mother got up to take her plate into the kitchen, Rima said, “So, how did that guy in the park die?”
“Oh yeah,” said Ray, who’d also finished and had stood up. He looked over his shoulder and then hissed, “They cut off his head! And they never found it.”
“They only found the body cos the dogs and birds were making a racket. There used to be ducks, but now they’ve all gone.”
As her mum and brother washed their dishes, Rima looked again at the picture. They thought that she’d only snapped his torso. But after the man had straightened up and the duck had looked up at her instead with its blank, black eyes, Rima knew that there hadn’t been anything above the man’s collar at all.