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Murders in the Brook

by sillyon

It was about three quarters to sunset when we first heard of what happened at the old brook. I had only just completed the final rounds of the day when the old man with the smudged spectacles stumbled into our store. It was a greatly comfortable summerish day in early May, on which the air around one felt like a thin woolen blanket wrapped loosely amidst the fleeting winter on the horizon. The day’s dearest friend grew oblong arms of shifting darkness from the trunks of trees to wave a brief hello-and-good-bye to the silver crescent that rose, tucking the magnolias into her dim mattress of night. A rushing breeze came with the mildly-laboured swinging-open of the corner store door, but it was the pleasant kind that wouldn’t stir a resting customer to any amount of unease. With it, a sudden awareness of the deep purple bubble hovering strangely just above our affairs swept swiftly across the collective conscious of the interior space; almost time. Naturally, specks of pollen pink and gold and every shade in between decorated the man’s wispy papyrus beard like Van Gogh’s canvas, and quickly went their way as he raised his arm to wipe the sweat from his brows.

I had never known the man well, save from his routine strolls by the denser wood in an attempt to spot a wandering rare shrew or perhaps catch a glimpse of a rounded raptor’s queries, but I knew his way, and the echoes of his heart left in the petal patterns that seemed to follow him everywhere. I realised my head had been caught dwelling in the poetry of the evening mood and a moment or two had passed me by, and awkwardly cleared my throat to greet him.

“Murder’s in the brook,” he groaned in an almost casual yet still clearly exasperated manner.

“Pardon?” A driver turned from his daily digests of gossip and pie to face the news, a fellow known around to get things done.

“The Mill Boy.”

Suddenly, the evening ease slipped and sneaked from the crowd. I didn’t permit a word to evade my grasp—this wasn’t my business. And from there the cold case of a story unfolded unmolested. There were cries violent and silent, passing pitiful ponderings, guilty thrills, and vitriolic whispers. The town dogs slept that night as they did most nights so the cotton workers served as the only bar from the scene, staking out out of respect until the first lights of dawn. It was said the boy had no name to him, only the hands that brought forth a meal and some and the garb which clad him. It was said he was the illegitimate child of a wealthy Austrian socialite who’d passed through the town a decade past. It was said he’d never been to a day of schooling in his short life, couldn’t speak a word of any tongue. It was said he was the secret brightest pupil in his whole class. It was said he was a good-for-nothing queer who belonged with the rotting moss. And before long it was said it was Tuesday morning, and there was work to be done as much as any day.

Then it was that the old man stumbled into our humble business to bring news again of a macabre nature. The driver again was the one to calm the townspeople and lead a party out to see the thing and send the teenagers on their way home. The body again in the brook, a form of firm flesh—some beast of brown meat, squarely betwixt the two emerald-stained slopes that led to the now frantic narrow stream.

At least, this was what the mayor described, quite predatorily, to the assembly in the square that Friday night. You see, this was no trifling matter for the hearts of women—the mayor’s nephew, obviously himself an inexplicable wellspring of wealth, was an eminent figure in the field of New English entertainment, and this was nothing to be buried unneatly in a forgotten football field. The mayor exclaimed the name of perhaps the purest-bred, supernaturally splendid stallion the country’d ever seen—Big Bill. This creature was not merely a companion, decoration, or prizewinning tool—he was practically a celebrity. With an almost human personality completely of his own, he knew which horseshoes were forged of the finest steel, which mare would bear the largest lad, the most delectably crimson-coloured macouns from offshoot Connecticut crisps, even to hold his head high for portraits. Critics say they saw the devil in his eyes, when the accident that took his brother and rival, Lil’ Bill, went unsolved—of course, because they were paid off by third party interests who wouldn’t stand to see a good horse win and take all. Demanded should be the compensation for this terrible loss to both my dear nephew, this town’s pride, and really the whole nation if you think about it, concluded the mayor. I noted, strangely, the jarring absence of the word justice throughout.

My fellow townsfolk flocked to the concession stands. It was, after all, only on special occasions that the children were allowed to partake in such costly delights as candied Connecticut crisps and the like. On days like these, they were permitted to feel one kilometre richer—that is, as if closer to the estate farms that lay just North of the town. Naturally, the donations from the more well-off residents stacked quite high in that velvet-lined oaken box, a fully typical gratefulness for the generosity of the paternal caretakers of our humble corner of the Northeast, and of the inestimable loss that had been suffered. Of course, I generally refrained from the oddly-inappropriate festivities my family frolicked amidst—this wasn’t my business. I hadn’t seen a game of racing since at most the dusk of infancy, easily.

Hours of my time did go to this occasion however, as later in the night my dear Cynthia made the time to attend. She spoke of how she missed the games they used to bring to the town when she was young, and would come to each event since, uselessly hoping that that time would be the time they brought them back. She went into great detail about the fond memories formed just in that square so long ago, playing so innocently, and how it felt like just ereyesterday. As I watched her lips perform the lovely dance of language, I couldn’t help but feel grateful that no death had ever been her business; for she was a dear, untroubled thing. We were but people of a town, and living was our way. Time flowed neatly with but remote hints of sound as did the starlit muck of that beautiful brook. I knew somehow without being told that it had been there countless generations before Columbian men had set foot in the pineal woods of the Atlantic coast, and would remain so countless more. All that mattered to me were the two sights of purity that lay directly before my field of vision across the football field—my love, and her reflection in the stream. It was as if dreams would show there, in that stream. The lamps’ lights against the deep dark of infinite space blended with the quiet liquid glow leaping and bounding softly around carefully carved annals of saturated soil and scattered stones, a scene of perfection molded by millennia. And my dear Cynthia, whose ignorance made her sweet on the ears.

And the brook did flow on, as the town worked off the fat gained from the weekend memorial, until it had all gone away down some drain somewhere only to bring hungering stomachs again to our corner store. Again the world called out to all to remind it was a pleasant sort of Wednesday midday in May, as the tufted beards of well-coiffed old men fled far from sight to stumble into some Nova Scotian corner store, clearing the skies. It fostered quite the atmosphere for frozen delights, the whole business of the day seemed an iced cream here, an iced cream there. Those fortunately aged minimally enough to avoid schooling kicked about through and around the streets with sticky palms, all the while soiling any shine left on their little boots.

Bartering, from the window I watched the milkman who so kindly strode from door to door, without whom our business could not possibly go on, and the humility such a man must internalise not to realise this. He paused at a step across a block and a road from where I stood and, by coincidence, the old wizard stepped out onto it just then, his usual air of childish abandon observably diminished. I was just to take another customer when there came a muffled, nauseating sort of shriek; the kind far off enough that one needn’t pay any mind, and wouldn’t even have had within notice sans a wandering ear like mine. From my view—the man whipped his head opposite our store, clearly toward the sound, and darted straight into the distance—leaving it. Within the hour my gripping fingers wearied and curiosity took hold in their stead, bringing my break to the old brook.

I elected to make known to myself the source of whatever disturbance had haunted my afternoon activities, and made my way down the path. Swinging a sharp turn through trees of grizzled skin, I happened upon figures at least once organically animated just down the way. But a few fateful steps in upon the glowing blades, I steadied my legs to rest myself upon the brief bank, kneeling halfly so and bringing stains to the crumpled curve of my eggshell trousers. My hands felt drawn to the Earth as I saw what was before me.

The hag and the dog, they called them. The neighborhood’s very own rotating circus. The human of the pair had been dealt all the telltale signs of age one could ask for—or pray not to have—and her inevitably approaching end was evident in all aspects of her being, from the perpetually broken hip to a breath which barely breathed. And though she was generally avoided—almost feared—by the majority of the town, she had with her one constant companion, Charl the bloodhound; known to be the kindest creature who could wet your hand with love, approaching him to receive such silly satisfactions and enduring the off-putting lingering lady was a routine challenge to the local children. He was long and low and slow, a gentle mop traversing the damp roads like a dollop of chocolate melting down a waffle cone. Gravity was not either’s friend, the poor things, but they were each other’s. And it was known that the twin hearts were the softest in sight regardless of the difficulties of their continued, extended presence in the material realm.

There the old woman sobbed a somber sob, deep into the chest of the old man, who embraced her with the sort of look of a misplaced pup.

“One may tire of these murders in the brook—wouldn’t you reckon?” I dared to interject. 

The surprise couple flashed the dark of their eyes out of the embrace such that they became apparent to me, quieted a moment, before dealing me whites once more now with a greater twinge of welling azure. I wasted away beneath the oppressive ball of fire which dictated my work schedule, staring blankly for the full time it would take to lyrically express our national anthem. And with that, in an instant I was standing straight, brushing stray bits of variegated withered vegetation from my person as I began back down toward the bridge. I turned back to the pair, betraying my sympathies, and forward again—this wasn’t my business.

As I hiked the few exerting lunges it took to return to my old town’s main street, I couldn’t help but think back to the sight in that brook. It was indeed like no other, a child of the natural world treated like a common, worn dog-toy. Shame, I thought. A bona fide shame. Truly so. The stubby arms were all quite visibly distinguishable, in their isolated corners of that two-by-two-metre scene. Floating along like leftover sausage thrown aside after a day of poor business for the butcher. The leather was mostly intact, but took on a slimy, brownish sheen that had begun to crack from the unique recipe of age and submersion, as if the wrinkles were woven of fibres so weak they’d begun to disintegrate into a pattern of separating waves. Echoes of some cherry liquor served as the base tone for the menagerie of peculiar artefacts, sprinkled with mounds of tawny strands like ornate, soggy mushrooms sprouting from the depths. No creek, the sheer shallowness of it all permitted one to take note of the sunken pencil-thin splinterings of pink plaster, just below the central structure that still held some of its treasure-chest-esque shaping. Everything beyond that was like a tantrum-ridden toddler’s stuffed doll, though perhaps another youthful pleasure was more fitting—the balloon. For the form of it had swelled larger than it had been in its barking days, surely, and it resembled to me some grand stash of discarded, dirtied bubblegum. A frankly wondrous array of insect varieties did their ballet upon the thick fluid’s surface tension, celebrating the feast. There were even still waxy masses of black and yellow and green amidst the crimson sea; one could mull over whether that was of well-expired tissue, traumatic premortem expulsions of bile and waste (assuming, as is evident, a beating of sorts preceded whatever blow finished the task), or any other brackish gruel traditionally merrily going along its way, caught amongst the chaotic barriers of the crime scene and instead helpingly hurrying along the process of decay. For a moment, I thought, someone ought to take a good look—that’s how many murders, by now—in this brook?

It flowed, the town yawned and tossed and moaned, and each night more time was lost to us men, and each day more life was taken from us then, and the ever-latent insidious whirlwind of work and mortality continued to consume our simple existence, yet luckily just out of sight, and thus out of mind. A new week had come upon us since those disturbances, and I barely recalled any of the daydreams that occupied my mind even the hour before.

It was about three quarters to sunset when we first heard of what happened at the old brook. I had only just completed the final servings of that fine eve when the old man with the dark spectacles waded into our store. It was a greatly comfortable summerish day in the middle of May, on which the air around one felt like a thin linen duvet wrapped loosely amidst the fleeting winter in every cardinal direction. The day’s prime patron grew elongated digits of darkening masses from the branches of bushes to wave a brief hello-and-good-bye to the milky coin that rose, ushering the bunny-rabbits to their quaint eight-hour den of soil and root. A shivering from outdoors came with the laboured opening of the corner store door, but it was the pleasant kind that wouldn’t stir a resting customer to unease. With it, a sudden awareness of the smoky dome situated firmly just above our graduations and grievances swept slowly across the collective unconscious of the interior; it was almost time. Specks of apparent dew decorated the man’s wild alabaster beard in a Monet manner, as he shot me a short stare before turning to the collection of dining peoples.

“Murders… murders in the brook.”

There was of course a moment of—quite verily—no less than depressed reaction at the ghastly persuasion of this newfound occurrence by the denizens in my shop—but it was only just that, business that wasn’t mine within a business that was mine. The driver again was the one to calm the townspeople and lead a party out to see the thing, allowing all to follow if they so wished.

I rested my weary bones on the damp, grassy incline by the old, moonlit brook, hoping to gather only a cursory comprehension of whatever had taken place this time by the medley of musings the townsfolk might mutter—perchance a body carried out early this time to avoid nosy pokers and prodders—as if autopsy and evidence were conceivable techniques in this town. I resigned to relax myself, and simply take in whatever spectacle would in time come my way, be it disquieting or mundane; throwing my hair back with valuable childish abandon, and imagining the stars shining onto my skin.

Then I came to know something which did concern me. Indeed, it did concern me. It was some business of my own that did put any other business of the day well out of mind. In that moment, my senses did align with what happened at the old brook. All that mattered to me were the two sights that lay directly before my field of vision across the field—my love, and her reflection in the stream.

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8 Reviews

Points: 587
Reviews: 8

Wed May 15, 2024 1:15 pm
TOPAWG wrote a review...

First impressions💕: Wow, what a read! The text exudes an atmosphere of introspection and contemplation, drawing readers into a world where time seems to slow down, and every detail is imbued with meaning. There is a sense of melancholy that pervades the narrative, reflected in the descriptions of aging characters, fading memories, and the passage of time. The language is rich and poetic, evoking vivid imagery and sensory experiences that transport readers to the heart of the story.

Despite the somber tone, there is also a thread of resilience and perseverance woven throughout the text. Characters grapple with loss and uncertainty, yet they continue to navigate their way through the complexities of life with a sense of determination and grace. Themes of community and connection emerge, highlighting the importance of human relationships in the face of adversity.

Overall, this was beautifully written but could do with a bit of improvement.

TIPS✏️📑: Though the text shows promise in its evocative descriptions and thematic depth, but could benefit from refining the narrative structure, character development, and prose style to enhance readability and engagement.

→1) Grammar and Syntax: There are several instances of awkward phrasing and grammatical errors throughout the text. Be sure to carefully proofread and edit for clarity, coherence, and grammatical correctness. Using Grammarly for example can help improve this aspect of your works.

→2) Consistency of Tone: The tone of the narrative shifts between poetic and colloquial, which can be somewhat disorienting for the reader. Try to maintain a consistent tone throughout the text to create a cohesive reading experience.

→3) Pacing: The pacing of the narrative could be improved by balancing descriptive passages with action and dialogue. Consider tightening some of the descriptive passages to maintain the reader's interest and momentum.

→4) Clarity of Narrative: The narrative jumps back and forth in time and between different events without clear transitions. Consider organizing the events chronologically or using clear markers to indicate shifts in time or focus.

Finally💕: I'll leave you off with a ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4/5 stars! Continue to write and improve your works, yielding is never an option, if you publish other works anywhere else let me know! Supporting fellow writers is what am about, and I hope to see more of your works in the future.


sillyon says...

The link in my About has some other stuff from me, but it's nothing like this

As ideas are always better than their execution, so too must dough taste better than cookies.
— Horisun