The old man took a draw from his pipe, his eyes on the woman at his feet. Her features were bloated, her body still. He had fished her out of the murky water with difficulty the night before, and now he sat in the frigid pre-dawn light, smoking and waiting.
He chuckled to himself.
“Long night,” he said aloud, “But I guess I can wait around some more. Fishing boat’s just pulling out, and then the birds’ll be in.”
The drowned woman said nothing, and there was no one else around to hear. This did not seem to perturb the old man, who continued puffing on his pipe as though sitting all night with a corpse were the most normal thing in the world.
“There it goes,” he said, “We’re all alone. ‘Cept the birds, of course.”
Four birds, to be exact. They flew towards the shore and settled down in the dead woman’s hair. She sat up.
“Finally!” she said, “What’d we have to wait so long for?”
“You know there’s always someone watching.”
“Let’s get out of here while the coast is clear.” The woman stood and stretched, “I still feel dead,” she complained.
“Walk it off,” the old man suggested. He got to his feet with difficulty, “These old bones don’t much care for the cold,” he said.
“Let’s get out of these bodies, quick,” the woman said, “Someone’s bound to have noticed you. Besides, this one’s all water-logged.”
“Do you think I enjoy being in this old thing?” the man growled, “But we can’t just leave them here. Besides, you didn’t die for nothing – did you get the information we needed?”
“Why do you think they killed me?” the woman grinned, and a worm crawled out of her mouth, “Ick!” she gagged, “Seriously, I hate being dead.”
“Well, what did you hear?”
“Not until we’re somewhere safe and I’m in someone fully alive, breathing, and not full of worms. Preferably someone under 30 and hot.”
“Beggars can’t be choosers,” the old man said as they started off down the lane.
“Come on, tell me you wouldn’t like to be in someone young for a change.”
The old man shrugged, “Of course I would. But we have to keep a low profile.”
“I know, I know,” the woman sighed, “But next time, you get to die and get thrown in the river. Deal?”
“Quiet! I think someone’s coming.”
The dead woman and the old man ducked into a side-ally, and not a moment too soon. Thundering footfalls could be heard, and then six soldiers rushed past.
“What are they doing on this side of town?” the old man breathed when they were past.
“I don’t want to know,” the woman answered, “Let’s get back to base, fast!”
They made their way as quickly as possible, slowed by the old man’s limp.
“I don’t care how ‘hot’ my next body is,” he said, “But I hope they’re put together better.”
“Stop complaining,” said the woman, “We’ll be back to base soon – hopefully they’ve got some bodies for us there.”
“So,” said a voice behind them. The two spun around to find a burly soldier standing before them, clutching a large rifle, “It is bodies you’re taking.”
The old man reached into his coat, but the soldier lifted his gun.
“Don’t even think about it,” he said, “You’s gonna’ tell me what this is all about.”
“What do you mean?” the woman asked.
“Don’t ‘choo play innocent with me,” the soldier said, “I happen to know a woman looking just like that,” he gestured at her, “Died last night.”
“A woman…? My-my sister?” the woman gaped, and tears filled her eyes, “Anna! Oh, Anna!”
The soldier grinned. “Ok, that was pretty good.”
“Excuse me?” the old man growled.
“The story about the sister – quick thinking, Tia.”
“Mar, is that you?” the woman asked, her crying desisting.
The soldier’s grin became a little sheepish, “Yeah. I was sent to come find you, and I couldn’t help testing you. You both passed, if that’s any comfort.”
The woman scowled, “I am so going to kill you.”
“Don’t you dare – this body could really come in useful.”
“How did you get a soldier?” the old man asked.
“It’s a long story, and we’ve got to get back to base. C’mon.”
Today's Novel Idea Prompted by: Picture above, courtesy of Wikipedia.