by Gary Buller
London had been his candle as the man plied his trade into the early hours of the morning, the prolonged wails of the sirens ensuring that he remained alert and awake. Business had been booming, but he marked out the plots and sunk the spade into the damp clod with burdened shoulders, one of his recent clients had been his wife.
His toil was disturbed by another sound that vibrated the darkness. Machinery purred overhead extinguishing the stars, and he was raising his spade in a futile gesture when he realised that the sky was falling. Before he could dive for cover the shell ploughed into the icy soil, not twenty yards from where he stood, and he felt the impact vibrate through the thin sole of his boots. He braced for an explosion but none came.
He returned to his shed tired and shaky- he would visit the warden under the safety of dawn.
Inside the diminutive retreat with a mug of tea warming his leathery hands the man’s eyes drooped as low as the blind that covered the single window. The September winds of nineteen forty were frigid and brought with them lung scratching dust and the odour of destruction. However, it was a strangely fetid stench that prompted the man to rise and pull the blind aside.
A thick unnatural mist clung low to the grass out of which the stones rose like teeth. In and around them he could see movement- silhouettes backlit in the miasma by a city on its knees. Heads emerged from the ground like poison mushrooms craving the darkness and marionettes rose on unsteady legs with arms outstretched.
The air grew heavy with a fusion of sweet decay and chemicals. Gravel scattered underfoot as the strangers encroached.
“I know it’s you, Jerry bastards!” the man cried, failing to cloak the tremble in his voice.
He picked up his trusty spade and listened for a response but received none. Fingers explored the walls like autumnal leaves scraping across granite. They tapped on the windows and pushed eagerly against the doors.
“You’ll not scare me, I’ll chop your heads off- you see if I don’t.”
With suddenness the window imploded and peeling hands explored his space from behind the undulating blind, probing the space eagerly. One of them had a gold ring into which a ring of sapphires was set.
The man wasn’t religious but he sank to his knees, dropping the spade with a clatter that only served to increase their efforts. The blind was ripped free and fell to the floor.
Framed in the jagged teeth of broken glass the Luftwaffe flew in formation over a sky that flickered amber. Beneath this his wife stood, reaching out to him with her mouth agape and white pupil-less eyes boring into his soul. The right-hand side of her face was caved in where the debris had collapsed on her, and she was biting at the air with a mouth of cracked and shattered teeth.
The man thought that he could hear the air raid siren again, but it was all too loud. Then he understood-
the sound came from his own throat.