Watchtowers

 There was not a single tree on the edge of Branmarsh that had not a body slack on its boughs. Sara’s responsibility for two years had been to document them all. The ledger she held contained a note of each species of cadaver and its location throughout the village perimeter. 

 Her pen scratched the page next to entry 153, a two-week gone golden retriever hanging by its collar, its eyes out on their stems like a sea creature, with the usual assessment: undisturbed. She lit a cigarette for the last quarter of her round and kept her pace. 

 She crossed a bridge to the final stretch of wizened sycamores that signalled her route back to bed and nodded to the former beings who adorned the way. Her pen anointed the book for each. The second to last tree bore a limp rope untrammeled in the evening breeze and its empty sways filled her stomach with an old foreboding.

  Sara saw the rope undulate in the wind’s incorporeal caress and silhouettes reveling in the fireside glow of a home across the stream. She advanced back over the bridge to the house and the calm laughter and checked her belt for the ritual incantations. Whatever had happened to Mr. Morecombe’s body since he went up was none of her concern. The perimeter had to be preserved at all costs.

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