This is a story written on a weekly basis and incorporating feedback from the community to grow and evolve.
The air is a corpse: thick, sticky, and swarming with flies. Solomon and I have been forcibly volunteered to inspect a pile of corpses on the outskirts of our new home. Solomon’s an impossibly lean man with limbs so slight I can see the sinew rippling as he crouches down and carefully picks at a shawl caked in dry blood.
“I am thinking these people died well beforehand,” his grin is a rictus, and he barely seems to register the flies. I can feel every footfall every time one lands on my skin, no doubt carrying some carrion disease.
“What killed them?” I ask, swatting manically. I feel panic at the base of my throat, ready to come tearing up and into my brain and send me sprinting far, far away from this Lovecraftian spider of arms and heads and legs. I feel a shiver ripple up my calves and across my thighs and steady myself against a low, crumbling wall before ripping my hand away and cursing.
“Too hot?” Solomon grins wider. How he can even notice what I’m up to in the face of so much death is beyond me. “I do not see obvious signs of trauma or assault. I believe these people died of thirst, or perhaps starved.”
“All in a pile on top of each other? Doesn’t seem likely.”
“No. My theory is that they were dropped here deliberately. Haphazardly. Without care or any reverence for the dead.” I lean down and pull on the arm of what looks like a young boy, sending a humming wave of insects into the air. Solomon takes a step back. I close my eyes and mouth, willing my nose to shut and block out the flies.
“What are you doing?”
“We should check if they have anything we can use. Food, water, a map, something.”
“I do not think you will find anything on these people, my friend,” Solomon intones as I stand up, back already aching from the awkward action of pulling such ungainly weight. He gestures to the mass of bodies, “They have nothing to give.”
“How do you know?”
“As I said, these people were brought and left here. It would stand to reason that anything of value was taken from them beforehand.”
“But why? Why kill these people? And why leave them here? For us to find? So we can bury them? I don’t get it.” The wind picks up, assaulting us temporarily with a cloud of sharp, ragged sand the color of rust. For a few moments the sky darkens as the dust cloud passes.
“I think the question relates directly to the question of why we are here,” Solomon says darkly, his eyes cast downward, “and it worries me greatly.”
“You think this is a message? You think we’re next? We’re being threatened?”
“No.” He turns and leaves me there, staring down at the open mouth of an obese man, “I think we are being fed.” The dead man’s head is thrown back in rigor mortis and he looks as if he’s cackling with joy. I wish I got the joke.