Eugene Byrne — Spunkies

Somerset is the setting for multiple BSFA and Sideways Award nominee Eugene Byrne’s first published story in a decade. Enjoy…


 Male. Early-to-mid-20s, though you can’t be sure from the state of his blackened face.

 He — it — was hanging by the neck from a rope tied to one of the stubby branches of a pollarded willow.

 Clothing rough plain woollen cloth; smock, breeches, no shoes. Dead a few days.

 Next to the tree was a rhyne, one of the drainage ditches which cross-crossed the area. The morning was bright, with the promise of heat later, but it had rained a lot lately and the ditch was full.

Interesting. The corpse has a reflection. You can see it in the patches of water visible between clumps of weed.

Adams took his work phone from his jacket and took several pictures of the hanged man from different angles.

What was it the older hands used to say? “The brightest young talents in the department go to the Somerset Levels, and from there to the loony bin.” (Then again, they said the same thing about Northumbria, Cornwall, and most of Wales.)

The app was right next to the narrow, winding road. Close by a huge poster left over from the last election. VOTE UKIP, it said.

The tattered paper of the poster flapped in the breeze, but the dead man was completely still. No smell, no flies. No noise.

Adams got back in the car and glanced at the dashboard clock: 07:38. Good.

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