A ghost god on an internship discovers a human boy inside a barrel and helps him adjust to life among the dead.
You could kill time without
Where do these bodies come from?
Caw hurls the 143rd corpse onto the dock. His face contorts in disgust. His hands are slippery and reek of human stench. He cannot, for the love of his future, understand why he has picked to intern for a lowly mortician. Here he is, hauling corpses onto the Body Dock before the waves wash them up on the shore and scare the sunlight out of the tourists.
It isn’t until he takes off his hat and calls it a day (night, whatever) that he notices a barrel bobbing in the middle of the ocean. Mortician Gore never told him anything about bobbing barrels and for the three months Caw has been labouring his arse, a barrel is the last thing he expects to see.
He decides to check it out.
Caw remembers studying a principle of evolution, with the finches and homoplasy and all those flappy wings. It’s a load of whack, that’s what he thinks.
If there’s any truth to this Darwinism-shebang, Caw would already be speeding along the wings of his genetic superiority across the infinite waters. Instead, he plops into Mortician Gore’s bone boat and rows his way to retrieve his object of interest.
The barrel is heavy.
He considers breaking it with his paddle but he doesn’t fancy swimming back if his paddle breaks instead. Eventually, Caw manages to haul the barrel onto the boat and rows them back to the dock.
“You better be worth it, you unsanitary—”
The barrel moves. It is moving.
He isn’t hallucinating.
With his unrivalled sense of self-preservation, he scrambles onto the dock and holds himself flat on the pier. He hits the barrel with his trusty paddle and gives a manly scream when it rattles.
“Come out, you ratty demon,” Caw squawks, peeking over the edge.
The boat hovers below him. When his sensibility kicks in, he ties the boat onto the dock as he waits for the barrel to retaliate. Caw has always taken pride in his multitasking ability.
“Come out, come out!” Caw cackles and smashes the lid back in when it finally moves. He does it a few more times until he gets bored. “All right. I’m done messing with you. Show yourself.”
Caw sobers when the lid dislodges and two glowing eyes peek through the gap.
The thing inside the barrel seems to be analysing him, on guard in case he decides to smash the lid in again.
Caw does the stupid thing — he drops the paddle and raises his hands. “I am unarmed.”
With curling toes and hunched shoulders, the creature that emerges has all the body language of a shaved ape. It scrambles onto the dock, shivering and shaggy wet hair sticking to its face. Its olive skin is shiny from either respiration or the sea.
“Are you what they call a human?”
The ape nods.
“So you do understand what I am saying,” Caw says.
It nods again.
“Oh gods damn it, put some clothes on!”
He wrangles the clothes from a corpse at the top of the pile and flings it at the ape.
Caw observes it. From the way it acknowledges his generous gift, to the shivering ease it manages to cover itself, this thing is demonstratively evolved. And it does not lack social awareness, that innate, blessed understanding of why it’s considered improper to touch yourself in public, that sort of thing.
“You will come with me,” Caw says.