“You bloody idiot!”
I plucked at my sodden jeans and glared at the red BMW as it disappeared into the distance. Muddy water trickled into my wellington boot. Buster tipped his head to one side, gave me a doggy grin, and then shook himself.
“Get away!” I ordered. I frowned and looked up at the sky, where the sun had just emerged from bruised clouds. I rubbed at my thigh. The old wound ached when it was cold.
Buster gave me an expectant look. “Oh, all right,” I said. “I’ll dry. Come on, boy!”
We veered to the left, away from the road and into a narrow strip of trees. The smell of leaf mould filled my nostrils. I picked up a large, fallen branch and let the damp, coarse bark slap against my palm. The weight was comforting.
I didn’t throw it for Buster. It was too big, and anyway, you shouldn’t give dogs sticks.
The trees opened out to the edge of the quarry, the stepped rock of the opposite wall making me think of an amphitheatre. I imagined a violent battle in the bottom of the basin, where now a pool of calm, green-blue water sat. I could almost hear the cheers and smell the sweat and dust. I could almost taste coppery blood in the air. I held the branch high and let out a roar.
Buster gave me a puzzled look, then ran down the rocky path and cocked his leg against a sapling.
I followed him, scuffing my feet, kicking up dust and gravel.
Something caught my eye. I squatted, dug my fingers into the coarse dirt and yanked. I pushed the grime away from the surface of the small object with my thumbnail. A coin, made of dark metal, stamped with a horned figure on one side, a winged one on the reverse. Strange.
My thigh complained again at the squatting position. Self-defence, they said. I never actually touched her; she put a kitchen knife in my thigh. How is that fair?
I straightened up, leaning on the branch for support, and dropped the coin into my jacket pocket
“Buster! Heel!” I hissed, looking through the trees towards the road. He trotted obediently to my side.
A woman in black, high-heeled shoes was talking loudly into a mobile phone while she stared at the front driver’s wheel of her car. A red BMW.
“It’s the car from earlier,” I murmured, grinning. “She must’ve got a flat on her way back.” My hand slipped into my pocket and found the coin I’d picked up.
I flipped it in my fingers. The surface felt oddly warm. My eyes drifted to the heavy branch in my other hand. I’d been leaning on it, like a staff.
Buster let out a soft wuff.
The woman stabbed at the screen of her phone and thrust it into her handbag, shaking her head.
I made a decision.
“Flat tyre?” I said, stepping into view. “Would you like some help?”
The challenge with this story was to stick to 500 words, and it is EXACTLY 500. So on that basis alone, I’m quite proud of it! I rather enjoyed the slightly sinister, thriller-like atmosphere, although it does feel more like a prologue than a full story (but come on, 500 words!) Hints of the supernatural crept in, too. I might pick this one up again some day…