Hoking in the foundations Ryan found more bones. Night was showing and his boots were already mud heavy. Jude’s was desolate with only the scratching of his spade breaking the dusk. He thought of the clatter of the cash box on the tiles. It had fallen from his grasp as he rummaged through handfuls of notes and whatever coins were left. The clang of tin on tiles had echoed through the school as he stuffed the notes into the paws of the JCB driver. Reflecting in his own condescending way Ryan thought only a witless alcoholic with a thirst and an old fashioned fear of the dead would have taken the money without a question.
He had pushed the notes down into his pockets indicating to Ryan he could never be convinced to hand them back. Ryan had watched the driver as he had scurried from the school without querying the bones he had seen fall from the foundations. ‘He was no better than him’ the priest thought to himself. By now the driver would be spitting porter stories and spittle at whatever other miscreant had the misfortune of sitting beside him in Slatterys. Ryan could picture it.
He would talk. Not at first but he would definitely talk. No would would believe the driver or at least, initially, no one would believe him. But Ryan knew it would be only a matter of time before some sod turned up at the school emboldened by the chip some clerical brute had carved in his shoulder decades earlier. Ryan knew they would confront him or worse they would poke around for evidence and that would be that – it would all be over. His aspirations would incur their final crushing blow.
With that thought Ryan felt the weight of time pressing on his mind. He tried to move with greater speed but the clay was heavy and the spade heavier. He was not the man he once was. Time had taken care of that. Time. It was perhaps Ryan’s greatest enemy. Or at least he had thought it was until now. Right now, the weight of wet clay was his arch nemesis.
He had thought it was staining and hiding the offense of each bone’s brightness. It had seemed the clean limbs were gradually being incorporated back into the earth. But with each disturbance the spade seemed to encounter the suggestion of more bones and remains that felt closer to being a corpse than a skeleton. The tool seemed to be pushing through flesh and muscle rather than the brittle break of femurs.
Could it be that the deterioration of corpses had slowed to a halt? In one mad moment Ryan had a vision of himself as the priest who uncovered the blessed and untainted body of a saint. It is more likely I will appear on Top if the Pops he thought to himself in a rare moment of humor that checked his own ego. The absurdity of attempting to conceal what he instinctively knew was the mass internment of Jude’s lost and unmissed causes with wet clay washed him.
The more clay he moved, the more unattached limbs, skeletons and corpses he encountered. ‘Give up your grave and walk’ he shouted. ‘Go!’ ‘Get out of here!’ Not even Ryan’s obscene pleas could alter the past. Each body, each corpse, each skeleton , each bone lay innocently like a Time Capsule releasing their story to the world. ‘This is what we are’ they whispered. ‘This is what you are’. Whispers surrounded Ryan, thickened the air and rose to a din. Both knees crumpled and kneeling in the flooded mud a cracked voice answered back:’All is over.’
Slattery’s residents were beginning to tune into the spittled tale of flood and bones. Ryan lay face down and waited. Immersed in the breaking truth and suspended between his life of blank walls and the frenzy that was to come, Ryan waited.
The night lay dead and still. Nothing could be heard. Frozen Romans stared at the hanging head of a dying man. Lifeless elms stretched skyward and the windows of Jude’s, silvered by the rising moon, reflected the scene below.