I was 13 when I found the body.
Most people have seen a corpse by the time they’re in their twenties. They might get caught in awful traffic on the way to work, only to drive by and stare in shock at the still form on the ground, with blood spilling from what used to be someone’s head. Or maybe they just saw someone at a funeral, or at the hospital.
We all have to deal with death eventually. Still, 13 years old is a bit young…
I used to be a very quiet kid. Well, I guess I’m still fairly quiet, but as a child you get away with unsociable behaviour more easily. So I had just the one really close friend, a kid younger than me called Joseph. We’d met when we were 10 years old, and had quickly formed a friendship in the way children do; over something trivial, but still making for a very strong connection.
We grew up together. He developed an interest in sports I didn’t quite match, and he was much better at socialising than me. That was okay. I knew he was still a geek at heart, and no matter how popular he began to get, we still slept at each other’s house often, playing videogames or building a robot out of legos.
He’d come over on a Friday afternoon. At least, I think it was a Friday. You know how it is with old stories; sometimes you start to confuse little details.
Whatever it was, we were planning on riding out to the pool for a while before getting home and watching a movie. My parents had promised me we’d get pizza for dinner, so it looked like it’d be a great sleepover.
“Moooom, where are you? I’ve been waiting for ages!” I whinged into the phone. Seriously, it’d been 30 minutes since I’d gotten home!
“We’re nearly there, honey. Joseph had to finish getting ready before we could leave,” she replied, and then switched to her best mum voice, “you did finish all your homework already, right?”
I rolled my eyes, “sigh, of course I did. Just hurry up please!”
“I love you, dear.” “Love you too, mom.” I flipped my phone closed to end the call. Ugh, she was taking so long to get home! I went up to my room to watch some TV for a little while.
“…will. Can I go get her now?” “Of course you can, honey.”
I rubbed my eyes, and heard a clatter of shoes hitting the ground, then the pounding of feet against the stairs.
“Liliiiiiiiiii!” Joseph called out, “let’s go!”
“I’m coming” I mumbled back, and nearly fell while trying to get out from bed.
I ran my fingers through my hair at the mirror and fixed my fringe a bit before grabbing my bag and opening the door. “Lili, come on, come on, come on!”
“Hahaha, okay okay,” I was smiling, “let me get my bike.”
We went down the stairs, put our shoes on, and I went to the garage as Joseph scrambled out the door. It didn’t take long to take the bike out, then we were off. I had to squint a bit as we went up the road. The ever-constant Florida sun made for perfect pool weather, but also made it hard to see.
“So do you want to go get Daniel and Leo?” Joseph called back to me as we rode. I made a face, “no, let’s just go alone.” I did not want to talk with them after the fight we’d gotten in a few days earlier.
“Yeah, sure. Actually,” and I could see he was grinning now “I want to do something else, unless you’re too much of a girl.”
“Hey!” I squinted my eyes at him, “at least I’m not a huge jerk like you”
He laughed, and continued “why don’t we go explore the forest by the lake? I looked when we were going to Daniel and Leo’s last week, and I’m really sure we can go around the fence!”
“Yes! That’s pretty cool.” I agreed, “it’s just…” and I slowed down a little more.
“What?” He slowed down a bit.
“I bet I can get there before you!”I shouted and pedalled hard as I could.
It took us about 10 minutes to get to the fence. Of course, Joseph had beaten me to it, and I had to stand there and listen to him brag about how great he was. Jerk.
I lived in a closed community, and all the houses were organised around the lake. On the far side of it, almost directly across from where my house was, you could see some woods. There was a small fence blocking entrance to the forest from the nearby houses. The fence actually stretched a few metres into the water, so you couldn’t just walk around the edge. However, Joseph had found a small hole under the fence that some animal had dug.
We tied our bikes together and decided to see whether we’d fit. He gave me his backpack so he could go first, and was through after a few seconds. I threw the bags over the fence to him, then tied my hair back and crawled under the fence. My hair nearly got caught when I was getting up on the other side, but apart from that I had no trouble.
“Here you go, Lil”
Joseph handed back my bag, and I put it on as we walked towards the forest. “What do you think we’ll find?” I asked.
“Dunno. There’s probably really cool animals though.”
“D’you think there’s bears?”
He snorted, “we live in south freaking Florida Lili. There might be some gators though, what with the lake nearby and all.”
“Are not!” I hit him in the arm. He just grinned back.
“I wish we’d brought our walkie-talkies,” I said as kept walking. “We could split up and explore much faster with them.”
“Yeah, I know.” He shrugged and kept going.
We saw a bunch of broken trees on the ground, and tried to see who could jump around on them the longest without stepping on the ground. I won this time, and gave him my biggest smile as I gloated.
“Whatever. The branch slipped on the ground!”
“Did not! You’re just a sore loser”
“No way! You would have fallen too.”
“No way! You would have fallen too” I repeated mockingly. He snorted, and I could tell he was smiling.
We came across a bunch more broken trees as we walked deeper into the forest. It was weird, ’cause we’d see a pile of trees like before, and then they were all upright a few metres on. Maybe a hurricane had knocked them over last summer.
The branches were growing a bit thicker overhead and there was less light, so we had to be more careful when we crossed one of the areas of broken trees.
“Maybe we should start heading back,” I called to Joseph, who’d run ahead a bit. “I can’t even tell what time it is from here.”
“Um, Joseph?” The forest was starting to feel awfully empty and dark now.
I heard the crack of dry leaves, and looked to the side to see him, panting, eyes wide.
“Oh my gosh Joseph, are you okay?” I rushed over to him. “What happened?”
He opened his mouth but nothing came out. He just grabbed my hand and pulled me over to one of the areas with broken trees.
I gasped, “oh my gosh, is that…” I walked a little closer. There was a pile of rubbish, with old clothes hanging on a branch. It looked like someone had been living there, and oh my god.
The thing about seeing a dead body for the first time is how much of a shock it is. People’s brains have something that keeps them from letting it register. It just doesn’t make any sense. Human bodies… move. They breathe.
They don’t lie hanging over a thick tree branch, bloody shirt torn to shreds. They don’t stare at the sky with empty eyes. They don’t lie perfectly still, like some horrible wax dummy.
I shrieked, and that seemed to wake Joseph up. He took my hand again, and we ran for it.
This was not a true story, of course. I just wanted to practise my writing a bit.
I knew the end is far from the best, but I had to finish this post sometime tonight 😛
Hope you guys don’t mind me doing this from time to time. The poem last Friday was received better than I thought it would, so I feel I can start trying to write actual stories.
Hope you liked this a little, and have a great week 🙂