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By Matthew GranthamPublished 8 months ago 6 min read
Photo by Maksim Shutov on Unsplash

I don’t think he even knew what he was looking for.

Mud was showering all around me as he stumbled around the bog, fumbling over tree roots and discarded rubbish, making as much disruption to the water as possible. The sound of swashing water filled my ears and the smell of moss was embedded in my nose.

I knew he couldn’t see me from my hiding place. I’d been coming here everyday for the 2 years now, intent on finding and documenting the notoriously elusive gold tailed finch, only ever since twice before now and not for 10 years. The woman who had claimed she had seen was sure it was around these parts but I would guess that she saw it once, maybe, and only thought she saw it again but only in her mind’s eye. I’ve been studying this bird for a long time and there is barely anything written about it, hence why I’ve made it my life’s mission to find out more. I hate mysteries and love to be dramatic.

I would say the man stood around 5 ft 11, wide build with long legs. He had shaggy blond hair and a large mouth, his nose pointed more to the right that it should have done and was he limping? He was wearing tight cargo pants and a roll neck jumper with a long black coat, hardly ideal bog wading attire so I knew he hadn’t intended on doing this today.

I watched him for a good 6 minutes, lumbering around in the muddy water. What was he looking for? I’ve been laid here for 1 hour 12 minutes with no activity at all – which is usually the case, every day I’m here, 7 days a week, 3 hours of my life I spend in this bog and I get zero movement. I’m proud of my dedication to my craft to be honest, I’m nothing but determined – today, clearly, was different.

Before this was a bog it was called Lake Bardo. It wasn’t much of a lake though, more like a large pond situated just outside of a small town called Keigh, my home town. It used to be home for a couple of hundred Roman’s when they first invaded England – or Britannia as they lovingly called it – but it’s been marshland for as long as I have known it and Time Team have already been and gone.

There was the occasional ‘come on’, ‘where is it’ and ‘fuck!’ coming from the shaggy man in black, it was mostly elongated syllables emersed within splashes and slaps of the water. He was definitely hunting for something, or someone maybe. If the gold tailed finch was to land on my nose now and ask me what the time was, I wouldn’t have noticed as I was too fascinated by my bog buddy.

Suddenly he stopped and lowered his right hand into what looked like a crevice in a mound of moss. He flicked his hair to the left whilst his left hand went into his coat and brought out a long knife, an almost machete, and there was a long bang. Was that metal on metal or metal on wood? He had used the knife to crash down on something hard. My vision was obscured by the moss and I was immediately aware that my hiding place may have been too good for me to ever spot a bird from my position… The ringing in my eyes stopped enough for me to hear they man whisper to himself – who else was he going to be whispering too, he didn’t know I was there – ‘got ya!’

Quickly, the man turned and trudged his way back the way he had came, evidently finding what he was looking for. What was there to go hunting for in a muddy bog at 6am in the morning, I thought to myself.

What do I do? Do I follow him or do I find out what he had left behind, if anything, in the crevice?

I decided to wait until he was a dark smudge in my vision and lumbered out of my hiding place – which consisted mostly of moss, some mud and tree fallings on top on my camouflaged jumpsuit – and attempted to trace his steps. I kept low enough to quickly mould myself into a bush shape if he was to turn around but not low enough to impact me move swiftly towards him. He met with the trees and chanced a glance back in my direction. I stopped suddenly but he didn’t look for long before he sharply turned left and sprinted.

The bugger was on harder land now so I was going to have to speed up to get close to him. What was I going to do if I did catch up with him? I’m not exactly a fighter and I’m barely a lover.

Luckily, I didn’t need to find out as, when I got to the tree line, I heard a car revving up, attempting to make a speedy getaway. I managed to see the first 4 digits of his registration number before he was too far away for me to see.

I was repeating the combination of 4 letters and numbers in my head – and maybe even out loud to myself – as I slowly slogged my way back into the bog and to my hiding place to pick up my things. Then it occurred to me, if I couldn’t catch him, maybe I could see what he had found, or at least look to see if he left anything behind to indicate what he had found.

I plucked up my belongings and headed over to where I saw the stranger hovering. Within a small circular area of mass moss there was a small box – half a shoe box size I would say – it had a grove in the middle and centre – must have been where the knife had come down on it – along with a broken lock half attached – proving it was both metal and wood that I had heard the knife crash down on. The box was covered in dirt and moss but I could see it was coloured a dark blue underneath. On the bottom of the box was an inscription, nearly eligible but I could manage one word, ‘perdita’. No idea what that meant but when I opened the box, on the upside of the lid was a big letter ‘C’ and a small indent in the bottom of box as if something small had once been there.

Suddenly I felt a jolt in my wrist and I dropped the box involuntarily into the water.

‘Shit’ I sharply announced.

I didn’t try to look for it as when I looked down at my wrist, I noticed something, something that wasn’t there before. The letters ‘AUX’ appeared in dark, dripping writing, and more was emerging.

I didn’t wait for the next letter to be drawn, or to think about it meant or what just happened. I screamed and starting running.

What a birthday this was turning into…

Short StoryHistoricalAdventure

About the Creator

Matthew Grantham

An aspiring writer from the UK

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