The Devil's Surgeon Part 1
Winter - Year of Our Lord 1493
We buried the Apothecary deep. Really, really deep. The song of our spades striking the winter-hardened earth sent the crows bursting up from the mist draped trees, complaining raucously about the disturbance. Though each strike jarred our shoulders, we went two, three, four feet deeper than we had ever dug before, deep beneath the frost to where the earth was soft and stank. We dug so deep the fossor’s ladder was not long enough and the priest sent the boy for another one. It was hard, physical labour. Freezing air scraped at our throats and our backs ached with the toil but we did not loiter. We worked quickly, not pausing for breath until the grave was dug.
When we eventually rolled the shrouded body over the lip there was a brief moment of silence before it hit the bottom with a satisfying thud. Both ladders, in case they were tainted, we toppled on top of him. Though, even then, deep was not enough. The priest, perhaps fearing resurrection, bade us pile rocks into the hole to hold the body down. This we did before shovelling the earth back in.
Then we gathered around the low, dark mound and each man spat on it for good measure, including the priest. Only when he nodded to indicate his satisfaction did we swing our shovels across our shoulders and begin the steep walk back down the hill to the town. As we walked, the gathering clouds turned dark and the first flakes of winter snow began to fall.