The Eerie Nerve
By sean mcnulty
There was some argument over whether they should venture further, down into the claggy jurisdiction of the bog. It was impossible to see clearly from high up, and thus impossible to know if Sullivan had gone in there. MacKenna was determined to check, though it was clear his resolve to catch up with Moloney trounced his concern for the beset Cavanman. Imogen seemed up for it too, but the others were sceptical.
I can’t imagine he went that far, said one of them. He’s probably fallen off and been killed already, any luck.
Come on now, don’t be a sap, said another.
Nevertheless, the decision was made to continue and their descent began.
They had reached an hour in which people were rarely on the go or even up to see – not quite day yet, not night anymore.
The trail leading downhill was neat but narrow and not without its dangers. They trundled down single-file, slinking sideways on the steeper parts. At the hour it was, concentration was of utmost importance, so the chatter died down, though each found a moment of pause to take in the boggy expanse below them.
The hills were pale in the sparing light, yet the bog was a place of strange dark colour; not the advertised place of death, more a place of the living – plant-living essentially; though that character might depend on one’s aesthetics regarding life and death.
The meaty acrotelm was covered with tow-topped heather, sedge, and purplish sundew. Tree stumps could be seen coming out of the sodden bed like rusted brown hooks. And of course there were the berries, like beads of murky blood, a rash across the swampy floor. Along the morass, watery pools were spirtled like black eyes sagging, melting, and old drains and flushes remained around the foothills showing the bog’s riches had long been explored and exhausted.
As a painting it may have enjoyed the title The Sloughs of Necrosis, or if the aesthetics so preferred, Blooms of a Willing Dawn?
Devin hadn’t seen a bog the size of it before. He knew of a few in and around Belfast which were known dumping grounds, for just about anyone who had a body in need of depositing, and there were in fact more than several competing groups, who, he had heard, might on occasion even find themselves off-loading their night’s work in the same location at the same time, leading often to more bodies, sometimes with no-one left to complete the business of disposal; those various factions would no doubt appreciate this place, for wasn’t there plenty of room for everyone to do their business without infringing on the business of another. The valley stretched westward for miles and miles, all the way to the Atlantic conceivably to say Hello, and most or all of it was bog to the primary eye. It was probably rank as hell down there, thought Devin. And when he raised his gifted proboscis to the sky and sniffed, there it was: like his piss after garlic sausages and a few sturdy ales, a comparison he was confident in making should someone come to ask him – but nobody did.
There were wildflowers scattered along the trail, wet, stepped into the ground by recently passed feet. However, no footsteps lingered to indicate someone had gone up or down.
A midge! No, something bigger. Is that a dragonfly? It skittered past his ear triggering the eerie nerve in him, the one he liked least of all as it made him look like an ostrich, so he believed – such is how he felt he looked when the eerie nerve went.
Devin had the mad urge to make a run for it. To blast off downhill. He knew he’d very probably topple over; this gamble was encouraged by memories of scampering down the ridges of Divis when he was a boy, when he had the gumption and resilience.
But he knew better. Best not take this symbolic runner status he’d farmed as verbatim. Pain lies in literal truth.