What Lucy liked most about hanging out at the Devil’s Basin was the privacy. Nobody went there. A cluster of trees in a dip between hills hid an area of mud and swampy ground, a still pool of green-scummed water that swelled with the rain but did little else, and that was it. It wasn’t pretty. The trees were stunted crippled shapes that leaned as if to get away from the fetid water. The air had a strangely sweaty tang to its odour. Clouds of tiny biting things hovered over every rank pool and puddle spread between clumps of greasy flat grass. Nobody visited the Devil’s Basin but Lucy, and yet everyone at school had a story for how it came to be: it was the crater from a meteorite; it was the blast hole of a bomb dropped during the second world war; there was a mine that split open one day and flooded. The devil was in all of them, of course, riding the meteorite down from the heavens, calling the bomb, stamping his hooves to open rock. Whatever.
The story Lucy liked most had the devil bathing in the pool, back when it was pure and beautiful. The devil had stopped to wash and, so the story went, it had been a filthy swamp of muck ever since. Parents told their kids not to play anywhere near it because the devil might come back and even if he didn’t, well, touching that tainted water meant you got some of the devil’s grime on yourself and that kind of grime never came off. It was all bullshit, obviously, but Lucy liked the idea. Was he cleaning blood off himself? The stink of sulphur? Was it the stench of humanity he found clinging to him during earthbound visits that he found so repellent? Maybe he just needed to cool down after a few centuries of fire and brimstone, water steaming around him until only a muddy sludge remained. Whatever. She loved the place. It was hers.
When the car showed up Lucy despaired that her secret place had been discovered, and even if it hadn’t been she worried it soon would be, but no one else ever came. She didn’t know what type of car it was because she didn’t give a shit about that sort of thing and any logo bit she could have used to identify it was missing. The windows had all been smashed out and the whole vehicle had been set on fire, reduced to blackened metal. An attempt had been made to push it into the marshy water but it had only sunk halfway, the rear of the car poking up out of the dark soily water. Lucy thought it had probably been used in a crime or something but she never told anyone it was there. She did check the boot. She got filthy doing it, thick foul water soaking her shoes, her skirt, and all the way up her legs, but the boot was empty. She’d half expected (half hoped) to find a body, but there was nothing. Just a spare tyre and some old A to Z of the city, even though the city was fucking miles away. It would’ve been a good place for a body though, especially if whoever dumped the car had managed to get the whole thing under the water.
That was one of the other reasons Lucy liked to hang out at the Devil’s Basin: it was a great place to play out her fantasies. Her murder games. She had imagined strangling Katie Hermitage here, shoving her into the back of the car, and she had dismembered both of the fucking Gailsea sisters, hiding their parts in the car forever. She’d lured boys here too, throwing bits of them out into the water, piece by piece. They might call her all sorts of shit at school, but she knew she’d be able to get them here if they thought she’d go down on them or something. Darren Hastings had fingered her at a party once and told everyone that she’d cried afterwards so he’d have to be the first to go.
“What are you doing?”
The voice startled Lucy. She’d been pounding a rock into the ground, over and over, not with any real aggression but absently as she daydreamed, and now there was a girl spying on her from behind one of the naked trees. She was wearing school uniform but it was junior school stuff. It must have been about four o’clock, unless she was bunking off like Lucy.
“You got mud all up you,” the girl said.
“Fuck off.” Lucy put the rock down and picked up her packet of cigarettes. Three left.
“You shouldn’t do that,” the girl said.
Lucy sucked the cigarette alight and shook out the match. “And you should fuck off,” she said with an exhalation of smoke. “Like I said.”
“My dad used to smoke and he died of cancer.”
The girl looked like she was about to cry for a moment and Lucy waited but the girl just coughed in the end, making some feeble point about the smoke that was nowhere near her.
“Is that your car?”
“Yeah. I crashed it.”
“But you’re not hurt.”
“I’m totally hurt. I fucking died and now I’m a ghost,” Lucy said. “And I’ll haunt the fuck out of you if you don’t leave me alone. This is my place.”
Read the rest of the story in Black Static Issue #47. Here’s a link or two. And support Ray Cluley’s work, too! Here’s his website.
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