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Bennett watched, numbly, as the figure approached the back of the truck, a body slung over its shoulder.
He could see their visor, so he reckoned they should be just about able to see him by now.
Suddenly, the figure ducked from view.
They were panting and grunting, the sound strangely distorted by the respirator in their spacesuit.
He didn’t need a second chance; he tunnelled backwards into the pile of corpses, fully submerging himself in their rank, decaying flesh.
He felt certain he’d managed to hide himself successfully this time.
Someone was panting and sobbing, saying, ‘I just can’t do this any more.’
The guard ordered them to get up.
The voice told the guard that he couldn’t.
A shiver ran through him as he realised the voice was Slade’s.
‘My back’s gone,’ he lamented.
Bennett heard the click of the shotgun being racked.
‘Get that fucking body in there, or else you’ll be going in after it,’ the guard’s voice hissed.
‘I…I can’t,’ Slade said.
Bennett’s first thought was to crawl out and come to Slade’s aid, but he knew that there wasn’t time.
Besides, he now realised that this was being done to give him a chance to hide.
He heard the guard issue a final warning, heard Slade say again that he couldn’t get up, that his body had had enough, and then the shotgun blast obliterated the rest of the conversation.
Thirty seconds later, a spaceman helmet landed in the truck before his eyes.
Slade’s corpse landed a few seconds after it.
The crater in the back of his head sprayed gore that ran down onto Bennett’s visor.
He was unable to clear it due to the weight of the bodies on his arms.
His eyes were fixed on Bennett and, in spite of the terror he must have felt in his final moments, a smile was lifting his lips.
Bennett felt like he was going to suffocate under the weight of all the corpses, but he managed to control his breathing enough to calm himself down.
In spite of the other dozens of dead faces near his, he couldn’t help but look at Slade’s.
A smile was still hewn into his features and one of his eyes had closed up a little as though offering a conspiratorial wink from beyond the grave.
While he lay here, the dull wet thumps of more bodies joining the pile above him assailing his eardrums every minute or so, he tried to think of his next move.
The closest he could get to a weapon was the empty helmet Slade had worn.
He gripped it tight, reckoning he could do some damage with it if the need arose.
Finally, the rumble of the engine began beneath him, allaying his fears that the clean-up crew were going to be counted before their return to the city and thus his disappearance noted.
The tipper slid back, adding more weight to that already crushing him, as though all the deaths on his conscience had taken on a physical form.
He managed to adjust himself enough to take in half a lungful of air each time he inhaled, but it was still uncomfortable as hell.
It felt as though the corpses were deliberately pressing into him, trying to claim him as one of their own.
It was hard to orient himself beneath the suffocating weight of the mound of corpses, but he felt he had gained a rough idea in which direction the truck was headed.
The truck turned sharply to the left, throwing more weight onto him, making black spots appear before his eyes.
He panicked as he realised that he could no longer breathe.
The truck stopped just as Bennett began to succumb to the darkness that was closing in on the sides of his vision.
The sharp stop forced the load of corpses forward, taking most of the weight off him.
He gulped air like a drowning man re-emerging from beneath the tides.
‘Holy shit, that was a close one,’ he muttered.
Before he could gather his senses, the truck was spinning in a reckless three-point turn and reversing fast.
The next thing he knew, the tipper was rising, carelessly dumping its load of corpses like they were mere refuse.
He went tumbling down a seemingly never-ending hill, colliding with the ground and the other falling bodies.
Finally he hit the bottom hard enough to knock the air out of him.
The dozens of bodies that fell on him afterwards added insult to injury.
He managed to wriggle to a position where he wasn’t being crushed – a feeling as close to heaven as he’d ever experienced – and did his best to survey the scene.
There were bodies beneath him; seemingly lots of them.
The stench was unbelievable.
Flies buzzed all around, enjoying the feast.
He managed to pull himself up a little and looked around.
There were corpses as far as the eye could see, all slung carelessly into this vast trench.
Hundreds of acres of death.
He could hear mechanical hisses and thumps off in the distance, which added to his bemusement.
He saw another dumper truck reverse up to the edge of the pit to his right, saw dozens of bodies flip-flop their way down the slope to land in crumpled heaps.
They were no longer identifiable as being individuals, just part of the scenery now.
To his left were the sounds of another dumper truck discharging its load.
How many are fucking dead here? he wondered, forlorn.
He moved a little more and tried to look to the edge of the pit.
There didn’t seem to be any guards round the perimeter; no need for them when everyone here was dead.
Still, he knew that he needed to be careful.
As the only thing moving in this vast vista of death, he would stand out like a sore thumb.
He edged himself forward, managed to get to his feet and stood, taking in his surroundings.
The scene was absolutely compelling, in the worst possible way.
It looked like the first act in the end of the world.
He scanned the vast pit of bodies, taking it all in.
He felt saddened, sickened, but also a little amazed.
The corpses slung carelessly into this pit must have numbered in the thousands.
He was totally in awe of this macabre but undeniably fascinating spectacle.
It felt like he was the last man left in the world.
So enrapt was he that he didn’t notice when a blood-smeared hand reached out from the twisted mass of corpses and wrapped tight around his ankle.
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