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Don Juan of the Dead by Martin Friel.

It took him a while before he realised what it was. It had caught his eye as he padded through the soft undergrowth. Initially, it was just a flash of white in his peripheral vision but as he took a couple of steps back and looked more closely, intently, it dawned on him what it was.

She lay there still, naked, covered sparsely with fallen foliage. At first he wasn’t sure if she was asleep but as he got closer it became clear that the figure that lay before him was dead. He looked around and seeing that he was quite alone, approached the body with caution, tentative steps at first and then more assured as he got nearer and the form took proper shape; definition creeping in. He saw that she was young, slim and dark, not dark skinned but dark featured; her face peaceful with no sign of trauma save for a deep red mark round her neck.

He was shocked initially but once this feeling subsided he began to grow more relaxed and confident in her presence. She looked so peaceful lying there, and brushing her long hair away from her face, he realised that she was in fact quite beautiful. He didn’t know what to do. His head told him to run, run to the nearest house and raise the alarm. Still, another part of him urged calm; stick around, gaze upon this rare beauty. He was sure, convinced, that he had never been this close to such a beauty. He could report his discovery later. But that was just it. It was HIS discovery, his prize and he didn’t want them, the authorities, swarming around her poking and prodding. She looked at peace just now. He wanted to enjoy that peace and inhale her beauty.

He sat down next to her, slowly and quietly, as if not to disturb her. He knew it was stupid but he felt a certain amount of reverence towards this form that lay so still, so perfect on the soft moss. He created what he thought was the likely identity of the young woman. He gave her a name, an occupation, passtimes, career, the lot. He attempted to breath life into the figure again by making her seem more real, removing her cold anonymity.

After about an hour of sitting, staring and imagining, he gingerly reached out to touch her upper arm. He drew his fingers back, quickly, the chill of her body shocking him. He reached out again, this time prepared for the cold. Once used to this he became emboldened, running his hands up and down her slim arm. Eventually, confidence growing with every touch, he put his hand behind her neck and gently lifted her head from the ground. Her hair stuck to the clammy undergrowth and, using his other hand, he pulled it out from behind her head, spreading it out above her. Placing her head gently back on the ground, he admired his handiwork. He fixed a few hairs here and there but when he was finished he took a step back. Her hair fanning out behind her, catching now and again in the wind the wafted through the woods, he thought she looked almost alive, the wind imbuing her once more with life. His touch, he decided, was making her more animated, more alive.

He had never been this close to a naked woman, never mind one so beautiful. He longed for her touch but what she could not give, he decided he had to take. He looked around again; no-one about but he wanted to ensure that they had their privacy, Nicola and he. He noticed a small, secluded copse not far away and gently taking both her ankles, he dragged her through. He couldn’t look at her as he did so, feeling that he was treating her beautiful form with casual brutality but it was necessary if they were to have the privacy he craved.

After he had got her in the position he wanted, her arms back down by her sides, hair fanning out around her head, he stopped and contemplated what he was about to do. He knew it was wrong. Not just wrong, but sick – he knew that but still, he craved the contact. Looking the way he did and lacking any kind of social skills, this might be his only chance. She hadn’t been dead that long after all; rigor mortis had not yet set in and her skin, although cold, was still soft to the touch. Determined not to be a coward for once in his life, he started to explore her body with his hands; every inch, every crevice was touched, stroked and savoured.

He felt a charge rush through his body, a feeling that was alien to him; he felt dizzy, light-headed yet invigorated. He started to take his clothes off, whispering what he imagined were seductive phrases to Nicola. Slowly, gently, he lowered himself on top of her with all the style and panache of a teenage virgin. It was difficult at first but once he was in, he lost all sense of self-consciousness and imagined himself the last of the great lovers. He ad-libbed her groans to match his. At first he felt stupid but gradually he got lost in his macabre love scene. He placed, with difficulty, her arms around his waist and imagined that he was her only one, the one she had waited all her life for and now, in these dark, dank woods, they had found each other.

When he was done, he got off immediately, all the passion suddenly evaporating with his release. He was ashamed, disgusted and terrified. What had he done? What had he become? He knew it was by no means normal but still, on reflection, he felt that he deserved it, was in some way entitled to it. Years of rejection had been leading to this point, the point where he had possessed the most beautiful figure he had ever seen. He had had no choice. What was expected of him? A life of celibacy, never knowing what it felt like to taste another’s body? He looked down at her again, lying as still as she had before. His manipulations of her body during the act had convinced a part of him that she really had been reanimated by his lovemaking. Now? Now she was as she had been. Cold, pale, like the clichéd porcelain doll.

He hurriedly put his clothes back on as reality started to flood back into his mind and bring him back to the here and now. He was a freak. He knew that but still, he felt like a great conqueror who had taken the love of such a great beauty. A Don Juan of the dead.

He bent down and kissed her cheek and whispered gently in her ear, “Same time, same place tomorrow darling”?


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