The Eyeball in the Jar, part 2


Four days after the storm, the body of the handyman was found amid a mass of debris thrown up on a river bend far, far downstream of the red clay town. Word was sent to the sheriff, who came along directly. Black or white, corpses were an irregular part of the sheriff's job, but not rare enough to cause significant distress in his mind.

As he drove out to take a look, he already knew a number of key points. He knew the man who'd discovered the body, just as he knew everyone in the county, at least to nod to if not to speak with. The body had been described as several days gone, but no one had been reported missing locally. Therefore he (whoever he was) was from out of town, from someplace upriver based on where he was found. The high waters from the storm lengthened the possibilities, but not unduly. He arrived at a spot near the river, where he was met by the discoverer, who led him down a trail to the where the corpse lay.

It was when the sheriff stood beneath the mounded tangle of branches that he got a clearer picture. The corpse stretched out more or less horizontally, held aloft by one thick limb under his back. Instead of dangling on either side, the arms were up in front where the sheriff couldn't see them. It gave the corpse a curious sense of modest repose. Smaller branches were driven into the lower back and legs like pins into a cushion. A mass of flies buzzed around these wounds, crawling and congregating over the slime that oozed through the holes in the corpse's shirt and pants.

Oozing but not bloated. Thrown around hard enough to get skewered, already dead (or dead enough) to not notice. Soaked in the flooding river, then baked in the sun after the waters receded. These observations jostled in the sheriff's mind as he tried to get a sense of how long the body had been there. That would tell him roughly how far it had come before tying up, which would give him somewhere to start.

After a moment, the sheriff took hold of the trunk and levered himself up onto one limb fork, then onto another. The entire tree was set shaking, jostling the corpse so it wiggled on its lacerating supports. Flies erupted thickly, but didn't go far. The sheriff only had to climb high enough to look down on the body. A rough description of the face would simplify the inquiries.

From a secure position several feet above the corpse, he looked down. The first thing he saw was the hands tied together at the wrists. Next was the thick rope double-wrapped around the corpse's throat, and the jutting angle that marked a broken neck. The rest of the rope, the part that was slung around a thick branch, had been hidden from view on the ground. From this angle, it was plain. Waving away the flies and the stink, the sheriff gazed down at the corpse, considering. After a long while, he called down to the man who'd discovered it.

"This man drowned," the sheriff said. "Got caught up in the river, probably during that storm. Maybe drunk, maybe not. Maybe he fell in, maybe he was swept away. Drowning's a bad way to go, poor bastard."

As he spoke, he noticed something else about the corpse. One eyelid was shoved back, the socket alive with a wriggling, pulsing mass of maggots that spilled out across the bridge of the nose. The other eye was vacant, as though there were nothing in that eye socket at all.


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  1. Can't believe he didn't notice the rope...

  2. Now, why the heck did he cover up? Does he know what happened?

  3. Rope hidden at first facing the other way, and out of view from the discoverer. Maybe the sheriff doesn't want to alarm anyone just yet. Hmm... intriguing.


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