The Flood

Man on train

The night had been long, and, as he did every morning during the train trip home, he observed the world out the window, but noticed nothing. He blankly watched landscapes rush past. He followed cows in their lazy ecstasy through rich pastures. For stretches, where the train travelled alongside ashfelt and tar, he watched drivers and their passengers, stare out onto the road as shadows and shapes in the landscape started to acquire details.

He had often told people who questioned his desire to take the train home rather than drive that, “every nightshift needs release time on the way home. It allows me to filter out the bad from a night’s work. And that’s the only good thing about nightshift.”

He was tired, his eyelids were getting heavy, and he could feel his body welcoming sleep’s foggy embrace. He would have liked it to overwhelm him, but he knew from experience, he would most likely sleep past his stop.

How often had his wife come to collect him one, two, even three stops from his usual? She had laughed the first time, smiled the second, then glared on the third occasion. He couldn’t afford to do it now; she was no longer there, and he noticed, looking at his watch, he would be home soon.

Suddenly, he felt his head jolt upright. What happened? He looked at his watch again. Only a few minutes had passed.

“Oh, shit!” he whispered to himself, “stay awake. Please.”

He rubbed his eyes and looked around. As usual, there was no one else in the train carriage. He liked that; the isolation, the quiet, dawn becoming day. After the night he’d had he was grateful for this state. It would do nicely thank you very much.

The car

Just to his right, out the window, he saw a small, white car travelling parallel to the train. The driver was a middle-aged man, all business; black, chalk stripped suit, managerial type, not too formal, not too casual, he could be stern, or switch to empathic depending on the situation.

The passenger seat was barely filled by a petite blonde woman using the visor mirror to fix her make-up. Her role was harder to decipher. Women are normally difficult to place in a business hierarchy. A receptionist could easily pass for a CEO on fashion sense alone.

What could they be talking about? Did they work together? Husband and wife? Something else? Had he discovered an early morning tryst?

It wasn’t much, but it would keep him awake for a few more minutes. “I christen you Karl and Karen” he whispered to the car. He smiled at his sudden rush of creativity, pleased with himself. “Okay, Karl and Karen, show me what you’ve got.”

He saw Karen turn to Karl, say something and then laugh. “Good joke, Karen,” he added with an accompanying smile. He noticed the shocked look on Karl’s face. “Karl,” he thought, “you have no sense of humour, old boy.”

There was a flash of something. Karen’s head jerked back violently against the headrest, and she reached for her face.

“What the ?!!” he asked the world outside. “What did you do Karl?”

He thought he had seen Karl’s arm flash across the vehicle and a hand connect with Karen’s face.

“What the fuck, Karl?” Karen had not moved.

He looked around the carriage to see if anyone else was present and maybe also seen this. No one!

He looked back just as Karl’s arm swung again, this time with his fist clenched. Once again Karen’s head snapped back and then slumped into her chest.

“Stop Karl. You prick.” His voice a little louder as he watched Karen’s upper body fall against the window and out of sight.

“You prick Karl. You bloody prick!” He quickly reached up to the storage shelf, grabbed his bag and got out his mobile. He stopped. Who would he call? What would he say? He looked back out to the white car.

Karl’s face was looking straight out to the road, full of concentration. Then, very consciously, Karl slowly turned to look at the train. To look at his window. Karl strained to see if someone may have noticed what happened.

He was pierced by Karl’s glare and quickly pushed himself away from the window. He looked at the darkened window “You can’t see me Karl, you prick! I know you can’t see me.” Karl kept looking over at his window and then down at Karen.

If only he could see the car’s number plate, he would report the bastard. But the car kept the same speed as the train making it impossible to see either the front or rear.

Suddenly a violent rush of sound seemed to explode around him as the air outside became compressed and the train burst into a long tunnel. The base notes of the train’s rhythmic clatter across tracks were heightened, and their sound tore him awake. He’d had his eyes closed tight.

There was no car beside the train. No Karl. No Karen. Had it been a dream? Maybe he had fallen asleep. “You idiot,” he said to himself. And he laughed as he thought about Karen’s joke, at the vision of her head jerking back.

The train exited the tunnel. The low sun hit him directly. He stopped laughing and, shielding his eyes, he looked out to the road. There was nothing there except for green fields shimmering in the early morning light, as the train slowed down for the next station. His station.

“Thank God. Finally.” He grabbed his work bag and started for the exit.

He noticed a sea of business suits, briefcases and knee-length skirts, on the other side of the tracks. They had alert eyes on mobile phones preparing to imprint themselves into history by the time they returned that evening.

“Good luck, suckers” he whispered to himself as he climbed down from the train.

The etc, etc

He and his wife had moved here during the Pandemic. House prices were rising, “work-from-home” or “WFH” had become commonplace and they thought it smart to buy in a small, rural community, on the train line before prices reached the ludicrous level.

Like many other couples, they had never spent so much time together. It had become suffocating. Differences were highlighted 24 hours a day. Peculiarities that were once cute, funny, or of no consequence, were suddenly annoying and relationship-defying.

The way she sucked her teeth before making a serious comment. The way she stopped and quietly laughed in anticipation, before delivering the punchline to a joke. The way she chased food around her plate with a noisy fervour. The dirty plates left in the sink. The keys left in the car. Central heating left on all night. Cap left off nail polish bottle. Soiled clothes on the bathroom floor. Wet clothes left in the washing machine for days. Full dishwasher not emptied. Clothes dryer going all hours.

Sex had become more physical, sometimes violent, from both parties. And when she lost her job, the sex stopped. As did the dream of children, overseas travel, renovated bathrooms, new car, dinner with friends, date nights, etc, etc.

It became a life of etc, etc.

He made lists that seemed like they would never etc, etc.

Parties they attended, where she drank too much, the host was treacly sweet, the guests etc, etc.

The house started to show its failures; the toilet cistern ran continuously, paint started to peel following a particularly hot summer, during a severe downpour, water came flowing into the house, etc, etc.

And then it happened. He remembered coming home. It had rained all day. He could smell the fecundity of the soil. His senses had flooded with its overwhelming intensity. He had felt an uneasiness as he opened the door.

He remembered the house was remarkably quiet. No television in the background. No lights on in all rooms. She had gone. Her wardrobe had been emptied, and one of the suitcases was missing.

However, he found it strange that no note had been left on the kitchen table, the bed, or the bathroom vanity. No note was found in the garage. He had searched in hope.

After so many years together, not even a goodbye. “Fuck it,” he thought.

He sighed deeply. Had she said something the night before? Had they argued?

The car was not in the garage.

He looked around and noticed something in the air. He sniffed greedily. It was an earthy smell coming from his boots. He had looked down and saw dirt on them. Very unlike him. These were his favourite boots. Where had they been soiled?

They had occasionally travelled together into the city, but that had been before his new job. She had just disappeared. Friends didn’t seem surprised by her departure, but they did stop seeing him. He had never been close to anyone.

Family? There was none. She was an only-child and the parents etc, etc.

His routine changed after that. He slept most of the day and worked most of the night. Ate, shat, and bathed in-between. It was ordered, and as long as he was disciplined, he liked the routine. And even though the car was gone, it was another reason he loved the train. It departed on time and arrived on time.

He stepped out onto the footpath outside the station and looked around. The community had grown considerably. A few “ranch-style” houses scattered across a rural parkland, had officially become a sanctioned suburb. It now had its expected smoothly curated streets, manicured lawns, house after similar house, after similar street, etc, etc.

The meeting

“Good morning, Sir” he heard the Station Attendant say as he did every morning. “It’s a beautiful day. I hope you enjoy it.”

He looked back and tried to smile appreciatively, but it quickly evolved into a grimace. He quickly turned away and walked briskly to the Bus stop.

A glint of sunlight from a car’s windscreen made him shield his eyes. He looked up at the driver, and he found himself looking directly at Karl.

From the station came the sound of the city-bound train moving away and its quiet, electric engine picking up speed.

The car park was now empty of people. Karl who was alone in the car. No Karen. Had she got onto the train? He looked at Karl’s passenger window and noticed a smudge there, a mixture of make-up and sweat. Was it a fresh smudge he asked himself?

Karl was looking around wondering what this fool who had stopped right in front of him, was up to.

Karl’s window opened with an energetic whir and electronic efficiency.

Karl pocked his head out “Excuse me, friend, is everything okay?”

“Oh, sorry,” he said. He had to make up some excuse for his sudden stance. “I’ve, …ah…I’ve always liked these cars …. Ah, I was just admiring …”

“This car?” questioned Karl.

“Yes, it’s a favourite” he replied.

“Really?” Karl looked around the car he was occupying unimpressed. “It’s my wife’s car.”

“Oh, is she on the train?”

“No” answered Karl a little too aggressively. “She’s at home. I just missed the last train.”

“Oh” he said. “What bad luck. The next one is in ten minutes.”

“Yes, I do know that. Thank you for nothing.” Karl then went back to his mobile putting a full stop to the conversation.

“Hey mister!” a voice penetrated the void of the car park. “Hey!” This time louder, more stringent and annoying.

“Hey, mister! This is your stop, I believe. You should wake up.”

He jerked to life. He was on the bus, passengers to either side of him and the bus driver looking back at him.

“Hey, buddy, this is your stop, isn’t it?”

He turned from the bus driver and looked at the familiar street now in full, morning sun. Still startled, and now wide awake, he quickly grabbed his bag and rushed to the passenger door. “Sorry, so sorry” he said to passengers he passed, and “Thank you”, he nodded to the driver “Thank you for waking me.”

“No problems, you have a good day now.”

“Thank you again.” He just stood there watching the bus getting smaller and smaller. A little old lady turned to look at him from the back window.

The house

Oh dear, he was tired. So tired. He opened the front door, turned and made sure he locked it behind him. He even placed the chain in its bolt for extra security.

He stood quietly and still in the hallway, listening for something. The bright sun illuminated all the rooms, making the shadows deeper.

He smelt last night’s dinner.

There was still that whiff of bottled tomato sauce he had poured over pasta.

The smell of black coffee.

Orange juice.

The acrid smell of white wine.

And closer to him was the smell of his body odour. There it was, the smell of work … and loneliness.

And there it was again, … as usual, … that other smell, more distant every day… it came, its fragrance slowly escaping yet, to him, still alluring …

It was her smell.

“Hello, my wife,” he calls out.

“Why did you hit me?” comes back a female voice.

He is back on the train, at the window. He turns to the highway and there is Karl. Karen laughs and Karl swings and strikes her in the face. Hard.

His eyes open. He is still in the hallway. Blinding light streaks across the floor. His eyes close. He cannot keep them open. He is so tired.

“Why Karl?” he hears Karen. Very close. He at the window of the car looking in over Karl’s shoulder. The sun is so bright. He hears Karl say as if to himself, barely audible “Why? Because I hate that you think your comments are so funny.”

He raises his voice. And it is now streaked with anger “You think they’re funny!”

Karl reaches out again. He watches as Karl’s fist closes. Karen turns her head slightly to avert the blow she knows is coming. Karl strikes her with as much force as possible. He can feel Karl’s knuckles smash through cheek and bones.

He can feel himself shed one of those physical cries that jerks you awake. He can feel the tears. He opens his eyes and sees his darkened room. His face is hot with sweat. He throws off the blankets.

He thrusts his hands against his eyes and cries uncontrollably. From the darkness of his room, with his eyes pressed closed, he sees Karen slumped against the passenger window of the car. Lifeless.

He is right there, sitting between Karl and Karen. Blood is flowing from her broken nose. He turns and looks at Karl who doesn’t see him. He notices the train, there beyond Karl. In the background.

At the window, parallel with the car is a carriage and a window. And in that window, he can just make out the silhouette of a man looking out at them.

The Constable

A loud shrill rings out across the car’s interior. He places his hands over his ears to block out the sound.

Two, quick, high-pitched rings in quick succession. They’re so loud he has to close his eyes.

There is another. He slowly opens his eyes. He is in his bedroom. Sheets are a mess. Curtains shut, doing their best to hold out that bright, clear light.

Another shorter ring. It’s now obvious it’s from the front door. Quickly he grabs his nightgown, wraps it around him and shouts “Coming, hang on”.

He opens the door, squints and there he sees the back of a Policeman’s uniform. He notices the broad shoulders, a squarish body that had once been more shapely, more athletic. He assumed it had been the body of one who had once played something like Rugby.

As the Policeman turned to face him, the crooked nose, and the cauliflower ears, confirmed the sport.

“Oh, there you are. I was wondering if …” The policeman notices the sleepy hair and the bathrobe. “Sorry, did I wake you? I thought you’d be …”

“It’s all right, I work nightshift, so I was asleep as I usually am at this hour.”

“Oh,” the Policeman’s face was full of apology. “I am so sorry for the inconvenience,” he says. “I am Constable Beach, and I just wanted to ask …”

Beach looks at the man’s attire and thinks there is a better approach “Oh, what am I doing? If you like I can come back later, you can give me a call when you’re ready.” Beach hands him a business card that he pulls out of his breast pocket.

The man in the doorway grabs the card and with an edge in his voice, “can you just tell me what you wanted to talk about? Anything wrong?”

The finding

“Well,” starts Beach, “can I come in?”

He looks Beach up and down and then capitulates unhappily, “um, … sure.”

They make their way to the Kitchen past hallway photos. There is one of him and his wife on their wedding day, candid photos on the beach, holding hands, in a city that reminded Beach of Surfers Paradise where he had been a couple of years ago and hated it. Nothing recent, or with anyone else.

Beach follows him slowly “Is Mrs Brandt at home?” Beach sees the man in front stop and slowly looks around. There is now a definite glare in his eyes and his stare is sharp and annoyed.

“You’d better take a seat, Beach.” The stern order is accompanied by a hand pointing to a chair at a round kitchen table. Beach follows it as he observes the surroundings; a thin layer of dust on the counter, the plastic flowers in the milk jug sitting on the windowsill, and the lack of dirty cups in the sink.

“Mr Brandt, I am assuming you haven’t had a cup of coffee as yet?” Beach continues in this chirpy manner “I don’t know how a man can think without a cup of coffee first thing.”

The annoyance is still present as he says: “I do okay, Constable Beach. And I don’t drink coffee.”

“Oh, no! I believe that’s the definition of a tragedy.”

“I am not making you a cup of coffee either.” He smiles at Beach conspiratorially. “Couldn’t, even if I was legally compelled to. There’s no coffee in the house.”

“Oh, well, that’s the first question answered” responds Beach as he opens his notebook, pulls the cap off a biro and places it onto a blank page.

“Good,” he says. “Let’s get onto the second then.”

“Would you know where Mrs Brandt is?” Beach starts off, picks up the biro and looks directly into the face of the man on the other side of the table.

Brandt takes a deep breath, his annoyance growing “How well informed are you, Beach? You come into my house and start asking stupid questions a whole year after the fact?”

“Mr Brandt, I am as informed as I can be. It’s assumed your wife left about a year ago. There’s some talk of …”

“Wow, hold on, Beach!” He has started to pronounce the other’s surname like Bitch. “Hold on! What do you mean ‘assumed’? Do you think I am hiding her somewhere?”

“I am just ‘assuming’, Mr Brandt, as there is no evidence of anything else.” Beach looks over at the man’s face which is starting to redden with frustration. Beach pinches himself for allowing the conversation to get to this point so quickly.

“Unless, of course, you’ve seen or heard from her recently, Mr Brandt.”

“No. I. Haven’t. Constable Beach!”

“So,” continues Beach, calmly flipping back through his notes, “it is assumed your wife left about a year ago. Was there a problem with the relationship?” Beach looks up to see if he can read anything; a face tick, eyes widening, frustration growing further.

“I don’t think it’s any of your business, Beach. And you know what, it wasn’t me that left. I am the ….”

“One second” Beach breaks in, “one second. Let me explain a couple of things.” Beach waits while the other man takes another deep breath. “Mr Brandt, there is nothing we can see that implicates you and that’s the main reason I am here alone – short-staffed. We have a lot of unpaid parking infringements we’re trying to chase up etc, etc.” Beach gives a sarcastic smile and waits a beat.

“A year ago, your wife just disappeared and then nothing. No one has seen her. No vision on street cams.” Beach waits for some reaction but there is nothing. “No bank withdrawals, no credit card purchases. No forecourt footage from any petrol stations that show your car. That is from petrol stations that maintain an archive longer than a couple of months.”

Brandt looks up at Beach.

“Mr Brandt, how long before you came to us and told us she was missing?”

“I didn’t even report it” he says. “Her clothes were gone; the car was gone. I thought she had just left.” Brandt thought carefully about his next words, “What are you telling me now? That she didn’t leave?”

“Mr Brandt, we have a woman who disappears off the face of the earth and no one seems to care. The previous policeman on the case didn’t even have a note on the disappearance.”

“Why should there be one, Beach? She packed her clothes, she took the car, she left, there was no note from her either.”

“Mr Brandt, do you think you’d recognise her clothes if you saw them?”


Tears appear in Brandt’s eyes. He looks down to hide them from Beach.

“Why do you ask? … It was a long time ago.”

“Can you remember what she had taken? What she or anyone else would have placed into a suitcase?”

Brandt’s face is a battlefield of emotions. He looks up at Beach and replies wearily “I feel like I am being pushed into saying something?”

“What do you think that would be?”

“Have you found something, Beach?”

“What do you think we may have found?”

“Constable Beach, please, can we stop playing games? This is bullshit. I didn’t do anything. She left me. Do you understand that? She wanted to leave me! And she did. She just left! I didn’t do anything. I don’t know where she is. I don’t …. I can’t …”

A quiet settles between them, then. like in a movie soundtrack, a dog barks outside to indicate there is a world beyond this scene.

“Mr Brandt,” Beach starts up again. “A couple of nights ago, there was a body found in the forest. It’s a female. The body is too decomposed to make a visual identity. She was wearing a skirt. I think you would say it was once red. And there is a cardigan that, surprisingly, is still in fairly good condition. No jewellery though. Did Mrs Brandt take any jewellery, Mr Brandt?”

“I can’t remember, I don’t know. I don’t think I have even looked.”

“We found a necklace.” Beach pauses, before continuing. “It was a few meters from the body, we think it may have been dislodged as she was carried to a ditch where she was eventually covered up.”

“I can look” he says slowly trying to be helpful.

“The body was found near the Millers’ dam about 50ks from here. We’d like you to come in and see if you recognise anything.”

A question escapes from Brandt’s mouth. “What happened to her, Beach?” Does he really want to know the answer?

“She had some bruising on her body. A broken nose. Her cheek was smashed in.”

Beach stops for a beat, inhales deeply and then continues, “But that wouldn’t have killed her.”


“She had severe head trauma from a blow that crushed her skull on the left side”

“Oh god” whispered Brandt in pain.

“Mr Brandt, we think she may have been abducted and then killed.”

“Had she been raped?” This was said so quietly, it was barely audible.

“No!” replied Beach instantly.

The car, again

They are in the car, hurtling down the tunnel. They are surrounded by a dark grey world intermittently lit up in pools of warm light every 100 meters.

The train has disappeared. Karen’s face is swelling up. Nose dripping blood. She works up the strength to say with a tiny voice “I am glad you liked that joke so much Karl. Didn’t see that coming, did you?”

“Please Karen, shut up.” He sees Karl almost in tears.

“I hate you Karl” she spits out quietly. “I hate you, Karl.”

“Oh, please Karen, don’t.” He notices tears running down Karl’s face.

With her lips barely moving “I hate you, Karl. It’s been like torture. One long day …” she coughs up a blob of blood.

“… just one long day after another. … I can’t stand to look at you.”

She feels at her nose and squirms in pain. Slowly she turns her head to face Karl, her hand gently stroking her swollen cheek. “Oh, … thank you for this.” Her lips twist sarcastically. “It’s the nicest thing you’ve done for me lately. Oh Karl, it’s your way of showing your love for me. It’s your act of kindness. I can now see the man you really are.”

“Stop it, Karen!”

He looks around at Karl’s face. The skin around Karl’s mouth tightens.

“You’re nothing, Karl. There’s no potency in that little thing in your pants. You should have figured that out by now.”

Karl goes red as he whispers “Stop it, Karen. Please. Stop!”

But she can’t. Karen continues “I reckon, if I had slept with that toothless old git at the service station, I’d be pregnant by now.”

“Ok, you’ve made your point.”

“What about Father Patrick, Karl? I reckon he’d give up little boys to fuck me … I know he always looks at my arse as I walk by. With the help of God, I’d be pregnant within the hour.”

With as much force as she can muster, she turns her body with a grunt. Her face was determined to finish this conversation. “But not you Karl. No siree. You can’t even raise a carrot in the backyard, let alone one in bed.”

“Please stop Karen!” Karl’s voice is now a subdued scream.

“What will you do, Karl? You little …”

Karl’s closed fist flashes past him and smashes into Karen’s face.

A splurge of blood squirts out of her nose and onto the front of her cardigan. Her eyes close slowly.

He hears Karl behind him. He turns to see Karl’s rage instantly resolving into an animal-like whimper. “Oh, I’m so sorry, Karen … I’m so sorry ….” Karl reaches over to shake her gently. “Please wake up Karen. Please. I didn’t mean to hurt you. You just wouldn’t stop.”

A gentle, soothing voice is now talking within the cabin. Karl’s head turns to calmly look out the front windscreen as the tunnel’s walls rush by: “It’s all okay now Karen. I am sorry. I said I’m sorry, Karen. Everything will be alright. It’ll be okay. I didn’t mean it. I really didn’t mean it….

“… but you just wouldn’t stop.”

Karl continues to watch the road ahead, hurtling them into darkness.

The garden

It had been raining heavily during the morning. He had arrived home wet from the bus stop and had just gone to bed. Sleep had enveloped him quickly. It had been deep sleep, and when he finally woke he had no idea of the time.

The grey, cloud cover outside hadn’t helped. He looked at his phone on the bedside table. It said 2.00 pm. He had been woken by a loud thump on the bedroom window. He listened for any clues that could provide further information, but there were none.

The street that ended in a cul-de-sac, had always been quiet. No one in the street even had a dog.

At the window, he slowly pulled back the curtain. No one was there, but on the ground was a white, sulphur-crested cockatoo. It must have lost its bearings in the rain and smashed into the window.

It was still twitching with whatever life remained.

“Oh, shit” he quickly dressed, grabbed a plastic rubbish bag and headed to the garden shed where he looked for his shovel. Not seeing it immediately, he chose the garden hoe instead and went out.

The rain was just a drizzle, but the air smelt fresh and clean.

He was about to place the bird into the shopping bag, when he noticed that it was still wriggling intermittingly. “Shit!” he said looking down at the Cockatoo. “I am so sorry.”

He dropped the bag, and placed his hands tight on the hoe, like one would hold a baseball bat. His grip tightened. He took a deep breath. Lifted the hoe high and brought it down on the bird’s head.

“I am so sorry. Sorry.”

Drops of rain dripped from his wet hair as he grabbed the dead bird, using the plastic bag as a large glove. He carried it to the back fence, lay it on the soggy grass and began digging.

The wet soil lifted easily under the hoe. It quickly exposed the rich, dark, moist soil below that released an intense, earthy scent that flooded Brandt’s senses.

He was suddenly gasping for air, and he didn’t know why.

He felt light-headed and fell to his knees. As he tried to regain this breath, his eyes were fixed on the plastic bag beside him with the small, still form enclosed inside.

The flood

“Mr Brandt, excuse me, Mr Brandt? Constable Beach’s voice brings him back to the present. “Looks like you were off with the pixies, Mr Brandt. Not sleeping well?”

They are in a closed room. He doesn’t respond.

Footsteps rush along the corridor outside. In the distance, muffled street sounds creep into the room. The room has no windows, no clock. Is it day or night? He has no idea.

“Mr Brandt, thank you for coming in so early. We do appreciate this.” Beach is busily sorting his papers and organising folders. “It shouldn’t take too long, and it’s best to get this over with. Hopefully, we can bring some closure to this for you.”

Brandt nods and stretches his lips to indicate acceptance with a smile.

“Mr Brandt, I am going to take you into the adjoining room in a second. We have set out the cardigan I have already mentioned to you, the underclothes, and the locket we found.”

“I am finding it hard to breathe, Beach.”

Beach gets up and approaches the man on the opposite side of the table “Are you okay?”

“No”, says Brandt. He takes a deep breath and exhales slowly. Beach walks over to a smaller table. He takes the water jug and starts to fill a glass “Do you want to sit for a minute, Mr Brandt?” He places the water on the table.

“No,” is the instant reply.

“Are you sure you want to proceed? We can do this another day?”

“No, I said”. Brandt closes his eyes firmly. When he opens them again, they are in another room.

“Mr Brandt, let me repeat if this, at any moment, becomes too difficult for you, for whatever reason, let me know and we’ll stop. … Is that clear?”

Brandt nods. As the door opens his eyes suddenly widen, his pupils enlarge to take in more of the darkened room. There it is again, there is the intense, moist scent of earth.

He is overwhelmed by the fecund aroma that opens a door to visuals, to words said, to a darkness where light is trying to throw details into shadows he thought had disappeared long ago.

Brandt feels his stomach lurching, he almost stumbles. Beach reaches out to help him inside. “Are you okay?”

Brandt no longer sees anyone in the room. “I told her I was sorry.”

Beach stops. “Pardon? What did you say? Mr Brandt, what did you say?”

Brandt sees a vision of the necklace she always wore come loose and fall into overgrown tuffs of grass, as someone, a man, carries her from a car. It is dark. He must go back and collect that.

The flood of images cannot be stopped. He can barely hear Beach’s voice which is both distant and muffled. “Mr Brandt, is this your wife’s necklace? Is it Karen’s necklace?”

Brandt sees it lying on the ground, glittering in the car’s headlights.

“Mr Brandt?”

“Yes, there it is. I can’t leave it here.” He goes to bend over, but Beach stops him.

“I told her. Yes, it is hers. I must take it with me. I didn’t mean to leave it there.”

“Mr Brandt …” Beach is trying to make sense of the last few minutes. “Mr Brandt … what … what are you saying?”

That earthy odour, that silty texture over the cardigan, floods his senses, and he pulls in deep lung-fulls of air just trying to keep his head above the waterline.

“I remember that” he points to the cardigan. I remember I was afraid to touch it. Her blood was everywhere, all over it.”

“Mr Brandt, Mr Brandt? Karl … do you mind if I call you Karl?”

Mr Brandt looks over at Beach. Eyes empty. “Karl? … Am I Karl?”

He looks back at the clothes all laid out, “I had thought I killed her.” The smell of earth fills his nostrils. “I thought she was dead.”

It’s daylight. Karl brings down the head of a shovel onto something that is out of frame. There is a squelching sound as it hits soft flesh and bone.

“Karl, what are you saying?”

“I told her I am sorry.”

Karl lifts the shovel back up. There is blood on the underside.

“Why didn’t she listen?”

“Karl, are you saying these items belong to your wife, Karen?”

“I told her!”

“And then you, … you …”

Beach’s voice disappears. Karl smells the earth, soft and moist. He looks at the morning sun rising over the dam. The sound of birds playing in the shallows. The cool morning breeze blowing through the trees. Not a cloud in the sky. Bright, piercing light.

“Karl …” Beach’s voice is trying to pierce the scene. “Karl. Where’s the car, Karl?” There is the slight whir of the recorder ticking out time. Karl sees a red light blinking.

Through the still of a quiet morning, a car is being lifted out of the water. Beach on the edge of the dam, watches the scene as it dissolves through to a hand reaching out to the recorder. It pushes the “Off” button.

The red light goes out.