He looked at the pile, it was large today. It had been steadily getting larger too. Maybe that meant something, maybe it didn’t. He sighed and picked up the shovel, then he got to work.
The digging was slow, methodical. He didn’t enjoy it, but he didn’t hate it either. His arms were strong and his hands callused. He hadn’t gotten blisters in a long, long time.
When the holes were deep enough, he heaved himself out and he started to bury them. There were all kinds. There usually were. Race or nationality didn’t matter, neither did age or size. The smallest one today looked about ten, a bald, shrivelled being that barely looked human, bones far too visible, the oldest, about forty, medium height and build, healthy looking. They both went into their own holes. When he had placed the bodies, he began to fill the graves with soil, slowly, methodically. When he was done he patted each grave three times with his shovel and when he had buried them all, he stepped back and wiped his face with a handkerchief. There were over a hundred mounds in the field, dark, rich soil rising out of the grass, but only slightly.
He went back to his small cottage, there was no real rush so he didn’t hurry. The sun was still shining down on him and he knew it would for another while yet. Inside the cottage he washed his hands then poured himself a glass of water, after he proceeded to eat his evening meal. He wasn’t particularly hungry, but he never was, he ate out of a sense of duty, it was just how things were done. When he had finished eating, he cleaned himself off, having a shower in the cold, clean water. When he had finished cleaning himself he felt tiredness settle onto him, an old and welcome friend. He slipped into his small bed and fell asleep almost instantly.
He didn’t dream. He never dreamed.
He woke the next morning and went outside to where they were left. Another pile, about the same size as before. The grave digger surveyed them for a moment, then, he began to work. He turned from the bodies and to the field, looking at the smooth, unbroken sea of grass, before he picked what seemed to be a good spot. The shovel blade bit into the dirt, he slowly lifted it, removing the soil, there was no rush here. No need to hurry.
This had been his life, it had always been his life. Though sometimes he felt like there had been something before this, but he could never quite remember what it was. He knew of a time when he first started, when he wasn’t strong, when his hands blistered and bled and his muscles screamed in agony every time the shovel scooped out a fresh pile of dirt. He remembered the long, endless days where he did nothing but dig until he had to stop, then he dug some more. Those days had been a long time ago and the memory of them was fading too. It didn’t matter. Nothing mattered here, only the job at hand.
It was the same every day, the bodies appeared, devoid of clothing, then he would bury them. He remember, vaguely, a time in the early days, when he tried to wait up, to see who delivered the bodies, but they never came. He had sat awake for what felt like days, but the sun never set and night never came. He had finally fallen asleep, leaned against the wall. When he woke the bodies were there and he was sore and stiff. He didn’t attempt it again.
Sometimes he heard noises in the bodies, faint groans and murmurs, sometimes they moved slightly under his grasp. That wasn’t his concern though. They wouldn’t have been brought to him unless they were dead, or almost there. They were buried with the rest.
That night, as he sat at the table, he looked at the single word gouged into its smooth and worn surface, “remember” he had done that. A long, long time ago. He wasn’t sure why, he had been afraid he was forgetting something, but what ever it was he did not know. It must not have been important. He ran his fingers along the grooves, feeling them beneath his fingers. It looked terrible. He’d have to sand it off when he got the change. As always he ate slowly, methodically, not really tasting his food. When he was done, he showered and went to sleep.
The next morning the grave digger woke and dressed, then he stepped outside and looked at the pile of bodies. Larger again. He shook his head slightly, then looked out at the gently rippling grass, nothing marred its surface. He gripped the shovel and chose a spot, then, he began to dig.