This gallery contains 2 photos.
The others were gathered in a circle around the standing stones whilst Maureen, already flustered (although it didn’t take much), panted up the knoll with Steve in toe. Mike was already banging the drum when they joined the formation – a slow beat of about one thump a second. He was under strict instructions to keep to this particular rhythm after he ruined the whole thing last time with his failed attempt at a Status Quo drum solo. The knots of brambles were positioned around the centre of the circle, and Steve methodically went round, lighting them one by one, making them appear from a distance like small glowing orbs. Anne knelt before the framed picture and sprinkled the ash from her Kilner jar around it – ‘thank god those burnt parsnips came to some use,’ she thought. Brian looked over her shoulder and admired the photo, ‘that is just lovely isn’t it.’ His longing gaze was interrupted by Helen passing the books and sewing needles around the congregation before taking her place in the circle. Each in turn administered a pin prick to their index finger and then dragged it down the cover of the hardback they were all holding. The blood smear formed a thin red line along the face of the celebrity – all apart from Keith, whose fingers were so calloused from doing the weeding that his blood trail wavered slightly. Linda looked over at his book cover and prayed that the deviation would be forgiven. The beating drum grew louder as Mary-Lynn stared at the dead horse with a forlorn expression – its coat glistened in the amber glow of the burning brambles. Martin noticed Mary-Lynn’s slight look of sadness and raised his voice over the increasingly louder drum, ‘No need to cry over it, Mary-Lynn – the EU would have just turned it into burgers anyway.’
‘I’m sorry but can we just focus and get this done? This gilet is warm but I’ll be feeling the chill soon!’ shouted Maureen. They all shuffled slightly, cleared their throats and began to chant to the rhythm of the drum. ‘Nationalibus Thesaurum! Nationalibus Thesaurum!’ They all proclaimed it with great enthusiasm bar Martin, who did so begrudgingly – he really didn’t see why they couldn’t just chant ‘National Treasure’ in English. As the chanting went on, the picture frame containing the visage of Clare Balding began to crack and splinter. This was followed by a kind of rumbling sound, which at first Steve thought was his stomach – after all, he had missed out on his usual evening pork pie with Gentleman’s Relish because Maureen had rushed him out the house. The equine corpse seemed to pulsate in the flickering flames, a fissure in its coat grew wider as the coagulated blood glistened. The drum was beating at its loudest now, and from the opening in the horse’s body, two bloody fingers emerged, gradually followed by a hand. Blonde hair could be seen, and despite being caked in a variety of unmentionable fluids produced by the horse’s decomposition, one could discern that it was styled in a bob. Helen marvelled at the scene playing out before her, ‘it’s happening… it’s actually happening… Nationalibus Thesaurum! All hail Clare Ba-’
and before she could experience the closest thing to an orgasm that she’d felt in years, it was undercut by the tinkling of a mobile phone ringtone. One by one the members of the circle stopped their chanting, looking around and tapped their pockets to make sure it wasn’t their posteriors that were currently vibrating, the ring tone relentlessly crying out throughout the whole affair. The drumming stopped as Mike rummaged in his Barber jacket and pulled out the ringing iPhone. He held it away from him in order to discern who it was that was calling him, but he couldn’t quite make it out so he had to feel around for his glasses, and once bespectacled, proceeded to look down at the phone screen with a furrowed brow, the ringtone still screaming into the night. He finally touched the screen and answered, ‘Hello?…Hello?’ and pulled the phone away from his ear and shrugged, ‘must have hung up…’
The last burning embers of the lit brambles floating into the darkness, the silence punctuated by the clearing of throats and awkward shuffling. Helen stared at the ground, clearly furious but trying to keep her composure. They were all there, just standing in the dark around a half open dead horse, the piquant scent of which was beginning to make its presence known. Steve’s stomach rumbled.