Microfiction: Last rites

For this week’s microfiction challenge #20: Isle of the Dead. I didn’t stick to any word count, but it’s less than 500 words.



“So, where do we put them?”


“Them, the stiffs.” The young man glanced suspiciously up at the monolithic openings in the cliff face with their smooth posts and lintels carved from a single block of stone. “Don’t tell me we’re supposed to stick ’em up there!” He jerked his chin in the direction of the dark doors.

“No,” his companion replied.

The oars splashed, rise and dip, rise and dip, the only sound in the silence of the oily sea. The young man peered into the depths of the approaching cypresses for signs of life.

“Not even any birds.”

Rise and dip, rise and dip.

“I said, not even any birds.”

“I heard.”

“Don’t talk much, do you?”


The young man shrugged. The prow nudged the landing place, which wasn’t a jetty, just a gap in a low wall with an iron ring to tie up. He leant over and passed the rope through the ring. “Here we are. What now?”


From the bowels of the mountain, it gazed out upon the vastness of the ocean. Nothing moved beneath the surface, no birds grazed the sky with their wings. The trees grew tall and dark and not an insect disturbed the smooth skin of their bark. It saw all, every movement, caught every breeze, ever rustle of grass beneath the dark trees. It was the island, its soul. It gazed upon the ocean and sniffed. Warm. Blood. It shifted higher, closer to the opening onto the world, the door that led from death to life. And vice versa. It looked down on the sandy landing place at the puny skiff, saw the shadowy boatman, the pale shroud of the ghost, dry and dead both, of no interest, and passed over to the…other. Warm. Blood. It bloated with pleasure, filling the cavern mouth, and it spilled out, groping long dark fingers towards the source.


“Well?” The young man had jumped lightly onto the shore. Pale sand crunched beneath his boots. “Ew! You seen what the sand’s made of?”

The boatman nodded.

“How do they end up crunched to bits like that?” He nudged a pile of sand with the toe of his boot, peering in disgust at the millions of tiny bits of bone. “Tell you what, I’ll take the feet, you take the shoulders and we’ll heave him over. Then we can scarper, let the bone cruncher deal with it.”

When the corpse was laid on the sand, the boatman spoke.

“Drag it a bit higher. We leave them by the big flat stone.”

Grumbling to himself, the young man bent to his task. When he raised his head, the skiff was a dot on the horizon. He shielded his eyes with his hand and stared in disbelief. Behind him, the sound of something heavy scraping and scratching its way down the cliff made him turn. There was no clump of trees, no more cliff with its sinister openings. Only darkness and the stench of corruption.


Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

18 thoughts on “Microfiction: Last rites”

  1. Love the last sentence. Brought to mind Stephen R Donaldson’s Lourdes Soul’s Bane, White Gold Wielder series. Big fan of your style, Jane.

    1. Thanks Shaun! I think all of our stories share a common theme about death and how it impinges on the living no matter how much we’d like to airbrush it out of the picture.

  2. Tension building to a wonderfully creepy ending. The idea that the island was “alive” and after the living, not the dead, was great.
    The guy is the type that would open the door in the horror movie.
    Great story telling.

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