“You all right?” Chuck said, gently kicking the body lying in a rather decapitated fashion atop the otherwise abandoned dirt road. He didn’t look all right. In fact, he looked about as dead as a man could look: headless, limp, and generally purple. In any other scenario, Chuck would not have asked such a typically unnecessary question, inquiring whether a clearly non-living being was, in fact, “all right.” In this particular case, however, he found the question to be rather more necessary.
“Not exactly,” the head replied, lying face up a few feet away from what was clearly its former body. “I’m actually feeling a bit lightheaded.”
“That makes sense,” Chuck said, taking a step away from the body and toward the decapitated head. He didn’t look well, and not just because he was bodyless. He had dark, purple circles underneath his bloodshot eyes, a large bruise appearing to make its way up his increasingly less-pale neck. A thin stream of blood was still seeping out from the point on its neck that once connected to a body, spilling into a ruby puddle beneath. A thin line of blood was scattered perpendicular to the severed head, clearly created during the point of separation by some sort of blade. “You don’t seem to have a body anymore.”
“Really?” the head said, his eyes moving downward in an obvious attempt to bend toward what would have been his feet. He did not move, save for his eyes, but simply remained face-up toward the mid-day sun.
“Yep,” Chuck said, taking another step toward the head and stopping. This wasn’t the first time he’d seen a decapitated man. As a New York City detective, he’d witnessed his fair share of unfortunately morbid scenarios. In fact, he’d once encountered a scene in which several human heads had been removed, and then carefully stacked in the shape of what he believed to be the Eiffel Tower. Henry, his supervisor, argued that it was clearly some sort of pyramid. Whatever the case, this was absolutely the first time he’d ever spoken with a decapitated man.
Chuck glanced up, studying the area for any sort of clues. He didn’t exactly know where he was, aside from “somewhere in the middle of Idaho.” He’d taken several blind turns during his otherwise uneventful stroll, doing his best to avoid the family reunion he’d been coerced into joining. He hated them, his extended family: all of them self-absorbed, boring, and incredibly successful. They never failed to remind him of his meager salary, of his generally austere living situation. He left the first chance he had, wandered away from the cabin they’d rented and into the thick, emerald woods. That was nearly three hours ago now, almost 180 minutes of mindless wandering in directions he cared not to remember. He’d stumbled upon the old, dirt path about half way through his hike and decided to follow the path and see where it lead him.
“Are you sure?” the disembodied head said, still visibly attempting to bend down toward where its torso should have been.
“Absolutely,” Chuck said. He glanced to his left, then to his right, eyes falling upon nothing but the surprisingly thick Idaho forest. He saw no one that could have decapitated this man, nor anything that might’ve brought him back to his current, and unfortunately headless, condition.
“That doesn’t make sense,” the head said. “I had a body this morning. Had one yesterday, too. In fact, I’ve always had a body. Why would today be any different?”
Chuck shrugged his shoulders. He didn’t exactly have a reason as to why one’s body would suddenly decide to detach itself. “Do you remember becoming separated from your body?”
“No,” the head said, pausing. “Well, maybe. I remember wandering down a trail when a man with a long, gray beard suddenly appeared before me. It was like some sort of magic or something. Anyway, he said he wouldn’t let me pass unless I answered his questions, otherwise I could either turn around or ‘live in regret.’ I agreed and he asked me a few riddles that gave off a slightly ‘sexual predator’ vibe. You know, things like ‘I’m tall when I’m young and short when I’m old,’ or ‘what comes down but never goes up?’ I told him I wasn’t interested in being raped and pushed him aside. After that, everything went black for a few hours.”
“A candle,” Chuck said, nodding softly. “And rain.”
“I’m sorry?” the head said, rolling slightly in the wind.
“That was the answer to the riddles. The first one is ‘a candle,’ and the second is ‘rain.’”
“Ah,” the head said. “I thought the first one had something to do with molesting children, and that the second was ‘a penis.’ Whoops, seems like I called that mysterious man a rapist for no reason.”
“Seems like it,” Chuck said, glancing down at his watch. It was nearing 6:00pm, which meant the sun would be setting within the next two hours. He’d certainly need to head back, or else he may never find his way back to the reunion. He wasn’t entirely confident that was a bad thing, but it seemed like a better option than spending his days lost in a forest. “I need to get going, though. It was great to meet you.”
“Likewise,” the head said, eyes now staring up toward the skies above. “Before you go, you’re sure I don’t have a body?”
“Yep,” Chuck said, glancing over at the headless body lying a few feet beside him. “It’s to my right.”
“That’s a shame,” the head said, his eyelids beginning to flutter and close. “I suppose I should probably die in that case.”
“I suppose so,” Chuck said, nodding softly. He glanced up, eyes falling upon a man with a long, gray beard standing just a few feet beyond where the headless man lay, his right hand beckoning Chuck over. He had not noticed him before, but had no intention of approaching him. Although he always considered himself rather skilled when it came to riddles, he didn’t really want to risk becoming separated from his torso. He’d always been rather fond of it, even if it did gain weight at an unacceptably fast rate. Plus, he’d already gone far enough; he didn’t care what secrets Idaho hid in its remarkably thick, and surprisingly mystical, forests. He turned around and began the long walk back to the reunion, the thought of simply dying rather than returning still simmering in his mind.