I Found a Dead Body! by Robert Welbourn

I found a dead body!

I can’t believe it, I’m so happy. You read about these things, see them on the news, but you never think it’ll happen to you. I began to think it never would happen to me, and began to wonder why I even got a fucking dog in the first place. But now I remember why!

What a wonderful, glorious day!

Ok, I mean I didn’t just get the dog in order to find a dead body. I got it for exercise, companionship, to meet new people, blah blah blah. All the normal reasons people get a dog. And I do love the thing, even if it annoys the hell out of me like more than half the time. But I’d be lying if I said that hoping to find a dead body wasn’t one of the reasons I got it. Finally, pay back for all those early morning walks in the wind and rain, all the times I’ve been out standing in the middle of a field before the sun is even up, rain lashing into my face, the wind whipping at my clothes, me shivering and regretting every decision I’ve ever made whilst the little bugger has the time of its life. Finally, it’s all worth it!

Here’s how it happened. The day started like any other – what a cliché right? But to be fair it did. My alarm went off at 6am, the alarm on my phone anyway. You can choose from all these different alarm tones – better than an old school alarm clock right? Wrong! Every single one of the tones is a fucking nightmare, like even the best ones are like the sound of a drill right outside your window at 6am. And the names they have, fuck me! Here’s a few:

Bright Morning
Early Twilight
Rolling Fog

I mean, what the fuck do any of those even mean? It’s like, when did we start naming alarm tones the same way we do perfumes or paints? I guess when we let advertising run rampant, and the power passed into the hands of the marketing guys. Hey guess what guys – you can just call green ‘green’. It doesn’t have to be ‘soft grass’ or ‘spring delight’ or fucking ‘your mum’s gangrene’. Green is fine yeah?

Anyway, so the alarm goes off and that’s the dog’s cue: I know I know, it’s my fault for letting it sleep in my room, but still, does it have to jump on my bed the second the alarm goes off and start licking my face? It’s like, I’m going to have a shower in a bit little fucker, you don’t need to bathe me now. But every morning the same thing, that kinda soft, kinda prickly tongue, always wet as fuck, slurping up and down my cheeks. Some mornings I swear to god I think I’m being waterboarded and practically hit the ceiling. Most mornings I just sigh and wait for it to get bored. It rarely does.

One good thing about the dog is that I never fall back to sleep any more. I used to have a real problem with doing that, just hitting ‘off’ on my alarm and rolling over and then, yeah, that would be that. I lost two jobs this way, and was in major danger of losing my current one at one point in time. I’ve always been that kinda sleeper, ever since I was young. Luckily when I was really small I had my parents to make sure I got up and stayed up. Then when I went off to uni, well, frankly I was usually up anyway when my alarm went off, face bent over a mirror hoovering up from it, or in the bathroom staring into one, poking my face with my fingers and trying to figure out if what I saw staring back at me actually was me, or just some grotesque illusion.

You know when you’re a kid it’s like one day your parents just decide you can start doing things for yourself? Like, one day I came home from school and there was an alarm clock on my bedside table. I don’t know how it got there: it may have walked in of its own accord, though I highly doubt that. I can’t get women to walk into my bedroom, let alone inanimate fucking objects. That’ll be the day. Anyway so one day this alarm appears, and it’s like, “you’re an adult now, time to wake yourself up.” Fuck that.

I’m not going to go through my whole morning routine. If Holden Caulfield doesn’t have to give you all that David Copperfield crap, I don’t have to give you the minutiae of my day. Suffice it to say, I am a human like many others (supposedly), and so my morning was like that of many others. Not long after the face licking incident, I’m out the door, the dog on a lead, pulling and pulling at me, and it’s like I’m doing my best, but it’s 6.15 in the morning and I stayed up ‘til past midnight again playing on the fucking Playstation, funnily enough I’m not as sprightly as you.

Anyway it was a lovely morning, that’s one thing that did pierce through the veil of sleep that still enveloped me. The sun was shining directly in front of me, fighting through the thin skin of my eyelids, meaning I kept them open. It was so bright, so fucking bright: but I didn’t necessarily mind it. Like I said before, I’ve spent too many mornings in the dark and cold and wet, I’m not about to start complaining about warmth and light and dryness. I’m a fan of these, not so much of the other.

So the dog’s pulling me to where we always go in the morning: it’s this weird place, no idea what to call it. It has a few fields, and then like a small woods, hardly a woods at all, much bigger than a copse but nowhere near a forest. There’s also a big pond, and then a few small buildings, I guess like electrical buildings, powerboxes or whatever. I don’t know, I don’t know any of that shit. I’m a fucking writer, I write about films and TV for a magazine, I don’t know shit about anything actually useful.

On this particular morning, I won’t lie, it’s fucking beautiful. The sun stays in front of me most or the morning, which means I’m generally moving east. Or is it west? Where does the sun come up? See, told you, I don’t know anything useful. Eventually my eyes adjust and I’m able to properly appreciate it, you know, once it stops hurting.

One thing I like about this place I walk the dog is that it’s secure: once we get in past this one gate I can let it off the lead and it can run to it’s heart’s content. I know some people who always keep their dogs on their leads, like all the time, and I’m like, why? What’s the point? Dogs like to run and shit, so why don’t you let them? And besides, you’re only fucking yourself: my dog is a small one, but a fucking energy box. If I don’t tire it out, all that’s going to happen is when we get home it’ll want to play, and then I’m stuck with it for even more time. If I let it run and run and fucking run, like it wants to do, by the time we get home it’s tired and it’ll give go to sleep and me some fucking peace and quiet.

So we’re walking through this field at first, or at least I am, the dog is tearing off, running rings around me, chasing a ball I occasionally throw, picking up sticks and fucking loving life with them. It’s nice, I mean I bitch and moan about it a lot but actually, this time of year, it’s pretty fucking nice. It’s a pretty goddamn pleasant way to start the day. I used to live right in the city, and though it’s a cool place to live, it’s fucking grey. Grey grey grey, in every direction, as far as the eye can see. Out here it’s green and yellow and brown and red and blue, like a fucking Benneton ad. I used to think I was a city boy but the older I get, the less I am. As well as looking pretty, out here it’s quiet, it’s calm. New York is the city that never sleeps, but what they don’t tell you is that no city that’s bigger than a certain size sleeps. I used to live in London – you think that just shuts down at 10pm or something? I spent a year in Chicago working for the magazine that owns the magazine I currently work for. Same deal.

So I’m walking, wending really, my head off in the clouds, of which there are none on this particular morning. Blue skies, not a blemish on them. Just a gorgeous, ocean blue, I could be looking at the sea for all I know. Well, except, you know, I’m nowhere near the coast, and I’m looking upwards. But that’s neither here nor there.

Another good thing about letting the dog off the lead – I don’t have to think about her. When she’s on the lead she’s pulling, asking for treats, generally running like an idiot and getting herself, and me, all tangled up. But when she’s off, she goes and does her own thing, and so I can do mine. Not only is this walking good for me physically, it’s an absolute treat mentally too. I can let my mind go, let it wander where it wants to. I can decompress, really consider things. I can let go of shit I need to let go of, focus on stuff that’s actually important. Some mornings I plan my day, think about what I’m going to write that day, what I have to write, oh joyous deadlines.

Other mornings I think about films I’ve watched, TV shows, not for work but for pleasure, the rare occasions I get to. I think about upcoming gigs, trips I might want to take, women I want to fuck, men I want to kill, women I want to kill, men I want to fuck. Whatever, it doesn’t matter. What I’m trying to impart to you is the freedom I get from giving the dog its freedom. It’s mutually beneficial.

I have no idea what I’m thinking about on this particular morning. Whatever it is is unimportant, and is soon banished from my mind, because when me and the dog get to the woods, the whatever, there it is! The thing I’ve been looking for, hoping for, since this whole me having a dog thing started. A dead body!

At first I just ignored it. I mean I saw it, but my eyes glanced over it like they do most things when I’m out walking the dog. From afar it looked like just another piles of leaves, rustled up against the base of a tree by the wind. The dog was very interested in it, naturally, but then it gets interested in all kinds of things. When I first got it I got interested in stuff she got interested in because I didn’t know what I was doing, and wanted to make sure it didn’t eat something stupid and kill itself. One time it tried to eat a dead fox it found, and we had a good fight about that before I prevailed and it left the thing alone. So when I saw the dog going at this pile of leaves I didn’t give it a second glance.

Honestly, I nearly ignored it completely and carried on walking. I would have done if not for the brilliant morning sunlight. God bless the sun!

I was just passing it; it was on my left side, I was following this path there is through the woods, not an actual path, but you know, the kind that’s made by lots of people and animals all walking on it. A natural path, I dunno what you’d call it, you know what I mean though right? So I’m just about to pass it, and even though the dog is really going at it I don’t particularly pay attention, until there’s a sudden flash of light. Then I do!

I’m a bit of a magpie: if I see something shiny out in the wilderness, where you wouldn’t expect to find something shiny, then I’m going to have a look. I think it’s a holdover from when I was at uni, and then a fresh graduate. AKA when I was absolutely poor as fuck. Back then, whenever I saw something shiny, my heart would jump in my chest at the thought it could be money. When all I’d eaten for a week was dry toast and pasta and cheese, the chance to even just find like 50p or something, to buy myself a chocolate bar, was always too good to pass up. Now I’m writing for the magazine I’m not exactly rich, and I never will be, but at least I can afford a varied diet, occasionally including chocolate. But still: when I see something shiny, that small part of me gets excited, and I go and investigate.

And actually, under different circumstances, this would have been a great find! Because the shiny thing I saw, reflecting the sun into my eyes, was a wedding ring. A fucking wedding ring! I instinctively bent down to grab it, pushing the dog out of the way as I did so, before stopping myself when I realised the ring wasn’t laying on the ground, but was indeed where it should have been. That is to say, on the third finger of a left hand. Once I realised this, I began to see the whole picture. What I thought was simply a pile of leaves was in fact a dead body, which it looked like someone had hastily piled leaves on to cover up.

I was fucking delighted!

My first reaction was to do what everyone would do in that situation: I got my phone out and started taking pictures. I nearly posted one on my Instagram before stopping myself: there’d be time for that in due course. First I had to go through all the proper channels I guess, call the police or whatever. I did, of course I did, but it took me a minute. Mainly because my mind wandered off into dreamland. I began to see the articles:

“Dog walk discovers dead body.”

“Body found by local man walking dog.”

“Absolute legend finds dead body, is amazing.”

Ok, maybe that last one is a bit of a stretch, but the first two were for sure realistic at the time. I’d read so many articles about lucky dog walkers who found dead bodies, even read interviews with some of the ones lucky enough to feature more heavily in print than just a mention. I began to rehearse my interview, the way actors rehearse their Oscar acceptance speeches, and I guess how musicians would do with Grammys?

“Well Carol,” I’d say, smiling in a sultry manner at the sexy local news host holding the microphone to me mouth. “What can I say? I was out walking, like any other day, when I found the body. I recognised it immediately for what it was and called the police right away. A hero? Well, I wouldn’t go that far,” I’d say, with a faux laugh, charming yet brilliantly self-effacing. “Why no Carol I’m not seeing anyone at the moment, why do you ask?”

It was the dog that snapped me out of my revelry; it had been worrying at the body, and before I could stop it had run off with a finger in its mouth. It was fucking grim. So fucking grim. I went to grab the little shit but it ran off, clearly thinking this was some sort of game. I chased it for a bit, half-heartedly, before giving up. Luckily when I stopped chasing it it got bored and dropped the finger. When it came back to the body for another go I grabbed it, put it on its lead and tied it to a nearby tree. It wouldn’t be fun to explain to the police why the dead body I found was half eaten. At least surely the coroner would know it was dog teeth marks in the body, not human ones. So whilst I guess I’d be in trouble, not that much I suppose?

Once I had the dog secured, it barking away, straining at the bonds holding it back, trying its damnedest to escape, I realised I had to call the police. I dialled 111, figuring as the guy was dead – it was a guy, the wind had shifted some of the leaves enough for me to see the corpse’s face and make this deduction – it wasn’t an emergency worthy of calling 999. After being on hold for about 20 minutes I eventually got through to someone and told them what I’d found, where I was, all the details. They told me to stay where I was and so I did, hanging out, smoking a cigarette, trying to calm the dog down, until a couple of officers turned up, strolling through the woods no faster than I had been, clearly not in a rush. I mean, I know it wasn’t an emergency, but come on guys, at least pretend to give a shit?

They asked me what happened and I filled them in, and after taking my contact details one of them went off talking into her shoulder radio, and the other said I could go and they’d be in touch if they needed to be. And that was it.

No reporters came, no more police, nothing. What a fucking anti-climax. What an absolute let down. Everything I’d rehearsed out of the window. I mean, I knew there was a chance a reporter would still get in touch, could get my number from the police and give me a ring, but somehow I doubted it. I’d watched enough cop dramas, film and TV – I literally get paid to do so – to know that cops and journalists are rarely best friends. Honestly, if the cops aren’t trying to fucking murder the journalists I’d guess they have a really good relationship. So I mean I held out hope, but not too much. Instead I merely trudged home, dog on the lead, and carried on with my life. What a fucking con.

Now it’s like a few weeks later, and I’ve stopped even checking the local news because I didn’t even appear in print. Articles began to pop up that same day, talking about a dead body found in the woods. I didn’t even get mentioned! What in the absolute fuck! Not even a throwaway “found by a man walking his dog” or “local dog walker” or fucking anything, not even buried down the bottom of the article. Absolute fucking joke.

Well I’ll fucking show them. I’m going to find another dead body soon. Trust me, I am. And when I find this one, I think people will be a bit more fucking interested in me. In fact, come here dog, we’re going for a walk right now. I know, it’s not morning or evening, this is a bonus lunchtime walk. Are you hungry? Have you eaten your breakfast? I hope so, because it might be a while before you and I are back home again.

Robert Welbourn’s debut novel, Ideal Angels, was published in 2018 and received overwhelmingly positive reviews. His second, Belonging, is coming 16th May 2023 from SRL Publishing. Inspired by the likes of Jonathan Franzen, John Steinbeck, and Joan Didion, Robert’s writing asks the question: what is it to be human? With a BA and MA in Literature, Robert’s writing tries to find out how to survive in a world that feels like it doesn’t care. His fast-paced, ironic prose may look shallow on the surface, but in reality it makes us look into ourselves, to try and discover who we really are.

Twitter: @r_welbourn

Publishers: srlpublishing.co.uk/product/belonging-robert-welbourn