Now Dottie could see the dark form of the body on the floor. She saw the heel of a woman’s old-fashioned button-up boots. Then the hem of a coat made from some old black cloth. To Dottie’s left lay an object that she now realised was a black hat, not very clean, and with some elaborate-looking pattern upon one side of the brim.
‘Dottie, sorry but I’ve got to go outside, I’m going to be sick!’ And Ellie was gone. Dottie was still nodding absently as she heard the poor girl retching in the front garden.
But all Dottie’s thoughts were concentrated on that pattern on the brim of the hat. Surely it was a trick of the light, but the pattern seemed to be…crawling…moving… It was as if the little dots and dashes on the black felt of the hat were alive somehow, coming together then moving apart again.
Suddenly her mind made sense of what she was looking at—and now she saw them everywhere, in their hundreds—on her own sleeve, on the floor, on her shoes, on the walls, the door, the door frame, creeping, creeping along the woman’s coat, walking across her face, her eyes unblinking beneath the tiny feet and sticky pads.
Maggots. Caterpillars. Beetles. Flies. Worms. Earwigs. Hurrying. Scurrying. Buzzing. Creeping. Scuttling and scratching. Tiny bodies scrambling over one another and everything in their path. Thousands upon thousands of them. Everywhere.
Already Dottie was falling back a step away from the sight, one hand pressed to her mouth, the other flicking the little bodies off her coat. And all the while she was doing so, unable to look away from the body on the floor, she spotted the heavy gold ring on the woman’s right hand. She had seen that ring before; she knew who wore it.