Stacking Stones

A flash fiction story by Brian Robinson.

The West Dorset and South Devon coasts had been ravaged by several severe storms over the winter. With the promise of rare fossils and bones being uncovered, this unusual storm activity acts as an open invitation for palaeontologists to descend en masse on the Jurassic coast. My wife and I, both palaeontologists, decided to combine business with pleasure and take a two week holiday in Lyme Regis.

We hit the beach early on our first day and apart for some strong winds the weather was perfect. With high hopes of finding some interesting specimens, we set off on our walk along the base of the cliffs. Before we got too far we spotted a small figure in the distance busy doing something but we weren’t sure what. Apart from him we were alone on the beach.

When we got closer we could it was an elderly man collecting stones and stacking them up at the foot of the cliff. There seemed to be an urgency in his work. You might even describe it as frantic. As we passed, I joked, “You’re covering up our bones.” The man stopped momentarily, but then carried on without comment.

After about three hours searching at the base of the cliffs for fossils we decided it was time for lunch so we turned to head back. The man we had noticed earlier was still purposefully stacking his stones. When we looked closer we could see that literally tons of stones had been deposited neatly at the base of the cliff. This stretched over several metres. This man had obviously undertaken a mammoth task and we naturally became curious. Why was he doing this?

When we got back to our hotel we asked about this man and it turned out that he was well known in the area. Apparently, he had been stacking these stones up for years and years. In fact, he had been stacking stones ever since his wife disappeared.

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