by MaiLynn Stormon-Trinh
The hedgehog died in the gutter on the metal grating over the sewer.
His remains were first spotted in the early hours of a still, clear morning on one of the last days of a fine summer.
That he was male is only a conjecture. However, his impressive mass (the size of a fat domesticated cat) made this assumption reasonable, if not infallible. So, for the purposes of convenience, the hedgehog will hereafter be mentioned using the masculine pronoun.
The cause of death was unknown. The placement of his body along a suburban roadside suggested that a vehicle could have been the perpetrator. Yet as the hedgehog’s body was still plump in all his parts, his quills still neat and erect like a tremendous sea urchin, it appeared he simply had lived a long enough life and therefore could not, or would not, carry on any longer.
It was a humble, yet public place to die. Pedestrians sometimes stopped to stare down at him; others, startled, walked hurriedly by. Any regular passerby would expect that any day now, he would be disposed of by whomever or whatever is in charge of ridding family neighbourhoods of such an exposed display of mortality.
However, as days turned to weeks, the dead hedgehog remained.
One might find it most curious that despite the persistent presence of the hot summer sun, the spiked creature never gave off any odour associated with autolysis and putrefaction of decaying flesh. In fact, if one could smell anything at all, it would be only the aroma of the far off sea on days when the wind carried it so.
Still, maggots chewed through him with a voracity only maggots can know.
As his tissues began to break down, he shrank and shrank and shrank. His face dissolved inward from the tip of his delicate, dark snout. The round of his body depressed slowly at first, and then quicker and quicker still until he appeared to be nothing but a piece of litter thrown out of a car window.
Then it happened that in the middle of the night, when no one was there to see it (or so it can be supposed), the last of the hedgehog’s flattened skeleton and leather-dry skin either slipped through the grating into the sewage below, or was carried off with the incoming Autumn wind.
And then nothing remained of him at all.