On his 39th birthday he found a dead body in a cave. A day hike, beyond the wire towers that extend forever into the horizon. Tracing steps from boyhood, remembering specific dinosaur-tooth-like rocks, the hill he’d could see from home. From the base looking up, a scale too daunting in childhood. He and his friends would dare each other to climb up, no one brave enough. On a ledge, surveying trees and fields he’d conquered, marking the years. Behind him, a dark cave opening.
Inside, graffiti-covered walls, remnants of fires and partiers. Burnt rubber smell, power generator hum of flies, a distant echoing water drip. His flashlight shines down, reveals a decimated face, skull as prominent feature. He stumbles backward, drops the flashlight. Retrieves it, uses it to reveal an adult-length body in tattered clothes, skeletal fingers clutching a party noisemaker, party hat positioned on the chest. A lightning shock chill through his body. The corpse partier—a cosmic joke.
Back home, friends and family throw a party. He thought about the dead body—who, how, should he call the police? His toddler son jumps on his lap. Cake, cards, jokes about aging, death encroaching. That night, he sat by the bedroom window, looked to the hill, thought he saw flickering light.