Nick Bury tossed his rusty shovel out of the freshly dug grave and crawled up after it. He chuckled softly as he dusted off his pants and looked around the field with his one green eye. He then glanced skyward, where the sun was well into its slow descent towards the horizon. Pulling out his old black pipe, Nick sat down on the mound of dirt next to the six-foot hole.
Nearly an hour passed while Nick sat smoking. The first stars became visible in the evening sky. Then lightning flashed, and a thunderclap rolled across the field. A scream came from above. Nick looked up and saw a man plummeting through the air. The man’s scream was suddenly cut short as his body crashed into the ground a foot to one side of the open grave and mere inches from where Nick Bury sat. A second later, a black wand covered in silver runes rolled out of the man’s hand and into the grave.
A frown formed on the gravedigger’s face, but a moment later the corners of his lips curled up into a grin. A wheezing chuckle escaped his throat. Nick slipped a foot under the body and rolled it into the grave.
“That’s the problem with magic,” Nick said to himself, “so hard to predict.”
* * *
Back when I was writing a lot of fiction, I would sometimes challenge myself to write a complete story in an hour or less. For whatever reason, a lot of those stories featured a creepy little grave digger named Nick Bury. Most of my 'composed in an hour' stories weren't very good and and are now decomposing in a landfill somewhere, but a few were worth keeping.
By That Much is probably my favourite of the Nick Bury tales, and it was arguably the most successful. In 2000, it was accepted and printed by Calliope, the journal of the MENSA Writer's Special Interest Group. In 2004, it was reprinted in the online fiction magazine, Flashshots. I don't know if either publication still exists.