When I was a little girl, sand meant days at the beach building castles with a bucket and spade. Once the work was done we’d sit back and admire our hard work, eat shrimp paste sandwiches with crusted nails as the sea undermined the foundations, as the walls softened and melted into the brine.
No castles here.
The sand is too dry – it sucks the moisture from my skin, grinds at my teeth and the corners of my eyes. It’s harder too, filled with the rubble of ancient cities, fragments of musty tombs returned to the light, the secret corners of a lustrous palace laid bare.
The castles melt away and city’s fall. Only the wind remains.
Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Street View as its starting point. This week we visit Old Dongola, Sudan.
Years ago I was lucky enough to visit Egypt, to the north of Sudan. Venturing into the Sahara Desert, I can vouch that the sand is pretty much as I describe here – definitely not fit for making castles.
Snow falls over the Cornish village of Torre, blowing along the narrow alleyways, drifting against the door of the Free Traders Inn. The village lock-up shimmers with icicles, the sign above Grubb’s pawnbrokers’ sways but doesn’t creak – George Grubb gives nothing away for free.
Wind howls across nearby Merrin Moor. There are tales of a beast sniffing through the gorse so best to keep inside by the fire.
Up on the clifftop, Torre Point lighthouse winks over a churning grey sea, keeping its secrets close. The village is awash with stories of that lighthouse, of strange men coming and going, of boats out in a storm …
The photographs are dry and faded, curled like autumn leaves. They burn even better than I expected.
They are the last thing that connects us. I sold our belongings when I sold the house, forty years of a shared life distributed among house clearance auctions and charity shops, ready to be re-purposed or sent to landfill. There’s something fitting about that last, your jumpers chewed and clawed, used to line rats nests.
I watch the flames die, wait for a sense of freedom to descend but none does.
I can’t burn the memories.
Written for Friday Fictioneers, the writing prompt run by the wonderful Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s. See here to join in the fun.
Khunbish stared through the grubby window, out across the spine of the steppe. She smelt the clouds gathering, sensed the droplets of water shiver as they pinged together, eager to fall. Soon the brown grass would shimmer like a million watching eyes.
She’d played her role well. Allowed her father and brothers to bind her, bundle her in the little shed among the unwanted things. Grew still as they padlocked the door. It calmed the men to believe they retained control.
But she couldn’t rest forever.
As the first bullet of rain hit the tin roof she twitched her wrists, shook off the nylon twine. She reached out with her mind until it pinged against steel, felt for the gaps between the molecules in the padlock and encouraged them to grow. Metal fell to the ground with a bony thunk.
The time had come.
Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that takes you all across the world via Google Street View. This week we visit Mongolia. See here to join in and to read the other stories.
When researching Mongolian names, I found Khunbish, a gender neutral name which, according to Mom Junction means ‘not a human being’.
I suspect that describes my character pretty accurately.
Flames shine through the stained glass – red, blue – the colours falling on my cowering children, faces lit with fire and ice.
Our attackers have stopped beating at the door. The night is hushed, aside for the whimpering of the children. Jack’s eyes are wide, cheek crusted with blood. His sister wriggles in his arms, reaching for me. The men would have killed them – will still kill them.
The stink of burning grows sharp, smoke billowing soft under the door. A pyre for me. Those men – mule eyed, calf faced – how solid have they grown imagining flames licking my neck, devouring my hair? They will share grim smiles – the ones who brought the proud witch down.
I close my eyes against the blinding smoke. Red and blue vibrate inside me, pulling together, hard as ice, unforgiving as flame.