The battle was over. Mab didn’t know which side was the victor, which the loser and she cared even less. Static fizzed through her wrists, conducted along the nerve endings to settle beneath her thumbnails – the familiar signal evil was approaching.
‘Sorry I’m late,’ said Moll, dusting ash from her sleeve. ‘I was watching the firestorm. Beautiful, the way it cleanses a city.’ She looked round her, at the fallen masonry, the ivy snaking over graffitied walls. ‘Nice. Oh, by the way, Cass won’t be joining us.’
Mab sighed. The two witches just didn’t have the same ring.
Despite loving the photo, I wasn’t going to take part in this challenge after reading Jane Dougherty’s TLT – Jane had done such a good job, there could be no better interpretation.
Then for some reason, the Macbeth witches sprung to mind. I thought the derelict cloister would be an appropriate meeting place for their modern counterparts – slightly more sheltered than a ‘blasted heath’.
There’s an interesting analysis of the witches here.
At midday the heat would drive Denny lumbering from the van to shelter under the makeshift lean-to. The mirror in her compact was broken which was a blessing – she didn’t relish seeing her reflection, the boiled ham flesh where once were hollow cheeks.
Still, she was grateful for the sun on her skin. Soon enough the scrub would be dusted with snow, glittering with frost. There were no trees to burn out here and few shrubs, she was down to her last canister of gas. She could freeze one night and only the coyotes would find her this side of April.
But even that wasn’t the most terrifying thought. Because the baby could come any day now, slip out of her like an eel onto a dry river bed. What if he hadn’t returned by then? What if she was alone?
Denny had always been one for drama – every headache was a brain tumour, every stomach ache cancer. But something about the text made Stuart swerve onto the hard shoulder amid the car horns and cursing. His call to Denny failed to connect, the same for their sister Clare. Panic mounted as every number he knew failed, as the bars on his phone dropped to zero.
He was staring at the blank screen as the first blast hit, as the nose to tail cars in front of him were flipped into the air, as the pressure wave disintegrated the windscreen.
She becomes a blur as she passes, rushing from store to store, caught in a whirlwind of purchases, money falling from her hands into every register like leaves spun on the breeze.
She feels herself blurring, her once hard edges bleeding outwards, flaking away like layers of over boiled potato. She thought once that things would shore her up, that the weight of her belongings would halt the crumbling. But instead, they’ve hastened it, eroded her until there is nothing but the chase, the purchase, the empty feeling when she reaches home.
One day there will be nothing left to prove she was here but plastic bags and a pile of unpaid credit card bills.
‘Never stay anywhere more than one night. Never speak your real name, your real home town, your real destination. Lies are your only protection …’
Papa was long gone but his voice still circled Gordy’s brain. Each time someone was kind to him, each time he found more than a cold doorway to sleep in. Surely, the world was in too much disarray to notice one, lone man …
Still, Papa’s words stung him back to the cold road, to dew on his shoulders, to the familiar sting of blistered feet. His bloody mission.
Doug climbs onto the stile, sits on the limestone step. Beneath him the rock is as cold as the ice capping the water butts in the farmyard, as if it’s grown brittle in the frost and might shatter under his weight.
He gazes out over the flock, at the wind tugged fleeces, at the snow gathering along the wall line. Time to go. Still he waits, lets the flakes build in the crooks of his arms.
He could sit, let the drifts pile over him, let the walkers find him – wind dried and stringy – in the thaw … A warm, wet nose nuzzles into his palm – his collie, Flash, needing food. Needing him. Doug stands, beats the snow from his coat and heads home.
Kirsty would miss the puffins most in the spring, when they mobbed the island with their monochrome waddling, their sad eyes settled on bobbles of pink thrift.
Nowhere smelt like the island – the air carrying only sea scents, the deeps and crashing shallows, weed and rot and salt, a smell you could taste, that covered you like a second skin.
‘Ready to go?’ Mum took her bag, walked the short pier to the ferry. ‘It’ll all be here, waiting for you when you come home,’ she called with a sad smile. Together, they took the ferry to the mainland.