by Rosie Sandler
It’s neither grey nor quite black. It feels like grit rolling between my fingers, tastes of the ashes on my school-boyfriend’s tongue, the dust that is everywhere, seeping through our clothes and graining our hair.
When I ask for water, they laugh, their throats full of this gravel and nothing to wash it down. Never enough to drink, they show me, miming the rain that doesn’t fall, the rivers that have deserted, leaving their banks to crumble.
We start to walk again and as we trudge, I have a sudden sense that all the ground is treacherous, that the lines that knife it might gape suddenly. I lurch, clutch at my neighbour’s arm, and she pulls away, snapping at me from inside her headscarf. She has a baby. I see it now. It is too small, too quiet, a grey rag wrung out and draped against her chest.
‘I’m sorry,’ I tell her, and she nods at my tone.
We have so many languages between us, but not one that works.
The others have come to terms with our plight. They know the conflict is no longer between armies, but between the earth and the sky. There seems no likelihood of armistice.
My feet are bleeding – the only liquid in this dry place. My shoes are shreds, and all my belongings paid my way across the border.
We keep moving. Only when night forces our submission do our thoughts catch up. We have left so much behind.
Rosie Sandler‘s stories have been published in 34th Parallel magazine, The Local Writer 2007 collection, The Pygmy Giant, and an anthology of flash fiction called Jealousy (published by slingink.co.uk). She has been shortlisted for competitions in the Essex Chronicle newspaper and Essentials magazine. You can read more of her work here.