Author : Ken McGrath

The days were beyond hot. The unforgiving, bitter red sun dominated the sky, pulsing waves of heat flowed downwards onto the battered, scorched earth. We walked, trying to keep in the thin shadows cast by withered, torched trees. Their branches, like skeletons, stretched towards the sky, begging for mercy.

But there was no sympathy. Not for them and certainly not for us.

Not here.

We gestured at each other, minor movements of the hands, gentle nods of the head. It was too much effort to communicate in any other way. There wasn’t enough saliva to talk anyway and our chapped, cracked lips were kept hidden behind cloth mouthpieces. Even if we’d had the urge to speak the dry air would probably have snatched the words away from us.

Our eyes grew accustomed to the constant shimmer that danced along the horizon, to learn the differences between the almost imperceptibly similar shades of red that coloured everywhere we looked. To find shade where there should be none, a brief moment’s rest in the jaws of the fire.

Sand sifted and swirled gently around our feet. We walked slowly, painfully. But walk we did, but only by day. We would not move at night. When the sun finally set on our cursed lives each long, arduous day the temperature dropped quickly and we gathered ourselves, pitching our shelters as fast as our worn bodies would allow to escape the killer cold.

The days would scorch you alive, but the nights, the nights would steal the breath from your very soul.

It was impossible to travel during those short, dark hours. Some had tried it, but they’d died. We knew this because we saw their bones sometimes. Bleached and split they were like markers on the roads, lying in the fallow fields, pointers which showed us how fragile our lives could be. But they were proof we were surviving, proof that we moved in the right direction, for they all faced north. Out there, over how many more horizons we did not know, lay EDEN and for this we pushed onwards each red, raw day. The killing sun hanging over our heads, weighing us down and drying us out.

But onwards we went shuffling forwards slowly, slow and determined. This is what drove us out under that burning star each day. That slight glimmer of hope that it was possible to live again, that there might be something better for us, something worth surviving for.

That’s why at night we slept.


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