Author: Hari Navarro, Staff Writer

There is life out there in the radium sea. A solitary orb of blue and green. A place where oceans are poisoned and bombs they are cast and beauty is carved out of words. So alien, so different. Though so much is the same and children they get lost in the woods.

She had been warned not to walk alone in this place. But alone on this seldom driven road that sucks thinning to a seldom tread trail she feels something that might be called peace.

Here she can breathe, here she is tolerated and opinions are neither asked nor condemned. She feels an easing of the torque that winds in her shoulders and it mirrors in the gentle creak of the timber as even now the slender shadows they wrap and warp and gather her in.

She’s come here to get lost. She’s come here to find herself, but then she’s always looking for something.

A scent goads as she peels a strip of bark from the trunk that now rests at her shoulder. Rubbing it between thumb and finger she inhales its peaty perfume. But she can’t hide, she knows the smell of the dead.

Charlie. That fluffy puff who crawled deep inside the hedgerow that flanked the backyard of her childhood home. He who choked on a bone and then lied in her dreams about being off on an adventure from which he would surely return.

His was a stink that would tease for days as it tickled her nostrils and licked at the back of her throat. Then, on that sunny day, as she’d paced like a little soldier next to her father, she’d learnt all she knows about death.

Her father had loved the power that shook through his hands as he had run over things that splintered and smashed. Pushing with one hand he’d probed under that hedge and swore as chunks of wood and stone and runaway dolls shattered and flew at his feet.

Festered skin tore from its carcass and wound around the cutter blade with a thump. An explosion that added clumped ginger fur, teeth and shard bone to the assault on his ankles and a ricocheted splatter of rot that spat up and into her mouth.

Her eyes they want to turn away. But also they want to reach down and touch the pallid hand that clutches from the leaves as if pushing its way through a fog at her feet. She wants to help it to stand and dust off the dirt and tell it that home it is close.

The young man’s head lolls as if he is lounging in a bath with arms floating just below the surge of the forests composting decay and her skin it quivers and the wet runs away from her tongue.

She crouches and looks into eyes that are open. The globe of one has been savaged and leaks a congealed paste that runs his cheek to his chin. The other a winter gaze, a cornea frosted and white.

She wants to know more about this boy, this husk, this thing.

“What was your name?”, she mutters.

“Do you not have a family? Poor boy, this is not the face they want found. I have a family, I hide from them too and I’m so sorry for this state you are in. You were my first. Next time will be different. Next time I promise I’ll bury their bodies down deep”, said the alien that looks like that girl on the bus.