Her chest rises and falls marking out time with the movement of air, muscle: the unbidden will to live. Before her the door is bricked in, the window boarded and sealed, the old lime wall drunk on carbon dioxide. Around her the stillness of the air, the silence of dust suspended, waiting to fall. Her wrists, bound, are chaffed. Her lips, red, are dry, cracked.
She remembers sunshine, laughter, the free fall of play.
Outside a man monitors her pulse rate, scribbles a few notes. Another man, coffee cup in hand, enters – watches for a moment then says, “We should release her.”
She thinks of the time when she believed they would be together, when there was still a space left in the fabric of her reality where they could co-exist. If only she could be free then she could resurrect him now, take the dust from the floor and create life. Now there is only doubt and a hollow that has contracted like the healing of a wound.
“Do you think it’s safe?”
“No, but what else can we do?”
She pulls his image from her mind, clothes him, sets him down on open plains and steps into herself. They laugh, embrace, walk hand in hand, eat together, know nothing of what is outside them and everything that is within.
They marry, have two children, walk together on cliff tops, on water. He spends long sunny afternoons playing with the kids, aiming the hosepipe at their laughing faces. She makes blueberry pies and serves them with icecream. They buy a rusty Russian submarine on ebay and go on underwater adventures, marvelling at the mysteries of the depths.
He sets up tin cans at the bottom of the Presidents of Trinidad’s garden and teaches the children to shoot. They moor the submarine in the Gulf of Mexico and hitch the freeway to Houston. She scolds them and frowns when they shoot mockingbirds for dinner.
On Easter Day the submarine gets trapped in ice near the arctic oil rigs and they have to swim to a nearby island. They survive around a camp fire, dine on penguins and practice flying by jumping off a cliff into the cold waters below. Once they learn how to fly, they find rising air currents and circle the earth together, hand in hand, taking in the beauty of the world below.
When she remembers that it isn’t real, that her life is a lie, her children a fantasy, her husband only herself, she allows it all to be taken by the sand, which, when it comes, strips everything bare as if locusts have ascended from hell itself.
The two men push various buttons, argue with each other. One pointing out that they don’t have the authority to use the launch codes, the other that – what the hell did that matter, most of high command has been destroyed.
She wonders if the prophecy is true, that they will be each other’s reward, that he will rescue her. The air presses around her skin holding it in an envelope of gases to prevent her from dissipating, protecting her, comforting her as if a mother to a baby. She cries for her unborn sons, her long lost husband. The image of locusts again eating away at the ice, then the layer of rust on their submarine, until there is only dull metal, exposed machinery, cogs, nuts, rivets, bolts.
The two men continue to argue until one pulls out a pistol and shoots the other in the forehead. Blood splatters the wall. The man places his gun down on the table, takes a key from around his neck. He yanks away the other key from his fallen comrade and inserts both into the console before him. There is a double click as he turns them simultaneously. He pauses, mutters a silent prayer, pulls out a photograph of his family and places it next to the gun on the table. Taps in the release code.
Inside the room, the woman looks up as a door appears in the wall. The ropes around her wrists fall away and she stands looking at the light streaming through the opening. Crouching down she takes the dust from the floor, blows on it and casts it out. She hesitates, touches the wall of her prison then jerks back as a swarm of locusts scream through into her cell.
Shielding her eyes with her forearm she steps out and sees her two children and husband standing there. She laughs, then cries, stumbles towards them and feels if the world has opened up its most treasured possessions.
“Are we not as Gods,” he laughs.
She nods, lets him hold her in his arms, her children at her feet.
Around them the locusts devour the land stripping all away, until the landscape is wiped clean as if snow has fallen to render everything in white. No-one survives, the people are lost, the cities no more.
They stand and look out, surviving all: untouched. For a moment they embrace, then taking each other’s hands, they rise upwards through the multitude.
Of course all this was rejected. Couldn’t understand what on earth was going on or what the point of the story was, someone had scribbled on the ms.
Four more then.
I feel like Scheherezade pitching Arabian Night tales before my Sultan.
It’s not much longer now before I die.