Saturday 25 June 2016

'After the Blackberries Sang' by Jenny Adamthwaite

The air is so still that it seems quiet despite the rabble on the other side of the river. There’s a just-rained smell in the air, giving everything a lush green tint. I’m not afraid. Whatever will be will be.

It had never occurred to me that it was unusual. But yesterday at the market: all the colours, all the smells, so rich and beautiful. “Oh, listen to them sing,” I said to the man selling blackberries from his cart. They looked metallic in the sun, plump and juicy, and the smell of them sweetened the air. The sound was a tinkling, like tiny bells or angels’ voices, and I said so to the blackberry man. He looked at me like I was possessed and then he frowned. “Does fruit often sing to you?” he said. Until that moment, I’d assumed that everyone had the same experience of the cacophony of the market, the thrum of people layered with the melodies and beats of fresh food. I stared at him. He stared back, his lips ironed into a flat smile, his eyes challenging.

People were jostling around me, their baskets brimming with harvest. The woman to my right had a sack of potatoes, which hummed a deep bass so loud I had to shout. People were starting to nudge each other and laugh. A young lad waved a turnip in my face. “Is it talking to you?” he jeered. “What’s it saying?” Its soft trumpet washed over me, soothing as a father’s lullaby. Time slowed down and when I heard the cries, it barely seemed like they were about me: “Witch! Witch!”

My wrists burn with the rope behind my back. The crowd on the other side of the river is huge now. The whole village is out. Everyone loves a dunking. Their voices are a muddle, the smell of soil and clay; occasionally I catch a word thrown out into the air like a stone: “Witch!” I close my eyes as I feel the hands on my back, the gentle push. Water rises around me. Calm. Quiet. The taste of metal. All my senses are alive, a final burst before the darkness.

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