'Heat/Wave/Length' by Christina Dalcher

H is for hole in the sky Heading into the third day, she wakens to the sun's colours dancing dervish-like on the backs of her eyelids. She is hungry, thirsty, still cold from the desert night. In another hour, her skin will sting and burn, blistered by a red hole in a cloudless morning sky. E is for echo Ears singed the shade of her hair—brilliant, flaming orange—sense familiar sounds. A howl travels over the dunes, floods her with memories of comfort and companionship. It is only the wind, echoing the Sahara's silent song. A is for aeroplane A clockwork bird carried her here. She gazed over its wide wing, down to silica waves three miles below. As she wanders the graveyard of aeroplane bits, her hands touch random steles of metal, jutting like silver sculptures in a sea of monotonous yellow. T is for tree Teatime back home--cakes and Earl Grey and clotted cream. She is hungry and hot. In the afternoon, she peels off another layer, revealing the tan lines that criss-cross her shoulders—white, laser-cut scars on a parched landscape. She imagines a green ocean of pines where she once bathed in cool, protective shade. There are no pines here, no oaks, no acacias. Trees do not decorate Allah's Garden. W is for weir Watery streams appear in the distance, as they did on the first day. She moves toward ripples the colour of tears—clear, cool, wet. So much liquid, she thinks, enough to last her until tomorrow. She cries as the weir of sand fails, releasing its precious blueness, spilling imaginary droplets into the landscape before her. A is for avalanche A second sandstorm comes, crawls its way over the dunes like dry surf. She squeezes her eyes against the whirlwind of dust until she sees only inky indigo. When she opens them, the avalanche has buried more of her transport. Another storm, and the search parties will not find her. V is for vigil Vacant grey eyes pan for signs of the others—those not burnt to ashes in the crash. She finds only the pilot, violet lividity blooming on the parts of him that remain. The dry sand makes for easy, if temporary, burial. Tonight she will keep vigil, not for a saviour, but for the souls of lost travellers. E is for eternity Evening descends on the desert bringing all of the colours and none of them. Blackness comes, cold as death's hand. She allows it to take her, to carry her to the place of thrones and kings and angels, greeting eternity with a smile. 'Heat / Wave / Length' (first published December 2015 in After the Pause)

Comments

  1. Reading this, I had one of those extrapolation moments, finding another layer where the story I was reading was a metaphor for a much more cataclysmic event - the sun enlarging and burning up the earth. For me, that only happens when a story has complexity of thought built into it, carried by a simplicity of language that allows freedom of interpretation. Heat wave/Wave length. Shudder!

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