Colonies

[Our first #1667 Words entry is by Divya Persaud.]

(One moment. It would have been just one – one moment that would have changed our parts.)

The officer adjusts his collar; the sun is too bright, has been too bright since he arrived on this godforsaken shore, and even now, as he is much closer to the mountains, rather than the waves, he feels the jaunt of the ship in his bones, for look how it has cursed him.

And how it has cursed him! He steals a lift of his cap to wipe the sweat from his sticky red skin. It has changed him. He once knew the moisture upon his head to form from merriment – merriment is such a strange word, now, isn’t it – the cricket games in the street outside the school, the chase when the schoolteacher would catch them and the broken glass that would often litter their make-believe-field, and even the thick, smelly rooms on the brink of summer when they’d pray under their breaths that the exams would only take one more second, one more second, one more second and then they would be free, and could wipe their clean, pale faces on their mothers’ frocks.

That was not so long ago, he thinks.

And as he thinks, and his memories become images in the heat, and he feels their presence in the shimmering air as he leans slightly against the quarters and unconsciously takes a drag from the rolled paper between his fingers, shimmering evermore, he sees himself walk out of that yard, over there, carrying clothes to his mother to wash in the river.

The river? No! It is that boy, the one with the impossibly small ankles, helping his mother with chores. He knows that today is the day they stop doing chores. He’s already written their names down the best he can – it is very hard in the heat and the strange jolting mountains and the remembering, the ship, remembering, the sweat, it’s taking, its taking – and whatever else they need, for is it much? They’ll just be off to another hot, wet place with bugs the size of their faces, and sand, perhaps, and enough rivers to wash a million people’s clothes.

A million people. He swallows, and the suddenness of it, the word, the moisture in his throat, sparks his brain and his vision sharpens. How much is a million? A million people. He looks carefully at the boy’s ankles as they stretch and flick. A million, no, two million of those little ankles in the rainforest, having known only mountains. Would they break?

It is coming to the hour to do it, and he is the only one left in the village. Two million little ankles making their way through rainforests and mud and over a new ocean. There will be no sweat of merriment, he knows that – and he goes inside and has a drink. And then another.

The officer adjusts his collar; the sun is too bright, has been too bright since he arrived on this shore, and even now, he feels the jaunt of the ship in his bones, for look how it has made him.

And how it has made him! He steals a lift of his cap to wipe the sweat from his sticky red skin. It has made him. He once knew the moisture upon his hands to form from anxiety before a performance – performance, an ancient word now, isn’t it – or the pickup games in the streets around his house, the chase when he wanted the wind to dry him, the clasping of hands as they prayed in the church for one more second, one more second, one more second and then they would be free, and could wipe their faces clean.

How long ago was that? he thinks.

And as he thinks, and his memories become images in the heat, reflecting off of the water about him, and he feels their presence in the shimmering air as he leans slightly against the rail and unconsciously hums a forgotten melody, shimmering evermore, he sees himself walk out of that yard, over there, carrying clothes to his mother to wash in the river.

The river? No! It is that girl, the one with the impossibly small ankles, helping her mother with chores. He knows that today is the day they stop doing chores. He’s already written their names down the best he can – it is very hard in the heat and the business of planning and planning and catching however much sleep, and the remembering, the ship, remembering, the sweat, it’s taking, its taking – and whatever else they need, for is it much? They’ll just be off to another hot place with enough rivers of fire to burn a million people’s clothes.

A million people. He swallows, and the suddenness of it, the word, the moisture in his throat, sparks his brain and his vision sharpens. How much is a million? A million people. He looks carefully at the girl’s ankles as they stretch and flick. Would they break?

It is coming to the hour to do it, and he is surrounded by many who are watching. Two million little ankles making their way through hell. There will be no sweat of merriment, he knows that – and he takes the shot.

[Divya is a second-year student of geology and music composition at the University of Rochester. She also enjoys writing long fiction and poetry, and dabbling in experimental story-telling.]

Don’t forget to tell Divya how much you like her story by rating it with the stars below!

You can find out more about the 1,667 Words Story Contest here.

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About Kurt Schweitzer

A former vampire logistics facilitator, past purveyor of Italian-style transportation, and Y2K disaster preventer, I'm currently creating websites, novels and other fictions while reinventing myself. Again.
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