Emboldened by promises that there are no rules on FridayFlash, I’ve condensed a story that is a lot longer, but unfinished. Not sure if it works, particularly the end. So, let me know (I can take critique!)
The children come to me at sunset. Their chores done for the day, they rest at my feet, the younger ones tussling to sit on my lap. I am always scrupulously fair, I monitor lap usage closely: noone is ever cheated out of their turn. When they are all settled, they beg me, “Tell us a story, Grandma”, and, remembering how my own grandmother used to do the same for me, I am happy to oblige.
I always have to begin the same way, I am not allowed to get a word wrong: The way out of Eden was dusty, the road was stony as the darkness fell around them. They turned back for one last look at the garden they had left behind, to see a brilliant flame of white that dazzled their eyes. There was no way back: an angel guarded the path… Their eyes are round with anticipation, they huddle closer to each other. I don’t know why I tell them these old tales, but somehow I find it comforting to link them to my past, and they always seem appreciative. Sometimes, though they don’t want a story, but to hear about when I was small. So I get out the faded photographs and show them the pictures of my grandmother, older than I am now, looking half my age. There I am with my mother, a little girl in a pink dress. I tell them of the cities that stayed awake all night, the stars blotted out by the yellow and orange lights, the silence shattered by the noise of cars and people shouting. I tell them of the sweet shops of my childhood, where I could choose from twenty different types of confectionary. How you could type into a computer and be in contact with the whole world. How, once, people even went to the moon. But they, who have known only this small farming community – white crofter’s cottages, nestling between grey-green mountains and brown cliffs – cannot imagine such miracles. I can see in their eyes, that my past is as mythical to them as Adam and Eve.
Their mothers come and collect them at bedtime, leaving me to the encroaching darkness. Our generator has enough energy to give us an hour’s grace before nightfall. On warm nights I’ll sit out on my porch just gazing at the sky, the stars visible in their millions. Out here it has always been possible to see them: white flickering flames from long dead supernovas, each one reminding me of the people I’ve left behind. It is overwhelming sometimes, but I have had to get used to feeling this alone. What has gone, has been gone thirty years.
I’m one of the lucky ones, I know. To have survived. To have found my way here. To have married a good man and had his children. To have the satisfaction of knowing that one day my descendants may be numbered like the stars. And yet, on these starlit nights, I can’t help but long for the sensation of silk sheets on my bed. For a day at the spa to soothe my weary bones. For the touch of the lover I still dream of at night. I stay outside till the chill seeps under my skin, sending me shivering indoors to my itchy hemp-sheeted bed. I will sleep till dawn and another day’s work. Once, that meant a ride on the tube to an open-plan air-conditioned office. Days creating persuasive designs to sell junk to eager buyers, interspersed with latte and long lunches. Now, though my curved back excuses me of the heavier duties, I am required to look after little ones, cook for the workers, draw the water from the pump.
This place is hard in the winter. The food is scarce and each year my body fails me a little bit more. There cannot be many years left to me. I should count each one as a blessing and enjoy the pleasures that are left: the brightness of children, the wind in my hair, the stars in the sky. And yet, sitting here in the darkness, it seems too much to ask. All, I can do,then, is survive, as I have always done. To prepare myself for another day.
There is no way back: an angel guards the path.