Sunday, 26 March 2017
Gyre - Flash Fiction
Bodies on display in the street. Burst pipes spewing clean water and dirty sewage like impromptu fountains. I stood at the lip of the crater where my parents’ home once stood. I didn’t know if they were dead or had just fled. Either way it amounted to the same outcome. We were asunder one from another for good. There was nothing keeping me here, but plenty to propel me away.
I headed westwards. Among a gaggle of others. Some stopped and turned around to pray in the direction we were forsaking. Other than that religious prescription, they didn’t bother to look back. They weren’t praying for a return to their homeland. For the rest of us, our new god faced the other way. We honoured the sun setting on our lives by making a headlong pilgrimage accelerating our progress there.
As more joined our throng, we felt like a drove being prodded by an unseen goatherd. I couldn’t see a bell around my neck alerting to our presence, yet wranglers eyed us suspiciously at the border. They branded us with their marks on our papers yet would not let us stay on as their property. They marched us past ranks of policemen stood in front of wire fences, through which locals shook their fists through the mesh and screamed at us. We were put in a temporary camp at their other border, where we were now the ones contained behind wire, resting and wringing our hands through the chinks, but we were missing the third limb, that of any police to protect us from predations by others within the wire.
We moved on. Hanging from trains or 4x4s like creeping vines, though some of us human berries dropped off and were crushed underfoot, or were threshed by non-fruit pickers. Whether juice, pulp or seed, the ferment in our wakes meant we could not lay down roots here.
And on we trudged. Overhead a flock of geese. The child next to me threw himself to the ground. He thought their tight formation presented them as a fleet of military aircraft, or perhaps their array of freshly released bombs. No one helped him up. These aerial migrators glided unerringly straight where we ploddingly snaked. Their voyage smooth since they were never challenged for their papers. They were ebulliently raucous where we were bone-wearily silent. They flew perpendicularly over us and I contemplated adopting their direction from latitude to longitude. But I could not raise my feet high enough to escape the rut in the sand that our human train had pressed and carried on in line.
We reached the coast and found that the sea would always welcome us with open arms. Would always have berths for us to lay down and never rise again. Packed into boats like sardines, once the boat was tipped up and emptied, we scattered and were spread out on the waves. The boats sunk but we floated bloated. Until we were hooked like a fish at a funfair (that too would only live for the shortest time), or we finally settled on land, buried beneath its soil.
In Europe as we were passed from pillar to post, or rather temporarily lashed one from the other, I thought of the Wandering Jew. Supposedly our mortal enemy, now we walked in his exact footsteps. Had he closed the way for us several centuries later? He of course had the advantage of being a shoemaker who could thus repair his own leather, where our callused and bloodied hooves were not so fortunate. Our feet aped that of the European messiah where nails had been driven in to tether him to his pillar and post. The natives do not offer us such sympathy, devotion or care. Instead they hit us, shout for us to pick up our feet to go quicker and not to loiter.
And so we do. We get the same reception in every country we cross into. Which is to say no reception at all, we are not received in the slightest. We are like the interference on TV screens, the white noise on the wireless, with which one turn of the dial they tune us out and restore their home broadcasts. Eventually we wash back up on the shores of our original homeland. We have traversed the earth seeking sanctuary. And right now our levelled home ringed with fire and bullets, our fellow countrymen rounded up and compacted like shawarma meat on the rotisserie before periodically a giant knife comes and slices off the outer layers, looks more inviting than the treatment we have previously received at the closed hands and hearts of our fellow man.