by Nod Ghosh
When it happened, the old man had been walking the sandy track for hours. The girl had her hand in his. The man grasped the child’s shoulder as a flash of light took his breath and turned it into rain.
Grit strafed the man’s back and a dull ache filled his head—a pain like splintered wood and shattered glass. Falling debris tinkled around them like breaking ice floes. Perhaps it was the sound of the man’s skull fragmenting.
“Help me.” The girl’s voice was distant and watery.
The man’s cigarette had gone, but the smell of burning was everywhere. His skin screamed. He imagined being painted with hot creosote. The remains of his shirt were insubstantial against the ground where he’d fallen. The push of his bottom teeth against the upper ones echoed through the bones in his head. Something oozed from his left ear.
The voice came again. The man stretched an arm over the girl.
“I can’t see.” The child’s voice was muffled, like she had a scarf wrapped around her head. The old man pulled his arm tighter to reassure the child, his eyes shut out the burning light. He tried to open one eye and then the other, and realised they were already open. His breathing tightened.
“Help,” the girl’s words were driven by panic. “Help me—please.” Her grip on the man’s wrist was the feathery touch of a bird, but her voice was taut wire.
Wind raked his hair, and the old man shuddered. He sat up and cradled the child, absorbing her sobs as the full force of the storm cut into them. The old man stood up, grasped the girl’s hand and took tentative steps towards uncertainty.
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Nod Ghosh’s work features in various New Zealand and international publications. Nod is an associate editor for Flash Frontier, an Adventure in Short Fiction. Further details: http://www.nodghosh.com/about/