Isobel Terry

The earth is not solid.

April 2nd 1981 Bristol. A volcanic eruption; a secret history laid bare. The earth was not as solid as she had assumed. That night she could not sleep. A night without dreams. A faint smell of smoke seeped in through the sash window left ajar. She opened it wide and leant out. In the distance flames roar into the sky: a wall of orange and raspberry red against blue black. The next day she tells her mother she is going to town. She walks. Her feet take her through back streets to the city centre. Then to a place she had only heard of in the local paper.  A place hidden from her reality.

Early morning. These streets reveal the nights ashes of deliverance; smouldering buildings, burnt out cars, smell of burnt rubber.  A  police siren. Damp pavements from fire fighters hoses. Then there is an eerie silence, a car drives past. A man takes pictures from its window. Her feet stop walking she stands still, her heart is beating in a dead end street. A deep breath. Waiting. Wondering what is to happen now.?  A man walks past on the other side of the road, his head lowered .Her heart beats faster, words lodged in the back of her throat. ‘ jump out of her mouth ‘Excuse me’  she asks as soon as he comes within ear shot  ‘Can I ask you a question ?’ She crosses the road towards him.

I first hear her voice. A  female voice, an accent of Queens English. Something in its tone and tune stops me walking on. I look behind me. And in the moment  I see a young women. She is not from round here. I know that. I notice her eyes, blue and direct staring straight at me. I sense her soul resting there. Her shoulders are slightly risen, one higher than the other. Her ancestors sit there. And  the tension in her chest, the furrow of her brow, a slight holding of her breath, these places hold  the shadows of her existence. .

I am curious. I tip my hat back a bit, let her see my face. I raise my eye brows to let her know I am listening. I know her question before it falls from her mouth.  A fluid moves down the inside of my spine. A slow sustained rhythm  I notice her lips are slightly parted. Her voice, ‘ Why did this happen ? ‘ she asks. I sense a deep innocence. A sturdy stature. And her land deep beneath her feet. The bedrock of the city imprinted on their soles.  A moment of suspension. A doorway is opening for my voice, to be heard. Mine is a voice of silenced dreams. Of dreams taken from us. I know as soon as I speak, mark my words, her world will change forever. Her earth will reveal its fissures. She will fall into a void  of reckoning. Her bloodlines will rupture. Fluids from cells will cascade across opening membranes. Our ancestors will collide. And decades later we will meet again.


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