- Vol. 03
- Chapter 01
Image by Coralie Bickford-Smith
Eye of the BeholderI still remember it as though it happened yesterday. There was no celebration, no small gathering of faces young and old; everything happened under the thin cover of nightfall where a smattering of stars broke up the black canopy overhead.
I remember being roughly woken; a middle-aged man’s hands threaded with veins the size and thickness of sailor’s ropes digging themselves into my shoulders.
‘Come now, wake up Rainie. Now is not the time to sleep.’
I woke to a world suffused in darkness; the clusters of tents around me still zipped up, hidden away from the watchful cataract eye of the moon. I climbed to my feet and pulled a threadbare patchwork shawl around me – a parting gift handed down by my near blind mother. It didn’t do anything; it didn’t make me feel any warmer or safer but it was a comfort, albeit a very small one.
A battered olive green truck waited in the near distance, its engine sounding like a pained guttural caw. I shivered and shrunk back into my hole-ridden shawl.
‘Rainie, come on. What are you waiting for?’
I did not recognise the gruff man’s voice. He must have been one of the seniors, barking out orders the same way a stupid dog barks at the moon. The ground was nothing more than sand and grit, clouds of terracotta dust swirling into the air.
‘Now Rainie! Everyone’s waiting.’
I couldn’t help but notice the irony in his words. I looked around and found only loneliness.
And then a firm hand jabbed itself in the centre of my back pushing me towards the cawing truck.
Eye of the BeholderSuddenly, a figure emerged from one of the sleeping tents and ran over sending terracotta dust spiralling into the air; a poker-faced boy whose expression was as easy to read as a closed fist, his eyes dark and round as obsidian buttons. They glinted with a stab of moonlight striking each iris – a river of milk in a coffee rich ocean.
I watched his small hand disappear inside his trouser pocket and quickly reappear again. He opened his palm revealing a sunset orange coloured cloth finely appliqued with a watchful eye; a brilliant star-shaped glimmer resting within. He didn’t speak as his palm brushed against mine; his eyes fixed squarely on the eye he handed to me. Afterwards, he ran off as quickly as his bare feet could carry him, a scattering of dust left in his wake.
And then I was in the back of the cawing truck, tucked away from sight like a sordid secret, my heart beating furiously beneath my gossamer-thin ribcage.
I huddled into the furthest corner, trying to snatch an ounce of warmth this cold and hostile environment afforded, and fished out the cloth. I closed my eyes and saw the vivid image of a single eye as bright as the sun looking back at me.
I knew that I would never be alone again.