• Vol. 02
  • Chapter 10


Zareh says the vehicles'll burn for days.

"There's something rank in the plastics. Don't take in the smoke. Look around the edges instead."

Zareh says if the bombs don't burn you up, the smoke'll turn your lungs to jelly. We cover our noses and mouths and search for something worth selling on from the scorched and scattered remains.

The naked man I find on my edge is face down. Zareh says not to turn him over. It puts you off your searching, staring down at the things you can't miss frontways. Like burnt eyes and blackened privates glaring and swelling and baking to crust. You squint a little harder in the light and feel like your balls might burst in the heat. It's just blisters, bruises and mottled reds and yellows this way round. Nothing to put you off your searching or eating. Zareh kicks at the ears and says I should too. It's fun to beat on a grown-up for a change.

The blast took the man's clothes, everything bar the boots, too big for us to walk in and too gooey to warrant touching. Zareh says you've no time to think when they kill you with a satellite. No time to choose what to cast aside or what to hold on to or where to run. Everything on you breaks in the first moments and fans out around you like fingers. Money burns up and pictures have no value but our mottled man has gifts for each of us: a guitar tipped out from a broken carry-case and a gun buried barrel-down at the tip of the fan.

Zareh pulls the gun from the sand and looks it up and down from spout to stock. He walks over to the erstwhile owner and fires two shots into his blistered back.



Zareh says it's how men are made and that he's one of them now. Just try beating on Zareh without cause again! I congratulate him and dust off the guitar. It can't make me a man like Zareh, but it casts a shadow as good as any gun slung over my shoulder.

Poor Zareh. A week back in the town and another curious boy narrows his gap to manhood. Zareh is divested of his find, dried up and sightless inside a fan of trash and fruit rinds on the outer edge of the ravaged neighbourhood. No more trailing for treasures on the target run.

I keep my find for longer and carry it all around the dazed and lawless town. I learn to tease a few sounds from it away from the tiresome rise and fall of curious boys. It's a heavy old load to bear but there's joy and no little memory in the carrying. It's the only thing I've ever had that wasn't taken from me.

The days come and go without Zareh. I flit around and play, blissfully unregared. They'd feel pretty foolish, killing a boy for his shadow.