We stand in a black and white tiled corridor, a rectangular chessboard without the priests, knights and rooks. I am tired, I want chocolate and I wish to revert to my room. My parents and aunt exit into their wanderings in the wider world, although my father is visibly upset, I tell him, England is nothing I have not seen before, how can this one place be any more different? Disheartened, my father agrees that I can remain here.
The chocolate wrapped in silver foil is not what I expected, I cast it away to one side. I lie on my bed in the corner, restless fatigue infiltrates the composition of my soul and disposition of my brain within the five minutes it takes for sand grains to pass through the hour glass. I am suffocating inside the warm humid air. Barefoot, I head back into the hallway, and await my turn for the way out, my hands firmly in the pockets of my three-quarter length shorts and dusky pink t-shirt. A group of boys are huddled together and I eave their boyish conversations and excitement, they are charming and boisterous without even realising. I am in two minds again, I really did not envisage a trip with strangers, and males at that. I look to the floor, rubbing my feet into the cold marble, wondering on the wise decision. Ugh. Are you safe? They smile and confidently offer their protection, so I join them.
We step through the window and find ourselves on loose earth. The sky is a calm light blue, and the earth is on the burnt orange side of dark brown. The world is made up of soil, and I can’t believe this is England. The buildings are white, and cream, made from mortar and stone scattered across the landscape like drops of diamonds floating in the ocean but the people here have never seen the ocean. I do not see any water, only rich dark stretches of fertile land. The chalk-like limestone buildings stretch across the various mountainsides all the way to the horizon, as far as my eyes can reach.
In the distance, on the furthest slope, I can see my family in a mobilised cart of some sort climbing up the steep rubble to the plateau overlooking the sunset, I wave at them as they wave back at me, smiling that I had decided to take a reprieve from the stifling interior heat, and relieved I am not alone, it is much cooler out in the open air and safer in numbers. We each to other mouth, over the miles of pasture, to meet later during the day for dinner. Or at least that’s how I was able to lip-read it from my standpoint. Day – not evening – it is a bit odd.
I continue to walk with the boys, the air is comforting, pleasing, this is not the England that I know, I wonder what in the universe has happened to it, not entirely sure that I am fussed about missing ye olde England as we follow the guide in a white robe and Arab head-dress, pointing out the different elements of where is where, what is what and who is who. I take no notice, I have no ability to retain information, there is no point in starting to try now, I am only astounded by the earthly embers and the overwhelming feeling of how right everything feels. We are drawing close to a marketplace, I want to get away from the hustle and bustle already before we even breathe it in, and hope that we pass through quickly.
An older group of disenchanted males, some dressed in jeans, some in flowing abayas, some with beards, others not, are raising voices amongst one other, indistinguishable faces, all a deep tanned bronze. I stop to listen whilst the boys who have apparently got my back take amusement in a stall which has stolen their whimsical fancy. I cannot understand the ruse of the heated discussion, the voices refract into resonating murmurs, the sky now a blood orange colour but nobody seems to notice. I survey the scene before me, earth tones with a tint of surreal contrast, the marketplace and the caves of meditation, the old railtracks and barefeet walking, ribbons of pathways encrusted with orange sand against white architecture in ruins…my thoughts are halted as I spot a figure entering the crowd, he is as faint as the smoky grey of a demon spirit but nonetheless, he is there, and forges his way towards the centre of my universe as if he were an invisible penny thrown into a wishing well.
It all flashes into a memory I could not possibly conceive, events animate themselves of their own accord inside my mind a few seconds ahead of time, but I do not witness the outcome of all the endings deciding I do not need to see any further at this point. The boys instinctively feel as if I am about to relinquish my solitary spot, they are released from the spell of incense, shouting cries of No and Don’t which fall upon my already deaf ears. I move swiftly into the kerfuffle without the men realising, which is more-so a strange occurrence considering I seem to be the only female around these parts, and arrest my body to the inbetween-space calling What are you doing. Everyone reacts and parts like the Red Sea at what seems to them, my sudden star-shaped invasion.
I glance over my shoulder with the universe on one side, my eyes search for understanding as I stand resolute against the jostling bodies and swathes of cloaks. The crowd is confused just as it becomes clear I am standing in Mecca. I am about to start yelling to the men to Back off and Leave him alone and He hasn’t done anything wrong. Except the words don’t come out like that. In fact, the words don’t come out at all. Instead, I am gripped with a searing pain as something rips through my seven layers of skin. Suffocated horror constricts my larynx and I cry out silently, I stumble as the boys try to catch me before I fall to the floor. Nobody saw him appear, and not a body saw him leave. I only saw the remnants of fermenting rage as I prevented the onslaught. The wide silver blade embedded into an ebony handle lies stained, wet with blood and earth. The gaping wound on my right arm stretches from shoulder to palm, as the boys try to explain it wasn’t me as my family look on from the tips of the clouds in powerless persuasion.
I don’t know who you are, I don’t know what it means, but when I open my eyes, I hope it all makes sense.