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Furious Fiction – April 2020


Fiction -

She stands on the edge of the highway, the angry grey bitumen stretching in either direction like a scorched ribbon, snaking across the lifeless, scorched landscape.

Behind her lies a tiny village, clinging to the roadside like a leech, sucking its existence from the occasional passerby. The most imposing structure was the fuel station, standing arrogantly on its cracked apron of concrete, where tourists once jostled for parking spaces. The silent accusation of the building seems to seep from its weathered siding, where faded pigment peels and falls to the ground in the heat, like sorrowful confetti.

Despairing at ever finding a way back to normality she returns to the desolate building, past a swinging metal sign, creaking on rusted chains. The rasping sign displays a faded comical icon of a smiling lemon with the slogan ‘Squeezed Fresh Here!!!” She finds the repeated punctuation marks unsettling.

Inside he is rummaging through cupboards and shelves in the diner kitchen, looking for something they could cook and eat on the open fire he has started outside. Ignoring him and his open, hopeful face, she limps past, her damaged knee sending bolts of white-hot agony that slows her progress.

Collapsing into an unstable folding chair he has arranged beside the campfire on the dusty ground, she gingerly loosens the grubby dressings that he wound around her wound. Once freed, the gash breaks open again as if in relief, splashing fresh red blood onto the dry, grey dirt. Sweat prickles her forehead and nape of her neck and her stomach does a slow roll as a wave of nausea shudders through her. She has seen rivers of blood in the last few years and now, finally, inevitably, it is her own.

He appears at her side, setting a pot of indistinguishable grown lumpy gravy into the coals before turning to her dripping knee. He mutters soothingly but she knows there will be little he can do. She can feel the suffocating fever taking hold and the angry streaks of red beneath her skin announce infection. They have both seen too much to deny what they know.

This grimy abandoned building, blasted almost colourless by the dust storms that whip across the ground like howling dervishes, will be her tomb.

As the sun dips below the plains she is comforted in the knowledge that he will stay with her until it’s over, before he continues this useless journey.

Each month the Australian Writers’ Centre sets a 500 word writing challenge.

This month the story had to begin on the side of the road, contain the words APRON, PIGMENT, RIBBON, ICON and LEMON and include a splash.

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