Fairy Tale Noir

Sharing an excerpt from one of the stores from an anthology I am writing.  This is raw draft, no edits yet, hoping it polishes up well.

 

“My family and I arrived on the shores of Draisia in the dead of night. Life seemed simple to me then, life through the eyes of a child always does. Complexity is for the adults who knew this was a calm before the storm.  The eerie darkness of the night we landed will never escape my memory. The milky speckles twirled and danced along the river in various patterns, tugging at the corners of my lips in a way that almost made me smile.

 

The Canso was a veteran of the brine. The old planks retained the fetid odor of fish, though leaky had been seaworthy enough. Her nets had been removed to allow every inch of room and we filled it, many sitting with knees tucked to their chests. When her hull crunched into the mud of the river’s edge, one leg of our trek was complete.

 

Everyone awake. Everyone asleep. Many eyes were bleary, reactions slow, tiredness running in their veins just the same as their blood. Everyone who survived the crossing climbed up the grassy embankment in a mix of emotions. For some relief, some fear, some grieving for the place they left. Ahead is unknown, all we can do is pray for things to be better where they are heading for they cannot know what awaits them.

 

At the top of the embankment we all huddled into the shed. This is where we had been told to wait. On the floor near the front wall sits a woman and child, the kid relaxed into her arms so fully it was like they were one organism, melted together. He has a look of contentment on his face. Now that her son is drifting into sleep her face becomes grave. Without his timid gaze she has no reason to feign a confidence she may not have felt.

 

The tiny window in the shed has its view obscured behind swirls of dried mud. The dawn came with a musical silence. The soul hearing a melody ears could not. A new day had come, new possibilities, a fresh page yet to be written.

 

With it a funny feeling comes, not excitement, though at first it appears that way. Some cry, some look grim, and the children are held close and loved with all the strength they have left in their bodies. My parents gathered myself along with all my brothers and sisters into a circle, hugging us as the first rose tinted rays of dawn glowed through the dried mud of the window.

 

Soon, the sound of a coughing diesel engine came from beyond the levee. A pair of the braver ones peered out. Excitedly they tell the rest of us the bus is coming. We all pour out of the shed, waiting as the old bus trundles up the road, its grumbling old engine spitting smoke like a trail of breadcrumbs.

 

It rumbles to a stop just above us, on top of the levee. An older alligator in a vest and a beret wearing weasel climbed out and motions to us to board.

 

“C’mon, we ain’t got all day.” The weasel called as he pulled the ladder down to throw cargo on top of the bus.

 

“Youse three, help people load their gear. You climb up and move things forward, you get to the top of the ladder and hand stuff ovah, while you, my you are a tall one, hand things to the guy on ladder. You heard Cavan, now get a move on.” The alligator hissed at an Orangutan, a Mountain Goat and a black bear, who took the positions indicated. So we loaded the few belongings while the old diesel pinged and creaked as it cooled. The process did not take long. There were not many belongings among those who made the journey.

 

Soon, we were all aboard the old bus. Rusted and dirty it was but to our eyes, it was a chariot to our hopes and dreams for a better life. The seats were full and those of us who were too big to sit in the laps of others lined up along the floor. After a couple of sputtering failed attempts the old engine roared into life with a mighty belch of exhaust. The decrepit bus lurched forward along the levee road pitted and bumpy with rocks soon to kiss the smooth asphalt to their destination.

 

From my vantage point on the floor I began to see the roofs of houses. Vaughan drove while Cavan stood on a rail at the front. Sometimes staring back at us, sometimes punching the alligator pointing directions.  Then other taller buildings appeared as we passed through a city. The buildings gave way to houses and as two hours passed the houses gave way to barren road.

 

The squeal of brakes signaled our journeys end. In front of us a building stood with a curved roof and corrugated metal walls. There were other similar buildings in the area but the road we had traveled was littered with old machinery covered in dirt and long since scavenged into skeletons of whatever they once were, indicated this place was long abandoned.

 

Cavan had run to the top of the bus while were taking in our surroundings. He began throwing our belongings down.

 

“This is where we part company. Your future lies in there.”

 

As soon as the bus top was emptied Cavan swung inside where Vaughan had kept the temperamental engine idling. We picked up our belongings and shuffled into the structure.”

 

Thank you for reading,

Ernest

 

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