“Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you…” as the singing trailed off, she blew the candles on the strawberry and cream covered continental cake, wishing for only one thing. She wished that everyday in their home could be like this one. 12 years old. She wasn’t quite a child anymore, but also not wisened to the things she’d overheard older kids talk about, or the things her older half brother got up to, like the time their father discovered a half dozen bottles of beer stashed in his school duffle bag and got one better, replacing the bottles with some broken bricks that weighed about the same. Would I do that when I’m a teenager? She wondered.
They lived at Number 23, on a quiet street, in a quiet suburb, in the inner western part of Sydney. It was a cul-de-sac, one half of a street that was spliced by a main road passing through its two halves. Since they’d moved in, there was a looming threat of the roads authority buying up their house, and demolishing it to widen that busy thoroughfare. By the time she was 12, the house that was closest to the main road, at the curved, dead-end of the cul-de-sac, was already gone. There were just two houses between theirs and the empty lot. They were sitting ducks, house sitting. The roads authority didn’t issue empty threats. So there was that, but a more imminent threat to their home, she realised, was what went on within its walls. Continue reading
As he’d found riding to the village, there wasn’t a soul about. Passing the shelled out post office, butcher and green grocer, he peddled around the round about which was barely recognisable for all the rubble that cluttered its circumference. Hearing the familiar tell tale sign of a puncture, he slowed and came to a stop outside the canola processing plant. Abandoning the bike, Amir walked on, along the deserted street, following the sound that promised perhaps the presence of another person. As he got closer to it, he noticed the sound was coming from the warehouse, at the end of the cul-de-sac named Fortune Drive.
The large roller doors of the warehouse were open. A shadow cast across the boom gate, ahead of its entrance, made him quicken his pace with excitement. Now in full view, it was clear that the sound was the screech of the rusty mechanisms driving a conveyer belt. The shadow at the boom gate moved and Amir heard a heavy breath that filled him with fear, forgetting for a moment that a breath and a sign of life was what he’d been seeking. The breathing shadow emerged slowly from behind the unmanned guard’s booth. A horse. Amir allowed himself a smile, for the relief that it wasn’t what he’d feared- a man, or worse still, an armed man. The horse whimpered, just as surprised to see Amir, it shook its head and widened its eyes. Amir reached out and stroked the horse’s neck, veins bulging and what was black hair ashened by the debris of war. The horse winced and shrunk away from Amir’s touch, revealing the sticky brown residue of congealed blood. It was only then that Amir noticed the opportunistic swarm of flies along the length of the horse’s torso. Continue reading