Elmet by Fiona Mozley Read Online (FREE)
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I cast no shadow. Smoke rests behind me and daylight is stifled. I count sleepers and the numbers rush. I count rivets and bolts. I walk north. My first two steps are slow, languid. I am unsure of the direction but in that initial choice I am pinned. I have passed through the turnstile and the gate is locked.
I still smell embers. The charred outline of a sinuous wreck. I hear those voices again: the men, and the girl. The rage. The fear. The resolve. Then those ruinous vibrations coursing through wood. And the lick of the flames. The hot, dry spit. The sister with blood on her skin and that land put to waste.
I keep to the railway tracks. I hear an engine far off in the distance and duck behind a hawthorn. There are no passengers; only freight. Steel wagons emblazoned with rogue emblems: the heraldry of youth long grown old. Rust and grit and decades of smog.
Rain comes then stops. The weeds are drenched. The soles of my shoes squeak against the grasses. If my muscles begin to ache I do not reckon with them. I run. I walk. I run some more. I drag my feet. I rest. I drink from alcoves into which the rainwater has pooled. I rise. I walk.
There is always doubt. If she turned south when she came to the railway there is no use. She will never be found. I can walk or I can jog or I can sprint or I can just stop in the middle of the tracks and lie down and wait for a train to cut through me; it would make no odds. If she turned south she is lost.
But I chose the way north so that is the way I will go.
I break all bonds. I step through the margins of fields. I scale barbed-wire fences and locked gates. I cut through industrial estates and private gardens. I pay no mind to the lines of counties and boroughs and parishes. I walk, whether paddock or pasture or park.
The tracks take me between hills. The trains glide below peaks with dales underneath. I spend an evening laid out on a moor, watching the wind, the crows, the distant vehicles; caught in memories of this same land, further south; earlier, another time; then likewise caught in memories of home, of family, of the shifts and turns in fortune, of beginnings and endings, of causes and consequences.
The next morning I continue on my way. The remains of Elmet lie beneath my feet.
We arrived in summer when the landscape was in full bloom and the days were long and hot and the light was soft. I roamed shirtless and sweated cleanly and enjoyed the hug of the thick air. In those months I picked up freckles on my bony shoulders and the sun set slowly and the evenings were pewter before they were black, before the mornings seeped through again. Rabbits gambolled in the fields and when we were lucky, when the wind was still and a veil settled on the hills, we saw a hare.