For the Daily Inkling.



The dawn breaking, slow and sluggish wakes her, and the clicking of the sand crabs. They crawl out from their sandholes at first light, hunting. She pulls up her knees and sits, hunched up small, reluctantly letting go of the oblivion of night. The crabs click, and the sand stirs as hundreds of them home in on her body heat. She raises her eyes to the hills that roll heavily skywards and squints. The light is pale, but she is sure that the highest points are green, a ragged leafy crown of trees. Up.

Beyond the scuttling crabs lies the ocean, still miles away, but creeping inexorably higher. The crabs come first. She has seen what follows. Up. There is no option.

Sun rises and the heat increases. The light is deep red gold but it sears like flame. Up there, the air is too thin. The stars are too close. She keeps her eyes on her feet and climbs. Sand shifts, slithers, and each step drains the energy of two. Up here, there is nothing but sand, smooth and glittering, and dry. She fixes the image of the trees in her head and plods on, higher.

Higher, the sun weighs down, like lead pouring onto soldiers’ heads as they storm ancient walls. She feels the burning trickle down her back, dragging on her feet. She even hears the screams. Up. There is no option.

She no longer feels anything. Her feet have melted, her back is a brazier. Her eyes are as dry as her mouth, her vision as cracked as her lips. The shadow falling softly over her shoulders goes unnoticed at first, but the fire recedes, gradually. Cool. A breeze on her face, and slowly, painfully she raises her eyes from the sand before her and the flames in her eyes cool. There is shadow and thick trunks of scented pine. Her toes scrunch pine needles.

Hope dares to seep back that perhaps the story is true. Perhaps there is safety on the hilltops. She finds new energy, walking quicker, her head high, searching for water. There must be water or there could be no trees. She zig-zags between the trunks, sniffing, peering, her toes digging into the sandy soil searching for dampness.

Ahead, the trees thin. Already? Then there are no more. She hangs onto the last tree truck, her heart falling, falling, falling. Beyond, the hills roll down, back down, inexorably down, through baked dunes to the sparkling ocean, where they are waiting.

Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

19 thoughts on “Higher”

      1. Yes, thanks. I was unpleasant but could have been far worse. The youngest was woken at just before 2am by a strong smell of burning plastic stuff. She put the light on and found smoke billowing out of the bottom of her bed. The electric blanket must have started smouldering when she turned it off and by 2 it had got hot enough to burst into flame. We chucked the whole of her bed out of the window, and husband went out in his espadrilles with a fire extinguisher to put it out. The smoke was appalling. Toxic chemical. We slept (sort of) with all the windows open to try and get rid of it. She has such a close escape!

      2. Oh! My goodness that is awful. Thank goodness that you are all okay.the worse thing is the the thought of what could of happened. So glad you are all okay.💜

      3. With quantity of hay there was just over her head until last spring…It was like a nightmare, watching the mattress go up as soon as we flipped the duvet off the bed. Air got to it, I suppose. And the fumes! Ah well, it’s over. Thank goodness we have spare mattresses and duvets.

  1. I just read in your comments above what happened! I’m so glad everyone is OK–and house, too. Mattresses and blankets can be replaced. I hope the smell has gone.

    1. Thanks! The smell lingers in the bedroom because the bed frame is a bit burnt. It needs sanding down and revarnishing. The mattress and the quilts are bundled up outside ready to be taken to the tip and I’ve done the first lot of washing of the clothes that were full of the smell. Can’t do any more until the first lot dries and this is spring…

      1. No, we were lucky in many respects. If a certain person hadn’t let her electric blanket get rucked into a death trap at the bottom of her bed, we’d have been even luckier!

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