She feels the water wrap around her body, and a tingling bursting quietly in the back of her neck. Back on the shore, she’s left behind more than her clothes. Here, in the open, she can forget a lot about the land and what occupies it. She smiles and sinks her bare shoulders, her tingling neck, and her eyes below the surface of the water.
Above, the creatures turn and tumble in their anger. It is thunderous; a cacophony of inevitability that makes the walls of our decaying bunker rattle. I look to Grace. She sits calmly, wrapped in the thinning blanket of her bruised arms. The fear has gone from her some time ago, replaced by a cold quiet. I am envious.
Everyone is gone. She can’t see, but she can sense the glaring absence – she’s alone in the dark. As the lights flickered out, everyone disappeared. Their candles snuffed. The faint tremor of their silently whirring bodies, a feeling that ripples out through the air and comforts one another’s quiet souls, now gone. Hushed.
Up here, far above the crippling, coloured chiaroscuro of Osaka, everything was soft. The ground, the light, the shades of green and white and blue. The air was thin, and Kiko’s lungs took a while to adjust. As she trudged forward, moving from concrete road to stone path to dirt track, she felt fatigue creep through her more quickly than normal, but she liked it. Revelled in it, even; felt it hold her to the earth like an anchor.
Kiko stepped gingerly through the mess, desperate not to disturb any of it. She could feel the woman’s eyes on her back, willing her not to interfere. She had shown Kiko through the house, taken her to the room, but had stayed half a metre back the whole time. Kiko could understand. She was carrying finality into the woman’s life like a virus.
So here he found himself; in the bowels of a decaying, archaic church that jutted out from a rocky cliff, overlooking a hamlet full of poor, foolhardy people. People desperately carving out an existence, their wretched lives watched on by this crumbling reminder of a God that had forgotten them. It made him sick, their squalor.