The wind howled and the waves crashed. Carried by that furious wind I felt the salt sprays biting my skin whilst my sodden feet slowly sank into the soft delicious sand that met the waters edge. I had finally arrived.
Above me, far above my mortal and frayed body, I glimpsed the stars and holy hell were they beautiful, pristine even, a sheer delight in contrast to my sore weeping eyes.
I wasn’t sure how long I stayed rooted to the spot looking out into the universe but it must have been an hour or two, having not seen the stars over my head for at least two months now or so I thought at last count. My neck became joyfully stiff, my eyes lustfully scanning the night sky for stars that betrayed the depth of reality in this inky blackness of life.
I could barely see in the dark but I knew my hands must have been filthy, they were crusted to the touch and a numbing ache could be felt in their pads but the tips barely had feeling at all. I had walked a long way to be here. I had walked a very long way to be here.
It was some hours before I would see the sun rise from her watery sleep, before she would cast her rays across the bitter seas.
I had to keep warm or risk being frozen, naked to the elements as I was on the beach head.
Rummaging in the backpack I found the bits of wooden crates from my journey that I’d salvaged, bulked it out with some relatively dry driftwood found after scouring the beach for an hour, dug a little hole into the sand set back from the sea and started a small fire. Huddling close I pulled out a dead pigeon from the backpack, carefully plucked it and set it upon my battered metal tray above the fire to slowly cook.
I am not afraid to say that in this time preparing and stoking the fire I salivated quite heavily at the thought of eating pigeon flesh. The diet to date had been somewhat meager compared to what I had known before, in a life that now seems as distant to me as the stars are above my head.
I tucked into the flesh, biting one breast then the other in quick succession. I heartily hoped that the maimed bird would forgive me, I having ended it’s life for the prolonging of my own. It sounds ridiculous now to recount but when I had spotted the creature flapping weakly amongst the ash, in a circle of ruined tree stumps, I had almost yelped for joy.
I made every edible morsel count.
The night was a cold mistress, a black blanket of depression that covered the land while the earth slept.
I drank the last trickle of fresh water from the wooden flagon, my lips greedily seeking the refreshing elixir of life. My tongue was deceived though, with neither the water tasting of life nor did it feel refreshing. No, it felt like the last kiss of hope had left a bitter taste in my mouth instead and I swore at how foul tasting the water was.
I had stood up to make the most of this last drink but that taste had broken my back. My knees crumpled into the sand with a hollow thump and tears ran down my face. Not today I said, not today.
I shouted into the sky, shouted until my voice became hoarse, until I thought I could no longer breath.
I put my hand inside my clothes and felt my chest, felt it inhaling and exhaling rapidly, felt the ribs through the paper thick skin, felt the coldness of my limbs. Not today I said, not today.
The stars continued to twinkle in the clear night sky, the wind continued to howl.
Surely they would come this day, surely it would be this day.