What remained

The angel was frozen in a timeless pirouette, and we stared amazed as she shimmered in the golden torchlight. She was a fairy, a dancer, a story come to life. The batteries started to die, then, the bulb beginning to fade, and our reverent silence was replaced with childish panic as the music box and the room fell before the hungry darkness. We squeaked and squealed our way toward the attic ladder, that rectangle of comforting, steady light, chased by the metallic strains of an antique mechanism, its gears still grinding away a stilted tune, commanding the beautiful prisoner to dance on, with nobody there to see.

The sand concealed everything. There were no trenches, in my war, but no guns either. We had tents, canvas and nylon that we huddled beneath, waiting for the storms to pass, and spades. They say it was a town, once, a small one: shops and houses and parks. I can remember green, I think, can remember the lush lawns of my youth. The sand takes it all away, but we remember. Each day we wait, we remember, and by night we dig. Our shovels clink on stoops and gables alike, and we uncover the past one practised motion at a time.


This piece was written for Nika Harper’s Wordplay. The challenge was a two-paragraph story, with the prompts “when we were kids” and “what once was lost.”