Tell A Tale in 500 Words

A tale of two countries By Charlotte McCallum

The knock shattered the uneasy night, continuing until Caleb drew back the bolts on the door. He gripped his Glock. Two Hispanic women huddled on the dark porch. One was young, though her full moon eyes described a lifetime’s trauma. The older one was crippled by a hacking cough.

He let them in.

“You’re Caleb,” the girl said. He nodded. The sick woman’s limbs were bruised and pocked with sores. Deadened eyes sunk into black sockets. Both women stank of the sewers, where many now hid.

“Can you help us?” she asked. Caleb felt torn. Jose had said no crossings for twenty-four hours.

“Sorry, I–”

“She’s dying,” the girl pleaded. “They locked her in Goree. She’s not even illegal, someone stole her ID chip.” The sick woman lifted her forearm, revealing a gaping and infected wound.

“Goree,” he blinked. Sweat coated his trembling hands. “But how–”

“We escaped.”

That clinched it. They needed to cross. Now.

“This way.” Caleb led them to the basement. He heaved a rug to one side, exposing a dark hole.

“The cartels abandoned their tunnels and moved to the coast,” he explained. “Watch your step.”

Following the feeble flashlight, they scrambled into the oppressive burrow and walked, sharing shattered stories and shadows. At the line, Caleb raised a finger to his lips. “The guards.” He pointed to the cracked roof. Voices sounded as though behind a gauze curtain.

“Depends on the election,” someone growled.

“It’ll be his son,” another voice brayed. “Eight years exorcisin’ the chilli-shitters ain’t for nuthin.”

“Didya see that Hollywood spic, cryin’ on TV. Lock her moanin’ bitch ass up.”

“Or fuck it.”

AAAAATCHOOO. The woman’s sneeze hushed the men above.

“What was that?” a voice said.

There was a thump and dirt floured their faces. “Go!” Caleb hissed. Like blind rats, they ran. The guards would find the tunnel. It led to his house. He could never return. Caleb imagined the sounds of pursuit.

Finally they reached a dead end. He thumped on the hatch. Light streamed into the tunnel and Jose’s silhouette appeared.

“We had to, the guards, they heard us…” Caleb panted.

The moustached bear grinned. “No se preocupe mi amigo. Perfect timing.” One-by-one, Jose pulled them out.


“Come.” Jose slung a heavy arm around Caleb and led him upstairs, whilst the maid nursed the women. On the rooftop, Jose offered a cigar.

“But the guards–”

Jose simply gazed towards the endless wall imprisoning the horizon.

A series of booms shook the ground, continuing for an age, and a snaking line of sand sunk as their tunnel collapsed. Beyond, the great unmovable wall detonated. Whole sections crumbled.

Caleb dropped his cigar and drowned in hope.

“It wasn’t even us Mexicans,” Jose eventually spoke.

“Who then?” Caleb breathed.

Jose raised a fateful finger to the city beyond the wall. Gunfire flashed. The Wells Fargo tower burned red.

“El Paso once watched Juarez fight. Now, we watch them. Relax amigo, it’ll be over soon.”

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