Tell A Tale in 500 Words

Through the Marram Grass By Steven Philp

A grey wind blew as the man and girl stood alone on the bleak sand spit. At sea white horses collided, spewing forth angry froth.

With a voice like cracking rocks, John spoke. “Right, the cold’s beginning to get me; and the tide’s on the turn.”

“Just, one, more.” Cally said, consumed with the enthusiasm of youth.

Sat on her haunches, she was mid combat with a razor clam. Her small white fingers were wrapped tightly around the stiletto shaped streaked brown shell. Finally, her tenacity was rewarded, the slimy foot gave way and Cally pulled the mollusc free, holding it aloft like an offering to the bitter Gods of Winter.

John placed it with the others in her rucksack, and they marched, head down, to the littered hairline of the shore.

Suddenly, Cally felt compelled to stop. She had seen something, far along the beach, near the rocky headland. They stood and stared. Figures like up upright ants shifted through the cold shimmer.

“We need to get a better look” John said resolutely.

He prised his eyes away, and together they strode into the dunes, moving with purpose, snaking through the sand hills. Finally they crawled up a large ridge, sand slipping into their boots, breaths high in the chest, they peered through the Marram grass to the beach below.

At the sea edge, by the low tide, stood a group, ten or more, all with black coats flapping like flags in the wind.

Two men were diligently digging, excavating a narrow deep pit. Others looked on. A large wooden stake lay by the pit, and by the stake lay a woman, tied, face turned to the side. The black coats stared impassively as she floundered.

Cally’s electric blue eyes desperately searched John’s riven face for meaning. He didn’t turn to her.

A memory from John’s youth sprang forward, a lost memory from a forgotten time. It was the hair, that ice white hair. It was unmistakable, and a knowing resignation spread across his face.

“I know that woman. I knew that woman. We called her the Platinum Lady, she was, is, an ‘EH’, Enhanced Human”.

Cally turned back to the scene below, watching reticently, unable to avert intrigued eyes.

The stake in place, the Platinum Lady capitulated on the beach, gritted hair across her face, as she was lifted, pinned, and tied to the pole, as the wind stole the sound of her sobs.

They waited, as if time itself had stopped.

The sea continued to creep inland, tapping at the toes of the black coats, swirling around the wooden stake, pressing onward up the beach. It would be hours before the cold ocean consumed her.

As the black coats turned to leave, a fingernail face strained upwards towards the dunes, toward John and Cally. Others turned too. Stark white eyes cut them as a cold finger rose and pointed.

And it felt, just for a moment, like even the grey wind was watching.


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