He walks through soft, gently rising meadow, anticipating the view of his valley home that the low summit ahead will provide. He has been away for too long. But where has he been? What could have  taken him away from the land he loves? His mind lingers on that mystery for a moment before the scent of summer grass once more envelopes him in a warm embrace and beckons him on. As he walks, buttercups and poppies appear in the grass. He’d not noticed them before, but now he is surrounded by bright blooms that tremble in the warm, summer breeze, their heads nodding to the bees that buzz erratically among them.


And look! A large grey bird, a heron, taking off and flying low over the field, casting a small shadow beneath its wings until they carry it steadily higher into the deep blue sky, and away. How long has it been since he’s seen one of those?


Not far now. A small knot forms in his stomach; an anxiety that seems out of place, that feels wrong and yet, perhaps, is just the nerves of a traveller returning home. Where has he been? He pushes the thought aside. Nearly there – just a few more steps and the valley he knows so well will be revealed before him like a rug unrolled to reveal its rich splendour.


He reaches his viewpoint, but the valley seems reluctant to reveal its splendour today; it is hiding under a cloak of low-lying cloud. Then, the wind increases, tearing the shroud away in an instant and the valley below is suddenly, brutally, exposed. But not in the summer shades of green, reds and blues. Yellow, no grey, it seems to stretch forever, dirty rubble lying below a choking, putrid haze. He staggers back, turns, only to see that the field he has just climbed is already being swallowed by the same decay; the green grass shrivelling to dark, parched dust. 


He turns back to the brutally exposed crater, terror gripping his heart, the knot in his stomach nearly choking his breathing, dust tearing water from his eyes. A wind races across the dead valley floor below, whipping up the dust and debris. Suddenly it is a horse – a dead, dusty silhouette without eyes, racing up the hillside towards him. It is joined by others, charging, chasing him down. He is too slow to turn and outrun them. As they open their mouths to bellow their anger, he is engulfed in their dusty form...

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Rod Webb
Apr 5 2020

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I didn't like Oryx and Crake when I read it a few years back, but I enjoy this! A strong story with a strong message!

Paul Sterlini
Aug 12 2020

Excellent, thought provoking

Janette Ostle
Jun 6 2020

Gruesome! I just finished Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake so this was a good follow on.
It was so well written. I don’t think I’ve read a short story that good for a long time. It will definitely take me a day or two to recover.

Lucy Langdon
Apr 12 2020

Excellent! So dystopian - and topical ;)

Charity Reed
Apr 10 2020