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by Anna Nazarova-Evans

Dad traced the whole length of the road on the map in two seconds. We were about to set off on a trip that would take us weeks.

He threw a musty old shawl around my shoulders as we walked down to the van. All the baggage had already been loaded. I watched the fruit seller across the road opening up his stall in the streetlight and pausing to observe my mother coming down the steps of the house, his matted black eyebrows furrowed. His glance was hard and sharp like an arrow and I rushed to help Mum into the van in the hope that its body would shield her.

I wondered if he’d been amongst the people shouting under our windows the night before. Perhaps it was his voice that was joined by a choir of young men and women, too young to remember how it all started, but just as full of hate for a people, they believed, had done them wrong.

By daylight we could see the border control cabins through swirls of sand. I imagined what we would have looked like on the page of my school atlas. The whole procession of vehicles smaller than an ant’s eye, a black speck moving north slowly, as if on a guided tour. Clop clop, the van drove over the road hump, pans and cutlery jingling in the back, and that was it. We crossed the black dotted line separating pale pink from canary yellow. A different way of life spread out in front of us, all the way to the horizon. The dusty red desert framed by the silhouettes of the mountains. I instinctively searched for the waves of turquoise in the opening, but all I could see was more outlines merged with the sky, leaking the colour blue.

Dad had said once that the line separating good and evil didn’t run along countries’ borders. Still, evil was what it looked like to me, as I faced the south, tanks lined behind the mesh fence, their hollow cannons pointing at us.

No one told me then that we were driving to where poplar seeds floated around in white fluffy clouds, like summer snow. All I knew was that we were leaving behind the soldiers, the orders and tanks.

Anna Nazarova-Evans has been published by Word Factory, National Flash Fiction Anthology 2015 and Bibliophilia magazine. She lives in Bristol with her husband and cat. Follow her on @AnitchkaNE.