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by Neil Campbell

Clay and sand drips, comes quicker, is followed by rushing water and peat moorland and moss filling tunnels and bringing down wood and knocking over tools and men. Throats emitting cries are made silent when filled; tongues covered over with water and soil. A man with a broken kneecap can’t run.

A pregnant woman rushes out into the road, calls the other villagers out. The tarn is as grey as the skies, as the peat moorland, as the rough tracks through the moorland towards shacks, grey as the shawl on which the woman has dried her hands and forearms from the water in the kitchen bowl.

Men hesitate and then rush in, splash, reach through clay and sand and moss and peat and water, slosh around and reach under, feel forlornly as the walls turn in on themselves and the lights go out and the crashing comes louder and louder. As water reaches their waists they turn back.

A man in black water watches two pieces of paper floating above him.

Day and night the men work, eight hours on, eight hours off, in turn filling bucket after bucket with the slush of moss and peat and water and sand and clay. A man looks behind him, sees something bigger than his cottage rushing towards him down the passageway.

The pregnant woman stands around the mouth, looking down where forests of brought brushwood have disappeared, been swallowed. Soon a wooden tub sticks like a plug.

In the village of Roachburn, all blinds are drawn. The pregnant woman cries night and day. Another woman cries. A mother and an aunt cry too, behind walls buffeted by winds across the moorland.

A baby is born, the cries of mother and baby ringing out to one calm reply.

An old couple look across the tarn, taking turns to use binoculars. All is silent save the curlew calls resonating, resounding around the amphitheatre of the peat moorlands; moorlands pock marked with holes, filled with difficult seams under moss that whispers in the wind.


Neil Campbell’s second novel, Zero Hours, is published by Salt. His flash fiction collection Fog Lane is also out now. Twitter: @neilcambers. ncampbellwriter.wixsite.com/website.

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