It’s Raining Today
by Mark Left
When I dream it is raining. That is normal, that is what it does in Poland. Rain falling in sheets like wire mesh stretched to the four horizons. Keeping me in, shutting me out – it is all the same thing.
I can’t get up, but I can look about me. I’m glad I chose the top bunk. It is warmer here and a trickle of condensation tracks down the brickwork within tongue’s reach. The boy next to me has not moved in days.
Effi’s in the doorway, pale and beloved, her sightless blue-grey eyes steady and reassuring. Too precious to me now and the last thing I’ll let slip from me if I die here. Her hands are the ones I know most, more than my own. I have traced the lines on her palms which are shaped like our mother’s.
Peter in the bunk below whispers in the night that soldiers are coming. Nobody knows who or when. We hope for the British or Americans. The guards keep a casual watch, some drunk and violent. Reprisals come fast, deadly and unquestioned. I have not seen my friend Tomas since yesterday when they dragged him away. He pushed his precious bread crust into my hands as they kicked open the door, more life for me in the final minutes of his. I wanted to save it, but I ate it all.
Effi has slipped away. Girls are not allowed to come here and she takes a risk each time. She does not cross the threshold. Another girl was beaten for it. My thoughts follow Effi outside, trailing after her like a loving hound. I think she lives nearby but there are so many huts here.
The trains do not come across the border any more. Ours was one of the last. Over many days, each time Effi woke she’d tell me she’d been home. I was pleased she found freedom in her dreams. She spoke of her tenth birthday at the café, dancing to our sister’s violin, her laughter at Papa slipping us lemonade and chocolates under the counter.
She made light of the crush and the stinking bucket, her eyes her strength. She often asked what I saw. I described paintings on the walls where there were only rough planks. I talked of the cheerful faces of the passengers where there was just hunger and filth in the shadows. And one morning I spoke of our mother’s smile where there was only her corpse gently rolling with the motion of the cattle car, but Effi already knew.
I heard shouting this morning, gunshots, the roar of lorries. There are burning smells in the air. Effi is here more than ever, appearing and vanishing whenever I will her presence. She makes me happy. She would cheer up Peter too, I’m sure, but whenever I ask him to say hello he won’t. He just weeps in frustration, points at the rain beyond the doorway and tells me there’s nobody there.
Mark Left has been published in a number of online zines and is a Senior Editor for @VirtualZine. He won first place in the Cambridge Short Story Prize 2018 and recently completed the first draft of a novel. He lives with his family on a hill in Warwickshire, UK, and can be found on Twitter as @ottobottle.
Photograph by Emily Devane.