Sarah strides across the strip of hard black sand, her toes kicking at the pebbles. Like marbles in a schoolyard, they skid aimlessly, ricocheting against each other; chipping at harsh edges till they are smooth and even.
It’s Saturday, the day she calls her mother. Lord knows why; she offers only boredom or barbs, never listens, and always wants the last word. Ahead, a phone box marks the edge of the shoreline, a lone outpost of communication trespassing on the quiet of the remote fishing village. Bright red of course; a warning. Sarah scoffs as she pushes open the heavy glass door; it should have a sign: “Enter at own risk – the world awaits”.
“Hi Mum, it’s me,” Sarah peers to the horizon attempting to keep her mind hovering blissfully in the low clouds, rather than wallow in the minutiae of her mother’s weekly report.
“Oh, hello dear, how are you – how’s the weather there? It’s marvellous here – perfect – my dahlias are a picture – everyone who passes comments – at the Red Cross market my relishes were the hit – have you met anyone yet – Mrs B says her son is back from the army ….” her mother continues in one long stream of consciousness. Sarah waits for a moment of punctuation, so she might intersperse a comment, and waits, and waits.
Just listen, let it wash over you, concentrate on something and breathe in and out.
The peak of the distant volcanic island is shrouded in a soft marshmallow white petticoat, hovering below an azure blue bodice. As the sun lifts, the delicate lace edges dissipate to reveal dull over-washed grey underwear tinged with yellow and black. Perhaps a storm was coming?
“Woop, woop, woop.” A loud siren breaks into her thoughts. On the headland a single steel pole stands, iron oxide drips down its length, and crusts about a cone-shaped speaker.
“Woop, woop, woop”. What does it mean? She is new to the village and there is no one on the deserted shore to ask. The sky darkens leaving only a yellowing mushroom billowing towards the headland.
Sarah breathes in again calming her mind, forcing herself to concentrate on her mother’s monologue. Her tongue registers a metallic tinge, and her nostrils flare at the first scent of putrid egg.
“Woop,” oh, “woop,” my, “woop,” God. Sarah’s mind clunks into gear. It’s the volcano.
“Mum, Mum, I have to go” she yells into the handset.
“Really Sarah, surely you have time for a chat,” her mother replies, disdain dripping from a faraway shore.
Sarah takes a deep breath as the little red box is enveloped in putrid fumes. The last remaining oxygen filters through her gritted teeth and burning nostrils. She can feel each blood cell gasping, constricting, begging for more. She holds her breath, knowing she cannot take another. Her eyes close as blackness descends on the little box.
“Sarah, Sarah, are you listening to me?”