Photo courtesy of Emily June Street (via Luminous Creatures Summer of Short Stories Week Two)
Appearances and Disappearances
They are there one day, where once was just gravel and dirt, reaching skyward, thick and tall. Before nightfall they are the talk of the town. You go to see them, of course, amongst the curious in the crowds, to press a finger to the cold stone and wonder at the meaning of the symbols inscribed upon them. They are far up on each of them, too high to touch, surface too smooth to climb. You screw your eyes up against the light, hand above an eye, to try to see them clearly. An alien? A sea horse, perhaps? They blur as the sands shift in the breeze,clouding your vision momentarily. You hear someone say they see a winged dragon and smile briefly. Perhaps you are this year's community in joke - the season's take on the crop circle - captured on camera for posterity. You scan the mobile phones and cameras cautiously. They are pointed, one and all, front and centre, at the standing stones.
You circle the two pillars, walk between them, take a snap or tow to tweet before abandoning the site to dusk and dirt, as numbers dwindle. You think you will return for a closer look sometime, presupposing they are still there in the morning.
By nightfall next day they have multiplied magically, three freestanding, where once were two, fresh symbol imprinted on the tip, up on high. You struggle to see amongst additional sightseers, the sea of shufflers grumbling forwards, as they submit to queuing to take their turn. The stones stand regimented, ruler straight in line. Impossible to see how deeply they reach down, though you scrabble at the base of one amongst the grains. They bury themselves under your nails. You frown at the kick back, as you feel - or think you feel - a short, sharp shock to your fingertips where they touch the granite. You pull them back, raising them to your lips to cool the smart. There is heat where you suck them, though you see no red, raised marks or burn. You tell yourself it is your imagination which has been sparked by the mystery of the standing stones and what they may represent. You tell yourself aloud, then repeat it.
There are five at dead of night when you approach again, alone, as others sleep. You nod, once, twice, to each of them in turn, smile slightly as you take in the now familiar symbols and those new to you, completing the quintet. You inhale as you walk between the pillars, breathe out onto each in turn, inscribed images fully illuminated in your eyes now you see. You know where they will take you, with them, on their journey and where it ends. That those who travel to see the standing stones tomorrow will see merely gravel and dirt, where once were pillars and a girl. You wonder how long it will be before they realise their silent stone visitors have taken a willing souvenir with them.
Another piece for the Luminous Creatures Press competition. This one was second runner up and received lovely feedback!