Erin hesitates, watching. The old woman is there again, sitting on the swingset overlooking the valley. Smog writhes in the canopy below, its breath bitter on Erin’s tongue. She’s not supposed to play here since the valley got poisoned, but she snuck away while Mum and her baby brother were napping.
The old woman has been here every day for a week, eyeing the smog and making notes or drawings in a fat notepad that she holds on her lap.
Now she shifts suddenly, reaching for the flask at her feet. Erin guesses it contains tea, or soup, but when the women unscrews the top, what spills out is bright like sunshine, with a fresh, damp smell like a forest at dawn. The light swoops over the valley, mopping up grey acrid smoke until the sky grows blue and clear and the air tastes sweet in Erin’s mouth.
She turns, heart pounding, and runs all the way back home.
Judy Darley is a British fiction writer, poet and journalist who can’t stop writing about the fallibilities and strengths of the human mind. Her writing has been published by magazines and anthologies in the UK, New Zealand, US and Canada, including Seren Books, Mslexia, Unthology 8 and SmokeLong Quarterly, as well as in her debut collection Remember Me To The Bees. Sky Light Rain, her second collection, will be published by Valley Press. She has shared her stories on BBC radio, as well as in cafés, caves, an artist’s studio and a disused church. Find Judy at http://www.SkyLightRain.com, and @judydarley.