The point of her shovel chips the ground where she drops it. She presses her foot on the blade’s flat rim and pushes. Clods of dirt break free, tossed aside to tumble and slide down the slope. Rimma presses her lips behind her teeth and digs into our bone wall alone. Her shovel has gouged a well nearly a foot deep when she hits something hard. She widens the hole’s edges, digging around the thing until she can lever it up. On her knees, she reaches in and pulls from the soil, the first long, pitted, ivory bone.
More shovels join in the excavation, the exhumed grave widening and deepening until shovels aren’t required, the bones resting on bones like loose gravel, bones nestled in bones in pockets of air, a tomb built of millions upon millions of bones. They rise from the top of the wall one at a time, in handfuls, in bouquets of rib bones, the thick-clubbed remains of arms and legs, blades of the back and hips, butterfly bones of the spine, hollow-eyed grinning skulls, the delicate twigs of fingers and toes.
The People watch with sober faces as we unearth their past, our past. I wonder if they’ve clawed into these walls before, if this vision is as fresh and tormenting to them as it is to us. The bone wall extends for miles. How far and how long will Rimma dig? I don’t believe she can stop.
“That’s enough, Rimma,” I say, squatting beside her. “Peace, Sister.”
She sits back on her heels, eyes closed, a tiny skull in her lap no larger than her clasped hands, an unborn child perhaps. She raises it over the open pit, and when her fingers open, it drops clattering back in, the toothless jaw snapping off. I believe that if I didn’t stand there, at the rim of her experience, at the edge of the gaping hole in the bone wall, she would have leaned forward and fallen into the grave herself. Without a word or glance, she rises to her feet, and with the shovel over her shoulder, trudges back up the spoke to Heaven.
~The Bone Wall
Yep, a little promotion 🙂
Flood Update: We are safe and dry and have lights as of late last night. Thank you for all the kind thoughts and comments. All is well.