18 October 2021
The Sudden Writing Prize Winner – Zoe Davidson for ‘Crack’
It’s mid 2039 – I’ve lost the exact date. It feels like Spring. The sky is a brighter shade of grey and a gentle breeze stirs the dust into odd little patterns. I set my watch for forty minutes and go for a walk down to the beach. It’s been too stormy to go for a proper walk in weeks.
But today is fine and clear. I can even make out the shape of the sun through the clouds – a red disk glaring faintly though the grey. The breeze is getting stronger, clearing the path of ash and lighter debris – revealing the white line running down the centre.
I skirt a car sitting in the middle. Flakes of rust peel off its twisted skeleton, swirling in the wind. Several hit my visor. I swipe them away awkwardly, my dexterity dulled by the suit.
A sudden gust catches me from behind, knocking me over. My head hits the road, but the clear visor protects me from a braining. My heart beats fast as I check the suit for tears – but I find none.
Finally, I get down to the beach. The recent rain has left the plastic flotsam pockmarked and scarred. I see a few children’s toys that the high tide has left up by the path, but they’re ruined. What a pity.
The sand shimmers lightly, the petrol beading only to be reclaimed by the sea. The waves are tall today, capped with grey froth. Debris swirls on the surface. It mixes to form small burgs, only to be broken up again by the churning sea. It’s mesmerising; I could spend hours here just watching.
There’s a tickling sensation across my left cheek; a whistling noise in my ear. I lift a hand, gloved fingers feeling across the smooth glass until I find it – the crack.
I put my hand over the visor and the whistling stops. The only sound is my laboured breathing.
Slowly, I lower my hand. My watch beeps, telling me it’s time to go back. I stare at it for a long moment, then I turn it off. I undo the clasps that hold my headgear in place and toss it onto the sand.
The breeze feels good on my face, even as my skin starts to sting. I settle back on a rock and watch the sea.