By Ariel Dunnah
“The writer has a really good plot’ – JUDGE
Donovan slumped into the seat of the Coolidge bus, releasing his cramping fingers from around the handles of the heavy shopping bags and allowing them to sprawl on the floor. The overhead clock had just struck 3 o’clock a.m and the realistion of just how tired and frustrated he was sunk in. It felt as though he trekked all 108-square miles of Antigua, travelling from St. James Club Resort where he worked to the West Bus Station .
He slipped one earplug into his ear, leaned his head against the adjacent bus window, and closed his eyes. A shuffle of feet broke the momentary silence, causing Donovan to break from his semiconscious state. It was one or two people, or perhaps the scraping of foil or other litter blowing across the terminal floor. The already looming darkness behind his closed lids dimmed and he felt the bus seat beneath his right leg sink_ a draft of cold air brushing his shoulder.
“Good Morning” he grumbled without opening his eyes or turning his head. The response was an irritating silence. He shifted in his seat to glare at the lack of manners that shared a bus seat with him and his eyes widened. His heart skipped a beat, and then slowed to a heavy thump landing somewhere in a pit in his gut. Donovan weighed the prospects of being greeted by an empty bus seat versus the vilest ugliest creature to ever walk earth. At this point the latter seemed more appealing. At least it could be seen. The only other person on the bus was an elderly lady positioned far to the front, too incoherent to even think about moving so quickly. This put Donovan on edge for the mere fact that his only logical explanation was an invalid one. The bus moved off soon after and for the rest of the ride, Donovan stared blankly through the bus window at silhouettes of tall trees and buildings posing against the dimly lit canopy of night sky. A familiar sight of a big old tamarind tree with a weathered bus bench beneath caused Donovan to shout “Bus stop!” The bus pulled to the side of the road, let Donovan off and disappeared into the distance.
From where Donovan stood, to his house was an easy walk to the crossroad visible just up ahead, a sharp turn right and three steps into his yard. However, the recognition of aching feet and shopping bags filled with this week’s groceries made his task seem tedious. Donovan started walking trying not to focus on the small pebbles on the dirt road trying to penetrate the soles of his shoes. He hummed as he walked, when a stir of stones along the roadside behind him gave him pause. He spun around quickly only to find the path which he’d once tread and the darkness that preceded it. If you have walked alone at night, experiencing the unassuming nature of shadows and the feeling that someone’s fingertips are just barely touching your neck, you can now feel Donovan’s heartbeat growing in your chest, slowing your breathing and shortening your breaths as it creeps into your throat. Donovan’s feet ghosted upon the unpaved road as he meticulously tight-roped uneven paths of light that danced between cynical shadows and loose gravel that made his steps unsteady. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see the creature’s tall thin frame etched against dimly lit skies. Bones jutted out about its body, just barely penetrating the skin. As Donovan tore through the breeze, the scent of his fear filled the creature’s nostrils. It was a hunt and Donovan was the prey. Escaping was the only thing that mattered. He could almost feel the warmth of when two bodies are about to come into contact with each other. Donovan had never felt so mortal, unable to fight or hide. He didn’t know how much longer he could keep running as he could sense the creature was rapidly catching up to him, the hunger for Donovan’s bones ever apparent. With two deep breaths, Donovan broke into a sprint. Just crossing the lamp post at the cross roads Donovan stumbled and the shopping bags flew from his hands. Among other things, a carton of salt burst on the road scattering the crystals everywhere. The creature nearly halted in his tracks and as though a compulsion dropped to its knees and started counting the grains of salt. Donovan however did not stop running. He turned the corner nearly tipping over in the process, ran into his yard and burst through his front door! He locked it behind him and bolted it with nearly every heavy piece of furniture in his front room. He could taste the saltiness of his sweat as it ran down all over his face, crouched over on the floor.
Author’s Bio: Ariel Dunnah is an 18 year old student at the Antigua State College. She had two stories in the 2014 Wadadli Pen finals – A Grain of Salt was honourable mention in the 18 to 35 age category and La Diablesse was second placed in the category. Both were also strong contenders, in the second round of judging, for the main prize. This is not Ariel’s first go around in the Wadadli Pen winners’ circle – she was first and second place in the 13 to 17 age category and second placed overall in 2012 while still a student at the Antigua Girls High School.
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