An Ocean of Sand and Silt by Brianna Bullen

The clouds blanketed the sky in a heavy shroud, trimmed by soft light. It was time to take the boat out again, while cover was high, and few monsters wanted to be in the open in the eeriest of hours. The boat was hidden in plain sight, seemingly bogged and abandoned. Closer inspection would reveal fresh lines cut into the grey sand, and the repeated flattening of the dry grass in the boat’s path. Nobody must have wanted to lug around an inconveniently sized heavy vehicle when feet or wheelchairs, and backpacks or trolleys, would do. The rivers and oceans were also perilous and could not be trusted.

But Connie had a system.

The lake she poached supplies from was currently frozen in drought time, only it clearly had water levelled high and present. The stormy fluid was made solid, churned into smoky silt. The sea monsters lay dormant beneath at these times, snouts and squid beaks poking out like alligators in a frozen lake. Adaptation lead to survival. Adaptation led to vulnerability, out in the open. She slew each creature she came across in the time she had available. A stab with a sword through the nose or mouth led to a quiet death and an ink-blood blackened blade. Just for those who wandered into her portion off lake; there would always be more that moved passed her barricades, but she tried to minimise the senseless slaughter. 

Occasionally, she’d be joined by a bald eagle, a quiet companion that dove deep and plucked eyes from sockets and which was trying to teach her a second sight. But not today. 

She did not know how the fish survived. But when her stop-watch struck six, and the water resumed its life and liquid flow, there was time for fishing.

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Brianna Bullen is a Deakin University PhD candidate writing a creative thesis exploring the possibilities for memory imagined in science fiction. She has had work published in journals including LiNQ, Aurealis, Verandah, Voiceworks, Rabbit and Mascara Literary Review. She won the 2017 Apollo Bay short story competition and placed second in the 2017 Newcastle Short story competition.

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