NWR Issue 122

Me, I'm Like Legend, I Am

'Stop! Where do you go?’ shouted Tom at the sound.

A woman came into view, pacing up the hillside with a large backpack strapped behind her. She wore a brown, wide-rimmed hat that meant that they could not see her face clearly, but her clothes were walking boots, strong jeans and a brown leather waistcoat, suggesting that she had been walking for a while and that she was intending to walk further.

‘I’ll shoot!’ shouted Bob, pointing the rifle vaguely in her direction.

The woman stopped and removed her hat. She gave a sigh as if being challenged like this was nothing new to her.

‘Why did you go to the dentist?’ shouted Bob, thinking back to one of the agreed passwords for people travelling in Wales.

The woman shook her head again as though she was the ageing cop in an old American film about to deliver the line ‘I am too old for this’. She looked no more than forty, so this world-weariness might have seemed out of place before the Unpleasantness. Now everyone was weary of the world and looked older than they were. No electricity, no internet and no moisturiser – it was a new world indeed.

‘To get my tooth fixed!’ she shouted back, but pronounced ‘tooth’ in the south Wales way as ‘toth’. It had been an early way to establish identity when you never knew who was living among you and there had been tales of Bristolians streaming over the border daily.

After a pause, she started walking towards the two men, prompting Tom to shout ‘You may proceed!’ once she had already taken a few steps. Her boots crunched on the uneven ground beneath her.

‘Eluned,’ she said as she reached the old stone tomb, ‘I’m a scribe.’ To prove her identity, she produced a notebook from a tattered waistcoat pocket and then swung her backpack off in front of them. ‘Waistcoats,’ she said, patting the one that hung loosely from her shoulders. ‘Who would have thought that they were so useful?’

Her joviality put Tom on edge, and he eyed her suspiciously. Eluned was well aware of this but she had long since decided that making men uneasy was the least of her problems. She pushed some stray brown hairs off her sweaty forehead and reached into her bag for a water bottle. Normally she would offer to share, but she was not in a sharing or – for that matter – a normal mood.

Dewi Heald was born in 1972 and went to university in Aberystwyth before settling in the Vale of Glamorgan. He has worked in youth work and education for most of his life, while also writing short stories, comic essays and political blogs. He also masquerades as Dai Bongos, singing comedy songs locally. His entry, from which this is an extract, was highly commended at Hay Festival this summer in the New Welsh Writing Awards 2019: Aberystwyth University Prize for a Dystopian Novella.


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