Travelling at dawn, it might be the end of the world. Empty roads, a single crow flying wind-fast in the wrong direction, an old sign knocked over and muddied--Buy Ducks, Chickens, Eggs. For Sale. Up ahead, a petrol station dropped in from another decade; all peeling paint and rusting metal. An abandoned truck sits beside, dented in the front, its bumper hanging ragged. And we are phantoms driving through the great, yawning good morning. “Wake up,” I whisper, as if the hedges made red with berries might hear me. He does. “Do you see that?” He rubs his eyes and tilts his head and—yes—he sees it. Someone has perched a mannequin atop a billboard off in the middle of the field ahead. Her hair is wet and wound around her neck and it creeps down her arms like witch vines. Her arm is raised in Hello or Farewell or Take-Me-With-You; two of her fingers are broken. I wonder if I should apologise. Instead, I pull onto the grass and he looks at me with his eyebrows knitted together in a rugged wave of concern. “I just want to look,” I say. I snag my tights on the fence and sense him shaking his head. I don’t stop to assess the damage. The billboard is bigger than it looks and whatever was on it before has faded and ripped until the only thing left is the word ‘soon’ in the bottom right-hand corner. I shiver; it smells like rain and neglect. There she is, balanced—no, tied to the top of the old wood. Her legs are covered in deep gouges scraped, I think, by crows and the paint has slipped down her face, every feature sagging like a cry. Her clothing is scrappy, most of it eaten by moths or stolen by birds. I pull my jacket closed. “Come on,” he says. “Let’s go.” He holds out his hand and I look up at the mannequin, drying hair caught by the wind and tugging at her throat.
Elou Carroll is a graphic designer and freelance photographer who writes. She has a BA in Creative Writing with English Literature from the University of Chester and a Master’s in Publishing from Oxford Brookes. Her poetry is forthcoming in Aloe.