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a woman standing next to a brightly colored dinosaur robot as it tries to fly away

I kick at the sand. But then the stomp of my feet fades as the music does. With one movement I pull the mask from my eyes with a sigh. Let it drop to the beach to collect on my return. The stars fill the sky as patterns in the night, but I am too distracted by our conversation to appreciate them. I wish you had stayed. But then, would I have recognised you if you had?

A primal scream rips the darkness. As if a fox fighting at midnight is scared that its very soul is about to leave its body. Barefooted locals run towards me with broken sentences that catch in the wind.

‘…rusty…’

‘…clogs…’

‘… grasping claws…’ and they pass.

‘… ferocious beak chocca with teeth’ says the youngest, with tanned skin and muddy blond hair. I guess him at twelve, but he told me later that he was fourteen.

The breeze pulls at my faltering legs, but I continue onwards. Ears stretched. Another screech sends a shiver down my exposed neck. So loud I need to suppress the urge to cover my ears with my hands. Suppress it in case someone is watching  from the darkness of the forest beyond the beach – as a woman must never show weakness in the dark in a strange place. I should have stayed where I was. Not come looking for you.

I don’t have to walk far through soft, warm sand to see the source of the boys’ terror. I force the tears back into my eyes. On wet, hard sand lies a heap of bones and feathers. It writhes. It tries to stretch. Caught by the cogs, bolts and hinges of itself, it opens its beak and hisses a shriek through jagged metal teeth. Should I try to help it? Could I even?

Seeing me; it scrapes a tapering claw at the air with a frenzied grasp. I recoil into the shadow of a palm tree assuming it longs for the feel of death.

Crouching now, holding my breath, there’s awe of the purple and gold of it, that shimmers in the moon, as it writhes smoother and smoother against itself. Its wings are now open, at five meters wide and the metal work lies in a pile behind it. Bloodied. Disintegrating metal turns to air or sand. To nothing. As I watch. Glancing up, beyond the monster’s now smaller beak, I get lost in the galaxy of its eye framed by lashes that are dark and moist. Then with a blink and the power of returning to the now, I’m back on the beach and know the ‘it’ is a ‘her’.

As the last remaining robotic parts fall from her hips and she struggles to stand, I know I should run. Instead, I bow at the waist until my hair kisses the white of the grains below. My breath, present now, but a rasp in my throat. My inner world stops with a silence to my thoughts. 

With her head lowered, knee in the sand I can sense her effort. She stumbles. She calls out. No more anger. No more pain. Just frustration. As I wonder how to help; her presence grows tall above me. Even at a distance.

‘I must be mad’ I think.

I want to look up, but don’t. I want to get lost in her eyes. There is familiarity there. The cogs at her chest are covered now with emerald down. As I listen, the whirring becomes a beating heart. Fast at first, but then it settles. She turns a quarter angle. She folds her wings, almost as if she puts her hands behind her back and returns my gesture.

With your bow I know it is you. You stand on legs, once clawed, now footed.

As you walk towards the shore, the waves rage as high as you. You’re back. My heart wants to reach for you to pull you back, but it still hurts from the things said… and not. The things it wants to hear. And so, still alone, now, pale skinned, yet still majestic, without a backward glance, you dive beneath the waves without a word.

The muddy haired blond is beside me.

‘You know her’ he says.

‘Almost’

‘She coming back’

‘I don’t know’.

We sit down on the undulations of the sand and await your return.

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