Daniel Hinds won the Poetry Society’s Timothy Corsellis Young Critics Prize. His poetry has been published or is forthcoming in The London Magazine, The New European, Wild Court, Stand, The Best New British and Irish Poets 2019-2021, Poetry Birmingham Literary Journal, Blackbox Manifold, The Honest Ulsterman, and elsewhere. Twitter: @DanielGHinds
Daubed in her blue war paint, the girl lowered herself on a tattered rope down from her home amidst the stone rubble of The Wall, built by some Emperor, long ago. Through the blue, bits of charred brown showed through. Everyone’s skin was brown now. And blistered. Had been ever since The Fifty Stars fell to earth.
Today. Today was important. Today she had to perform the ritual. Today she had to wander out through the ruins, find the accustomed spot, hoist herself up with her rope, and begin her work.
Some things survived. The Wall. Or at least, bits of it. Blackened cans of Coca-Cola. You could cut your tongue, sucking up the last fizzy dregs from the twisted metal. And her. She survived. And the things her sister taught her. Like the ritual. Other less useful things survived too: old names for things that no one quite understood. The Melted Melting Pot. That was where they lived. Knowing this, the Clansman would often say, wisely: “If we live in a cauldron, it must be because of witches that things are the way they are.” Then he would punch her because she was a girl. And so might be a witch.
Maybe she was. Maybe that was why she practiced the ritual, and no one else. She had to do it every year. Nothing lasted long in the harsh hot winds.
Sometimes Donkey-boy and Trunk-face would come and throw stones. She didn’t care. She knew what she did was important. And when she was done the stones would stop like they always did, and the whole clan would come, and stare up in slack-jawed awe.
She twisted back on the creaking rope. There. It was finished:
Her hieroglyphics blazoned out in a bold orange scrawl: “Happy Birthday Mr. President.”