Cnut by Samuel Dodson
Dragonfly land on a poppy, the flowerhead dry, bulging with seed. The thin membrane of its wings holds the light in an ice-tight grip as the insect pushes itself away into the air, dust from the soil which hangs on the flower brushes away and falls to the earth.
The field stretches 8 by 12 Hectares at the base of the scree-filled mountain side. The petals of the poppies have fallen, and the farmer, wiping sleep from his eyes as he watches the sunrise behind a window, prepares for a day of harvest. The summer has not been kind, arriving arid and laced with acidity. An unknown disease has spread through his crop, filling the stems and seeds with poison. His wife remains asleep in their shared bed, hair streaked over her eyes. He dreamt of drinking wine goblets of blood while lightning ships clashed in the night sky over the mountains. He thought it funny since the Soldier told him to expect dreams about his teeth falling out.
The Soldier’s boots are turning to sand. The laces are lost beneath layers of crusted dust. The skin of his trigger fingers is cracking, becoming sore and changing to infection. The stems of the poppies his legs graze against are dyed black with this disease they don’t understand. He lifts his helmet from his sweat-soaked brow. Now free from the suppression of the headgear, his ears filled with the sound of Apache Attack Helicopters returning from the mountains.
All the while, Cnut stands with the vapid wind in his beard, feet pushing into the wet sand, hands held up, palms facing the whipping white horses riding the waves, forcing the tide to retreat from these shores, this country.