The Skywatchers

by Sarah Hilary


Back to back in duffle coats, we sit, notepads on our knees. Without me, the others would form a triangle. Together, we are the points of a compass. I am East.

North and South are a torrid affair, never speaking more than two words with their mouths. South’s hand shakes when he brushes North’s corpulent thigh. Tea slops in the lids of glass-lined flasks. West keeps his own counsel, worrying about his aged mother back home. I ache with empathy.

North, South and West search the skies for proof of other worlds, never seeing what is under their noses. Literally in the case of North, whose razor misses the scrub that sprouts from his stony lip like lichen.

They will not look within, I’ve found, afraid of the alien inside. Instead, they pretend an interest in the galaxy. They have equipment, a box with batteries, wire. This they call their UFO detector. They pronounce it ‘You Foe’.

Beneath my feet, laced into shoes to approximate the appearance of the others’, I gauge the thrum of the earth, the bloodless pulse of this planet, push of grass and plants, the fractious chiming of fiery plates at its expiring core. I am forced to concentrate, retrieve my focus from great depths and heights, retract, reduce, exist only in this moment, this infinitesimal configuration.

North and South tremble, the needle swinging between poles, a torturous metronome of attraction, repulsion. West is a mess, excreting salt at neck and groin, a tumor in his gut, as yet unknown, throbbing with a life that is simultaneously death. There are complexities here which I am only just beginning to grasp.

‘There!’ North points skywards.

They scribble coordinates, frantic in their failure. Three pairs of eyes return to the sky. I watch them watching.

I am East.


Copyright © 2008 by Sarah Hilary

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