Mandy Taggart


Mandy Taggart

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She dreams, one final time, with the knowledge. A single primitive birdcall and she is here, plunged to the calf in soaked grass with feet naked and unfeeling. A phantom breeze peppers her face with helpless insects, billows her nightdress round her thighs, but she walks as if sealed in a bag.

The road lies braced; the buck of its back tautened as if to fling off the crouching bungalows, the sycamores, this woman on the verge. Her feet are set in shadows, as they have been in twelve years of dreams before this night. Every step is silent like magic, her teeth firm in her skull as if her face were swathed in cloth.

There is no girl here with her. The woman must climb to the brow of the hill. The verge is churned and ragged, gums of the earth with feather roots questing from crumbled banks. The road relaxes now, idles at her back: no grind of tyres, no engine. In this dream are the bones of the road, but never its blood.
At the brow, the verge is sown with glass shards, nestling like teeth in the mud, pointed with droplets of rain. Fragments in alien shades: pale teal, medicine green, the moonlight giving them a soapy sheen. She navigates the shards without stumbling and steps off the verge into the silent road, but feels no press of tarmac beneath her soles.

One piece, as always, glints blue and curved like a cup. She kneels, and her legs might be coated in dull rubber. She tugs at the fragment, scraping amongst the ripped roots. This is where all her dreams have ended: the road dissolving in confusion. A drop of blood at the threshold of her door, the mourn of a rook at the brow of the hill.

This time, a change. The shard comes loose, and the woman remains.

She peers into the shard, but sees nothing behind its glittering blue. She lifts it to her ear and fancies a distant keening siren, a low mutter: but perhaps there is nothing. She dotes on the shard: smells it, laps rainwater mingled with blood. She moans aloud for what she did not witness in her dreams from the time before. The jagged shriek, the knock of precious heads onto tarmac. Shards of windscreen tumbling upwards, reflecting the faces of the woman and her girl rising into the clouds like ungripped balloons.
She could have borne it, for a clearer warning. Her dreams were too kind.

The woman stands, gravel mottling her legs, a dead swell of blood down her cheeks. She will wait, now, for her girl who does not come. If any car approaches she will fling wide her arms, swirl the skirt of her nightgown, vanish roaring into the air.

“Nonsense,” her man said, twelve years ago, the first morning that she woke weeping but alive.

“Nonsense, then,” said the woman, and inside her belly felt the girl shudder.

Mandy Taggart

Mandy Taggart lives on the North Coast of Ireland, and is a member of a thriving community of writers based at Flowerfield Arts Centre, Portstewart. Her short fiction has been published widely in print, audio and online. She has been supported by Arts Council N.I., under their SIAP programme, and was the winner of the 2012 Michael McLaverty Award presented by the Linen Hall Library in Belfast.