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Vessels

A short story in small instalments: PART XI

It wasn’t but a few days later that Hermes screamed, “Mind the door!” and Caspertina Passala saw in her peripheral vision three hunched figures loping towards the porch in a veil of umber dust, nape hair standing the wrong way, maws gaping. The hyenas stopped in front of her and sat.

“Oh. It’s you.” She said.

They snuffled and puled, but there were no eerie cackles.

They hadn’t come for some time now. They used to be much bigger.

Caspertina Passala was hurtled backwards. Back into the days of unquenchable worry about Willmar, first in France, then in North Africa, then in East Africa, and always on the front lines. Hardly any news, and when glad tidings came, knowing that the message had been written days or weeks before and anything could have happened since, all relief was extinguished anew. The pain of teaching Nora about her father, whom she had never known; trying to fill the child’s little heart with love so she would be prepared when she met him, at last. The anxiety of Nora’s illness and trying to calm and heal her fretful body. The fever and convulsions and the terror; and then the helplessness of holding her still form, heavy and growing cold. The little coffin. The vast loneliness. Unbidden, uncontrollable wailing. Exhaustion. The letters from Willmar had stopped. The war ended, but she felt no hope.

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