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SmokeLong Quarterly

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Milk and Other Lies

Story by Judy Darley (Read author interview) December 10, 2018

Art by Jason Leung

One day the river runs with milk. I watch as hollow-eyed mothers bring infants to the shallows. They pour the clouded liquid, scooped palm by palm, into their babies’ gaping mouths.

The next day I wake to the sound of children’s laughter. I step outside, smelling a cloying sweetness in the air. The river has turned gold overnight, shining with butterscotch. Children hurtle in, barefoot – hungry for its sweet promises.

“Does it fill you up?” I ask a boy the age my son would have been. His lips are caked white with sugar flakes. The flecks shift as he grins, cracking apart like insects’ latticed wings.

The following morning, the river brims with broth, its aroma calling to the old, the infirm – anyone in need of a nurturing feed. It also draws the fat flesh-feasting flies that more often signal the passing of some old grandmother or goat.

I wait until all have drunk their fill, swallowing down my own unease.

“I wish for water,” I say aloud, and with a twitch the river turns as clear as the sky. In its rippled mirror I see our famine-swollen, stick-limbed bodies.

But today the water is cool. It dances with sunlight. It quenches my thirst and I wade in.

About the Author

Judy Darley is a British fiction writer, poet and journalist whose work appears in magazines and anthologies and in her short story collection Remember Me To The Bees. Her second collection, Sky Light Rain, will be out from Valley Press in 2019. Judy has shared her stories on BBC radio, as well as in cafés, caves, an artist’s studio and a disused church.

About the Artist

Find more photography by Jason Leung at Unsplash.

This story appeared in Issue Sixty-Two of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Sixty-Two
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