We all have secrets
The bandaged man’s chest rose and fell as the parentless brother and sister watched and waited. They waited for his secrets to be known, to discover why this hideously bandaged form had stumbled onto their dry and dying land. They waited to uncover why he carried a gun stained with blood. They waited for him to wake and walk and talk and free them from their misery.
The Girl, the Boy and the Bandaged Man
Beside the girl stood a small table on which were two plates, both as chipped and cracked as the cups beside them. Though the plates were empty, the cups echoed the eyes of the girl, filled with something recognisable in its form yet mysterious in its substance: bare yet full, strong yet weak. Perhaps it was the man who made them so, the man wrapped in bandages lying beside the plates and cups who appeared dead yet was still breathing. Or perhaps it was the shotgun in the girl’s hands, the barrel aimed at the man’s rising, falling chest while fear clung to the finger resting on the trigger.
The room itself was still save for the rise and fall of the man’s chest, the blink blink of the girl’s vacant gaze, and the black speck of a fly that vanished into the distant pitch of a whistled tone.
The sound was soft at first, nothing but a trick of the wind to which the girl moved only the shape of her eyes. As the sound gained form, she turned to face the silhouette cast by the open doorway and dust-ridden sun of the day beyond.
Glancing at the man before returning to the light, her eyes rose then fell, she having learnt never to believe in something unless it manifest itself in a physical form.
She heard him outside, finishing some activity or another, metal on wood or wood on wood or feet on dust. The silhouette of the doorway was briefly eclipsed as he entered the room and stood beside the bandaged man, his eyes hiding that which was evident in his worn and dusty clothes.
“Anything?” he asked.
“No, the same. He breathes and I sit, but what if…”
The boy turned away before she could finish, disappearing into the only other room.
His brown hair touched by sun, short nose and sharp chin revealed him to be her brother, though the likeness stopped there. He was broad where she was slight, the breadth perhaps an illusion born of comparison with his sister, whose thin frame gave weight to the emptiness of the plates.
He, as she, was young, perhaps only fifteen or sixteen, and though it might seem that the bandaged man was their father, the gun in the girl’s hand spoke of a differing relationship.
When the brother finally re-entered the room, his sister knew better than to continue her previous train of thought.
“How was it today?” she asked.
He stood staring at the man’s rising and falling chest, her eyes following his while the shotgun lay upon her legs.
“The same. The ground’s too hard to do anything with and the sky’s got nothing but dust.” The boy gestured to the man. “Did he eat?”
“Ha, he eats yet we don’t. We starve to feed him but we don’t even know who he is.”
She said nothing, knowing as he did that they had to feed him, that starving as they were the man was helpless in his current form.
“Do you think he’ll die?” she asked.
The boy, his youth already fading from work, looked at the rise and fall of the man’s chest.
“No. He’s a curse and curses don’t vanish. He’ll get better, the bandages will come off, then we’ll find out where he comes from and why he needs that,” he finished, pointing at the gun and the dark stains on both the barrel and stock. “Till then we feed him and hope that when he wakes, he has some hidden fortune to share.”