The Price of the Wall

The inspiration for last night’s dream is obvious but I apparently mis-remembered some details of the source material.  Still, pleased with the suitably creepy bit of alternative interpretation that came of it. Apologies to JK and Shirley. Cleaned up version follows.

The wall had stood for as long as anyone could remember. The fine red powder of its bricks accumulating at the base as if incessantly gnawed by a million tiny mouths. The summons had gone out weeks ago, and each family had had suitable time to make arrangements. Each selection had been outfitted in the finest their families could afford; everything they would need for the journey. Slowly they gathered in the morning fog, parents with solemn faces, children smartly dressed and groomed, beaming with excitement. In their innocence, that later jostled their trolley carts and rolling suitcases, barely containing their eagerness as the hour approached.

The grim-faced station agent surveyed the crowd before checking his pocket watch one last time. Snapping it shut, he nodded to the assembly. Gently, the closest family nudged the bright-eyed little girl with neatly braided hair. Leaning her tiny weight into the trolley cart she approached the wall, slowly at first but gaining speed quickly. Without so much as a ripple or blur, she passed through the wall and was gone. Her mother stifled a gasp before burying her face into her husband’s shoulder.

Another and another scene such as this played out. Each set of parents, and sometimes siblings bore the separation differently, but all were obviously moved.

When the last child passed through the wall, the station agent surveyed the crowd again with stoic satisfaction. The wall’s bricks were smooth and strong, their red faces fresh and vigorous again.

No one was quite sure why the wall must never be allowed to falter, or how the awful selection was made, but the owls would come again on some inscrutable schedule, upon silent wings to demand the newest tribute by name.

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