by Monim Wains
Old crusted sand baked under the searing sun. Thin cracks stretched along the surface, marking allegiance, marking blood. Shadows loomed over the lines, walking with slow, heavy intent.
Links of chain rattled in the quiet air, as they looked over the earth. They, the powerful. They, the inheritors. They, the nations.
One of them, the largest, sat down, reclined into the back of its throne, lazy arms hanging down, spreading into the space.
It opened its eyes and surveyed the group, considering those around the table. Each gaze returned with a meekness; each head hung shyly.
It smiled, smug.
At the other end of the table, there was a tussle. It was nothing, really, but it didn’t rest either. The table was too full to begin with. Each elbow crushed into the one next to it. Each shoulder had to jostle with its neighbours, squabbling for a voice. They couldn’t keep out of the way if they tried.
Each of them wore pride on their chest, thinking it made them brave. It gave them courage, the foolish kind, to grab for space, and shuffle for power. It was an open wound, if only they could tell; tender and sore to the touch, obvious by the depth of its stench. The two at the end smelled the worst.
With noise and bravado, they locked into each other, spitting and fuming, drunk with false prestige.
The thing with a table so small, with them so close, is the spread of noise. In the babble of their thoughts, the noise carries over like an infected cough, irritating everyone it touches.
It didn’t take long before the head of the table heard. It looked over at the other end, observing quietly at first. It stroked its chin, working thorough the possibilities. After some time in thought, it smiled, and watched the two carefully.
Both of them were so small, so insignificant compared to it. The spat grew, spreading into an argument, everyone pointed fingers now.
The winner was inevitable. Even from the head of the table, it could tell how this was going to end. Unless it got involved.
It rose, lumbering over the world. The table silenced; the two at the end looking up in fear. It smiled, extending its arm, stretching across the world whole. Without moving from its throne, it dropped its hand into the sand.
It held a crayon, dull and unclear, pulled through the lines. The one that was going to win wanted to protest. It looked on in despair, shrinking, unable to force a change. The one next to it smiled, grew larger, smelled of pride even more.
Satisfied with the map, the one at the throne lifted its hand, rested it on the new winner’s shoulder, clenching hard, making sure it knew who it owed, and then it returned to its throne.
The world looked down at the new map. They watched the lines redrawn, coloured by whim.
The map rushed with little people; their world upturned by the lines. Walls burst through the ground through houses, new borders written into the ground. They didn’t know why; they couldn’t tell who; there was nothing they could do.
To them, it was the border, sharp and clear. It just had to be that way.