by Iain Maloney

Faded yellow and red prayer flags clack in the wind. It reminds him of a train he heard once. He liked trains. Soldiers never used the trains. They marched. When the trains came people waved. No one waved at the soldiers. The young boys with death heads and machetes.

            He wonders if the soldiers are still there. A tourist mentioned them once, in a voice of myth. He offered silence. The tourist shrugged and took his photo. Silence. Fifty years since he ran. Since the village burned and he ran, blades swinging by his ears, ran and hid, hid and climbed. Found an abandoned temple.

            The temple chose him. The last monk’s robes lying empty, waiting. He hid inside them and the soldiers never came. They look after each other, him and the temple.

            The sun is higher when the first explosion echoes around the peaks. Beneath his pagoda on the roof of the world smoke rises, black and insistent. Crashes he never knew he remembered. The light changes as usual. No tourists come. The soldiers are back. The soldiers never left. The guide appears by himself, a boy of fourteen, fifteen. His eyes see machetes. His eyes see guns. Behind him. Coming. He finds the temple deserted. Monk’s robes lying carefully folded waiting for him.


Editor’s Note on Sanctuary:

Sanctuary is not the first piece that Eastlit has published by Iain Maloney.The following work has featured in Eastlit:

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