It doesn’t look like much; a wide industrial road rounding the bend on a sun-bleached hill. On one side the road overlooks desiccated orchards and cramped white buildings, and on the other the abandoned curves of rough, mountainous fields. The air is warm, even this high up, and it’s easy to tell how blisteringly hot it would be in summer. The sea isn’t far away, it never is down here – somewhere in some Mediterranean state. Every place this road has passed is an anachronism, a puzzle of time; towns struck dumb by poverty and economic collapse with architecture almost a thousand years old. No one’s got a job good enough to pay the bills, and yet everyone’s got Classical architecture and a phone.
It’s crazy, and no more so than here on this small stretch of nowhere, an arterial route for the cargo lorries that head up to the more self-assured North European markets above. A funny place to find it: a cairn of stones by the wayside, and, still sitting on top despite the many months of sun and gale and the occasional storm; a half rotten-away flip-flop.
To those that don’t know it’s just another discarded piece of litter along the breadcrumb trail of despair that stretches all the way from some hellish military-extremist junta in the even hotter south; a line of the lost that eventually seeds its way into mainland Europe and beyond.
To those that do know, however, it is as close to a holy relic as any one of these washed-up people might have.
The woman ahead stops when she reaches the unlikely shrine, staggers for the briefest moment, dropping to her knees. It’s hard to tell whether it’s from relief or disgust, maybe both. One more push, just one more step and she will have passed this relic of no return. She will be closer to her goal than to her dreadful departures. She crouches on the threshold, perhaps waiting for a sign.
From the woman’s lips just one word escapes;
The UNHCR states that the total number of forcibly displaced peoples in the world is >65 million as of 2015, with >21 million ‘registered’ refugees as of the same year. Numbers vary for the number of migrants and refugees who made the perilous journey to Europe (and continue to do so) from 2014 onwards, but it is safe to assume somewhere around 1-2 million.
Halfway is written as a piece of ‘anthropological fiction’ or perhaps ‘speculative anthropology’ and is part of a tentative project on the go called ‘Migrant’ – a series of short stories, some anthropological, most sf, based around the themes of travel, belonging, and home. I have some half-thought-out dreams to turn them into a charity chapbook perhaps?