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The following is an extract from the short story ‘Fragments of a Dream ‘ taken from the collection ‘The Candle Game’. Further details are at the bottom of this post.

A flight of uneven steps, roughly hewn from the rust-red sandstone, cut their way up the mountainside. They wound, snake-like, disappearing every now and then like wisps of cloud in the hot summer’s sky. Beneath my feet they felt smooth and with each step I could sense the years falling away as if I were travelling not only physically but also through history. After a while they opened out onto a wide plateau which had been completely hidden from view until now. When I looked back it was impossible to see from where I had come: the steps had vanished and the landscape become a dusty red ocean of sand. In front of me I could see a group of men sitting cross-legged on the rocky ground. Each one had a shawl wrapped around his body, its colours, which I assumed had once been bright and sharply patterned, now faded and dull. Their heads were covered with white material which had been bound loosely to allow for enough excess to shield their mouths and noses from the dust which swept steadily across the plateau. The men were swaying slowly and gently from side to side, each one in perfect unison with his neighbour, as if in group induced trance. There was no discernable music, no rhythm that they were following, but, as I drew closer, I could hear a low hum emanating from the group. Each movement that they made seemed to reflect the subtle rise and fall of the hum which, as my ears became accustomed to it, I was beginning to detect. Their eyes were closed, turned inward as if they had vanished deep into their sockets. Some had wrapped the wisps of sand- scratched material around their mouths and noses; others wore it loose, letting it hang down across their chests like a symbol of faith. The faces of these men were dark, their skin scorched by exposure to a relentless sun which burned through the dry sky as if it were afraid that, by dulling its heat, it would be admitting its own frailty. Deep lines ran across their skin like rail tracks, merging and splitting over and over again, in constant motion. If one had the time and knowledge it would have been possible to read each passage of their lives now etched in their faces. The men were of indeterminable age, but to me looked as old as the rocks that surrounded them, as if they too had been worn away from the mountainside, resting, as they did, in small gatherings some distance from the now distant cliff face. They were old, but, as I watched the swaying faces, transfixed as I was by their union, I saw the contentment that grew between them. It stretched outwards like a huge, invisible spider’s web, seemingly connecting the thoughts of each individual to create a combined consciousness.

The Candle Game and other stories