The News and Weather

 

1

The dunes harden. That’s what she notices first. There’s no plunging down them to the beach; their surface sparkles, almost slippy. On the track the sheep have made up the headland, the hoof prints in the mud freeze. Britain plans to sail a warship through the South China Sea.

2

Even at noon it’s still white. The only enclaves: under bracken, behind walls. The dog kicks up a cloud as he runs, and where long grass has toppled, it freezes in waves that scrunch under her boots. The body of seven-year-old girl is found in waste bin in Kasur.

3

The puddles in the yard freeze. They trap marbled skies beneath their surface. They are last week’s skies, when it rained and rained. Above her now is clear blue. Risk of nuclear war is at its highest since the Cuban missile crisis.

4

The rabbits stay in their burrows. Frost cloaks the dunes, ending in a hem around their base. The wind caresses her hood, whispering of the north and its icebergs. Cape Town is running out of water.

5

In the low sun, the field, cross-hatched with frost, takes on a floating blueness, and the shadows are thick as lichen on stone – angled and hard. Even the sheep have an ethereal glow. More schoolgirls go missing in Nigeria.

6

On her way to the beach, she sees the same white ground and ice in the furrows, like the world is something that might splinter. The waves are thick and slow. What if everything is slowing to a stop? Just then, the breeze lulls and she catches a familiar smell. It’s the wax coat she’s wearing, with its broken zip and frayed cuffs. This coat – she crosses her arms to pull it tighter – has done her five winters. It’ll see her through this one too. Britain has won a gold medal in the Olympics.

7

There’s a medical crisis in eastern Ghouta, the White House announces plans to arm a million teachers, and the sea freezes. At high tide, it stretches away from her, the indifferent grey of a skating rink. The wavelets stuck to the shore look like etched crystal, or rainbows in all the shades of nothing. She taps them with the toe of her boot, watching for movement underneath, listening for creaks. But no sloppy water slides to and fro. She takes off a glove and touches her cheeks, and her tears are freezing too, clotting in their tracks.

An earlier version of this piece appeared as ‘Seven Frosts’ in Stirling University’s 2016 Storytelling Sculpture Trail