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Victoria Manifold
Victoria Manifold is a writer from County Durham.

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290 MILES TO GO   I am on the train now There are 290 miles to go From the window I can see people watching me from the streets and fields as the train speeds past They all appear to be wearing tight white tennis shorts and occasionally, when I look closely, I can see a deep red blooming at their crotches, spreading out across the tops of their legs They wave their arms very high in the air but for no real reason that I can discern There’s no panic or pleading on their faces, they aren’t crying for help All I can assume is that it’s some sort of dance, favoured by the people living in this part of the country Perhaps a ritual associated with the passing train, a means of protection against its speed and bulk After all, talismans do drip from their stiff cotton cuffs, mystical symbols are scratched into the dirty sand by their platformed feet   I see animals too of course Cows and sheep Horses with chestnut backs as reflective as mirrors They move along with the train like a pack of estate agents let loose, finding that their legs stretch much further than they thought Until they reach their limit of course, they hit a fence or a hedgerow or their lungs contract impossibly Then the train speeds away and I leave them behind Goodbye herds! I whisper Farewell beasts! I’ll probably never see the same set of sheep and horses and cows again   I am going to be 290 miles away for some time   WHEN I FIRST ENCOUNTER THE TRAIN I HAVE ALREADY BEEN EXHAUSTED BY THE STATION   I had waited to board the train next to a dusty crowd of people The platform stretched for two and a half miles and the sun maliciously heated the bleached concrete below us I hopped from one foot to the other to prevent the rubber soles of my plimsolls melting and sticking to the ground and most of the other people around me did the same, avoiding eye contact as we soundlessly pranced and waited The heat had
TWO HUNDRED AND NINETY MILES

Prize Entry

April 2018

Victoria Manifold


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