ROAD NO GOOD: Prologue- Yet Pulum Win or Still Breathing

As daylight arrived, the morning mist cleared from the jungle and the sun radiated harsh rays upon the roof of Fleur’s tiny tin shack, hidden away at the edge of the swamp. Fleur’s chocolate brown skin was covered by a frilly old-fashioned dress. She sat in the middle of the hut beside the head of her dead daughter, Chay. A piece of yellow flowery fabric covered Chay’s dead body. Her corpse was twice the size it had been when she was alive and visibly swelling in the hot dense humid air. It was so hot that beads of sweat rolled from my upper lip.
Women were squashed in every corner, occupying every space, lining the walls and floor. Some were leaning forward rubbing the corpse with their bodies, hugging it tightly, and moving their hands and faces over it. Chay’s stirred and expanded with every touch, looking as if she were still breathing. Fleur held her daughter’s head and shouted the same words over and over:
‘Come back, my beautiful girl. Come back to me. Why dear God, why take my beautiful girl?’
She looked upward, then bent over her daughter’s face.
‘Please come back to me, my beautiful girl.’
When she saw us, she stood and held out her arms. The mass of women shuffled and those closest to the body moved back and cleared a space, right next to it.
As I inched closer I got my first whiff of the thick syrupy smell of human flesh rotting in the heat. It was an odour that I had never experienced before, but I knew that as long as I lived I would never forget it: distinctly human and rancid. I realised that I, too, was expected to rub my face on the dead body as a sign of love and respect. As I closed my eyes and laid my cheek on Chay’s, I wondered what my friends at home were doing at that moment. Were they stuck in rush hour traffic? Or checking their Facebook page? Probably both, simultaneously. I tightened my closed eyes and tried not to breathe in.
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