1563 c/o Lydia Unsworth

Red Is My Favourite Colour

It is 7:53am and she knows this because the sun is rising.

She is thirty-two metres above sea level and her face is plain.

The day stretches into the shape of a bucket and her spine is crooked because sometimes she is empty and sometimes she is full. She turns her fingers around its handles.

She is content, she thinks, because her ears don't pop and her hands don't shake and her digestive system is all in order. She smiles into the cool air and the cool air waves branches in return.

She walks into a heat that is sidelong and getting taller and she thinks about the empire. Three sheep approach and sniff the bucket's rim. She lets go of the bucket with one hand and tries to touch one of the sheep but it moves away.

She watches the back of the sheep and leaves the bucket on the ground until the other two sheep turn and follow.

She thinks about velocity and she counts three sheep and feels awake.

When the sheep are far enough away she picks up the bucket and sighs as her spine once again bends over.

She thinks about the empire because this is the largest thing she knows and she wonders when it was that everything started to sound the same. She thinks about the size of the empire and how it is constantly trying to improve itself. She wonders if everything has started to sound the same throughout the whole empire and if the empire is only expanding into more sameness. She wonders if it is really a victory if you are doing battle with yourself.

She holds onto the bucket and feels safe.

She looks at the contents of the bucket and sees there is still some space. She feels a pull on her spine but remembers the word challenge and feels OK. She thinks about her grandmother and how she dove head-first into her own funeral. She thinks about the future and about her spine and thinks it would be nice to have her head in the sand.

The empire is enormous and so she tries to think about just one corner. She holds onto the bucket and feels glad that she does not have the weight of an empire in her hands. She tries to think about what she would do with all that space. She imagines a line of buckets, two up two down, each containing a small portion. She looks down into her bucket and knows she will never go too far away.

A few inches remain to the bucket's rim and she feels that returning like this would be a little bit like being empty-handed. They would ask what she had been doing, why she had let the sheep run away. Her spine cracks softly and she and the bucket take a few small steps forward.

She sifts through the sand with her feet.

A long shadow peels over the steppe to the East. She follows its tail-end with her eyes until she reaches a luminous centre. On top of a horse with hooves full of shade, she sees a man with a whip and a voice and good posture. He is situated very close to the horizon and from where she is standing he is smaller than cave paintings, but she can feel in her heart that he is stronger than caves.

Her grandmother taught her about the symbols for these feelings, about how to read them. Before she died she carved the meanings into the sand with her nose.

The meanings are now covered in sheep dung and bad water. They use the sheep dung for fuel in the winter, thus burning the idea of romantic love.

She puts down her bucket. Stands in front of it. She tries to wave to the man but both the steppe and her face are plain. Her dress is the colour of dust and her eyes the colour of mountains. The bucket is red but lies shielded behind the two rounded muscles of her calves.

The man is looking for something as large as bison and so thinks nothing when dust moves. He watches the sand undulate and he thinks, 'This is my desert, this is my empire, I belong here and this desert is mine'. He does not think about love.

The girl waves until the temptation of more bison becomes too great. Standing as she was, she did not notice the heavy red sun strike a chord with the red of her bucket. Like two things perfectly aligned and passed through microscopic lenses they could have burnt the earth.

She follows the tail-end of more shadows but they all lead to night.

She picks up her bucket and returns to the hut (where she will wait for another one thousand years).

The sun sets at 4:20pm that day, after providing the steppe with eight hours and twenty seven minutes of sunlight.