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    “Everywhere else, death is an end. Death comes, and they draw the curtains –”

    Evie Sutcliffe's shortlisted piece for the Monica Ali Creative Writing Award.

    It is five in the morning. Exactly five in the morning.  

    Dawn shatters upon a black sky as the man in white is led down the dirt road. Granada lies a  mountain away. Víznar and Alfacar are closer, but still lost in the night. There is no moon in  the sky and yet the five soldiers and three other prisoners are visible. They shine in the slow  and shaky promise of tomorrow. The man in white is in his pyjamas, barefoot for they took  

    him sleeping from his bed in the town. Every stone cuts his feet but he carries on walking,  silently, because he fears what will happen once they stop.  

    There is something peaceful about the night, a perfect night; the kind of dark, pinpricked sky  one would write poetry about. His notebook and pen are back in his room. He left his last  poem unfinished.  

    He shouldn’t have been so liberal with his time when he knew it was only a matter of it – 

    The Black Squads, servants to an unlawful rebellion on the right, invaded his town, his  country, like influenza. They choked the democratic will of the people, silenced their voices,  turned their loss into usurpation. They were not a minority, after all, it seems. They lost in the  polls, but then violence makes a man feel safe, and suddenly there is an army of them, and  suddenly regrowth becomes demolition. He wonders if his baker has joined them, or the boy  that sells newspapers on the street corner in his adopted city Madrid. How many? How many  men poisoned into taking people’s lives for a cause? How many men want him dead? He has  heard their battle-cry in the streets, always followed by an instrumental of stuttering gunfire.  He hopes they do not scream it when they kill him. He does not want his death to be theirs. 

    “¡Viva la muerte!”—Long live death!” 

    Death, the question of questions. The glance into the void. What is waiting on the other side  of this black night? Sleep without an end – fitting, he thinks, he is dressed for it. Will the dust  creep into his eyeballs, the moss blanket his body, the raw red earth expertly unpick the petals  of his skull? – And now his blood comes out singing. 

    He wrote those words once, for a friend, but what will his blood sing?  

    And with what mouth? What tongue? What voice? What words? 

    Is it a sorry tune, or a triumphant blare of trumpet, the kind at the bullfights? He can almost  hear the castanets across the silent country, chasing his heartbeat. 

    As a child, he would go to watch the bullfights with his father. The crowds, a raucous throng  of workers and politicians, would pulse and heave, throwing their bodies this way and that in  line with their passions. He would get swallowed by those crowds, his father gripping the  collar of his shirt to keep him close, steering him round people to make sure he could see. He  remembers the day a man got speared by the bull. Gorged through his chest. And the way his  body was flung across the ring like a trampled leaf. The crowd gasped, some women cried.  The bull was taken out back and shot. A priest was rushed into the ring and a coffin from  somewhere was found to tumble the body into before the stage was cleared. The tragedy  complete. The next bullfighter entered to applause.

    The curtains were closed on that scene and he’d forgotten about it until now. 

    There are two bullfighters in this funeral march, ahead of him. He wonders if they regret  chasing Death, having convinced themselves they could outrun him their entire lives only to  stumble when he caught them up. Or maybe they recognise its taste on the air, like freezing  cold ash. He wonders if this is why they shiver in the early morning. 

    The bullfighter’s cape was red to hide the blood. He wishes he hadn’t worn white to go to bed  in last night. 

    The soldiers carry German Mauser rifles and he wonders where they are going to shoot him.  He hopes it is the head and he hopes it is quick; the bullet tearing apart his brain so quickly he  barely feels it. He wonders if death feels like a migraine coming on.  

    Before their arrest, Ruiz Alonso had shouted, “He’s done more damage with a pen than  others have with a pistol!”  

    They shot him instantly with their pistols. What use was his pen then?  

    It has been playing in his mind ever since, like a vinyl needle stuck on the same part of a  track, obsessively repeating. Each time the gunshot goes off in his head, he jumps a little, and  the scene restarts. He’s lost his pen but the men marching them into the heart of the country  still have their pistols.  

    What damage have I done? 

    You write and you love and they disagree with that. Sometimes the most rebellious thing is  just to be.  

    The soldiers stop at the gate to a dark field that doesn’t look to end. They can bury us easier  in there. The soil is softer. 

    They turn and shepherd the prisoners into the field like they are cattle.  

    I am more the bull than the bullfighter, he thinks.  

    The ground is soft, the grass brittle and yellow. They walk a little further and the dawn breaks  a little more, crumbling into reluctant morning. The red eye of the sun blinks open behind the  mountains, and it is as though she is covering her eyes. She cannot watch Spain declare war  on poetry.  

    His shoulder is grabbed and they speak to him but he doesn’t listen. This is not their moment.  These will not be their words. He is forced roughly to the ground, his pyjama knees dirtying.  The gun is cold against his sweaty head and Federico García Lorca stares at death.  

    Winged heart, do not fail me now. Words, stay damaging. Will my blood sing for me –?

    There is a crack in the silent sky.  

    “Everywhere else, death is an end. Death comes, and they draw the curtains Not in Spain. In Spain they open them.”

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