Ploughing. Raking. Toiling. Burning, wiping, smearing.
Looking up through sweat soaked eyebrows and blinking roughly against the salty stinging in his eyes. The heat hazed in the distance, the trees rustled, or seemed to, because they didn’t move and from where he stood, the sun scorching his scalp, they looked like a painting. Lined up at the top of the fields in the distance, the sky a lazy blue, not quite burgeoning into the deep colour of summer, almost as though the sun was so bright that the sky paled in comparison. So still. Was the world even real?
Midday. A bird chirped quietly somewhere nearby, too tired to break into song. A pickup truck trundled slowly down the dusty road just outside his garden. A face, browned and hardened from heat, stared at him, turning as the truck drove past. He stared back.
The truck slowed, it seemed, creeping along now. He gripped his shovel tighter, aware his fingers were slick with sweat under his gloves.
‘Hey,’ he said to the man. The truck was level with his now, and the man’s eyes were piercing. They reflected the light like a pair of sapphire beacons under the shadow of the truck.
The man said nothing, and the truck slowed to a halt.
‘Can I help you?’ he tried again, shifting to his other foot. He was aware of his own pulse in his neck. The world was so still around them, even the solitary bird nearby ceased to chirp.
Then the wheels spun viciously in the dusty road, and a brown cloud rose behind the car and it roared into being and started off, engine rattling loud enough that birds flew up into the sky in alarm. He watched as it sped off along the road, growing smaller in the distance.
As the dust settled, and the birds swooped back into the cool shadows once more, the heat of the day took over again, blanketing the world in hot, tired silence.
The trees in the distance didn’t move a branch. The summer haze lay languidly over the earth. The silence was vast, universal.
Was the world even real?