Running by Des Kelly


Down the street the girl with bright hair ran. She’s running still, in her own way. Trying to avoid the thing she was made to do.

It’s been years, and nobody knows. Except for her.

Hair streaming in the sun.

It reminds her of blood. She’d like to wash it away.

Slowly scrub the stain.

‘Salt.’ Granny would insist. ‘Use salt.’

There’s salt in her tears. It’s not the same.

Sun rising on an autumn day. The overnight gale brought down her favourite tree. The one the colour of honeysuckle mixed with wee. She knows it sounds odd, and doesn’t speak out loud.

She feels the pain of loss, inside. Strokes the broken body and can’t prevent the tears that fall.

Salt. It’s no use; not the same.

Men with chain saws carve up the carcass, and she’s left staring into a void in the ground. No telling what she feels. She walks to the water where magic fishes spiral as she feeds them bread pellets.

She’s waiting for the shark to appear. There has to be an aggressor; there’s always an aggressor in every story she’s ingested.


He wasn’t really human; not the first, or the one who came after.

There are those who dress as humans, but they possess no soul.

Pure emptiness of feeling. Desire is all they feel. Their very sweat containing an acid. She has the stain upon her. It eats into her existence and will never heal, just like the place they prised open.


Returning to an empty apartment, in the block where nobody speaks. She mounts the stairs, watching her reflection in the glass. Just another lonely human in an uncaring city.

If she met someone would she want to change, and into whom? If she vanished would she become a ghost? Would anyone notice?

Her favourite women in history lived for themselves, and survived alone. Were times any different then?


Getting ready for bed. The dark will protect her. No one can find her if she doesn’t make a sound. Sheets feel cool against the skin. Sometimes her dreams climb silken ladders and she doesn’t want to descend.

At first the cold hand startled her, snaking up her leg.

She mustn’t cry out; he’ll hurt in ways unspeakable. She lies compliant beneath his furtive questing.

She does as requested. Hot breath against her ear. The sweat burning her skin, burning the shape of an alien body into hers.

She is possessed. He has her now, his brand on her back.

Everything is pressing in.


And running; always running, to reach a high point where the sky reaches down to touch the earth. She stands there, defiant, staring down. Everything made impossibly small. Heart thumping in her chest.

Frees the hair band, with the wind whipping about her face. Screams out loud. There are tears in her eyes.

Salt and tears. No possible use.

‘You mustn’t tell.’

She mustn’t say a word. His body in hers. Sweat burning the skin.


On the morning journey, the tube is full. Her body pressed against another woman, who turns her face away.

She wonders about life on distant planets, but only for an instant.

It doesn’t do to daydream on the underground.

And coming up to face the light; her gaze returned by cold quizzical stares. She knows she exists on a planet populated by strangers, remote stars. Is she dreaming again?

Was it all just one bad dream? And is it over now?


His voice honey sweet. She ran, ran and ran. Never looking back down the years. A woman on the run, and nobody sees.

His hand, crawling like a snake.

Hair streaming in the sun.

Blood. Pennants of blood, flying from the highest points.

Out of reach. She stretches on tip toe. He has her. His brand on her back.


‘Salt. The method is salt.’ Granny insisted. ‘To remove a stain, use salt.’

The tree; her beautiful tree cast down. Thoughts of honeysuckle mixed with wee. No one to talk to, no one to tell.

‘You mustn’t tell,’ he hissed.

Sometimes he came alone. At other times…

The place once excavated can never be closed.

Nothing remains. Silence. She wants to cry.

Tears of salt. Of no possible use.

‘Don’t cry sweetness. Don’t cry.’


Desmond Kelly


Header Image by Christian Mertes (Mudd1 12:26, 18 April 2007 (UTC)) (Own work) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

8 thoughts on “Running by Des Kelly

    • Hi James. I’m not sure you meant to leave two comments, but thanks anyway. Metaphoric was a word I’ve not heard before. I’ll have to try and place this somewhere. Cheers Des


  1. Really good writing Des. The recurring theme of salt is cleverly done and there is a lot of depth to this in such a short piece. Cheers, Nik


    • Thanks Nik. I probably owe much to other better writers who showed me the way. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Cheers Des


  2. Hi Des, I thought this was poetic, un-nerving and your timing of the revelation is beautifully judged.
    To me, this is one of your best.
    A very enjoyable and well crafted short.
    All the very best my friend.


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