The Road Never Ends | Mhairi Campbell

Pain is not a game we can win.


Mhairi Campbell

The Road Never Ends

21 C Mega Death Award


The road never ends. It winds like a red ribbon through the grey rock and climbs on. The sky can be hot, cold or indifferent but it’s all the same. All the same to me.

I was wearing blue shoes on the 11th of October. In the heart of Glasgow they stood out, ballerina’s shoes on the dirty sidewalk. My umbrella was pink and spotty and I loved it. Dancing men paraded around us, in Peruvian get up, and I felt for a moment as if I had been taken back in time to some tribal nightmare. The Christians bombarded us, the Muslims were us and the others just put their heads down. The birds ripped apart the bread on the street.

“I want to go to Zara.”

The voice was light, my friend, and so we went. The clothes were a whirl of black silk and cotton, bare and revealing. I couldn’t wear it, but Anita could. She showed her light skin, the veins flashing blue and I could feel the tremor. It started from the back of my throat and shuddered down my body like rain.

“What do you think?” I glanced up.

“It’s lovely. You should get it.” I smiled at her.

The world was torn apart as we stepped into George Square. Women screamed as smoke filled the air. The winter festival had turned into ash and flame. Gunshots sounded and I could hear the shifting language that moved like fog, commanding. I gasped and lost Anita’s hand in the commotion.

I was shoved onto the ground as people rushed around me and I saw the black covering his face. His eyes, a hard brown, flashed onto me and passed over me. His gun did not touch my head. It found itself embedded in another as I cried out in warning.

“Stop! Please stop!…” My voice was lost, lost, in that fog. Anita…Her dress was torn as I saw her scattered by the people. “Stop…” They never stopped.

The crowds were screaming and throwing things as we were herded to the airport. My hair hung loose about my head, clinging with sweat and I thought, not again, not like this…White women held up posters, with faces of people I didn’t know and would never know. Their language hung like fog, blaming us.

“Isis! Scum!”

Was I scum? I wasn’t Isis. But these people would never know that. My headscarf, wrapped around my fingers, was snatched by one of the crowd. They brayed like dogs, tossing it to the wind. I felt a tear roll down my cheek as I looked back at the city that had been my home.

“We are sending them back to where they came from!” A politician stood to the side, his face grim, as he sentenced us with words to the fury of my first home. “They will not win here!

They will not…”

Why didn’t they know it wasn’t about winning?

The faces twisted in anger and I felt my own anger rise with it. You don’t know…I could see the blood again, the bodies splayed on the ground, decorated with bullets. You would decorate us with bullets, if you could, I thought.

The skyline was red with the sunrise. I staggered, my leg dripping blood, and limped along the street. I couldn’t see anyone but I knew they were only waiting. The city was littered with the dead.

The heat stifling me, I started on the road. It was etched in blood, stretching to the horizon. I knew I would walk forever because only one thing is certain. The road never ends.