The Shed

Two matching military uniforms, with men inside them, sit at opposite sides of the table.

They are playing cards—the men, not the uniforms—one has the better hand, but the other knows it because the Jack of Diamonds has a torn corner.

The room is small: two chairs, a table and a single bed against the wall. An ancient analogue TV sits on a shelf. A globe on a chain hangs from wooden beams that are holding up a corrugated tin roof. A frosty window looks out at a barren, mountainous landscape of grey-brown rocks and dead shrubs; you cannot see the sky through the window.

The card game is done and the loser swears. He pushes his chair back and looks out the window.

The knob on the old television set makes a popping sound as it switches itself on. The men look at each other. They speak to each other in grunts.

The picture on the television set is grainy, the shape of a person can barely be distinguished—a speckled silhouette against a backdrop of static. One of the men adjusts the top dial, then the second from the top and the image becomes clearer.

On the convex screen a woman is sitting behind a desk. She is smiling broadly. Behind her is a map criss-crossed by several lines. Red dots pulse between the lines. The television switches off.

A rumble starts deep in the earth. It rises up from the floor and the window begins to rattle. The cards on the table jiggle about and one of the chairs falls over. Dust trickles down from the wooden beams.

Empty tea cups knock together. A glass jug tumbles from a shelf but one of the men catches it and places it gently back where it belongs. There is another noise now—a high pitched whine. The second chair falls over.

One of the men goes to the door and opens it. He looks outside and then steps outside. He shouts something at the other man.

The second man follows. Gravel crunches underfoot as he steps outside.

Storm clouds linger above the mountains. Green lights flash within them.

Everything is shaking. And then: everything is still.

In the distance there is a sound like running water. The tin roof of the shed ticks as it settles back into position. The wooden beams creak.

The two men go back inside and deal another hand of cards.