We lie there a measure of time, not exactly side by side, in fact further than arm’s length from one another, but aligned anyway given how I fell. I watch the vomit. It seems to me at some point it must fall but meanwhile it hangs above me in an unpleasantly captive liquid arc. It’s possible I doze.
   I snort. I have the curious feeling of having just now heard – without hearing – a noise loud enough to startle me. And startle me awake. I know this phenomenon, and I hate it every time, because my body is both so fast, fast enough to push me out of rest, but so slow, the progression of my heart from resting to walloping being easily followed, anticipated even, and I have to sit it out until it gets better.
  “Can I sit somewhere else?”
   It’s the vomit. Do I roll her way or away from her to get out from under? She’s put her head on the side again, cheek to dirt, to speak. It’d be like rolling into her embrace, whatever over-inflated poison grasp that would be. But it makes a difference to when I should speak: roll her way, then speak; or speak now, and then roll the other way.
   The spray left by my guts above me does not glisten. It could be made of shiny plastic shapes and pieces of food. I roll her way and take her by the collar.
   When she’s settled laid out on her back alongside the road and out of harm’s way, I retreat to the other side of the rutted dirt and ease myself down into the grasses. The dirt here is unnaturally shaped, created by tractors and the passage of trucks, so I sink a little. But I can put my elbows on my knees and consider the corpse more easily. It watches the sky.
   Experimentally, I say, try to say, have to clear my throat first, “this doesn’t make sense.” Her battered face produces a slight smile. And then falls back into no expression.
  “I am at least not cold,” I say. I wipe my hands on my trousers, scrub then at my face and nose. Wipe my mouth. Spit. The air is not warm exactly. The bite is gone though.
   She speaks then. I see her mouth move. “Why did you come here?” she says.
   I consider for a while what the fuck kind of business is it of hers, and I do have no answer for that because I don’t know what she is. “Here?” I say.
   She doesn’t answer.


   Ordinarily, there’d be a trail. A girl on her own like this doesn’t happen here, not usually. Maybe in the cities. Girls leave a place like this one and in the big cities they’d be prey to anyone who might act like a friend, but here she’d be tied to family. And by now, there’d be someone to haul her onto a scooter or lift her onto someone’s back. And it wouldn’t be down to me to do anything at all.
   I could just leave her. Not make the report. Skinny fucking Zhou might make trouble, but I could cut off his access to the building site, at least formally. Probably wouldn’t make any real difference to him.
   Fuck me, I can’t remember a time not being tired. There’s nothing at all to this job and yet I’ve worried over what do to ever since I started. Back then I had an enthusiasm. Now… well right now, I’m so tired I put one arm across my belly the better to hold up one arm that holds the hand that I put across my eyes.
   And just like that I turn on the other sense. That idea that blind people develop better hearing? It’s not true. They just use their hearing. You try. Put your hand over your eyes and hear what happens. I stand there with my eyes closed and realise somewhere along the water there must be birds, small and fast, chirpy in the morning air, foul though it is.
   Was a time this place would be obnoxiously loud with cranes and trucks and men calling out to one another. Up on the construction there’d be hammers against pipe. The day would literally ring. Even the night. You could wake in the earliest morning and find all that weight lifted from your ears. Then the first shout in the street would make you curse. The first truck and the sand it would billow into your house.
   Different now though, she says.
   I lurch. I might be ready to vomit. I certainly snarl.
  “No!” I say, and I point at her carcass. “No.”
   My stomach does heave just then.
   Have you ever tried to vomit into a frozen world? I mean a world with no motion. It flips you about like you’re a spaceman. Heaving and stretching out I should be stumbling into the water because I can’t hold myself upright, but my head is thrown backward instead, pushed off the tower of vomit that exits me and then doesn’t move. Dropping to my knees and pushed backward, I am propelled away from it rather than it being propelled away from me. I land hard. I’m as stunned as a child. And it’s worse because I heard that crack in my back.
   I hold onto my head like it might fall off, and sob because I’m that tired.
   Only slowly do I realise nothing actually has happened.
  “You have to learn to control that,” she says.
  “Do I?” I say, because I’m angry. “Did you?”