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92

FINALIST
Jury Selection

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The steppe. Infinite frontier. Grassy kingdom. In its vastness, a cousin to the sea. The wind had made it its playground. It could roam until it ran out of breath, with no obstacles.

He had built a shelter there. On a rise of the land. No nooks, no corners. No trees. He had stopped there one day, put up his tent, and started to look for stones over a wide area. There were very few stones.

He had erected walls to protect himself from the wind, which blew day and night like a tyrant to weary him and keep him from sleep. He did not have the skills. So the walls fell down many times before he managed to construct something, a sort of low, dark shelter.

He had allowed himself a home in the middle of the kingdom of grass and wind. A raft at anchor.

There was no wood. He had great difficulty keeping warm. The candles were all used up. So darkness wrapped itself around him every night and liberated him in the morning.

He stood there, a few yards from his enclave. Kissed by a biting wind that whistled in his ears. Gazing at a horizon which encircled him. He was smiling beneath his matted beard. He had stopped there after a lifetime of aimlessness, turmoil and pretence. He had known as surely as if his name had been written on that place in the steppe where everything looks the same to those who know no better; known that he must stop and begin something else.

That was a few days ago. A few months. A few years. His previous life had been one long drift, the new one was a firm mooring. He had to walk over the hard ground and against the wind for a long time to find something to eat. The wind was never your friend, it was always against you. Despite the obstacles, he was not worried. If he met his end tomorrow, then so be it. Nobody would weep for him and he would have lived. Free. More or less crazy.

With his two feet on the steppe, both nowhere and yet at home, he smiled in the face of the squalls, his best enemy.

Translated by Wendy Cross

92

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