Narong heard children running to the road before he heard the pickup truck. He sighed. When he’d been a child, there had been nothing unusual about cars in Ubon Ratchathani province. All the same, he was happy enough to set down the empty water barrow and stretch his back as the plume of dust approached.
As the truck and its trailer got closer, he savoured the healthy roar from the engine. As rare as the unscraped white paint under the film of dust. He couldn’t remember when he last saw a truck that didn’t carry its age as he did, in wrinkled bodywork and incessant wheezing before starting up. He winced as a pothole thumped the tyres and rattled the suspension. The healthy sound wouldn’t last long if the driver kept hitting them like that.
Perhaps Narong was still a child at heart because he squinted, trying to make out the manufacturer’s badge. The truck thumped another pothole. The engine screamed in mechanical agony, faded to a whine and fell silent. The truck coasted past him and stopped fifty metres away. He wondered what was under the tarpaulins covering the truck’s bed and its trailer.
A farang woman got out on the passenger side. Her ginger hair was just long enough to shimmer as she moved. She wore a sleeveless shirt and knee-length shorts, revealing skin so white it defied the sun pounding this water-forsaken corner of Thailand.
Narong’s interest stirred. Today would have more to mark it than dust and water barrows.
Beside the Dammed River was published in Interzone 253, July 2014 and was translated into Italian as Nei Pressi del Fiume Prosciugato dalla Diga in La Maledizione anthology, January 2015. It will be republished in The Year’s Best Science Fiction anthology in July 2015.