In the Ruins

North of Siem Reap, our guide shows us a sandstone bas-relief of battle, 12th century war elephants forcing a platoon off a cliff. The soldiers’ faces as they fall – horror and capitulation. There’s a rash of thumb-sized pock marks in the center, obliterating tusks and armor.

“Is that part of the design?” asks my travel mate, eternally participative.

“Bullet holes,” says the guide. “We tried hiding from the Red Khmers here, with the monks. Didn’t work.”

It’s only later that I pick up on the pronoun, the scars on his neck. Layers of history carved in mineral and flesh.


Edward Barnfield is a writer and researcher living in the Middle East. His stories have appeared in Ellipsis Zine, Lunate, Strands Publishing, Leicester Writes, Cranked Anvil, London Independent Story Prize, The Short Story, Reflex Press, Communicate.ae, and Grindstone Literary. He is currently working on a novel and a collection of short stories. He’s on Twitter at @edbarnfield.