Wish Missed

Fariha soared through the sky, her glossy feathers drenched in gold light and violet shadow. The sun would soon drop below the horizon. It was her favourite time of day, not because of the sunset — she had seen many sunsets, and she had grown rather bored of them — but because it was a time of change.

Change was interesting.

Two eagles glided on the thermals ahead of her, working together to hunt. Fariha could feel their prey below, a rock rabbit, ears twitching as it sensed danger. The eagles separated, the female hugging the cliff edge while the male soared in the light of the dying sun. The tiny creature stared at it, transfixed. It was not blinded by the light, but it was distracted as the female eagle circled behind and prepared to dive. Fariha watched, fascinated, and then hissed a word. The rock rabbit suddenly turned and let out a high-pitched, shrieking, chucking sound, many times louder than its tiny lungs ought to have been able to produce. The female eagle, spooked, missed her target and rolled into a ball of feathers and screeching frustration.

The rock rabbit, shocked by the sound it had just heard itself make, froze in place and was bitten by an opportunistic puff adder.

Fariha cawed with delight and soared higher.

She continued to drift on the thermals, skimming over the boundary of a small town. Houses lay below her, whitewashed U-shaped buildings that curved around small gardens. At this time of day, most people were beginning to retreat indoors, but something below snagged her senses. Longing. Clear and sweet as the note of a bell.

Humans who wanted things were so much fun.

She tucked her wings and began to descend. She found the girl quickly enough, sitting in a small garden, fingers working a lump of clay. She wore a dress of muted greens and browns, her dark hair tightly braided. Her face was smudged with dirt.

Fariha landed, clawed feet scratching the hard earth. The girl looked up and then scrambled to her feet, eyes widening at the creature before her with gold earrings and human-like eyes and a nose-bridge that stretched and curved into a brutally sharp beak.

Fariha folded her dark wings around her body and said nothing. She wasn’t tall, but neither was the girl, and they gazed at each other eye-to-eye.

‘Who are you?’ asked the girl, after a moment.

‘Fariha, goddess of the winds, mistress of machination, sovereign of schemes, arch of artifice, at your service,’ said Fariha, sweeping one wing in front of her and dipping her head.

The girl stared. ‘My father told me stories,’ she whispered.

‘Did he indeed? And what did he tell you, child?’

‘That the bird goddess Fariha is… clever.’

‘Hah. And appreciated flattery, no doubt? An astute man. There are some. What is your name?’

‘Elissa, and I am pleased to meet you,’ said the girl, nodding her head. ‘But if I may ask, why are you here?’

Fariha looked around. The house to which the small garden was attached shared walls with both of its neighbours. The doorway was dark, and spoke of damp coolness. The air in the garden was heavy with the scents of late-blooming flowers, long shadows stretched over the gum trees and red yucca plants. A small, wooden stool lay overturned at Elissa’s feet. She had not dropped her clay.

‘You have a pretty garden,’ said the bird goddess.

‘Thank you. I have worked hard to make it so,’ said Elissa.

‘But your house is very small. Perhaps you dream of something richer. More opulent. With servants to bring delicacies and cool drinks?’

‘Not really,’ said the girl.

Fariha clucked. ‘No? Then…’ she twisted her head to the south, where there was the beat of distant music and lights were beginning to mark the darkening sky. ‘Perhaps the party? You yearn for the music, and dancing and song? The hand of a handsome prince?’

Elissa giggled, then clapped a hand over her mouth. ‘No!’

Fariha’s brow creased. ‘All young girls want to go to the party, surely?’ She looked Elissa up and down. ‘The dress is easily remedied. And the hair. And I’m sure there’s something around here that would do for a coach…’ Her eyes stopped on a lizard skittering up one of the whitewashed walls. ‘Certainly, attendants would not be a problem. And shoes, yes, I could make the most beautiful shoes,’ which, she mused silently, would pinch and stab and fall off at the most inopportune moment. She had heard the prince had a thing for shoes.

‘No, please,’ interrupted Elissa. ‘I don’t want to go to the party. My sisters went. They will tell me about it when they return. I would rather stay here.’

Fariha buried her fists into the feathers at her waist. ‘Well, then, child. I felt your longing, and it was strong. Tell me, what is it that you want?’

‘Honestly, there’s nothing,’ said Elissa. She paused. ‘You must be tired. Would you like some tea?’

‘Tea?’ Fariha found herself disconcerted. Usually, when she found a human who wanted something, she offered it to them, and they took it. And more. Their avarice tangled them like fish caught in nets, and she took great joy in watching them flap and flip and try to squirm out of the predicaments they created for themselves. They never offered her anything. At least, not until it was far too late.

‘I’ll make some,’ said Elissa, darting through the dark entrance of her house. She returned a few minutes later with a pot and cups. The scent of cardamom drifted across the garden.

Fariha sniffed cautiously. A beak was not the most conducive thing for drinking from a cup, but if she allowed the liquid to cool a little she could pour it into the bottom part of her bill and swallow it from there. It smelled deliciously sweet.

‘I think,’ said Elissa after they had both taken cups, ‘that you came to my father, once.’

‘Perhaps. I have seen a lot of men, in my time.’

‘He was a good man, my father. My mother was pregnant. Her time was near and he had only one thought on his mind. He wished for a healthy child that would live a long life.’

‘And you’re here, I see.’

‘Yes. But he never wished anything for my mother. She died a week after I was born.’ Elissa looked up from her teacup and met Fariha’s gaze. Her eyes were challenging.

Fariha shrugged. ‘That was not my doing. Human childbirth is a difficult business.’

‘You could have saved her.’

‘I could have. I wasn’t asked to.’

‘He blamed himself. ‘

‘Again, that is not my doing.’

Elissa looked down. ‘No. I suppose not. He loved me, of course. He was happy that I was healthy. But I know that in his heart, he always wondered what would have happened if he hadn’t taken that wish. If he had refused it.’

‘If you’re asking me for the answer to that, I don’t know it. I can move a thread in the tapestry, but I cannot tell you how the pattern would have looked if I had not done so.’ Fariha paused, fixing the girl with a beady stare. ‘Unless, perhaps, that’s your wish?’ Yes… she thought, and the knowledge will burn inside like you a parasitic grub, eating its way through your flesh until it utterly consumes…

‘No,’ said the girl thoughtfully, ‘I think it is better not to know.’

Fariha huffed. ‘Well, then. What is your desire? I felt something. Tell me.’

Elissa laughed, and looked at her ball of misshapen clay. ‘Probably that I wanted my sculpture to actually resemble something.’

‘Is that all? That’s simple. I can make you the best sculptor in the world. People will weep to see your work.’ And the King will find you, and insist you make endless models for him, until your nails crack and your fingers bleed and they are so calloused that you can no longer feel anything, and…

‘No, no!’ said Elissa. ‘No. If I am to become good at modelling clay, I shall learn the skill for myself. With practice. If I acquire it by magic, it will be as though it’s someone else’s work, and what would be the point of that?’

Fariha looked at the sky with irritation. The sun was gone, leaving nothing more than a bloody glow across the darkened horizon. Soon, it would be night, and her power would be gone for another day. ‘You waste my time,’ she hissed.

‘I’m sorry. It was not my intention. There is nothing that I want. Take your leave, if it pleases you, of course.’

Fariha screeched. ‘You bore me, child! I hate being bored.’ The bird goddess spread her wings wide, so that the tips almost touched the walls of the tiny garden, filling it with black shadow. The teacup fell to the ground with a crash as she flexed her talons, long, wicked things that dug deep into the ground, and stared at Elissa. ‘Such lovely, soft skin. I promised your father you would live a long life. I never promised you would live it painlessly. Unscarred.’

Elissa took a deep breath. ‘You need me to ask for something?’

The two stared at each other for a long moment.

‘Do not think of tricking me, child. You cannot wish me harm.’

‘No,’ said Elissa, breaking Fariha’s gaze and looking up at the sky, now a deep indigo marked with a single pinpoint of white, light. ‘But perhaps there is another way.’

Fariha’s black eyes glittered. Time seemed to stretch and stop, and snap.

‘I wish… you were not bored. And would never be so again.’

There was a sound, just on the edge of hearing. Clear and sweet as the note of a bell.

Fariha began to laugh. She flapped her great wings and leapt upwards, still laughing, and the sound turned into cawing as she soared into the endless sky.

Somewhere far below, a girl picked up a lump of clay and began to work on it, so that it resembled something a little like a woman.

Or perhaps a bird.

Or perhaps, a reminder.


Author’s notes
This story was written for another Mythmaking event. The idea behind these events is that a group of storytellers write and perform stories inspired by museum artefacts that have no stories of their own. In this case, we know these small, female-form, ceramic figures are about 4000 years old and were widely traded, but that’s all — no one knows who, or what, they represented, or why they were significant. The event took place at the Ashmolean Museum, was organised by Brian Mackenwells and Charvy Narain, and was totally brilliant — look out for more in the future!


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Excerpts From the Browser History of Item 662-70519MP, Location 2

1) https://www.healthline.org/health/insect-bites#pictures

“Bites appear as welts, blisters, pimples, or hives […] try to avoid scratching […] It is safe to use over-the-counter anti-itch medications like hydrocortisone cream or to take mild painkillers such as paracetamol […] If symptoms do not improve, see your doctor.”

2) https://www.healthline.org/health/paleness

“Paleness, also known as pallor, is an unusual lightness of skin colour compared with your normal complexion. It may be caused by reduced blood flow, or by a decreased number of red blood cells.”

3) https://www.sleepfoundation.net/insomnia/what-do-when-you-cant-sleep

“If you get into bed and cannot fall asleep after 20 minutes, get up and engage in some other relaxing activity, such as reading or listening to music. Avoid brightly-lit screens.”

4) https://www.medicalnewsnow.co.uk/loss-of-appetite

“A loss of appetite can be physical or psychological […] It can be caused by infections or digestive issues, in which case your appetite is likely to return once you have recovered.”

5) https://www.livelong.com/article/allergic-reactions-to-silver-jewelry/

“The skin around and beneath the piece of jewellery can become inflamed, itchy and dry […] Allergic reactions to silver jewellery can take years to develop, however once sensitivity has developed it is best to avoid further contact with silver, as the reaction may become more severe with time.”

6) https://www.harvard-health.edu/sun-allergy-photosensitivity

“A sun allergy is an immune system reaction to sunlight […] Symptoms are commonly mild, but can be more severe, for example hives, blisters or even small areas of bleeding under the skin […] It is important to avoid sun exposure as much as possible.”

7) https://www.yorkest.org/do-you-have-a-garlic-allergy/

“People with garlic allergy can suffer from rhinitis (runny nose), skin problems such as urticaria and dermatitis, and even asthma […] In very sensitive individuals, garlic may result in anaphylactic shock, but this is very rare.”

8) https://norapax.net/why-cant-you-look-at-yourself-in-the-mirror/

“If you find it difficult to look at yourself in the mirror, you may be struggling with low self-esteem.”

9) http://www.phobiasinfo.org/hierophobia-an-exaggerated-or-irrational-fear-of-sacred-objects-or-priests/

“Hierophobia may manifest with the following symptoms:- irrational worry of sacred objects; feeling of panic; feeling of terror; feeling of dread.”

10) https://www.wikidinfo.com/Know-if-You-Have-Renfields-Syndrome

“Throughout human history, people have consumed blood for nutritional and ritual purposes […] However, if you have a strong psychological desire to drink blood, you may be suffering from another condition.”


Author’s notes
This piece won the Writers’ Forum Magazine flash fiction competition, in issue #213, July. Hurrah! The prompt was simply to write a story in the form of a list. By the way, none of the links are real, but I cannot persuade WordPress to ignore them — if you click on them you will get ‘not found’ errors, which is pleasingly ominous, in a way…


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© Kat Day 2019

Under My Skin

I sat heavily on the wooden bench. The bus shelter was an old one, built from stone, scented with leaf mould.

Jackie, my German Shepherd, sniffed at my left hand and whined.

I heard the woman before I saw her. She was wearing a lot of bangles and they jangled. She sat next to us in a cloud of patchouli.

There was one second of silence.

‘It’s a lovely day, isn’t it?’ she said.

‘It is,’ I agreed.

‘Of course,’ she continued, ‘I have to be careful with the sun. I’ve got this mole on my leg,’ she hitched up her long skirt to show me a small, brown mark.

I nodded.

‘I showed it to my GP and she said it wasn’t anything, you know,’ she lowered her voice, ‘suspicious, but it looks like the photos I saw online. They’re always in such a hurry. I might get a second opinion. Ooh, they say dogs can detect things like that don’t they?’ She looked appraisingly at Jackie. ‘Hey, boy, have a sniff, what do you think?’

Jackie shrank backwards, putting her head on her paws.

‘Well, I suppose they need to know you.’

There was a rumble of traffic and both Jackie and I looked up the road, but it was only a lorry.

‘Ooh it’s nice to sit down. My left hip has been playing up something chronic. My doctor suggested I look up physiotherapy videos on the internet. I mean, really. I’m going to see an acupuncturist. They used to offer that on the NHS you know, but budget cuts and all that. I don’t know what I pay taxes for.’

Jackie snuffled my hand again. I scratched behind her ears.

‘Headaches. I had one the other day, honestly, I thought my skull was going to split. I nearly went to A&E, I mean, what if it was a blood clot? But after last time… anyway it eased off, but still. One of my friends goes to a craniosacral therapist. He charges £60 an hour, so he must be really good.’

There was another rumble. I felt a surge of hope as I saw a bus approaching. ‘Are you waiting for the 54?’ I asked.

‘Goodness, I was miles away, yes!’ she leapt nimbly to her feet and put her arm out to signal the driver.

‘Hip doesn’t seem to be bothering her, eh?’ I whispered to Jackie.

‘Are you getting on?’ the woman called back.

‘No,’ I said, pushing myself to my feet. ‘We just stopped for a rest.’

‘Bye, then!’ she said cheerily.

Jackie pushed her nose against my left hand again. I looked down at the patch of pinkish, too-wrinkled skin that she always seemed to focus on. ‘You know she’s a total hypochondriac, right?’ I said.

Jackie gazed at me with resolute, brown eyes.

I looked down the road. The sign to the surgery glinted in the afternoon sunshine.

‘Oh, all right,’ I said. ‘I suppose I could pop in and make an appointment.’


Author’s notes
This piece came out of a writing prompt to write about a conversation at a bus stop. I hear a lot of stories about people using ‘alternative’ therapies to help their various conditions. It’s very easy to cure a condition that was never really there in the first place.


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© Kat Day 2019

Webchat Subject: The Injections You Gave My Henchpeople Last Thursday

~ CLICK HERE TO START A WEBCHAT WITH ONE OF OUR TEAM ~

DRCSHADE: Hello, this is Dr Calamity Shade, I’d like to talk to you about the injections your medico gave my henchpeople last Thursday.

JENI: Hi! My name is Jeni. Thank you for contacting MediHench. How may I help you today?

DRCSHADE: I’ve just said — I’d like to talk to you about the injections your medico gave to my henchpeople last Thursday.

JENI: Let me check if I understand: you’d like to talk about the service you received from one of our operatives last Thursday?

DRCSHADE: ffs. Yes!

JENI: Thank you! Do you have an account number?

DRCSHADE: DR-EVL-OVLD-663CS

JENI: Great! Am I speaking to Dr Calamity Shade?

DRCSHADE: Can you hear my head hitting the table, Jeni? Can you?

JENI: I’m very sorry, but I can’t — we don’t have audio. Am I speaking to Dr Calamity Shade?

DRCSHADE: YES.

JENI: How may I help you today?

DRCSHADE: #@!*$@!

JENI: I’m sorry, I don’t understand. Could you provide some details?

DRCSHADE: Jeni, if you make me say this again, I’m going to aim my zettawatt laser at your offices. After which there won’t be offices. There will be a crater, some ashes, and some blobs of molten metal. I hope we understand each other.

JENI: I appreciate you may be frustrated, Dr Shade, but I really can’t help you unless you give me some more details.

DRCSHADE: Okay, fine! Last Wednesday I called MediHench and asked you to send someone because I had wounded henchpeople. Ms Flamingo got into my compound earlier in the week and summoned her wretched flamingo horde. You wouldn’t think

JENI: Are you still there, Dr Shade?

DRCSHADE: Yes! Dammed flamingoes!

JENI: My apologies, please continue.

DRCSHADE: YOU WOULDN’T THINK they could do that much damage with those spindly legs, but they’ve got surprisingly large beaks. Several of my people had nasty injuries, and who knows what diseases those birds carry. Jason’s left eye looked very red.

Anyway, I know some of my colleagues treat their henchpeople as disposable, but not me. I value my people. That’s why I have a MediHench account. I called, and you sent someone out on Thursday. She had a MediHench badge saying Melissa Maingolf. She patched up all the scratches, put a steristrip on Millie’s head wound and gave Jason some antibiotic ointment.

Then she said something about bird flu and recommended vaccinations. She injected everyone. I think it’s caused some side-effects.

JENI: What sort of side-effects?

DRCSHADE: Jason’s hair has turned bright pink. Today he turned up in white flared trousers, singing Dancing Queen very loudly. I’m an open-minded arch-criminal, I am, but it’s hardly an unobtrusive dark suit, is it? He’s not the only one. Millie was wearing something today with colours that made my eyes water. Each to her own, but Kenjutsu in twelve-inch silver platform soles is asking for a broken ankle. And when I give orders they answer, “we’re just flamingling, baby!”

JENI: Could you bear with me a moment while I speak to my supervisor?

DRCSHADE: I suppose so.

Are you still there?

This is ridiculous.

I’m going to

JENI: Thank you for waiting, Dr Shade! I’ve checked with my supervisor and we don’t have a Melissa Maingolf on staff.

DRCSHADE: What?!

JENI: We’ve been experiencing a high volume of calls. We weren’t able to send anyone until Friday. The operative we sent reported that he was “turned away by a group of people singing and holding placards saying, ‘Party Like A Flock Star!'”

DRCSHADE: So who was Melissa Maingolf?

JENI: My supervisor suggests you consider the name ‘maingolf’?

DRCSHADE: What?

Oh.

Shit.

JENI: Is there anything else I can help you with today?

DRCSHADE: That’s it? My team are completely incapacitated because someone was impersonating YOUR operative!

JENI: That’s not our fault, Dr Shade.

DRCSHADE: I’m going to the laser room.

JENI: It does say in our terms and condit

DRCSHADE: Can you hear buzzing? It’s warming up RIGHT NOW.

JENI: Let me just speak to my supervisor.

DRCSHADE: Good idea.

JENI: Thank you for waiting. My supervisor says that as a gesture of goodwill, she will extend your MediHench membership for an extra month for free.

DRCSHADE: Do you know how much a zettawatt is, Jeni? It’s a LOT.

JENI: And send another medico out to treat your henchpeople, of course.

DRCSHADE: My finger’s over the button, Jeni. And my button works, believe me.

JENI: Er, we can offer you a $20 Yangtze gift certificate?

DRCSHADE: …

… and the extra month and the free treatment?

JENI: Of course.

DRCSHADE: all right then.

JENI: I’ll arrange it immediately. You have a flamingood day, now!

DRCSHADE: Hey, wait a mi

~ WEBCHAT SESSION ENDED ~


Author’s notes
Have you ever had one of those webchat coversations where you started to lose the will to live two minutes in? Yeah, me too.

Also, flamingoes seem to be very fashionable right now but just look at those eyes. They’re planning something, I’m telling you.


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© Kat Day 2019

A Tower of Cards

I’m building a tower of cards.

Layer after layer, resting on those below.

Supporting those above.

Surfaces shimmering with lambent light.

At the base is Temperance, wings outstretched as she stands,

one foot in water and one on land.

In the middle is the Magician, creating at his altar.

And at the top is the World: naked, and watched.

Why build so high? they ask.

Because, I say, I want to reach the Star.

What if one of these cards is creased? What if it’s frail?

Yes, Towers sometimes fall, I say.

But I think,

I’ve built this,

to prevail.


Author’s notes
This is a drabble that accidentally poemed. But it is still exactly 100 words long. And it RHYMES. Well, in places. Please don’t give me a lecture on tarot meanings 😉


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© Kat Day 2019

Spears and Marbles

Eria wriggled her fingers and let them drift across the wooden countertop. It was warm in the shop. She looked longingly at the door.

Obligingly, it opened, letting in a draft of ice-tinged air.

A man ducked under the lintel and stomped in, snow falling from his boots. His body was huge, almost too big for his tattooed head. He wore armour made of dark leather padded with sheepskin. A battle-axe hung from his belt.

‘Hello,’ said Eria, ‘how may I help you today?’

He looked at her. ‘Where’s the old man?’ he grunted.

‘I’m minding the shop for Master Winga.’

‘You’re a child.’

Eria ran her hands down the front of her dress as though brushing away dust and nodded thoughtfully. ‘I’m older than I look,’ she said.

There was a sound from the back room. The man narrowed his eyes.

‘Master Winga will be several hours, at least,’ said Eria. ‘You can wait, of course, but I am more than able to help you.’

‘Give me that spear up there,’ said the man eventually, tipping his chin upwards. She turned to follow his gaze. The spear had been hung horizontally and ran almost the full length of the back wall. Its head was diamond-shaped, forged from reddish metal, and behind it sat wicked barbs which would make it impossible to remove from a wound without catastrophic damage.

‘Big fight?’ she asked.

‘Dragon.’

‘Have you got any identification?’

‘Huh?’

‘That spear is a dangerous weapon. I can’t sell it to just anyone.’

The man pulled out a leather pouch turned it over so that its contents spilled across the countertop. The gold glinted in the light. ‘Here’s my identification.’

‘I’m sorry,’ said Eria. ‘I need to see some paperwork. Have you got a dragon-hunting licence?’

‘A what?’

‘A dragon-hunting licence.’

‘No! What is this nonsense? I am the Warrior Philip Elfweard and–‘

Eria made a tiny snorting noise. He glared at her.

‘Give me the spear, impudent child, or I shall take it for myself!’ he thundered, drawing his axe.

‘Why waste time asking for things in the first place if you can just take what you want?’ she asked calmly, catching his eyes with hers.

‘It is– It is not–‘ His voice faded. She saw smoke and flames and tasted metal and salt. Underneath it all, though, was the scent of lavender, a song, and a child’s laughter.

Eria had a knack for seeing things in people’s eyes.

She reached into the pocket of her dress. ‘I think your daughter will like these,’ she said, holding up her hand.

Eyes still locked on hers, Philip reached out and took one of the objects she held. It was a perfect, green sphere with a graceful swirl of gold in its centre.

She blinked and his eyes snapped to the marble he was holding. It sparkled as he turned it. ‘How did you know I have a daughter?’ he asked, after a moment.

‘Lucky guess,’ said Eria, lightly. ‘I made these myself,’ she added. ‘I’m good with glass.’

He nodded.

‘I won’t sell you the spear,’ said Eria. ‘The dragon doesn’t deserve to have her eye pierced. And you,’ she continued quickly as she saw him start to speak, ‘don’t want to be so badly burned by her flame that your daughter screams every time she looks at you.’

‘The reward…’ he started, but tailed off as he stared at the marble he was still holding.

‘There are greater rewards than money.’

#

Eria waited for a several minutes after he had left before she turned and walked into the back room. She untied Master Winga from his chair and removed the gag. He spluttered and cursed, but she laid her hand on his arm and caught his eyes, and he calmed soon enough.

She left the old man’s shop and stood outside the door. She shivered and stretched, breathing in the chill air and bathing in the red-gold rays of the sunset.

After a moment, her skin began to shift from human softness to something harder and glossier. Wings burst from her back, the joints in her arms and legs clicked and snapped into new positions, her neck lengthened.

A gout of flame shot from her jaws and hit, with extreme precision, a nearby rock. It melted into a glassy puddle.

The dragon dropped from the mountain edge and caught a thermal, hovering in the clear air. She watched the tiny figure walk down the mountainside for a few moments. Then, finally, she headed home.


Author’s notes
I really want a set of dragon marbles.


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The Last of the Eggs

broken eggI used the last of the eggs today. I scrambled them. They were delicious.

Afterwards I put more duct tape around the front door. I couldn’t help looking through the little square of frosted glass, it’s like scratching a mosquito bite. The blurry shape was in the same place. So his body is still there. I think.

I found an old copy of War of the Worlds on the shelf in the spare bedroom. Actually, I didn’t so much find it as stop avoiding it. I’ve read everything else. Monsters used to be big things, in the old stories. Big, and easy to hide from.

The house is stuffy. Not surprising, since I’ve sealed every window and door. Air still gets in. I don’t know exactly how, but I can breathe. I don’t think they can get in, though. It’s been days, there’s no sign of silver trails.

I want to breathe cold air.

I know there are some other people left. Trouble is, even if they flew right overhead, they wouldn’t know I’m here.

I had to push him out there. It was too late. He had streaks of silver where veins should be, and eyes like mirrors. They’d only have got to me. I scrubbed everything, afterwards. With the bleach spray we had under the sink for vomiting bugs. God, I hated those. Every October, regular as clockwork, someone would start throwing up and then, bam, the whole house would come down with it.

I’d give anything to be cleaning up puke again.

I wonder if I can get up to the roof? And how long I could stay outside?

I got a bed sheet and painted it with the leftover gloss paint we had from the front door. The smell gave me a headache. Use in a well-ventilated area, the tin says. Hah.

I went out of the window in the attic room backwards, my arse dangling over the sill. I reasoned that if I fell at least it’d be quick. I managed to throw the weighted sheet so it caught. They should be able to see it.

I heard helicopters. They didn’t stop. But maybe they’re planning something.

There’s a bruise on my belly. It looks like a fresh blackberry. I probably did it crawling out of the window.

I woke up in the night with a craving so intense it felt like my brain was on fire. To be high, on a mountain, where the air is thin but clean. Untainted. To shout my name and hear it come back to me.

My belly aches. The bruise is low, under where my skin sags. I can only really see it in the mirror. The beautiful, silvery mirror.

My skin seems brighter today. It almost glints in the light.

I heard the helicopters again. I’m sure they’ve seen my sign. They’re only working out what to do.

Next time I hear them, I’m going out of the window.

At least it will be quick.


Author’s notes
This is quite an old story that I wrote for a Pseudopod flash fiction competition. It did quite well, but it’s one of those pieces where people say ‘I want to know more about….’ and the thing is, I like it like this. Sometimes the most horrific thing is not knowing.


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© Kat Day 2019