The water pressed in at him from all sides, cold and suffocating. He forced his eyes open, they burned with cold and slowly adjusted to the minimal light. He looked around frantically for the key hoping it wasn’t out of reach on the ocean floor. He could see nothing on the bottom the river sludge had been too stirred up and rose shifting in clouds. Then a tiny stream of bubbles caught his eye. He kicked down his muscles and lungs screaming. The chain attached to his leg catching and pulling at him and his body telling him to go the other way. His hands grazed the bottom. He scrambled for something to grab hold of to keep himself there. Something sharp snagged his fingers and then they touched something that felt right. He was losing consciousness and desperate to breath in but knew he couldn’t. He somehow fumbled the key into the lock at his ankle and breathed in turning the key as he chocked. He rose no longer held down by the concreate and chains. His head broke the surface. He spewed water coughing and gaging. He thrashed his way to the far bank. Spewed more water and collapsed on the rocks. He didn’t even have the energy to find amusement in the fact they’d thrown the key in first to taunt him with hope only to throw him on top of it and leave. They were overconfident and now they would pay for it. When he had a little more energy anyway.
‘He’s right behind me isn’t he,’ I asked.
‘Actually he’s right in front of you,’ she said.
‘What were?’ I asked looking around and checking behind me just in case.
‘He’s the cat,’ she said.
The cat who had been stalking up and down the coffee table, arched its back and hissed at her.
‘Sorry Dad,’ she said, ‘but he would have found out eventually.’
‘Don’t tell me he’s a shape shifter,’ I groaned.
‘I’m sorry,’ I said to the cat, ‘I shouldn’t have talked about you behind your back but you shouldn’t have been eavesdropping.’
The cat yowled at me and stalked out of the room. A minute later a tall ginger haired man stalked into the room.
‘You should be more careful with your words young man,’ he said, ‘especially if you want to keep seeing my daughter.
Every way she turned there was something reflecting her. She’d catch glimpses of her face, her legs or the whole of herself. Often it gave her a fright she didn’t connect to the person in the mirror. It wasn’t that she wasn’t self-aware it was the person reflected in the mirror was not who she was. It was like seeing herself in a costume she had forgotten she had put on. She tried not to look in mirrors for the most part but here she couldn’t avoid them. She was trapped in a house full of mirrors.
The roof was also the walls, it sloped up making a triangle at either end of two long walls. Trees hugged either side, stretching branches to arch over the roof, providing both shade and camouflage. Most people didn’t even notice it was there. The strange shaped house was cosy and deserted. He crept up and peered through the window between the almost closed curtains. Everything was covered in dust and cobwebs. No one had been inside for months. He tried the door it was locked but the key was buried in a pot plant. He crept inside and looked around. He would make it his if no one returned, it was perfect.
‘What are you?’ I asked.
‘An angel,’ he said, ‘I guess that’s what you would call me.’
I stared at me dubiously. He had bright blue hair, and was covered in intricate Celtic-knot tattoos. He was wearing jeans and a black T-shirt. His wings were huge and white the feathers gleamed in the moonlight.
‘Nice tats,’ I said at last.
He glanced down at his arm, ‘Thanks,’ he said after a pause.
‘What are you doing down here?’ I asked.
‘I fell…’ he said.
‘What did you do?’ I asked.
‘I fell in love with you,’ he said.
‘But we just met,’ I said.
‘But I was watching over you,’ he said.
Then he stepped forward and kissed me. I went to pull back in surprise and then let myself melt into the kiss. His arms went around my waist and I felt his wings enfold us in our own private cacoon. He pulled away for a second and I sighed contentedly.
‘So was it because you fell for a human or a man?’ I asked.
‘Because you are human,’ he said, ‘we are not to love any of you more than the rest.’
‘So gender has nothing to do with it?’ I asked.
‘No and it’s never been a problem,’ he said, ‘humans always like to make up random shit that should be deemed sinful.’
‘You swore,’ I said incredulous.
‘Yeah so,’ he said, ‘I already fell didn’t I.’
We both laughed.
There was a knock at my door.
‘Coming Darling,’ I called.
I opened the door to find two police men standing dripping on my doorstep.
‘Mrs Hess?’ the older one asked.
‘Yes, I was expecting my husband,’ I said, ‘what is this about?’
‘May we come in?’ asked the older of the two.
‘Yes would you like a drink,’ I said politely, ‘what is this about?’
‘I think you should sit down,’ said the younger.
I sat down.
‘We are sorry to inform you that your husband is dead, his car ran off the cliff,’ said the older.
‘No your wrong he can’t have,’ I said.
‘Is this your husband?’ asked the older showing me his driver’s licence in an evidence bag.
‘Yes,’ I said starting to cry.
They stood awkwardly watching me.
‘I shouldn’t have made him go out in this weather,’ I said, ‘I shouldn’t have asked him to get me soup.’
‘It wasn’t your fault,’ said the older one.
I knew it was but I wasn’t going to tell anyone what I’d done.
‘Do you know how it happened,’ I sniffed and grabbed a tissue.
‘A truck swung onto the wrong side of the road and he swerved off the road to avoid it,’ he said.
‘I shouldn’t have asked for the soup,’ I started crying again.
What I really shouldn’t have done, what I hadn’t needed to do was sabotage the brakes, the ironic thing was he would have died tonight anyway in this random accident. The younger policeman patted my hand sympathetically while the older went to make us some tea.
The echidna waddled peacefully through the grass nosing under fallen branches and bark for insects. A larger creature skidded on rocks and loose earth and it instinctively dove for cover under a rock only leaving its spiny back exposed. It hadn’t bothered to see that made the noise just knew instinctively to find shelter before something decided to scoop it up and eat it. It waited for silence to resume then slowly extricated itself from under the rock and wandered off. It was completely unaware of the still and silent presence looming over it.
Kay peered down through the skylight at the family sitting around the table. The youngest a boy reached for the bread and one of the older girls pulled it away responding to the mother’s command. She couldn’t see a father the boys were all too young. She looked closer. The children didn’t seem at all alike but half resembled the mother in some feature. They must have different fathers she decided and they all must have left. Then the kitchen door opened. The children jumped up to great the woman who walked in, their other mother Kay realised. Kay could now see the woman’s resemblance to the other children. Kay smiled down at the family she should have known better than to assume.
The fog drifted around her. She could barely make out the trees around her or even her feet. She walked carefully knowing if she stepped off the path and into the swamp it could swallow her in seconds if she was lucky or drag her slowly down centimetre by terrifying centimetre as she struggled to free herself. She felt for the next stone with her left foot. As a child she’d been able to run along these hidden paths with her eyes shut but she hadn’t been home in years. She had never wanted to come back but now she was, one careful step at a time. She had to warn them and she was the only one who could that still cared enough.
The clouds hung grey and heavy over the hill dotted haphazardly with houses. Their size varied from tiny units to massive eight bedroom, two story giants. Trees mottled the remaining space forming green organic blobs among the red square rooves. A bird sat on a TV antenna occasionally letting out a chirp calling to the other birds. Then it took off with a clatter of feathered wings. Sief held on tight to its neck feathers. If she fell her own wings were probably still not strong enough to save her from this height, even if it was only one story. The bird finally landed. Sief quickly slid to the ground. The bird ruffled its feathers and took off again. She looked up through the broccoli leaves to watch it fly away.
Wind hissed past my ears as I ran downhill. Sticks and gravel skidded under my feet occasionally. I had to check my pace as I hurtled past trees. If I tripped they would catch me. I hadn’t seen them but I could hear them behind me their panting an echo of mine. They called for me to stop. There was no way I was stopping not with a ghost chasing me. I didn’t dare glance back at the shadowy figure. I had nearly caught up to my friends. I yelled at them to run. Then I was in the middle of them. They grabbed me asking what was wrong spinning me around.
‘Ghost,’ I panted pulling at them to run with me.
I couldn’t see them but I could hear them around the corner panting and feet slipping. Then just as my friends were starting to run the girl rounded the corner.
‘Wait,’ she panted, ‘your phone.’
We all stopped and looked back at her and my friends looked at me with looks that asked seriously that’s your ghost.
‘Thanks,’ I took my phone from her, ‘I thought you were a ghost, I’m sorry I ran.’
She smiled at me and vanished.
The apples clung to the branches in small unripe clusters. The tree was not quite leafy enough to hide them from sight. I waited expectantly for the birds to land. A crimson rosella landed, swayed for a second and tipped upside down. I leapt for its head by teeth snapped on empty air. I barked furiously as it flapped away. I lay down under the tree to wait panting a little. Another rosella landed, managing to stay upright. It sidled down the branch. I watched it carefully as the branch dipped lower under its weight. I stood up slowly muscles quivering with anticipation. I launched myself towards it jaws wide. I snapped them shut on a mouthful of feathers. I licked my mouth finding barely a trace of blood and the bird flapped away.
The pattern on the floor tiles made me dizzy. The floor looked as if it was made of dips and mounds instead of being perfectly flat. I tried not to look at it, since every time I did it made me stumble. It was difficult not to look when everything was reflected in the mirrored walls. I looked around for the door but it was reflected everywhere. Finally I spotted it and made a dash for it and tripped on a real dip in the floor. I cursed the illusionist architect who created the room and their infuriating sense of humour.
‘Really you find the great big creepy spider cute?’ I asked.
‘Yeah isn’t she adorable,’ said Jodi.
‘No,’ I shuddered.
She picked it up. It ran up her arm and down the front of her shirt. She picked it up in her hands and held it out to me.
‘Want to hold her?’ she asked.
‘No thanks,’ I said.
‘She’s harmless,’ she said.
‘Yeah well I still don’t want to hold her,’ I said.
‘Ow,’ she exclaimed, ‘she nipped me.’
‘Totally harmless,’ I laughed.
‘Shut up,’ she said putting her spider back in her tank, ‘she’s not poisonous to humans, I’m fine.’
I followed the footprints in the snow. I didn’t have any other option. I was a city girl lost in the forest and my last memory was of a bag being pulled over my head.
The footprints stopped at the stairs leading up to the log cabin. My hand shook as I knocked on the door. An old woman opened it.
‘Please I need help,’ I said though chattering teeth.
‘I was wondering if you’d turn up,’ she smiled, ‘they said you fell out of the truck, they’ve been searching for hours.’
I turned to run but she was faster and stronger, grabbing my arm and pulling me inside.
When you tell someone you have a dragon and they tell everyone. Everyone thinks you’re crazy.
Walking into school I could feel everyone staring. My dragon coiled its tail around my neck so tight I could barely breathe. I knew no one else could see it.
At lunch I sat alone under a tree. Rob sat down beside me. I glanced over at him. He twitched and rubbed his ear.
‘I can’t see your dragon but I believe you when you say it’s there,’ he said, ‘I have a goblin, it drives me crazy.’
We smiled at each other and my dragon licked my nose.
They sat holding hands on the rail of the bridge bare legs swinging.
‘Should we jump?’
‘I don’t know it’s a long way down.’
‘Other people have done it.’
‘We don’t have to.’
‘Will you think I’m a coward?’
‘No just the sensible person I fell in love with.’
‘I love you.’
‘I love you too.’
‘Let’s do it.’
‘Are you sure?’
‘Yes I trust you.’
Together they slide down so their feet were on the bridge and their arms still on the railing. Then still holding hands they jump into misty air and fell towards the river.
This is a fictional short story fragment.
Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to be a bird. To fly everywhere and see the world from above. People think birds a free but really they are just confined by different boundaries than we are. We are confined by these fences and the guards with guns but even before we were here we weren’t free. That’s what we were trying to fight for but now I see freedom is all relative. You can only be free if you think you are. Maybe that’s what people are talking about then they say the birds a free. The birds just don’t know where their freedom ends yet.
This is a fictional short story fragment.
It’s dark and cold but that’s how I like it. It makes me feel safe to be able to snuggle up in blankets. I want to stay like that and never come out. I like the feel of cold air on my face, not so cold it makes my lungs hurt but cold enough to make my nose cold to the touch. I had always wanted to live underground. It means light doesn’t wake me up in the morning. I don’t have to wait for the sun to go down to go to bed. I can have my own schedule. Well it should depend on work too but I work from home so it doesn’t matter.
I stretch and reluctantly crawl out of bed. It’s tempting to stay there all day but I need to get up and put the shade cloths up over my garden. It’s going to be hot and I can’t let the sun fry everything. I pull on shorts and a t-shirt and step into thongs. Outside it’s already starting to heat up even though the suns barely up. I turn on the pump at the tap and connect the sprinklers. I let it run while I tie up the shade cloths. I check the tomatoes and beans and pick the handful of ripe ones. There is a snail on my cauliflower. I pick it up, drop it and stand on it. It makes a satisfying squelchy crunch. I turn off the water and go back inside.
The possum sits staring at me with wide frightened eyes. It’s the size of a big rat, it’s definitely a ringtail. I should have known better than to leave the door open even for that short time. I walk towards it slowly. I get within a meter of it before it bolts. It dashes around my house knocking books, glasses, paper, pictures and stationary onto the floor as it crosses the bench. I quickly shut the door that leads to the hallway connecting to the rest of my house. Now it is at least contained in one room. I open the door that leads outside. I try to chase it towards the door but it has other ideas. It’s on my bookshelf now knocking more books and pictures onto the floor. I make another grab for it but again it evades me.
I stop chasing it. It crams itself into the space above the books on the top shelf and sits staring down at me. I get the stool and place it in front of the shelves. Then I get a cardboard box and a wooden spoon and hop up on the stool. I manage to get it into the box with only a little prodding from the spoon. Then I quickly shut the box, hop down from the stool and carry it outside. I shut the door behind me before opening the box. The possum jumps out and runs up the nearest tree vanishing from sight.
I go back inside letting out a sigh of relief. The temporary chaos and excitement that invaded my house was gone. I could relax again.
My alarm went off. I sent a hand out from the warm tangle of my sheets, across my desk to silence it. Then pulled it back in. Something felt wrong. There was extra weight on my back and my shoulders felt like they were being twisted. There was something tickling my skin under my t-shirt.
I groaned and sat up turning on my lamp. I reached around and scratched my back. That’s when I realised there were feathers and wings folded neatly under my t-shirt. My first thought was this is a cool dream. I got up and turned on the light.
I pulled the t-shirt over my head. Then I spread my wings. Controlling them was just as instinctive as moving my arms. I opened my cupboard door and my reflection stared back at me, framed by wings the same brown as my hair.
Cutting holes in the back of another t-shirt I pulled it on and managed to get the wings through without too much difficulty. The house was silent no one else was up yet, it was Saturday morning. I’d forgotten to turn my alarm off for the weekend. I slipped into the back yard.
I flapped my wings experimentally. Nothing happened, I tried again, harder. My toes left the ground. I took a run up and launched myself into the air. I was flying. I laughed this couldn’t be a dream it was too real. The cold air against my skin. The feeling of my beating wings.
I was getting higher with every stroke. I looked down the view was amazing. I had no intention of stopping but I was getting tired. Then an air current took me and I glided effortlessly. I floated, regaining my breath, only having to flap occasionally.
I looked down again, I had no idea where I was anymore. The wind was picking up. Suddenly I just wanted to go home. I tried to drop down but a huge gust of wind took me and swept me up. It was getting hard to breath. Then I blacked out.
I came to again plummeting towards the ground. I flapped desperately but it was no use I crashed into the ground and passed out again.
I opened my eyes, and was confronted with white. My head and arm were sore. I tried to sit up but was pushed gently but firmly back. I could still feel my wings under me. I looked around. I was in a hospital surrounded by curious faces, I didn’t recognise anyone.
Then a police officer arrived and shoed everyone out except one doctor. Then she turned to me.
‘What’s your name,’ she asked.
‘Felicity Windson,’ I said.
I could see she was dying to ask about the wings but was too polite to say anything just yet. I wished I had the answers. I also wished I could just go home but right now that seemed like it wouldn’t be happening for a while.