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.
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.