Saturday 24 June 2017

'Daylight' by Tim Stevenson

In the quiet hour before dawn there was a ‘plink’ and then darkness.
Mary swore.
Across her desk taxidermy leapt, bright-eyed in the second life she’d given them. These early mornings were stolen time, when she could work in peace without the squeamish complaints of her family.
She opened a drawer and found the box for the replacement bulb. She pulled it out and shook it.
She tilted her lamp, angling it so she could grip the cooling glass and twist.
Inside the delicate balloon of blue, the filament hung limp, molten ends quivering at the slightest touch.
“Make do and mend,” Mary thought.
She cracked the glass, swept the pieces into a bag, and examined the bare wires
“So, all I need is something between them and…”
She looked up lightbulbs and, reading very carefully, tied a single grey hair into place and watched it melt, filling the room with stink.
Upstairs she heard soft footsteps. She closed the drawers, and covered her desk with a sheet.
After breakfast and slamming doors, Mary made herself a cup of tea and read about lightbulbs and LEDs, lasers and lighthouses. The word ‘lenses’ caught her attention.
In a box by her feet, the body of a fox rested, its fur tight to its body, waiting for her to bring it back to life.
Mary stared at it as the idea formed.
Taking a scalpel, she split the plastic. The russet fur sprang up, the white-flecked tips rippling.
The head had a strong jaw, lips parted slightly as if a final snarl was waiting to escape.
Mary stroked the brow.
What she needed was an eye.
Her scalpel slid beneath the skin. The eye, now in a saucer, gleamed.
She took fine wire and formed a simple cradle, and slotted the eye into place.
She pressed the switch.
There was a hiss as this new filament hissed then glowed red.
There was a pulse, like a blink.
A cone of midnight burst out the lamp, a blue shadow stark against the morning.
She could see grass where the night touched her desk. The stems held dew and a faint hint of colour.
Then the darkness moved.
In the moonlight the grass sped past, the viewpoint low, focussed.
A rabbit bursts into view, bloodied and desperate, its face a blur of red.
She sees its mouth open, imagines the scream, the blood, the snap of death.
And again, the running, the white flecked terror around the rabbit’s mouth.
Again, the claw marks have torn the hind legs open.
The taxidermy stared back, their straw bodies all that’s left. Their lives were the hunt, speed, blood, not this rebuilt mockery.
After school, the children were happy to see her workshop empty, and later still her husband asked what had happened.
“Once I saw, I burned it all,” she said.
The flames had danced with fearsome light, as if what was burnt was free once more, and swift shadows leapt across the lawn.


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