Written by: Veerpal Kaur
She first sees the bird as shadow against shimmer, black against shifting colour, stretching its wings. It makes her think of Liszt in his topcoat and tails, arms raised before the cymbal crash.
It watches her, and in the pinprick light of its avian eye she recognizes transition. She saw the same in Frédéric’s when they said goodbye—“and take that disgusting cigar with you, Aurore,” he had said, to hide emotion—as the skeletal hand that had entranced the world reached feebly for the water glass, or possibly the grave. The cold Paris night was kissed with colour as she stepped outside, a new story dancing at the edges of her mind.
Caterpillars come in mid-September. Green-brown backs sectioned off with black rings around their torsos. White fuzz jutting out in erratic tufts, like madmen. They cover our porch, writhing about on the wooden planks, piling onto the welcome mat, inching towards the front door. Impatient guests. Careless, we squish them between our toes like grapes. First, we feel the prickle of the hairs, then the gumminess of their spineless bodies as we press down, waiting for the hesitation, the pause, the apex of the worm’s life, and then the release, a yellow-green bile oozing out of their ends, which sticks in the space between our toes. Many find refuge on our front door and survive our reckless sortie. Father welcomes them inside. Tradition: Father opens the door and leaves it to gently swing in the autumn gusts until the worms have all made their trek inside. He lures them in with piles of newspapers and cases of our mother’s decaying books, nesting grounds and plant matter for the selfish worms. They spin their webs about the …
She wished that he would stop trying to give her things. He was shuffling through his unpacked possessions, producing items as makeshift gifts. She assured him that she did not want his half-used bottle of deodorant, nor did she want his copy of “The Communist Manifesto”. Most of the items were presented as a joke, but others were objects she knew he held dear. He loved the scarf that he had just tossed over her neck. Swirls of silver and moonbeam blue. A pashmina that he wore only with the navy overcoat. The coat that would surely become the staple of his wardrobe up north. She anchored her gaze onto the hardwood floors, focusing on the slants of light striking the hall flooding from his bedroom. It was an excellent way of dodging the tension she felt rise in her chest when she made eye contact with him. Pulling the fabric from her neck, she chucked it at him and the fine threads clung to his right shoulder blade with autumn static. She focused back …
The clock says 1 a.m. I’ve been clutching my Winchester for three solid hours now. I know it isn’t much but it makes me feel a little safer. I made the meanest man alive very mad today. It had to happen. Some things in life you just don’t walk away and say nothing.
Last year walk away is what I would have done; it’s weird how fast a person can change. I got stronger though. I don’t feel much stronger right now, but I know I am, at least in the mind if not in the body too.
You wake up. Your eyes are closed. You feel a tug, and now you are being held up. Your eyes blink, open for the first time, but you see only nonsense. There are sounds, but you can’t really hear them, just an undifferentiated mess. You see blackness, a bit of greyish light as you are passed around.