Prey

by Myfanwy Collins Read author interview March 15, 2006
story art

There is not a great deal of light.

She lives at the bottom of a hill, in a valley of sorts. The sun goes down early. In the summer, it is behind the three big oak trees by 5PM. Without this light is a depression or an excuse to have cocktails earlier and earlier. By December, the glasses and ice were coming out at 3:59PM in anticipation of 4PM and darkness.

She remembered smoking on a stairwell, watching as rain fell somewhere in the distance. Rain sliced down. Glasgow in December with the rain whispering down, the gray-light, white cloud sky, the three seconds of sunlight each day.

Not so different from where she was then, in this dark, wet place called home. Living in a bog, spongy earthed, sodden. From a lake, comes a meadow, comes a forest. There is a natural progression to these things. In one part of the forest on their walk is a sort of meadow filled with saplings. Soon, he tells her, this will be a forest.

There is also a stream they pass over. Dark, rocky, brooding. She is scared to walk there because it is near the dump and she fears that animals are nearby, searching for food, for prey.

In this bog, there are toads, moss, and spiders. The spiders invaded in May and stuck. Daddy Longlegs clung to the clapboards like starfish. The webs of lesser spiders in every windowsill. At first she thought that each week she would need to whisk them out with her broom, but as summer progressed and the rain fell, it became an everyday search.

The spiders, the ants, the slugs were everywhere. But there were also the fireflies, flicking on here and there in the edges of the forest on hot June nights. And there were dragonflies, high and higher in the dusk-light looking for the last mosquitoes before the bats came out.

Everyone hid when the bats came out. Afraid of claws tangled in hair, afraid of rabies dripping down. Afraid of their mousey, doggy faces that could be sweet but were ugly, but were mute. Their pointy ears, frisking, twitching.

#

Once there was a girl who poked a bat on the sidewalk with a stick. It was daylight, the creature desperate and dying on the hot ground. She poked it once, twice and its pink mouth opened revealing white piranha teeth. She flicked the thing onto the grass with her stick. On its back it pushed with its elbows until it managed to turn over but still could not fly. It edged across the grass to the shadows.

The bat is more scared of you than you are of it, the mother said. The bat is a helpful creature. It eats insects. Remove it safely. Do not kill it.

But she wanted it dead, wanted it gone. Those teeth. The furry ears, not benevolent. The blind eyes, the chalky squeak.

#

The sound of the hawk when he is hunting is almost a squeak but more like a squeal or a scream. The sound of the owl at night. One long and two short. One long and two short. Almost like a huffing sound.

The huffing sound of a bear. Didn’t know if she had actually heard it before. With her sister, in the woods once when she pushed back a branch near the pump house and heard a huff, huff. Then ran. Down the hill, through the branches. Back home.
Of course, you should not run, they say. This makes the predatory instinct kick in. You are fleeing. You are prey.

#

The light drops through in chunks now. Through the heavy pine trees and onto the spongy ground. They could cut cubes out of the forest floor and make a sod house. Could live in their backyard in their very own sod house and could burn the sod in their very own sod house fireplace. They would likely be safe there.

About the Author:

Myfanwy Collins has work published or forthcoming in Kenyon Review, AGNI, Cream City Review, Potomac Review, Saranac Review, Quick Fiction, FRiGG, Mississippi Review, Monkeybicycle, and Jabberwock Review. Please visit her at: http://www.myfanwycollins.com.