He bites down and it tastes of wolves, jaws clashing in the deep of the woods, it tastes of soured milk spilled carelessly across stone, it tastes of the copper-coin heave-inducing flatness of his own blood. He bites down, pressing his teeth together, feeling them meet in the middle. Harder, and his teeth begin to crack and splinter under the pressure. He whimpers and shrieks, voice muffled and tortured by his self-inflicted pain. The creature in his jaws squeals likewise, squalls like the sea. Strands of muscle shear through and he continues to bite down.
Sometimes all anyone wanted was to hear the rasp of the projector, the glassy sheet of film purring coolly though the gate and painting its vivid light on the wall. Some days it was all that I could think about, the thought that the darkness could be lit this way, like magic. Like stars up close.
Seed money, he called it. The few coins tossed into the violin case at the start of the day. No, the viola case. He would always correct me on that, and eventually it became our joke. How’s the violin practice going? It’s a viola, and I need as much practice as you need lessons in cheek. At that I would put whatever change I had into the case. Always I had some money, carefully preserved from whatever I’d bought earlier that morning.
She sat with me as the birds began to circle. They knew the tower; to them it was a source of fresh food, easily taken and safe from competition. Because they are birds, they never stopped to wonder why or how. Because I was like them, neither did I. It just happened. When we die, we are placed here for them. Not an offering, not a sacrifice, there is no meaning for the birds and the birds have no meaning for us. We are, in the end, meat, sinew, bone. A meal. I hope I was a feast.
“Some friend you turned out to be,” she murmured as the cameras rolled. So many; did there have to be so many cameras? The din of the film spooling through them all was overwhelming. She couldn’t think; maybe that was the idea.
I left him tied up outside the polling station while I went in to vote. The queue was short, but there were only two booths and a lot of slips of paper. More in hope than in expectation, I voted Labour all the way. I’m dyed-in-the-wool, I’ll never change and it almost doesn’t matter what the party does. Is that wrong?
Oh isn’t this nice?” said Mole, tickling round the last nested table with a duster. “All clean for Spring.”
“It’s snowing,” observed Weasel. He sipped at his tea. “It’s been snow, hail, thunder, rain… Call this Spring?”
“Yes,” said Mole, firmly. “Spring is a season of surprises. Imagine a Spring that was just one type of weather all the way through! Heavens, we’d be bored of sunshine.” Mole thought about Summer, so bright it was impossible to look out of his molehill without heavy sunglasses.
“Well, I could get used to it,” Weasel picked up a biscuit. “I enjoy sunshine. Keeps my fur dry and sleek.” Mole sighed. Weasel would never agree with him, not once. He disagreed just to be disagreeable.
“Was there are reason for your visit, Weasel?” In irritation, Mole found a pile of teatowels that he started unfolding in order to refold. “Was it just to drink tea and discuss the weather?”
“I have business in this part of the wood,” Weasel’s drawling voice was setting Mole’s teeth on edge. “It may concern you, you know. It may interest you to know that…” A noise interrupted the conversation at this point. A huge thump shook dirt from the ceiling.
“I JUST CLEANED THAT!” screamed Mole.
“Ah,” said Weasel. “I think it may have begun. Surprise!”
Yes. He sat back and looked around at the house. Neat and tidy. Clean. Swept top to bottom and left to right. Nothing… he jumped, and peered at a lamp. No, not done.
He sprang from the chair and flew to the table on which there stood a small desk lamp. Clicking the power off, he reached in and unscrewed the bulb. Few years ago, he thought, I’d have burnt my fingers.
He held the bulb up to the window and turned it over. What was he lookiing for? Hard to tell these days, but he knew he woud know it when he saw it. He swiped at the bulb with a duster, then ran a finger round the socket. It came back dusty but otherwise there was nothing to see.
Can’t be too careful, he thought, screwing the bulb back in. Never know who’s listening and to what. Don’t give them a chance to hear, Still, a clean sweep for devices meant no-one was trying to listen to him. But… Wait.
“He find the device?” asked the man in the truck parked just around the corner.
“Nothing,” his female partner looked pleased with herself.
“Dammit, he’s got to find SOMETHING, he’s expecting us to be watching everyone. He’s a mole, he’s going to be EXTRA paranoid,” He thought about it. “With reason. No dummy?”
“There’s a dummy! He just hasn’t found it. I think,” she added quietly. “He’s not as good at cleaning up after himself as he thinks.”
I’d never intended to become a butcher. Frankly, the smell of raw meat repulsed me. I was a delicate child, and the thought of handling animal carcasses all day filled me with a kind of visceral horror. But the inertia of reality prevailed and when the time came I inherited my father’s spotless white apron, and the name “Webber and Sons” ceased to have real meaning.
The phone didn’t so much ring as bleat, a shrilling electronic honking accompanied by a steady pulse of light. Emergency. Come quick. Pick up the phone. In daylight, or on a clear night, it meant as much as a night-time projection on the clouds.