Vice Grip – Excerpt 2

(A second excerpt from my short story inspired by Alistair Macleod)

My eyes cracked open in the dawn to arrows of light that blinded and a sleepy silence that yawned. My socks padded softly on the timber floor as I crept to the door and put my ear to it; nothing. The metal of the door handle was cold to my touch as I twist it gently. I often think of the black pincers created by the earth and how they must grapple with and navigate such tricky objects. I crept past my grandparent’s bed, the blankets sighing with the breath of my grandmother, but heaped and mountainous where my grandfather was not. Once I had reached the main room with its smouldering fireplace, I was concerned; grandfather wasn’t in his usual spot, rocking before the embers and warming his grisly fingers. But the room was too light, last night’s snow-smothered windows now clear but for a small sheet of white that stretched, dripping, pitifully across the outside sills. Slipping on some shoes and opening slowly the heavy and formidable door, the warm and rejuvenating fingers of spring pried open the cold furnace of my heart and breathed life into it.

It was only half open when I glimpsed him, crouching by the wild flowers that had survived the snows of winter. His blue eyes were gazing intently at something clinging to one of the stems, its weight causing the plant to waver and sway. He was perfectly still, and I saw the tender blossoms of spring were seeded in him too. His cruel hook of a hand extended towards the tiny creature, black with the vast and total darkness of subterranean flues. My heart fluttered when I saw the delicate bird he reached for; its twig bones and feathers full of the lightness of air would be crushed by the hard, aggressive and jagged ridges of his harshness. The small pricks of light that were its eyes seemed hesitant, as it tilted its head this way and that, nervous and scared, but still his hand was sure. Neither of the two saw me, locked in the flirtatious and curious dance of their courting. He offered up his gnarled claw once more, and I was sure that the bird could not touch its blackness, or ride upon those rocky projections without being corrupted in some terrible way.


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