Short Story Share
The aerial acrobatics of the house martins alert me to the coming sunset. I see the swift shadow of the first flight emblazoned like a burn mark on the far wall. There must be a tear in the masking paper at the big window. My heart skips a beat.
Once, long ago, I saw myriad swallows spiral and swoop across a vast African reed bed. They pas de deuxed with air currents then pirouetted down to quench their thirst in the lake below. My shaded eyes drank in their Spitfire antics, my body ablaze with the wonder of it all. But that was before.
Still the swallows signal the arrival of the dark of day. Dusk, the shadier twin to twilight. Most people quiver at the setting of the sun. You can’t rightly blame them. The earth rotates, the tiniest bit, about 6º or so. Snap. Day into night. Corners consumed by shadow. And in the shadows… nameless lurking things.
The battery alert beeps on my catheter. Time to recharge. I can watch the swallow swirl on my Autumn Watch monitor in the medical supply bay while I’m plugged in. They’ll be clearing house soon, heading back to where I originally came from. How I’ll miss them.
While some worship the sun I long for dusk. Lust for it. In the long bright hours between sunrise and sunset I lurk in hand-crafted shadows of my own making. In training to be a creature of the night I flitter between, avoiding cracks of light.
While I anticipate the lengthening of my shadows, somewhere in a jungle a panther yawns, flexes its back just like its domesticated cousin. Slinks back to its lair. In another wilderness a Tasmanian devil screeched defiance at the moon’s silvery sliver. How I envy them. If time travel were a reality I could have shared in many dusks.
Bzzzzz! He always presses the buzzer even though he has a key. I appreciate the thoughtfulness. Sometimes I need a moment to compose my features, hide the despair the mirror shows me sitting too near the surface. I should be more grateful. It’s not as if a cure isn’t in the making.
“Your plasma delivery Milady.” He holds the cooler bag aloft as though taunting me. “Go on, jump. See if you can grab it.”
I know he doesn’t say these words. It’s my sick imagination.
Brushing past me he stores my doctored blood supply in the fridge. “The Professor wants to know if you’re up for another go at the repigmentation.”
“Why doesn’t he ask me himself?”
I know the answer but want to hear him say it. But I catch a glimpse of the free-wheeling martins on the monitor. A hard ball clogs my throat so I bark out to release it. “Does he think I’m stupid? I’m a researcher. I’ve got Google! A pointless treatment designed to appease. It gives false hope!” I hear the scalpel in my tone, try to blunt it. Why must I always antagonise? I need my plasma. Need him to deliver it. Ever since his visits I’ve felt the treatment working. Tiny increments to be true. But working. Only this morning I bared my forearm to a shaft of light and welcomed the hives which have replaced the suppurating blisters. That’s progress.
I edge towards an apology. But then.
“Oh my god. When did you do this?” He’s staring at the monitor where the house martins weft and weave. “I saw a documentary once. You know, swallows, hibernating in Africa for the winter. Incredible.” His flattened out hands mimic the dip and roll of the birds in flight.
And suddenly as our eyes meet he’s no longer my superhero Plasma Delivery Man.
I flick a switch to bring up camera 2 and the shy vixen from next door snorts onto screen.
“Was that a bat?” He rests his butt against the sink unit.
“Yup. There’s a colony in the church belfry.”
His lips twitch when a hedgehog waddles in stage left.
“Cup of tea?”
He nods, eyes glued to the screen even as he moves to my vacated chair.
I turn my back so he doesn’t see my eyes glisten. I busy myself with kettle, mugs and biscuit tin. “Number 63 has rats. I’ve dropped a note through the letterbox, but I don’t suppose they’ll do anything about it.”
“Maybe you should call the council. That’s a health hazard.”
“It doesn’t have to be. One kestrel for their knave and all would be sorted.”
He chuckles. I’m gratified he got the reference. Tea tray in hand I stare down at his circle of bald patch and feel huge affection for this receding spot I’ve never had the pleasure of observing before.
Chocolate digestive crumbs on a plate and two empty cups later we’re talking wildlife documentaries voiced by David Tennant. Once he’s gone, after I’ve pumped plasma through my system, I’ll venture out to set up another motion camera or two.