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Fingers still nimble, his help was innumerable to mother’s embroidery; he drifted towards it effortlessly, a wayward gull returning to Port. ‘Quiet… still’ was Mother Sheila’s initial observation, unclouded by personal hopes. Not a miner by nature, but a good boy.
The bulging, fleshy scar on his temple went unnoticed as he grew into an angular lad, quietened by the Ruckus that seemingly trailed mining men. Still shadow-like, but of a stature loud enough to camouflage himself in the Cacophony. Mining, dutifully thrusted into his wide, thickened palms, caused the ongoing, intrusive Racket to eventually settle into him. A charred pit of land to bury unwanted bodies in. A handy tool to keep Silent with. Particularly now he had been big enough to fend them off a dragging while. Mother Sheila only just believed his rowdiness a consequence of his heap of boyish mates, vapid as their conversations were. Boys and their toys.
Coal-smeared faces marched out the tunnels at dusk; Erik followed after his trudging Father. Suffocating heat subsided close to the exit, disappearing into thin air at the surface. Spikes of bitterly-cold breeze greeted caked skin, ghoulish by failing lantern light. Trotting echoed behind and out emerged Arks of animals that too toiled away, choiceless, underground. Canaries, ponies, loyally accompanying their masters, came lurking from the cavern.
Blackened and wheezing.
Erik glanced down at his new, warbling, fluttering equipment, settled inside a cramped cage. A singed wing and blazing yellow body; a pretty music-maker.
His hands, smoother and softer when handling the bird, never failed to stroke its ruffled, matted feathers, feeding completed kindly and slowly. Mother Sheila’s puzzled remarks were few and far between. What’s that bird of his like? Least he’s not as much of a trouble-maker.
Sheila sat stately in cottage corners sewing and thumbing threads, needles, buttons and pins silently. Unwaverable. Her quiet, uninterrupted by rude tumult, was unchangeable, intentional and beautiful. Erik’s Silence, as persistent as It was, was ugly; banished by substanceless, sterile exchanges between himself and others. It had no place in keeping him workable. No right to madden him.
When her mighty lungs weakened underground, her twittering withered. Silence invaded: a haunting reminder that what you cannot see could still kill you.
Out the miners went.
As Noah’s animals returned to stables and cages, Erik gently clasped his companion, offering her flight, rest and feed. She was delicate, perched on his index. She probably wishes I were a tree.
He gazed at the ceiling; the flitting, yellow bundle of feathers dotted between each wall. Carefree. Joyous. The reigning Silence’s iron-grip loosened. He gasped for air, croaking; everything that happened suddenly seized his throat.
Was he drowning or resurfacing?
The lofty figure swung himself upwards, hunching over his bedding; his bird flittered and halted beside him. Cautiously wiping away the evidence from his face, he invited her into his palm. A weary smile broke into his expression.
Sprawling, orange streaks of dawn soon brushed his roof.
And In the miners went.
The Witchy Potion
My breath found its elliptical pace when Zoya chased me around the house.
“You! Get back here!” She barked like a rabid dog. I had used one of her clownish red lipsticks as a crayon— her prized pick for parties that sends her back home hungover. Her mirror was the canvas where I scribbled “GUMMY BEAR THEEEF!” (I think my handwriting had improved since my preparatory days). She did steal my bag-of-gummies that I had safely hidden under my pillow.
“I’m on my period, you little nugget! I have cravings!” She debated her reason.
“You didn’t ask my permission!” I bellowed, hiding behind my mother’s skirt.
“I don’t need permission from a three-foot leprechaun!”
“Girls, behave. Or else I’ll flush the rest of your candy if you keep up with this catfight.” Mum spat her verdict which didn’t exactly simmer down my rage over Zoya’s condescending name-calling nature. This three-foot leprechaun was hellbent on reigning her unfinished vengeance upon the Candy Witch. All she needed to do was wait for the right time when Zoya left to get wasted with her friends— a delinquent teen.
My next weapon of target was her charcoal juice of a perfume. I called it The Witchy Potion though it smelled of sweet bubblegum that jacuzzi’d with peaches. I sneezed when I squeezed the little pump snaked around it. I pump-sprayed all the vacant rooms, even the veranda was not an exempt. It defiled the fresh air for sure, but I didn’t care. As the bottle reached its half-empty limit, a little voice inside my head said, “Sprinkle some on yourself! Wear your badge of vengeance with pride!” I wanted my eyeballs to smell nice. My mind imagined an unlikely scenario where people greeted one another by sniffing each other’s eyes. Maybe in another universe, but not this one. Or maybe this could be a trend that I’ll be popular for. But synthetic chemicals are cruel. The potion was rather acid. Eyeballs on fire! It felt like insects with wiggly little feet were biting my retina off from the sockets. I was convinced that from now on I will lead my life without the perks of sight. No more cartoons, no more flipping through the pages of my favorite picture books, no more art class. I screamed so loud that it echoed through the neighborhood. I heard my mum rushing toward my cry of terror.
“What did you do!?” She panic-screamed. I wailed like an infant, first in fear and then in anger. Now, the only sound that bounced in my mind was Zoya’s victorious cackle, “You aren’t ripe enough for revenge, dumbass!” As my imagination put the puzzle pieces together of how she would rejoice at my failed attempt, my balled fists drummed on the floor as my scream ricocheted a screech of rage over letting Zoya win without lifting a finger.