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Baby birds

By Science Hooker, Mar 24 2016 01:12PM

A scribble I did that won the 15th Word Hut writing competition (2015)

Amina sat alone with her thoughts, swimming in them like bitter sweet syrup. The tension formed by a quiet rustling maelstrom of pressurised emotion and well camouflaged feelings uncoiled and stretched by the warmth and safety of the solitude.

The bruises danced, twirled and pirouetted in wild style spanning ankles to forehead, painting her like some tattooed Māori, the violent freshness of some juxtaposed the dusked whispers of others, tales of bygone force; the tattooist worked in stages.

There was no weeping. Tears did not accompany her into this obscure martyrdom, at least not for long. Such pleasant acts of healing catharsis had long since evaporated from her soul and only the dry ache remained, deep in her chest, like a baby bird, wanting out.

She could leave, of course. She wasn’t incapable, nor too weak to stand up to her tormentor. Help lines and social workers abounded. No shortage of charities greedily feasted upon such pristine samples of abused wretchedness, like vultures squabbling for ownership of the righteous indignation available. Crosses, Aums, wheels and waning moons all vying with each other replete with advertising and cross marketing to preen their sense of worth by acting as saviour. The power of philanthropy by definition contains power hence invariably attracting rank upon serried rank of broken and hungry aspirant heroic liberators, junkies desperately craving the ego hit that mercy and benevolence temporarily deliver. No. Her energy and worth were devoured enough, without inviting more to the table.

Even Pavlov underestimated the nature of sound. A purring engine and chattering gravel instigated unchecked spinal shivers, dread weights thudding once again upon her mind. She needn’t even peek through netted drapes to know it was him, HIM, though she looked nevertheless, if only to reassure that her daughter Hanaâ was with HIM. She was all that mattered in this terrible, brutal equation of people. The imminent return hastened her mind to coalesce and clamber ungainly from the pool of reverie it had been wallowing in, dripping sticky puddles of remnant thought upon the hard floor of reality as she swiftly towelled and daubed her inner self to numb repose before the door opened and it all came flooding in.

A tagine was simmering on the stove, tantalising wafts of cooked olive, lemon, prune and chicken converged with the delightful pungency of freshly baked wholemeal bread. It wouldn’t help. It would not ameliorate the coming wave. Defence lay in resignation only, of adept non-provocation. Hard gained experience demonstrated that cheery greetings in the face of hostility were futile, and that the best she could hope for was muted inanimateness and unnoticed utility; for furniture at least is rarely hated to vicious excess. It never worked though. Her responses, however muffled, would invariably draw ire and wrath.

As the tattooist began HIS work in earnest, a child scurried to sit in her wardrobe as was her want during these incomphrehensible spectacles of adult ritual. Unchangingly familiar icons floated upon the white ghostly glare of a smart phone, the permanence of the branding providing an absurd yet remarkably effective succour to the unstable chaos of life beyond the wardrobe door. The ability to ‘like’ something or not was reassuring testament that her thoughts upon things mattered; the crashes and thuds next door notwithstanding. Hanaâ still missed Morocco with passion, and had never wanted, never chose, any of this. No one had asked her. No one had asked if she wanted to come to a place where the sun had died amidst the perennial drizzle. No one had asked if she liked the man who had so rudely seized upon her world, with his whirlwind of money and promises. Anger intertwined with resentment and marinated on a slow simmer towards her mother’s conviction that passports, schools and futures outweigh sunshine, friends and a joyful present. It burnt her feelings, scorching away smiles to hear that all this extant hell was for her benefit. The idea that being snatched away to faraway lands by a monster would be ‘worth it’ for all the wonderful things she would go on to achieve in life placed a burden of such fearful grandness upon her wings that they had snapped off without anyone realising; a baby bird fallen from the nest.

As the storm abated, ebbing to rippled eddies of malice that softly permeated the house like a smell, Amina and Hanaâ nestled on the couch, cradling in limp embrace and ignoring the winces when clumsy comforting fingers touched too vigorously upon the impact sites of swelling burgundy. HE sat slumped in HIS chair, Lord and owner of this microcosm; and upon a resilient non-woven polypropylene foam throne nursed a knuckle grazed from HIS justice, the remote control substituting as sceptre.

The television flickered into motion with a buzzing hum, drawing in all souls and wandering thought patterns into its theatre of carefully managed news, stories and violence; modernity’s Roman coliseum. The news story was rotating the same images like a mantra of carnage. Terrorist suicide bombers had unleashed their deadly swan songs in the capital. The anchor instructing they were insane manifestations of distilled evil fanatically seeking martyrdom for their false cause by attacking the pillars of global civilisation and goodness, embodied by the downtown corporate elite; that we should not deterred, nor lose hope in our idyll of hegemonic harmony by such savage statements of dissent.

Amina pondered on what the penultimate thoughts of a suicide bomber must feel like. There must be excitement. Adrenaline, fear, righteousness, yet perhaps with just a tantalising taste of uncertainty, like a gambler working a big hand. The exaltedness of believing with sincerity that death, and by inference one’s life, was an act of sacrifice to some great cause and therefore of important significance. The comfort of faith imbedded in the security of never needing to later account for the deed. The consequences instant, simple and dramatically grand. Yes, she concluded bitterly, some martyrs have it easier than others.

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I am not constricted in my genres or styles.

Politics. Sex. Science. Gender. War. Prostitution. Crime.

I write about the world I see and feel around me.

Adi MacArtney