It is said that to bring one into the house was unlucky. Jackson brought in not one, but two. Old man Mason was coming tomorrow, he’d pay handsomely for these – they were rare, even dead ones fetched a tidy sum; two alive would command a fortune.
Tiny feet scratched against the box that held them as they were placed on the table. It was a paltry container, with little room for them inside it, but he wasn’t going to risk their escape by giving them something bigger. Their little pleading voices were ignored. They’d have to wait.
After a while, only soft consolatory murmurs came from inside the box. It occurred to Jackson that he should feed them. A good condition meant a good price. He gathered what he thought they ought to have: a little off-cut from the joint, a few berries. In truth, he didn’t know what they needed. He’d only caught one before and his trap had snapped the tiny thing in two. He got next to nothing for that one. But how to get anything into the box without lifting the lid and risking their flight?
With a knife, Jackson sliced thin slots through the wall of the box and peered into the darkness inside. Eyes, big in such tiny faces, wide and bright as moonlight, peered back. He took a sliver of kindling and slid it through a slit. Perhaps he could pin them down and toss in the assembled offerings. No sound came from inside the box. He peered through another slot but saw nothing. He pushed the sliver further in and felt the unmistakable pliancy of soft flesh. No sound. No movement. Slowly, he pressed the flinder a little harder to secure his prize. He felt the puncture. Heard the wince. A sudden chaos of flittering wings came, thrashing wildly against the box. Jackson jolted backwards and felt the heady loss of consciousness as both his head and the box hit the ground.
Jackson awoke with a sharp pain in his middle. A wooden lance pressed hard beneath his diaphragm. He found himself in near darkness and with barely room to move. Fear rose as he struggled, grappling with the timber shard that held him. Through thin slots in the wall, two pairs of large eyes looked in at him. They pushed at the lance waiting for the soft puncture of skin.
Their efforts were interrupted by a loud knocking. Old man Mason had arrived. Jackson’s heart leapt at this reprieve and from within his tiny prison, he shrieked a thin reedy plea for help. A dog’s bark and scratching at the threshold prompted the pairs of eyes to disappear skyward with a light skittering of wings.
The old man banged harder at the door and at the dog’s yelping insistence, finally pushed it open. He looked around, cursing Jackson under his breath while the dog made short work of devouring whatever had been left in the box on the floor.
Pam Knapp lives in the UK’s rolling countryside of the Sussex Downs, close enough to London to feel the heat, far enough away to avoid being burnt. Optimism is her greatest asset. Her writing can be found in Dreich Magazine, Green Ink Poetry, Owl Hollow Press and Lucent Dreaming, amongst others.