Ok. I went slightly over. As ever please feel free to comment. Here goes:
Pixies By Neil Beynon
The thing looks at her looking at it. Its skin is the colour of Jane’s father’s battered and faded leather jacket, as wrinkled and crumpled as one of his shirts. Its heavy lids blink over wet black, jet black, orbs that must be eyes, whilst the thing’s spindly digits grip her mother’s shoulder.
Her mother seems not to notice as she sleeps in the armchair. The rhythmic sound of her snores almost in time with the rise and fall of its chest; Jane can’t move. There is blood trickling down one side of Jane’s head from the fall but she makes no move to stop the flow because as she came into the living room – holding her head – she’d seen the creature.
There on her mother’s shoulder staring at her in mutual recognition that it had been seen when it shouldn’t have. Slowly it wiped the sticky grey substance it had been pulling from her mother’s head on the shoulder of her cardigan, staring at Jane throughout. Daring her to move.
Slowly Jane backs out of the room. As the door closes behind her she lets out a long breath that she wasn’t aware of holding and runs to the kitchen. Splashing water on her face she looks out on the garden. Nothing strange there: just freshly cut grass, a sky so clear it was stark in spite of the blueness and a faint breeze that moves the white blossom of the cherry tree.
Jane doesn’t believe in daytime drinking but sometimes you just need to. She pulls a small bottle of brandy from the cupboard, pours a liberal measure into a white porcelain mug. Liquid fire to burn the image from her mind.
Jane pulls the stool out from the breakfast bar and sits down. She is concussed. That’s it; has to be. The fall has her seeing things. If she just sits down for a few minutes she’ll be fine. Perhaps a cup of tea in a moment – she thinks flipping the kettle on; the rattle of the element on water roaring in her ears reminds her that she actually really hurt herself.
“Oh get me one as well love,” her mother calls from the living room.
A beat for thought, for things unsaid.
“Sure,” she replies.
“What happened to you?” asks her mother from the doorway.
Her daughter does not look at her; instead she stares fixedly at the kettle as it boils. “I had a little fall, knocked my head,” Jane replies.
“I’ll say,” says her mum. “Let me have a look.” Her mother turns Jane’s head so she can check her eyes. The creature is once more idly pulling stuff from her mother’s head, occasionally placing it in his mouth.
“Oh it’s not too bad,” says her mother. “These things just bleed a lot. Do you have a…urm…”
“…plaster,” her daughter finishes without thinking.
“Yeah and some…err…”
“That’s the stuff Mary,” her mother replies.
“Jane,” says Jane.
Her mother blinks.
“Jane,” she says. “Of course.”
But it’s an act and not a very convincing one.
Jane gets up, pushing back the stool as she does so, and moves to the cupboard near the back door; pulls the medicine box from the cupboard then hands her mother the plasters and iodine.
“Would you mind?” Jane asks.
“Would I mind what dear?”
Jane takes the iodine and plasters back. “Go sit down,” she says. “I’ll bring your tea in now.” Her mother walks back into the living room, the creature casts Jane a look just before she turns the corner. Jane can see her own reflection in its eyes.
The tea slops in the cup as she carries it into the living room but her head is pounding too much for her to be careful, the plaster is pulling too much on her skin. I’ll have to redo it, thinks Jane to herself. Her mother is asleep again.
The creature is still there.
It’s settled into the crook of her lap now, its head resting on her rising and falling chest as it throws the grey stuff in the air – it’s rolled it into a sphere so it resembles a dirty ball of string. It doesn’t pay any attention to Jane.
Jane can’t help staring. Absently she places the tea on the mantelpiece before movement deserts her once more; the creature senses her burning gaze, returns it. It places the ball carefully to one side, standing on her mother’s lap; it’s still only about twelve inches high.
Jane wants to run away but she doesn’t. A long time ago now. She walked in on her parents one night after a bad dream, she wanted to run away then and couldn’t; just stood there, mouth flapping open and shut in shock at the fleshy awfulness of it. This was worse.
Slowly it reaches for the ball, raises it to its mouth and takes a sticky bite. Then a second. Then a third. The sound of its masticating lips echoes.
“Don’t,” says Jane, quietly.
The creature continues, failing to acknowledge her other than slowly raising its free hand and extending the middle digit as it chomps, flashing yellow teeth that look to have been filed into points.
Jane stares at the upturned finger. Blinks at the meal it’s enjoying. Realises she is no doubt concussed but unable to really give a shit. The room – like the world – is suddenly very clear.
Jane grabs the creature by the scruff of its neck; it shrieks so loud her ears buzz and ache for hours. Yet no one comes to see what is happening, her mother sleeps on. Jane swings open the back door. Its still shrieking as Jane punts it high over the garden wall and the fields beyond; the screaming is abruptly cut short by a crunching thud.
It feels good to settle into bed. The sheets still have that freshly pressed, cool, crisp hotel feel to them; it’s a relief to rest her still bruised head to the pillow. Sleep won’t be long in coming, indeed Jane can feel herself slipping slowly down the well right now. Her limbs are already asleep and she is receding into her own skull.
Jane barely hears the door creak open a few inches, almost misses the gentle slap of leathery skin on the wood floor and the gentle pull of something climbing the sheets.
Outside the blossom is scattered on the night air like white confetti across the landscape. And all that can be heard is chewing.