Fiction: Moth Child

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Fiction: Moth Child

The moth rain falls when the moon is at its fullest. We shut our windows, lay thick coats along the outer doors. We fill the house with enough food to last a week, just in case.

They used to call it moth snow, but the name was too appealing to children. They didn’t understand. Snow was the fun, white fluff that melted on their tongues in winter. It formed sculptures, playful weapons, cosy hideouts. It was a source of entertainment and joy. Moth snow was a sinister, grey flake that arrived in summer. It broke down into an invisible toxin, which lingered in the air. Children ran out to play, and their bodies came home three days later, after the ploughs had removed the worst of the fall. It took a year for the government to implement a total rebrand.

It’s a full moon tonight, so Mum shakes out Dad’s old coat. The smell of naphthalene fills the air. I cover my mouth and nose. The chemical we use to protect ourselves is almost as poisonous as the rain itself. It stores up in your fat cells, and waits to take you when food is short. Mum places the coat over the extractor fan in the kitchen. Dad used to cook a lot. He died when I was seven, when the rain first started, but I can just about remember him standing over the hob.

“Have you taken your pill?” Mum asks.

“Not yet.”

“Can you get me one too?”

I retrieve the bottle from the cabinet upstairs, then together we knock back a dose of activated charcoal with a single of whiskey. The combination is hot and wet like dog’s breath. Mum winces and lets out a hiss as the burn works down her throat. She hates it. I mimic her as I have for thirteen years now. I try to capture distaste; the flare of the nostrils, the slight kick of the head. She watches my performance, then knocks back another. I think I have missed something. She once told me that practice makes perfect, but I’m not entirely sure what perfection is. I cannot judge, because I cannot feel.

***

Uncle Pete is late bringing my brother home from football. Mum is angry. Her anger looks much like her distaste, but it takes over her whole body. When I was younger I thought anger was a being that could inhabit multiple bodies at a time. I thought that fear was an appropriate response to this. When Mum realised what I was trying to display she broke down in tears. She explained to me that anger was just another emotion, and one that I should be glad not to have. I told her I could not be glad. She said that was okay.

It is half-past seven when my brother and uncle arrive home. Mum drags Uncle Pete into the kitchen. My brother slinks into the living room. His name is Daniel, but Mum says I must call him Danny because it sounds more affectionate. I follow him into the living room, where he is already sprawled across the sofa, watching TV.

“Alright, moth girl?” he snipes.

“Shut up, Danny.”

I pull his legs off the sofa and sit down. He shuffles right to the end of the furniture. I make him uncomfortable. I was already five when he was born. By the time he was old enough to have memories, I was quite a good actor. If it weren’t for his friends, and their parents, he would not know the difference. People talk about me – the moth child – the girl who survived standing outside in the moth rain. It is generally thought that only part of me survived, and that that part is not enough. It is Uncle Pete who told me this. As far as I could tell he was not being malicious. He spoke as someone reading the news, “You are not considered human. You are considered a simulation of a human. You must be careful.”

I can hear Uncle Pete now. His voice is loud, but I cannot make out the words over the sound of the TV. Danny picks up the remote and turns up the volume, drowning Uncle Pete out completely.

“Why were you late?” I ask.

“What’s it to you?”

“I was just wondering.”

“You’re not capable of wondering.”

“Answer the question, Danny,” I snarl.

That does it. Fear sparks his eyes wide. For some reason, anger is the one emotion everyone thinks I’m capable of.

“Sam’s mum’s car packed in, and we had to give them a lift home. We couldn’t leave them there.”

“Sensible. Recovery vehicles don’t come out past five on rain day, and public transport stops at four. You would be sad if they died.”

I squeeze his shoulder. It is meant to be reassuring, to suggest he did the right thing. He stiffens as if I have punched him.

“Sorry,” I say.

“No, you’re not.”

I sigh and roll my eyes. He has not believed in my expressions since he turned thirteen, but I have to keep them up. It is a matter of stretching my stamina, training my mind to make continuous decisions about how to look, and sound, and what to say. For most people this is an involuntary function. For me it is exhausting. Danny is watching a cartoon. I decide to leave because cartoons are not useful. The emotions are all over the place, the reactions are not accurate; there is nothing I can learn from them. I once tried to get my eyes to pop out in order to indicate that I thought my mother must be aesthetically pleasing.

I wander into the hall. Mum is shouting now. I stand outside the kitchen door and listen.

“I couldn’t care less what might have happened to them! Do you understand? I will not lose another member of my family to that bloody rain!”

“Kate, I couldn’t just leave them there. Be reasonable!”

“Reasonable? Reasonable! I tell you what, Pete, next time I’m sheltered at your house, we’ll throw dearest Eleanor and one of my sweet nephews out in it. Then we’ll see how reasonable you can be.”

“Kate-”

“Don’t ‘Kate’ me. You have no idea what it’s like. I’ve lost a husband and a daughter. I will not lose a son.” She pauses. “Or my brother.”

I know I should be hurt. I push my eyebrows up and together, open my mouth a little. I breathe like someone has booted me in the chest. If they were to open the door now, they would be taken aback by how accurate my portrayal is. They would feel the pain reflected in my features.

“She’s not dead, Kate.”

“No, but she’s not alive either. It’s like living with a ghost.”

I think perhaps this may be true. I remember vaguely what I was like before; laughing as Dad swung me round and round by the arms; howling in pain, tears burning my nose and throat, as my right arm clunked out of the socket. Now, I would be able to pop it back in myself without much fuss. I still feel the pain, but I don’t react. For Mum, it must be as if I am dead, but my image still lingers around the house and eats her food.

“It’ll be dark soon. You should stay here. Go and call Ellie,” Mum says.

The door opens and I step to one side. Uncle Pete stalls in the doorway for what is a fraction of a second, then walks past me. He knows I have been listening. He gives me a shy smile. I think that if I could like anyone, I would certainly like Uncle Pete. He is the only person who has never appeared scared of me and who has always answered every question with a straight answer.

He picks up the phone in the hall and dials.

“Hello, Ellie? – Yes, don’t worry I’m safe – I’m at Kate’s – I’m sorry, Hon’ – Danny’s friend needed a lift – I didn’t mean to worry you – We’re all set -Yeah, give my love to the boys – I’ll see you in a few days – Make sure to duct tape the letterbox – I love you – Bye.”

He turns and sees that I am still standing in the same spot. “Do you have a question?”

I think for a moment. “Yes. Can you say ‘I love you’ again, and pretend that you are saying it to someone you love, like Aunt Eleanor?”

He smiles. “I love you, and I don’t need to pretend, kiddo.”

He gives me enough time to assess and memorise his facial expression and tone, before he puts an arm around my neck, and ruffles my hair with his hand. I do my best to look disgruntled, which makes him laugh.

“You really are magnificent, Nessie.”

“Thank you.”

***

At eight o’clock we eat a balanced dinner that is well-cooked and non-toxic. Danny doesn’t like it. He pokes at it until it is too cold to eat, argues with Mum about wasting food, and then storms upstairs to his room. We finish in silence.

I help Uncle Pete make up the guest bed. I am good at this. It is a mechanical kind of team work that does not involve debate or opinion. Uncle Pete is a poor partner, though. He ends up inside the duvet cover, pushing the duvet up into the corners.

“You should laugh now,” he tells me, so I do.

Mum looks in and sees what’s happening. She laughs too, calls Uncle Pete a fool, and kisses me goodnight. Uncle Pete waves through the cover. I take this as a cue to laugh again. Mum squeezes me tightly.

***

It starts at nine o’clock, roughly twenty-seven minutes after sunset. It is soundless. Tattered bodies fall from the sky and all I can hear is the air filtering in and out of my own lungs. I sit in the window seat of my room, and watch the moth rain fall.

***

                They told me it would kill me if I breathed it in, so I held my breath. That’s the only reason I survived. I filled my lungs as much as I could and pressed my lips together tight. Stepping out into it was like pressing your face into a feather duster. The wings fluttered against your skin, tickling every hair to the point that I almost exploded with laughter.

 Don’t breathe, don’t breathe, don’t breathe, I told myself.

I closed the patio door, and took a couple of steps forward. I was only a metre in, but I could barely see the glass. The initial fall is incredibly dense. I began to twirl, feeling the wings flutter past my arms and through my hair. I tilted my head right back. My nose began to itch.

A desperate roar came from somewhere in the grey. I looked around, but could not get my bearings. I believe I began to panic. My lungs were suddenly aching for air.

All at once, I sneezed, gasped, and was swept off my feet. A large dark coat, reeking of mothballs fell over my head. I passed out just as I heard the door close again.

***

The fall lasts just fifteen minutes today. After that, only a few lazy flakes are left to fall to the ground. The sky clears, and the moon shines brightly. This is Pompeii after the eruption of Vesuvius. This is London after the Great Fire. I sit and I watch the stillness settle in.

***

I am tired, and begin to think about sleeping. I believe everyone else in the house went to sleep a while ago, but as I creep across the landing I hear muttering coming from Danny’s room. I stand perfectly still, straining to hear the words.

“No! No! No! – Don’t say that! -No, you know what it’s like for me – Please – I can’t tell her – I can’t! – She already has one freak child, I can’t tell her that I’m- No I’m not saying that you’re a freak – You know what I meant – Sam, I love you, you know that I love you – Please, don’t make me tell her – Sam!”

There is a long silence, and he begins sobbing. There is an occasional sniff, a croak of air being sucked back into lungs too quickly, a moan muted by a pillow. I push open his door, and sink onto the edge of his bed. He flicks on his bedside lamp, and the moment he sees that it is me, he shrinks into the corner, pressing himself into the wall like a trapped animal.

“Oh stop it,” I hiss, but he doesn’t.

“What do you want?”

“I would say to comfort you, but you wouldn’t believe me.”

He braves a smirk.

“I just thought that I would tell you, Mum doesn’t see me as a freak. She believes I died, age seven. I heard her say as much to Uncle Pete, during their argument. She also said that she couldn’t cope with losing another member of her family, and I believe there was a particular emphasis on not losing you.”

“So?”

“I don’t think she’d give a flying fuck if you turned out to be gay.”

He snorts, actual genuine laughter. He covers his mouth in surprise. I squeeze his shoulder again, and this time he places his hand over mine.

“Would you care if I was gay?” he asks.

“I’m a moth child, Danny. I could catch you in the front garden, mid-coitus, waving a pride flag in the air, and the only thing I’d be thinking about is how to replicate your facial expression in the unlikely event that I should ever have sex.”

He laughs again and, for the first time since he reached adolescence, he hugs me. When he is finished, I leave and go to the bathroom. I relieve myself, wash my hands and face, then brush my teeth. I arrive back in my room, prepared for sleep, but Uncle Pete is sitting in my window.

“That was a nice thing you said to your brother,” he remarks.

“Was it?”

“Yes.” He nods. “Nessie, are you sure you don’t feel anything?”

“I have not felt an emotion since I went out into the moth rain.”

“Then why did you help your brother?”

I think for a moment. “His information was wrong. He needed correct information in order to make his decision.”

“But he didn’t have to ask for it?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“Someone who feels would tell him without being asked. I acted as if I felt, as I always do.”

Uncle Pete sighs. He stands up and walks toward me. “You remind me so much of my gramps, your great-grandfather.”

“Why?”

“He was mechanical and apathetic about everything, just like you. My mother told me he was a soldier. One of the many who lost their spirit in the last great war.”

“Did he breathe in a toxin too?”

“No, but the things he saw were poisonous. They ate away at who he was.”

“Did he recover?”

“A little. I once saw him shed a tear at a memorial service.”

“How do you know it was not fake?”

“Because not even you’re that good, Ness.”

True. The only reason I have to cry is when there is something in my eye, or when I am in physical pain. Tears are impossible to summon without emotion.  A thought occurs. “Is my great-grandfather why you have never treated me as the others have?”

“I suppose so. Your mother’s too young to remember him, but I always liked him. He used to give me Murray Mints from a tin under the stairs.”

“Murray Mints?”

He laughs quietly. “I’ll get you some when the fall’s lifted.”

***

I am sitting at the window again. I am tired, but I cannot sleep. It has been two hours since I prepared for bed. No flakes fall now. The sky is empty, except for the moon and the stars.

I like the stars. They are like me. We are both ghosts of a light that once burned bright.

As I sit there, my eyes begin to swim with salt-water. I am thinking of spinning in the moth rain. I am thinking of the large coat thrown over me. I am remembering that I was not allowed into my parents’ bedroom until the day after the fall was lifted. On that day some men came and took a long and heavy object from their room. I didn’t know what it was because it was covered with a sheet. I asked Mum, but she wouldn’t tell me. Then I told her I would ask Dad. She wept uncontrollably for an hour, then drove me to the hospital.

Now I am crying. I am holding a cushion to my chest and I am rocking gently back and forth. My heart is aching. My stomach is clenched so tightly I think I might be sick. I cry, until the pain is so enormous that it no longer feels like a part of me. It is an angry god that swamps the room.

The moth rain comes when I need it most. I put the cushion down, and reach for the window. The handle is well oiled and makes no noise. I crack open the seal a couple of millimetres, press my lips to the gap, and breathe.

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Kidiot: Emma ends up in a bush #2

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Kidiot: Emma ends up in a bush #2 

A Preface:

Unfortunately, I’m out with a friend today, and because I had to travel back to Wales yesterday, I didn’t have time to write anything shiny and new. However, I’ve been meaning to post this little article here for a while now.

The following short piece was the first thing that I have ever had published (bar an interview about being emo that I did for Sugar magazine…yup). The article was published in 2015 in Oh Comely magazine, Issue no.24, p.119. The original title was ‘lost: pint-sized indiana jones’. Those of you who have been following this blog for a long time may remember my excitementOh Comely is a great independent magazine, full of thoughtful articles and beautiful images. You can find out more about it here. They stock Oh Comely in W.H. Smith and Waitrose in the UK, or you can by copies from their website. I highly recommend it if you fancy something that goes beyond celeb gossip and TV news.

The Story:

When I was five, I got lost in the wood. It was at a holiday camp; my mother was helping with crafts, my brother was playing football. I was bored, and the thick line of trees that edged the campsite called to me. As an excellent smooth talker, I made short work of convincing two others to join my expedition team.

“We’ll stick to the path,” I told them, “It won’t take long.”

The path was a dirt trail, sign-posted with a series of animal pictures. Eventually, the track disappeared, and we had to rely on the pictures to navigate. That’s when it happened. We couldn’t find the purple octopus and so were lost for good.

My team began to sob, but I was ecstatic. This was exactly what I had hoped for. In my head I was Indiana Jones, trekking through the undergrowth, holding back vines (stinging nettles) for a couple of second-rate explorers who couldn’t find the back of their own hand if it slapped them in the face. I remember the valley of brambles we passed through, the river we hopped across. I feel the surge of triumph that swelled in my chest as we emerged from the bushes unscathed.

The truth, my mum tells me, is that my expedition group was lost for twenty minutes in a patch of fenced woodland less than half a mile square. Still, when I’m nervous, I summon that memory and use it to find my sense of adventure once more.

An Epilogue:

So recently I’ve been thinking about this story again, and I’d like to make a couple of points.

Firstly, the “two others” who were with me were both older than me by a couple of years, yet somehow I not only convinced them to come with me, but got them lost, and then un-lost in the space of twenty minutes. Me, the five-year-old.

Secondly, the purple octopus part of this story is a very distinct memory. However, it makes no sense. The previous day we had, as a group, followed this trail of images and they were all woodland related animals. This means that either I hallucinated the purple octopus when we did our first walk, or I deliberately made it up because I was bored and wanted to get us lost so I could adventure.

I mean, basically, this could be a story about me lying to make myself look like a hero. Which makes me Gilderoy Lockhart.

I mean, to be honest, I’m fine with that. Dude’s fabulous.

 

gilderoy lockhart cosplay

Age 19: Cosplaying school age Gilderoy Lockhart outside the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff (now known as Principality Stadium).

 

Kidiot: Emma ends up in a bush #1

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Kidiot: Emma ends up in a bush #1

A quick preface:

Over the past week I’ve been jotting down blog ideas in a SNote on my phone. And uh, when I was flicking through them this morning I realised that 1) there are a lot of stories from my childhood…where I am idiot (kid+idiot=kidiot) and 2) many of these involve bushes, or hedgerows, which I’d like to say is a result of me growing up in Wales, but not all of them take place at home.

Oh, also, there is some mild injury related grossness in this one, so you have been warned.

Anyway:

I thought I would start with a tale from the summer of 2004. I was 11, set to start secondary school in September. But the summer had just begun, and I was excited to get out and play with friends.

Now, to set the scene a little bit, my parents house in Wales is part of a relatively modern housing estate built on a hill. It’s not a ridiculously big hill, but it is steep. Yet for some reason, my friends and I decided it was great fun to ride up, down and all around it on bikes and scooters. I was a particular fan of riding from the very top of the hill on my bike. I’d even give myself a run up before throwing myself down it. Momentum is a wonderful thing.

8e038377e3e03cfa2515b75efd20c0daHowever, on this particular day in 2004, I was on my micro-scooter (#90sKid). It was a tiny silver thing with blue wheels, an adjustable handle bar and a little metal thing on the back wheel that functioned as a break. My friends suggested we play “bike-scooter-tag” i.e. chase each other around trying to smack each other on small vehicles. Unfortunately, I was the only one on a scooter. I may as well have just thrown it to one side and run. But that wasn’t the game here.

I was “it” within minutes and remained “it” until one of the lads took pity on me and let me get him. At that point, I decided on a new plan. I would hide. And this is where things start to go horribly wrong.

There were parts of the estate I didn’t go very often, but just a few weeks earlier, someone – I think the parent of a friend in a different housing estate – had walked me home up a very narrow, sloped path tucked down the side of some houses. There was a nice tall fence on one side, and a thick hedge on the other.

A brilliant place to hide! I thought. They’ll never think to look there!

After a few minutes, I located the entrance, and started to scoot down the path. I knew that there were steps at the bottom, followed by a metal barrier, and fairly busy road, so I readied my foot to brake.

I grew a little concerned when I started to go faster. The path was steeper than I remembered, but I wasn’t too worried. I still had a way to go. Then the steps came into view, and I pressed down on my brake.

I slowed for a second, but the scooter didn’t stop. And then it started getting faster again. Too fast.

So there I was, with two options:

  1. Keep going, fly off the steps at the bottom, crash into the barrier and potentially flip and end up in the road.
  2. Throw myself off the scooter…and into the hedge.

I, of course, threw myself into the hedge.

My head ploughed into the foliage, my scooter fell to the floor and slid away. I took a couple of deep breaths, spat a few bits of tree out of my mouth and did an internal assessment of the damage.

I felt alright. I was a bit sore, but there was no real pain…except for my left leg. That kind of hurt.

When I opened my eyes, I discovered that it wasn’t just a hedge I was in. My lower body, had smacked into a chain link fence. There was no blood that I could see and I didn’t appear to be caught on anything, so I slowly pulled myself out and stepped away.

With great difficulty, I rolled up my trouser leg up (I have always been a fan of the skinnier jean), and I’m not gonna lie, I was a bit alarmed to find what looked like a second knee on my leg. Midway down my shin was a large round swelling, with a tiny scratch at its centre. I immediately assumed that I’d broken my leg, but was confused by the fact it could bear weight.

Fortunately, I had a mobile phone. It was a Sony, pre-Ericsson buy out and even pre-sony-cmd-j6-3SonyEricsson. It had a stubby little aerial and a black and white display, like a calculator. It also had a game on it where monkeys threw bananas at each other. Mum had convinced me it was better than a Gameboy, and right there and then, I was inclined to agree.

I phoned her, and explained what had happened. The rescue party (my mum and Alun) arrived quickly. They balanced me on the scooter and wheeled me to the car, then drove to the hospital.

After many hours, the swelling went down and the A and E doctor informed us that my leg wasn’t actually broken. We were all very confused about this…and I was slightly disappointed that I wouldn’t get to have a cast. But I could enjoy my summer, that was the important thing.

Cut to a couple of weeks later:

I was on holiday at a camp in Yorkshire. I woke up in the middle of the night because my leg was hot, really hot. I grabbed my torch from under my pillow, unzipped the sleeping bag a little, and dug myself in a bit. I didn’t want to wake anyone up, so wanted to block as much light as possible with my bedding.

I turned the light on and blinked. A lot. It took a while for my eyes to adjust. When they did, however, I discovered that my leg was VERY red and hot to touch. I sat there, having a prodding it for a bit. Then, as 11-year-olds do, I shrugged, turned off the light and thought, Eh, I’ll tell Mum in the morning.

The next morning, I walked over to Mum’s tent across the field. Not long after I found myself in Doncaster hospital where I was told the tiny scratch on my leg, that had been overlooked by the previous doctors, had resulted in an infection. It was simple enough to resolve (you know, if you overlook the fact I’m allergic to penicillin) and cleared up fairly quickly.

But, Emma, why are you telling us this? What’s the moral of this story?

~Thinks~

Oh, oh! The moral of this story is that sometimes, when you almost kill yourself by mistake, but instead throw yourself in a hedgerow, it means you don’t have to do the cross country run (to sort you into groups for PE) when you start secondary school, because your leg still hurts from the infection. That’s the moral. Yup.

Stay safe kidiots.

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The field school made everyone run round…while I watched 😉

 

 

Story Time: Moving Day

Moving Day, E.M. Harding
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Moving Day

Franco was a perfect male specimen. He was tall, but not too tall, had broad powerful shoulders, and sported a surprisingly elegant neck for a gent. Despite this, he didn’t make his sexual debut until the age of 8. His mother informed him that, back in the homeland, most men his age already had children. Franco just scoffed. It wasn’t his fault. The other chaps were always getting in the way, and he wasn’t very good at necking. Then Kanna arrived. She was sweet, and nice enough to slip behind the acacias, where no-one could see them. He wasn’t going to waste such an opportunity. The lady made his heart feel three-feet big.

“A creature of habit.” That’s what the help called him. But so what? So what if he enjoyed the little things in life; taking long walks, freshly prepared meals, and his newly scheduled romps before bath time? Franco was living the good life, and he knew it. Some of the others hated living behind fences, and being herded into their little wooden huts at night. His mother – who remembered the homeland well – strongly advocated the benefits of sleeping under the stars, but Franco liked the warmth of his hut and the soft floor. The bathroom facilities did leave something to be desired; he often had to spend a night with a room full of his own “offerings”, but they were always gone by the next evening. The help were very good that way. Honestly though, he could find no real reason to complain to the manager. He had warmth, he had food, and he had Kanna. What more could a man ask for?

Franco had 11 years of complete serenity, before the evening when everything changed. It began in the most bizarre of ways. A short, sharp pain in his bottom, that’s all. It wasn’t too bad. The pain dulled quite quickly, and for a while he felt fine. He continued to munch his supper. Gradually, however, everything started to get a bit blurry. Everything felt heavy too, even the air. Franco felt like his lungs were heaving in mud. It was rather disquieting, and he did in fact feel like he should be panicking. He just couldn’t. He wondered whether there was something wrong with the central heating, and went to call the manager. It was then he found that he had too many legs. There were too many legs, far too many. What kind of animal had four whole legs? Franco took a tumble and narrowly avoided bashing his skull against the wall. He tried to pick himself up off the floor, but found it was useless, and for some peculiar reason he didn’t really care. He let out a sigh of utter contentment and slipped into unconsciousness.

Waking up was not quite so fun. After all, he didn’t remember being blind before. And he was sure he used to be able to feel things. Didn’t he remember the pain of falling, of his knees buckling one after the other? For a moment he pondered whether or not he might be dead, then quickly came to his senses because you didn’t wake up dead, and he definitely remembered falling asleep. Besides, Kanna wanted to try behind the juicy looking sycamore next, and there was no way he was dying before he’d done that. He decided to try moving his legs about a bit. He heard something go bang, so it must have worked, but then why couldn’t he feel or see? Just breath, he told himself. Don’t panic!

He lay there for what felt like a month, but he couldn’t be sure. If he had been able to see a clock, he would have known it was only 30 minutes. The numbness began to wear off. A heavy weight eased away from his torso and Franco thrashed his legs around further. He could sense a presence in the room with him, several even, and it wasn’t very nice. Polite people announced themselves, introduced themselves. Even the help had names. No-one spoke to him now, and no-one tried to help him up.

There was something wrapped up in his legs too, some strange vine that burnt his skin when he wriggled. He tripped up onto his feet and his head nearly hit the floor with the effort. A vine around his neck choked him as it forced him up straight, and then all of the vines began to pull and tug and pinch, forcing him to move. There was yelling. Shouts of help speak, “This way!” “Watch yourself!” “Mind his head!” None of it was directed at him. They seemed to be shoving him into what he was sure should have been the wall of his home, but instead of slamming into wood, he stumbled up onto a cold echoing floor and something icy brushed against his side. He shuddered and his leg twitched out. Someone screeched. “Did he hit you?!” “No, I’m fine!” “Don’t scare me like that!” There was one final heave on the vines and Franco lurched forward. He jumped at the loud metallic bang that came from behind him.

It was all very odd, and very strange, but Franco still felt drowsy. He wanted to take another nap, but a sudden surge of motion put all thoughts of sleep out of his mind. He was standing still, but he could feel the wind rushing past his ears.

“Okay, what in the Savannah’s name is going on?” he coughed.

But no-one answered, because no-one spoke giraffe.

Moving Day, EM Harding