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Short Story: Hatchlings

Image credit; Tivasee @ Pexels

When Fia hung the birdhouse in her garden, she had no idea what would actually take up residence inside.

   The bleak winter had passed, and the silver birch was budding fresh leaves. It stood in the middle of the lawn, bright white against a carpet of green. Fia nailed the birdhouse to the trunk and waited.

   A week later, she couldn’t resist putting her eye to the hole and peeping in. She smiled. Four tiny eggs, pale grey and specked with black, sat in a nest of twigs and dried grass. What kind of bird would hatch out of them?

   Fia took an apple from the fruit bowl in the kitchen, then sat on the sofa. She watched from the living room, waiting for the parents to return. After half an hour, nothing came.

   She shoved the sofa back against the wall, dragged her desk from her tiny home office, and positioned it in front of the French doors. That way, she could keep an eye on the garden as she worked on her laptop.

   She watched, but no birds came.

   Maybe they were nocturnal.

   Two weeks later, Fia dropped her shopping bags in the kitchen. She placed the bananas, apples, and pears in the empty fruit bowl. Over the last few days, she must have been eating more fruit than she realised. It was healthier than snacking on biscuits. Though she’d run out of those too.

   She flicked the switch on the kettle and dropped a teabag in a mug. While the tea was brewing, she ventured into the garden. She peered through the hole in the birdhouse and frowned. The nest was still there, a little more limp and the grass a little more yellow. Fragments of eggshell were scattered around the tiny space, but there were no chicks.

   Something must have eaten the babies.

   Disappointed, Fia headed back to the house. She pulled on the French doors. Then she yanked again, harder this time. But no matter how hard she tried, the back door wouldn’t open. She was trapped in her garden.

   The French doors were jammed, the windows were shut, the back gate was locked, and all of her keys were in the house. There was nothing for it: she’d have to climb.

   The problem was, she was surrounded by fences nearly two metres high. With a sigh, Fia took a garden chair from the patio, planted it in front of the gate, and climbed over as gracefully as she could manage.

   ‘Can I have my spare key?’ she asked when her neighbour answered the door. Thank God he was in. ‘I’ve locked myself out of the house.’

   Fia had a locksmith’s number up on her mobile when she tried opening the door from the inside. Still nothing. The keys were still in the lock. She gave them an experimental twist, just in case. The mechanism snapped back and the door swung open with a gentle push. It wasn’t jammed. It had been locked from the inside.

   Fia ran to the kitchen and snatched a knife from the block. With a paring knife in one hand and her phone in the other, she started to check the house. Nowhere to hide in the living room. Cupboard under the stairs: empty. Spare room: empty. Bathroom: clear.

   That only left one place. If there was an intruder, they were in her bedroom.

   She threw the door open and jumped back onto the landing. When nothing happened, she crouched down. No one under the bed. She scanned the room. No one there. She opened the wardrobe. Just her clothes.

   She jumped as something moved by the window.

   ‘What the hell?’

   It looked like a dragonfly on the windowsill. Its legs were pressed against the glass, as though it were standing upright. Its body shimmered mossy green and caramel brown in the spring sunshine. Its outstretched wings brushed the photo frames on the ledge.

   How did that get in?

   Fia opened the window to set the insect free. With a flutter of wings, it took off and flew past her. She stared out of the window until the dragonfly was a speck in the sunshine. She shook her head. It wasn’t possible, but she could have sworn it had a human face.

   On shaky legs, Fia went back down to the kitchen. She took a sip of tea, then spat it out in the sink. Amongst the draining brown liquid, there were specks of something solid. Fia took a teaspoon and fished around in her drink. When she pulled the spoon out, there were lumps in there. It looked like mud.

   A chittering noise at the kitchen window made her look up. Four dragonflies were perched on the exterior ledge.

   Except, up close, they didn’t look like dragonflies. Their wings were long and narrow, but their bodies were wrong. What Fia had taken for an exoskeleton, was actually a humanlike body, coloured like the earth and shimmering like a shell. Their hair grew in wisps like fennel leaves.

   The tiny people grinned at her. Then, as one, they shot into the air and darted for the silver birch. They flitted through the branches before diving through the little hole in the birdhouse.

   The fairies had returned to their nest. Play time was over for now.

This story was written for Sajde’s What Do You See?


4 responses to “Short Story: Hatchlings”

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