Intruder by Victoria Walklate

Soft, peaceful darkness. I lie exhausted amongst the remains of my brittle cage. My shelter is lined with velvety down and the reed-woven walls are protectively high. My tiny chest rises and falls steadily. I inhale the musty, comforting scent of home and realise that I’m not alone.
How strange. My sibling is bigger than me.
I ponder his size. We hatched at the same time, I’m sure, yet unlike me he’s hulking and oddly intimidating. He stirs, and I tense. His eyes are tightly closed, like mine, but suddenly he hoists himself towards me with lethal purpose. I cheep a wary greeting, but he takes no notice. He snuggles against my side for a moment and then slams into me, shoving me sideways. My claws scrape along the bottom of our home, ripping away the soft down and revealing the stark foundation below. He nips me savagely and I know pain for the first time.
A rush of wind and flash of light; there’s another creature in our world. Instinct makes us rise up, crying out and opening our mouths. But, oh no. His reach is so much greater than mine. Even blind, I can tell that his gape is wider and much more insistent.
I realise that the stranger has a wriggling gift clamped in her mouth. Too late though;my sibling is gulping it down and our visitor has disappeared.
Another rush of wind; another stranger appears. This time I’m faster. My gape is wide and I demand attention loudly but my companion throws his bulk over me and crushes me into silence. The soft, crunching noise returns as he accepts the second gift. Hunger and jealousy rush through me, but I am utterly helpless.
Four more visits from the two strangers. Four more prizes bestowed on my sibling.He’s getting stronger.
I drift into the sweet relief of sleep. Not for long, I tell myself. Just for a moment.
I jerk awake. He’s been busy. My naked body is wedged between his cumbrous form and the wall. He’s tight up against me, shuffling backwards to hoist my body on top of his.One rough thrust and my head flops on to his shoulder.
Fight! Instinct screams at me to defend myself but he’s just too strong.
Another rush of wind. My sibling presents his pink mouth innocently, as if I’m not draped helplessly over him. I wait in desperation for the visitor to notice. Instead, another prize is dropped devotedly into his mouth. She’s far too busy to see any further than the rapacious gape in the darkness. I am so hungry, drowning in jealousy and despair. The beat of wings and we’re alone again.
He hoists me to the very top of the wall. A cold breeze sways the shadows around me and flashes of light make me wince, but my eyes stay closed, my meagre strength gone. One final heave and I’m tumbling into the darkness, my fate sealed from my first breath.
About the author: Victoria Walklate lives in the beautiful English county of Norfolk with her husband and two children, and has a historical fiction novel to her name. She’s currently working on her second novel, several short stories and lots of other random things to stop her getting up to mischief while the kids are at school.

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