Paul Sableman CC
At first it’s almost funny, because you’re small and you’re still trying to run, and your legs are chubby and short and they certainly don’t eat up the carpet like a grown-up’s does. You start scrambling up the stairs and the hysteria builds in your chest – you’re like an animal, one of those foxes that spurts like a sentient flame away from swarms of snapping dogs, streaking over hostile terrain for miles, if necessary. The comparison is a neat one. It makes you feel quick and sly, clever enough to make it out alive, so to speak. It’s preferable to what you’re really thinking about, which is the clumps of matted red fur you saw on the backs of horses, men beside them chatting gaily about the hunt.
Their clothes and speech were enigmatic, and they always had so many dogs, and cars stopped and honked their horns for them even though their horses’ flanks dripped, dripped, dripped.
The hunt is something you think about now, and you stop feeling so clever and you start feeling slightly numb, the way mounds of crusted fur must be numb. The walls and diminishing stairs become a blur, and tears, traitorously reliable, ooze with the onslaught of adrenaline. It’s all a bit too much. Pressure mounts in the hollow core of you, and you know you’re getting slower, that the laughter died in your throat long ago, that what exists deep down there now is dread, dread in such a quantity that it’s enough to make you sick. Nobody in the world has ever been this panicked.
There is the urge – the lightbulb-flicker impulse – to halt and swing around and take it, the way your sister sometimes takes it, because it happens quicker and it stops sooner and that’s all you want, for it to be over. The problem is your inability to accept a lost game, spilled milk, the end of the show. You always think there’s a different way to win, another carton, endless time, some wiggle room that eludes you and has always eluded you. It’s a trap, pretending that you won’t be caught, or that you’ll ‘get off easy’, which was a phrase used once before and now rattles around your head like a pebble in a can. You can stop this, until you can’t, and that makes you not very clever at all.
The stairs end and you see your sister’s pale moon of a face disappear back behind her bedroom door, likely praying that she’ll be forgotten in the hullabaloo. You want to be angry or betrayed but you’ve done the same thing when the situation was reversed, ducked out of sight or into another room or under some table, acting like you were playing or reading and never naming the thing you were actually doing which sounded so dramatic in context.
Your own door is right there and so you push it, so tired now, almost out of breath, your small body pushed to its limit. There are tiny gasps coming from your mouth and you know you’re about to sob, which will bring more trouble down on your head if you succumb to it, the waterworks that provoke nothing but disgust and more anger. The anger is not white-hot and bubbling like rage, or the icy burn of fury, but a sustained and frustrated ache that endures. It catches you, finally, as your door bounces off the wall, and the relentless anger lands on your backside, thigh, backside again, again, again. You squirm and thrash but the jig is up, you know that well enough, all red like a dead thing in a field, being sniffed by two dozen dogs with foaming snouts.
In nineteen years you’ll be tipsy at someone’s birthday dinner and you’ll bring it up, receiving a snort, and eyes rolling like a horse’s in the throes of a fever.
I never did that, did I? It wasn’t that bad. God almighty, listen to yourself. Obviously it didn’t work, did it? Look at you, Jesus Christ. Look at you.
Annabel Hynes is a recent graduate of the National University of Ireland, Galway, where she earned a BA with Journalism, and she is currently studying for an MA in Literature and Publishing at the same institution. She has had short stories published by the independent company Mirador and the online journal Periwinkle Literary Magazine. She currently resides in Ireland.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.