Astrid Jaekel + Roxane De Rouen

Bog

Bog

The Owl watched it all from above.

The greenblack toad lurched forward. Powerful hind legs tensed, as he put all his weight onto muscled forearms. He waited. Bog, that was his name. He was waiting for a mouse. Watching the twitching brown tail flutter within the entrance of a small burrow by the bank. Just waiting.

Bog pulsed down and up, down and up, and felt his pulse hammer, hammer, hammer. The mouse was there, it was there, waiting to be snatched up. The tender tail fluttered again, the impression of soft pink skin underneath the downy fur, teasing him. Bog blinked lazily, letting one lid fall over his copper coloured iris, and then the other. There was time.

The tail was replaced by a nose. It snuffled about the ground. Tiny hands scrabbled out from underneath.  The mouse, Nameless, shuffled out slowly. Its eyes were almost engulfed in the tufted fur surrounding them, but Bog could see them, small and black and curious. Oh, he could see.  He let his eyelids droop heavily, concealing those amber eyes, but still he watched.

Nameless pulsed up and down, up and down, and Bog could see his pulse hammer, hammer, hammer. The little brown head cocked to-and-fro, to-and-fro. Cautious. Nameless jumped forward, his compact body stretched out as far as it could go as he made the run to his destination. Wherever that was.

Bog’s hind legs fired like a canon, powering though the muscles in his legs, bringing him close enough to unravel the tongue at the back of his throat and send it flying towards Nameless in a sticky embrace. Time slowed then, as it always did for Bog on a successful stalk. He could see the tiny eyes blink in fear, and the helpless pause as its brain tried to process what was happening. The tongue, still in mid air was rolling towards the mouse. Pink flesh to brown fur. The tip caressed the soft underside of Nameless’ belly, as it sought to gain purchase. Triumph pounded in Bog’s veins as the tongue began to curl up around the spine.

Pain! A screech, a squeak, a thump, a thunk, a flap, a flutter. Bog was on his back. Nameless not in his mouth. His tongue sprawled out along the forest floor. He watched the silhouette of the Owl circle upwards in the sky, clutching something small tightly in its talons. Bog’s prey.

The toad hefted himself onto his stomach, called back his tongue, rolled both shoulders, stretched his legs and, finally, huffed out a breath.

“Fucking Owls.”

Illustrator: Astrid Jaekel

Writer: Roxane de Rouen

Little Bird

Little Bird

Mordecai had seen the little bird hopping on the open windowsill. Fluttering its wings in agitation, a leg held to its body. A little bird, black. Feathers shining blue in the sun. He lets it back up, once, twice, three times before snatching it in his hand. The heartbeat in its breast drumming against the soft skin of his palm. Terrified cheep cheepings as it pokes its head through the gap in his fingers. Poor little bird.

Mordecai turns it in his hand, examines the leg. Broken. Translucent skin stretches, taut and awkward over fragile bone, no longer in place. Poor little bird. He cradles the bird in his warm hand, with the other, strokes the head, runs fingers through the feathers. Shhh. Shhh. You are safe with me little bird.

A sharp screech from a chair leg keens down the hall. Mordecai holds the bird to his breast, to his heart, and says Shhh, shhh.

In the doorway, her silhouette forms. Two steps bring her into the column of sun in the room. Round disks of solid light reflect off the glasses she wears. Seeker, destroyer.

Mordecai, she says, she says. Whatever do you have?

The little bird cheep cheep cheeps. It is nothing.

Nothing? Nothing? Hold it out to me, this nothing that you have.

Little bird, its wings are frantic. Shhh, he says, shhh.

She glares at him with her eyes, no eyes. Her mouth in a smile, no smile.

He uncurls his hand. Grazing claws, like baby fingernails find footing in his grooved palm. One small leg bends outwards.

Her lips smack smack. Little birdy she says. How delicious you look.

Mordecai’s wife steps closer, out of the sun. Shadowed valleys trace themselves beneath her milky eyes. She wants, wants his little bird. Her gaze narrows to its feathered breast, its upturned leg. Its eyes. It calms under her gaze, breath comes slower.

Glinting silver at her side, she pulls to herself a knife and a fork. Mordecai she says. My Mordecai. Hold out your little birdy to me.

She is his wife, no wife, and he holds out to her his bird, no bird. A lipless mouth parts with pleasure, wider and wider. Inside is pink, and tender. Within her mouth, lies a universe. Mordecai has seen this before, this tiny universe. His little bird sees it too. It will lose itself in her mouth, no mouth.

And all he can do is watch.

Illustrator: Astrid Jaekel

Writer: Roxane de Rouen