Your Animal Heart
I smell something in the dark: a low, rich, meaty smell that makes me think there’s an animal hovering in the corner of the room, crouching, waiting. I don’t move, lying as still as I can, and reaching out a hand, missing the warmth, but that side of the bed is empty, a grey space in the pre-dawn deep blue light. My eyes adjust and I see you, curled up around your long tail like a mongoose, carrying your worries on your back. You make a small whimpering noise, and I stretch out my arms to you, unseen. As the sky begins to lighten, I can make out the individual hairs that make up your fur. Your tail swishes around, making a space I cannot enter: a protective circle.
Your tail is a lustrous and living thing. The hairs are black and brown and beige and white. I whisper quietly to you, singing you a song composed of words of love that have no language. I can’t tell if you relax, but either I have grown used to the scent of your fur, or the nature of that scent is changing. Maybe you're no longer afraid. You begin to move in my direction.
You curl your tail towards me, and I stretch out my hand to gently stroke its fur. I stretch out my hand to gently stroke its fur, not because I like fur, but because you need to feel my hand upon your tail. You need to feel my hand upon your tail to know that I am still here, that I will be there. I will be there for as long as this takes, as long as this thing has a hold on you, and it shakes you in its teeth. It shakes you in its teeth in a blue gown, in a room on a grey corridor, with red and green lights pulsing. With red and green lights pulsing, I know that you are still with me, so I stroke the fur of the frightened animal you have become, and we will get there, wherever there is.
is a SmokeLong Quarterly
Emerging Writer Fellow for 2023. Writes with Writers’HQ. Words now or forthcoming in Bath Flash, Reflex Fiction, Lumiere Review, Janus Literary, Pithead Chapel, The Forge
and others. Runner-up in Bath Novella-in-Flash 2023. Her writing has been nominated for Best Microfictions and Best Small Fictions. Her Novella-in-Flash, The Top Road
, is forthcoming with AdHoc Fiction, and her Flash Fiction Collection, Drawn and Quartered
, is out now with Alien Buddha Press. She is supported by the Arts Council Ireland Agility Award and lives beside the sea in Dublin, Ireland, with her husband and daughter. Tweets about writing at @fionaemckayryan