Flash Fiction: Natural History by Wayne Price
The newest instalment in our series of ultra-short stories
Early in the morning and again in the evening, rain or shine, they cross the fields and woods behind the allotments where the houses end. In summer they cross the paths of early-morning joggers and walkers of dogs like the shadows of small birds – too quick and subtle to be noticed. It’s over as quickly as that, the visitation, almost before it’s begun. They might leave their fingerprints as the first few spots of rain.
As the nights get longer and the doors at either end of the day get darker, they take their time and seem to dawdle. They might be glimpses of white on the scuts of grazing rabbits, the undersides of deer, or the pale throats of foxes.
In high winds, in summer, they enjoy the big, full crowns of trees – whole swaying days like that are a refuge and rest for them. They feel camouflaged by restlessness.
They navigate by the sound of underground rivers, and the tiny magnets in the brains of pigeons. Because they never need to, they never look down. Sooner or later they lose the use of their eyes.
For as long as they keep their names they think of themselves as sailors; then as ships without sailors as the years roll by. Gradually, the sense of leaving is replaced by the sense of having been left.
If they come back to you at all, it is through the door in your childhood you never saw opened.
Wayne Price’s short story collection, Furnace, is published by Freight.