The woman heard a noise like the sound of lightning—it was small, so small it might have just been the intention of lightning—from inside her locked room. She pressed her eye against the keyhole but couldn’t see much.
She left the door and read a book about moths. She pondered beauty and flight and the pursuit of light. She thought about those who had locked her in her room and wondered what the best sort of revenge might be. Escape perhaps? To lock them up in her place? It was an exercise in futility, though, because the woman knew she would never seek revenge. She would continue on here, until she grew used to her captors, until she loved her captors.
She pressed her eye against the keyhole again, and this time the other side pulled at her like she was filling a void. It pulled and pulled and pulled, until her eye popped out and was pulled through to the other side of the door.
At first she was disoriented, controlling her body from the one side of the door while at the same time viewing everything on the other side, but she got the hang of it pretty quick and laid her body down on the floor and closed the eye that remained in her skull.
On the other side, she couldn’t control her line of sight without any muscles attached, but luckily her eye had landed facing forward. She was outside. All she could see was a grassy hill. The hill was sloped in the way hills are and atop grew a beautiful, fierce tree.
Its branches were thrown back and patches of red and gold leaves blazed in the sun like fire and the tip of its trunk leaned forward at a jaunty angle. The sight of it stirred something in her. It stood alone and proud and bent to no wind.
Again, she felt the thrum and shiver in the air like a precursor to lightning, and then it struck.
It struck the beautiful, fierce tree in the meat of its trunk. The noise was so loud that she briefly opened her eye back on the floor, quickly shutting it and regaining control. What she saw when her vision cleared was not a long scar of heat and charred wood. There was that, of course, and a hole big enough for a woman to walk through. The tree sagged beneath the destruction and the woman was sure it was going to topple.
But it wasn’t the devastation that interested her, rather the light. A wild, free light shown out from the hole and the tree appeared to straighten. It was bright—so bright—and the woman realized she never would have guessed that the beautiful, fierce tree contained such a light if it had not been pierced.
Out of that charred ragged hole of light flew hundreds and hundreds of moths. All sizes and colors of moths—some so small as to be mere specks of dust and rust, others so large that when they flapped their wings she could feel the wind stir on her eye. She marveled that one tree could contain such a multitude of wings.
She watched for a while in that other place through the keyhole, and then she opened her eye back in her body and sat up. She tore the sheets from her bed and made a rope and an eyepatch. She left her other eye on the other side of the keyhole, so she could always watch that strong and fierce tree.
Then she looked around for something solid and for something sharp. She found both, shattered the window with her elbow, and climbed down on her make-shift rope.
She went looking for her captors with something solid in one hand and something sharp in the other. She didn’t make much noise, but she wondered if her captors heard it. She bet she sounded like the intention of lightning.
Evan James Sheldon
Evan James Sheldon’s work has appeared most recently in Barren, Cease, Cows, Fictive Dream, Fearsome Critters, and Typehouse. He is an Assistant Editor for F(r)iction and the Editorial Coordinator for Brink Literacy Project. You can find him online at evanjamessheldon.com.
Artwork: Laura Makabresku