Tail-feather

The peacock had not been dead long. The eye he could see still gleamed dully, though quite without intent. Lawrence guessed that if he touched it, it would be warm. There were no signs of how it had died - it was whole and perfect, except for its tail, which was gone.

The young man with the green hair hadn’t been carrying anything. Unless he’d defeated his own purpose by folding the tail-feathers, tucking them into his clothes and so destroying them, he was not the thief. Yet, though Lawrence scanned the lawn all around, the feathers were nowhere to be seen, and neither was there any trace of anyone’s passing, bar his own and that of the green-haired man.

It was troubling, but it was not the first strange thing he’d witnessed in the garden. Nor would it be the last, if he was right. Things were changing. He could feel it, a subtle glint, a taste, a scent - like that moment when you realize winter is over. There was a freshness to everything, a brightening of colours as if an artist had crept about in the night, high-lighting each branch, each blossom, each blade of grass.

The garden, once you were inside, was lovely. But it was static in its perfection, an ending rather than a beginning. It was sculpted and controlled, forced into a state unnatural. Like the freak of breeding, the pressure of competition that had made the peacock, it could go no further down its chosen route. There was reassurance in such things, Lawrence thought, an illusion of permanence – an anchor against chaos.

But it was false, a dream rather than a reality, because change had come.

He thought of butterflies and chain-links, and of the tail-feathers of a peacock. They were ridiculous creatures really, with their tiny, shining heads and round, plump bodies. They way they walked, seeming to disdain the ground under their feet, quite disgusted by it.

He nudged the corpse of the bird with the toe of his boot and one of the other peacocks set up a chattering alarm. Lawrence ignored it, stepped over the body and walked on to the statue, and the what he knew was hidden there.

The lady Pandora sat on her plinth, her white eyes fixed to the clouds. Her expression suggested a stoic acceptance of fate. In her marble hands she held the casket, locked against hope. Locked agaisnt Lawrence too maybe.

He heaved himself clumsily onto the plinth, almost slipping, barking his shin painfully on stone. He thought, with an envious pang, of the green-haired man. The way he'd flown over the wall - his ability, his grace and ease of movement. It was like a song, like a shout, a statement of health and youth and joy.

In Lawrence's pocket was a key. He couldn't hold onto anything while he reached for it. He swayed, precariously balanced, while he delved for it, wishing he'd thought to hold it in his mouth as he climbed. He got it out, miraculously, without falling or dropping the key and slid it into the lock. His hand shook now, as the key turned. He held his breath, glanced up into Pandora's beautiful blind eyes and heard the snick as the casket unlocked.

The End

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