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Toys in the Attic

by Lesley Mace

The scent of the ward-sister’s ocean pie flowed from the nurses’ kitchen along antiseptic corridors. It washed up in Tom’s room where the monitors hummed, and machinery measured his breath.

Tubes sucked and tubes fed. Tom’s eyelids fluttered and he dreamed he was falling. In perpetual slow-motion descent he threw out his arms -- hands reaching -- but he caught only the dust-motes that spiralled out of the attic alongside him.

Sister Grant looked in briefly. She shook her head at the absent-mindedness of doctors and returned his scattered notes to the end of the bed. As she checked his urine bag Tom’s muscle tone deteriorated a little more, his organs slowing incrementally towards shutdown.

* * *

It was never quite dark in the attic; on all but the gloomiest days light sifted, spitefully, through the eaves.

The toys watched each others’ faces fade as the careless caress of time softly stripped their brightness. Rocking-horse stood in a pool of tresses that dripped from his mane and tail a hair at a time. Teddy’s stuffing bulged from the sores of his burst stitching. Condensation-tears ran down Annabella’s haughty, porcelain face, etching scars of desolation.

The metal soldiers peeled paint. No longer recognizable as Cavalier or Roundhead the proud armies of the Battle of Edgehill had merged into an innumerable force of battered men. The Earls of Essex and of Forth, despite the dimming of their uniforms, remembered their duty as commanders; identically grey, they discussed their commonality of purpose.

Rocking-horse, Teddy, and Annabella, spoke dotingly of Tom and squabbled viciously about which of them was his childhood favourite. Each was famished with hope that he would remember them.

‘One day he’ll grow old and sentimental...’

‘And look for the marvellous toys he used to play with.’

‘He’ll open the hatch, shine his torch around and discover us,’ said Annabella, her eyes winking tears.

‘And then we’ll kill him,’ said the Earl of Essex.

* * *

Forever falling, Tom had time to listen. Even as he panicked and tried not to think about bone-splintering impact, he heard noises. And his brain translated the sounds. He heard the faint popping of small cannons and the creaky, muffled laughter of his best beloved, moth-eaten, bear.

Copyright © 2011 by Lesley Mace

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