Mei picks up the torn poster and attempts to smooth it out so that both sides meet neatly. But the gashed tabby’s head is still missing a piece. She holds the glossed card tight against her own face, and looks through the hole that had previously been the other tawny eye. The bubble-gum pink TV-cum-DVD player that she has, until now, forgotten she still owns, is still there on the shelf above the kitchen tops. Everything else is not.
Except the poster, which is heating her cheeks with each trapped cabbage hot breath. And its missing piece. Which Mei now sees through her mask has settled in the thick dust pool which the settee had been hiding. As she moves to pick it up, her legs decide that now is the perfect time to sit down. She lands harder than is entirely necessary, sending up a small chute of fluff around her bare shoulders.
Mei leans back against the clammy wall. She lays the poster next to her and pops the little eye back where it belongs. The wind kindly slams shut the front door for her. She likes the round echo that the room shouts back. She wonders if it has been waiting for her to hear it for a long time. Has it been talking to her from behind the dead wood bookshelves all along, straining for her against the gag of the Axminster? She sings to it.
She sings lullabies up into the ceiling, while her eyes trace its wrinkles. The world outside purples. Mei keeps singing. Even as her throat dries and cloys shut, she sings. Until her voice is just a cracked whistle in the dumb black.
Rowena Cooper is an unpublished author and poet from Surrey, currently studying for a Masters in Creative Writing at Oxford University.
(Editors’ Note: Congratulations, Rowena, on being published!)