SICK LIT MAGAZINE

Of Gilded Cages and Hidden Enemies – by Amanda McLeod

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Of Gilded Cages and Hidden Enemies

Dust motes hung in the sunlight, tiny frozen moments. I kicked a stockinged foot through the air; they swirled and frothed, bathwater gurgling down the sink. I kicked twice more before flopping back into the leather chair. The air whooshed out of it, laden with the rich blend of tanned hide and Sunlight soap that was him.

He was everywhere, an infusion. I crossed my legs and tossed hair from my eyes with a shake of my head. This room was a diorama of his life, filled with scattered artefacts, stories with endings not yet written. A crypt for memories. My eyes traversed mountain ranges of books and trays of surgical looking implements, with operations of incomplete wood bleeding shavings beside them. Empty bottles advertised compulsion in order of size and colour. And on a high shelf beside the window, a wooden horse cantered out from no memory I recognised. I stood, straining for height beyond my stature, brushing it with fingertips again and again until it tumbled, defeated, into my calloused hand.

Wooden horses spoke to me of betrayal, of Troy, of beautiful women possessed by jealous men, of gilded cages and hidden enemies. I ran a finger over the blond wood ridges of the tiny mane, traced the delicate legs, the fetlocks, the hooves. The glorious tail streamed out behind, as though the horse was captured mid gallop. Wild and free. Or panicked, in desperate flight. I turned it over in my hands, the scent of raw pine heady and clean. Among all the attempts scattered around the room, this one alone was complete; perfect in its detail. Appropriate, this single finished creation he left.

The whispered calls, the cheating, the lying, the enemy within, the sudden flight. He was a Trojan horse, a vehicle of deception, vanished in the night, leaving me to fate. For days I stayed, listening to echoes and creaking floorboards, unconvinced of my solitude. But the bars of my cage were gone. I was finally able to stretch my own legs, sniff the wind and snort with delight, to feel my stride lengthen beneath me as chunks of earth were tossed aside by my foot strikes.

I was the aftermath now, empty and relieved of obligation, released from captivity into the wild.

The wooden horse looked at me, tossed its head, stamped an impatient hoof.

What are you waiting for?

With one last caress, I threw it into the fire, watching as the flames ate hungrily and the horse twisted and writhed in sacrificial agony. Acrid smoke gave way as I flung open the doors. The moss hung green and grey from bearded trees; the air was sharp and shattered as I raced through it, my hair a banner behind me, embroidered with leaves and freedom.

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Amanda McLeod author pic

Amanda McLeod is an Australian author of fiction and poetry. Her words can be found in Terse Journal, Ghost Parachute, Elephants Never, along with now being a regular contributor here at Sick Lit Magazine. A Pushcart Prize nominee, she has been long and shortlisted in a number of international competitions, and has won several prizes. She is also the assistant editor at Animal Heart Press where she enjoys helping authors bring their books into the world. When she’s not immersed in words, she’s a keen painter and enjoys quiet places. Connect with her on Twitter @AmandaMWrites

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