Jude Lingard’s short-story entry Trapped has been judged as the winning piece in a writing competition.
Local author Alan Cobham is running a series of short-story writing competitions and Jude’s entry netted her a prize of $200.
“Weeks of pondering and self-reflection had taken their toll upon Helen’s mental health.
With so much time to think, it was difficult for her to tell the difference between reality and her own twisted recollection of past events. Years of anxiety and insomnia were the cause of inner conflict. Her mother’s insidious control had wrapped its tentacles firmly around her neck, and there was no escape.
Most of Helen’s thought life revolved around preparation for the daily call on the landline: rehearsing lines and conjuring up positive things to say. Trying to please, she had become adept at the embellishment of her bland life, along with second guessing the inevitable questioning that she now dreaded. It was a slow and steady poison; one that she longed to be purged of.
At least her mother’s inability to adjust to 21st century life had spared her a barrage of mobile calls. Recently, Helen’s ‘social life’ had been cut off by government restrictions on account of the deadly virus. And fearmongering from the media had squashed her desire to mingle with the general populace, lest she become contaminated.
Unlike before, when shopping could swallow up an entire morning. Now it was a hunt, a smash and a grab. So much time to kill. Introspection had become both her friend, and her enemy.
To keep the virus at bay, she rose early each morning to run 20 laps of the narrow strip of grass that separated the back wall of her unit from the paling fence. At the end, there was a garden of sorts; woody camelia bushes, overgrown jade plants and wild roses. Amongst the weeds, the milk thistle attracted butterflies. Something to be thankful for.
Since reading the How and Why Wonder Book of Butterflies and Moths at seven, Helen had developed a special interest. She could photograph each page in her mind, identify each species, recall its Latin name and recite the details of its habitat and life cycle.
This morning, the amber flash of a Monarch butterfly brought a royal stop to her exercise. She hastened a backward retreat and tiptoed towards the kitchen to search for her largest sieve and an empty box. Stooping reverently, quietly, and very gently, she lowered the sieve over her quarry and trapped it inside its temporary prison. Here was her epiphany.
Adrenalin pumping, Helen carried her royal charge towards the bedroom and closed the door, leaving the box on the rug with the lid open. Lying on her back, eyes closed, she began to pray. Fervently. Soon there was movement inside the box. The majestic beauty began to rise like a phoenix towards the ceiling, at first circling, and then dancing, around the brass chandelier.
Eventually it began to descend, wafting down like a feather and settling on her cheek. Prickling, electric sensations began to shimmer across her skin. The eagle had landed. Her exhilaration was palpable, knowing that a Monarch’s touch meant transformation. This was her moment.
Helen opened her eyes in time to see the royal guest fly across the room and land on the windowsill. Sitting upright, she felt clarity and newfound purpose. With great determination, Helen slipped out to the kitchen, returning to the bedroom with a large pair of scissors. In an instant, she severed the telephone lead that was hanging by the bedside table. All lines of communication were now gone.
The bedroom window was raised, the winged saviour fluttered away to its freedom, and Helen smiled.