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"Consequences" by Lucy Brighton

“They’re here again. Alfred! Can you bloody believe it?”

I twitch open the curtains, “The girl is licking the walls, does nobody teach their kids manners these days?”

Alfred looks at me and then settles himself to carry on watching the TV.

I wouldn’t mind, but this sustainable house was his idea. We’d only been married a few months and were living in a small flat in London when he brought home the brochure: Secluded Sustainable Living.

“I’ve been thinking,” I mean, I should have known then there’d be trouble.

And now here I am with those bloody kids picking off bits of my house and eating it without a second thought about us.

“We’re like prisoners in our own home, Alfred, it’s beyond a joke.”

I can hear them laughing, “They won’t be laughing when I’ve done with them, I can tell you,” I say.

Alfred looks like he’s going to try and talk me out of it, but he knows better.

“Hey,” I shout, leaning out of the window, “what do you think you’re doing?”

“Get back inside, you old bag,” the boy shouts and then runs off.

“Did you bloody well hear that, Alfred? Well, enough is enough,”

I pick up the small shiny phone, all the rage apparently, and ring the only number programmed into it.

“It’s those kids again, Margaret, they’re eating the bloody house. Come winter, me and Alfred will be freezing our bits off.”


“Oh, I mean I don’t know about that…”

“I see what you’re saying but…”

“Tit for tat and that, yes, well ok, I’ll think about it.”

“Bye, then. Yes, I’ll let you know what I decide.”

Once upon a time, I’d have talked this through with Alfred rather than Margaret, she is a little on the harsh side. But Alfred started forgetting.

It’s getting dark outside, so I’m hopeful there’ll be no more attacks tonight. I pull the curtains closed and add some logs to the fire, sneaking a look at our wedding picture on the mantle piece. A young me and Alfred smile from the frame, standing outside the church. Yes, we can go to church, don’t be so judgemental.

The TV is still playing, the nature channel as always. Alfred started watching it not long after the diagnosis, he couldn’t keep up with the crime dramas we used to enjoy.

“You have got to be bloody kidding me,” I shout, hearing the familiar crunch of my windowsill, there’ll be nothing left of it soon.

“It’s dark outside. Don’t kids have a bedtime anymore?” I ask, looking at Alfred for the answers. He doesn’t give any.

I sprint to the front door, pleased I can still move so quickly in this old sack of bones body, and fling it open.

“Get away from my house!”

“Or what?” shouts the girl, her face smeared in the chocolate paint. Don’t they tell kids about sugar rotting their teeth anymore?

“Or else,” I say, the fury burning in my throat and Margaret’s words echoing around my head.

I slam the door closed and look at Alfred. He’s peering out of his glass case at me. He doesn’t have the same fire in his belly since I turned him into a tortoise. Don’t judge me. I couldn’t face the day he wouldn’t know who I was. And as a tortoise, he’ll outlive me. It’s better this way.

Shrieking from outside permeates through the walls, “Ha, Han, I’m through. I am actually through the wall.”

This is the final straw. This is my home. Just me and Alfred – we’re supposed to be safe in here.

I wipe away a tear, “Well Alfred, it’s going to have to be Margaret’s suggestion. There’s nothing else for it. The bloody oven it is!”

Lucy is a Barnsley-based writer (between Sheffield and Leeds before you pull the map out). She teaches and writes and has ridiculous conversations with her naughty dog, Loki.

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