She sits down at her dressing table, combing her fingers through long white hair as she watches the bird in its cage.
The bird is a Myrtlegull.
The plaque on the bottom of the cage reads:
“How is that wing of yours to-day, Grandfather?” she asks him, plucking idly at the scale-dusted feathers he has shed. Though dead, they still look like him, still shine with fiery shades of nacre and opal.
Of course she knows how it is. The wing is missing; burnt off.
She reaches for the latch on his gilded prison.
Her fingers click the lock out of place; it slides across her skin. She savours the feeling it gives her, the power to choose over something alive.
The bird comes cautiously, his one white eye gleaming like a pearl in an oyster crusted shut. His talons clutch the golden, twisted poles… almost out. Almost free.
As she watches Grandfather’s white eye flit in a fit of nerves between open door and arm she fingers the necklace hanging heavy from her throat, noting the weight of it, the cold, old feel of lacy filigree an icy web of silver against her skin.
Grandfather inches forward, clutching at the pole holding his weight as though the twist of gilding is a lifeline, as though it is a tightrope between him and salvation.
His head cocks at the star sapphire set in that silvery web. He stares, and thoughts flicker in his tiny brain.
Suddenly her hand closes over the crystal; it is a large pink-orange star sapphire hewn in the shape of an egg… a blue-star padparadscha. And it’s huge, big enough to fit in her hand.
As her flesh covers the shine of the stone, the bird shrinks away from the door, back along the twists of gold and into the center of the cage. Once there, he hides his one pearly eye under his good wing, almost like a child terrified of fire, huddled and crying out against some hidden monster.
“Good boy, Grandfather,” she says, her thoughts lingering over the stone as her skin tastes its chill.
Grandfather is back to being a bird again. He’s already forgotten the jewel which hangs around her neck by now.
With a smile hovering beneath blank eyes full of someone else’s rage, she reaches inside the gilded door to the birdcage.
“It’s always like this, isn’t it my love?” she murmurs to the jewel as she lifts it, dangling it in front of her face with her free hand, while she wraps the other around the keening Myrtlegull’s neck.
The bird makes no sound, of course. His vocal chords have been severed.
Not even the squeal of scrabbling talons erupts against the sides of the golden cage as she twists her wrist, snapping the tiny bones in Grandfather’s neck.
Her eyes shift to look completely into the jewel, and she laughs like a child, for she begins to see her loved one in its depths.
A single eye appears briefly to float within the blue star at the center of the sapphire, sitting and waiting, so patient where it watches from the Crack.
“Come, my dearest,” her lips mouth as she rises, the jewel clutched firmly in her hand, caught in the silver setting of the necklace, and she continues in a dreamy tone, “… let us go to the fete. They say the Doctor will be there.”
Ah, yes… the gilded cage again.
Once she is gone, the dust on the floor of the birdcage stirs into a storm, and Grandfather is, again, Grandfather. Being so, the bird resumes its perch for the billionth time, happy to wait for his mistress.