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The Egg

By Adam Smith All Rights Reserved ©

Fantasy

Short Story

I turn on the lamp and stare at the egg on my desk. I’m not sure how I’m supposed to help it. I’ve wrapped it in a jumper and put it near the heater, but I still feel I’m not doing it right. The thin web of bumps along the shell could mean it’s close to hatching or they could mean I wasn’t as careful as I should have been. I brush a finger across the dark red shell and feel the cool roughness of its surface. When I first touched it there was some kind of static shock, but I haven’t felt it since.

I found the egg on my way home from school. I was busy think of hitting the PlayStation the second I reached the house and almost stepped on it. It was just lying there inside a nest on the sidewalk. It looked like the nest had fallen out of a tree. There was a dead bird inside it. Normally I’d leave it alone, but I couldn’t just leave the egg there to die. I couldn’t handle the guilt of not know what would happen if I left the egg there on the sidewalk, so I wrapped it in my jacket and put it in my bag.

As soon as I got home, I pulled out the egg and set it on my desk. I went to google what I was supposed to do, but I couldn’t find anything since I didn’t know what kind of bird it was. I have no idea where to even start looking. To me a bird is a bird. It was deep purple, almost black. All I could work out was that the egg needs to be kept safe and warm until it hatches. Despite what movies and cartoons would have me believe, I don’t think you’re supposed to sit on it.

I’ve been here tinkering with the egg, trying to find a setup that works for over an hour now. I can’t remember ever being so focused on one project. I don’t know what my mum thinks I’m doing. She came by a little while ago, saw me sitting at my desk instead of in front of the TV and looked like she was going to faint. I hope that means she thinks I’m doing homework, but with my luck she probably assumed it was drugs or something.

 I can hear her vacuuming downstairs at the moment. She’d probably know what I’d need to do to help the egg survive, but the thought of asking her is more than I can stomach. This is something I need to do for myself. I need to prove that I can accomplish this one simple task on my own. For all I know the egg is already stone dead. Whatever knocked its nest from the tree and killed its mother was probably too much for the tiny creature inside to handle, but I won’t give up.

All I do is watch the dark red egg and wait. It could take days for the egg to hatch, I know this, but something tells me that if I turn my back on it for even an instant I’ll miss my chance completely. That the second I take my eyes off it will be the second it decides to hatch. That insistent thought keeps playing inside my head like a radio I can’t shut off. Every time I start trying to do something else, I’ll find myself back watching the egg. Tracing my fingers along the uneven bumps on its surface. Feeling its coolness and waiting. Simply waiting.

***

Mum called me down for tea and I had to force myself to move. The egg hasn’t done anything since I brought it home. It probably won’t ever do anything at all. I keep thinking back to the shock I got when I pulled it from the broken nest. The kind you get when you grab a car door and are not expecting it. One second things are normal, the next you’re shaking your fingers trying to work out what the heck happened. Maybe that’s why I’m so fixated on seeing this thing hatch. Like there’s some greater mystery involved.

All through dinner, I kept feeling like I should run out of the room to go check on it. It had me all twitchy and unable to sit still. My little sister noticed and wouldn’t stop teasing me about it the whole time. Seemed to think I needed to go to the bathroom but was afraid to ask. If mum and dad hadn’t been there I would have wacked her for it. If my mother wasn’t already thinking I was on drugs, my behaviour certainly didn’t help. As soon as it was over, I bolted from the table and back upstairs. The egg hadn’t moved an inch from where I’d left it.

The little ruby-coloured egg just sits there. If there is a baby chick in there, I think I’ve failed it. I’ve had it sitting beside the heater and under my lamp for hours now and it’s no warmer than it was when I found it. I’d mark it off as my own stupidity if it wasn’t that the desk around it was muchwarmer. I can feel the warmth on everything except the egg. It’s like the thing is made of ice. What the heck kind of egg is this?

No matter how much I try I can’t seem to stop thinking about it. That strange thought that if I stop watching I will miss something amazing just won’t stop. I need to get to sleep, I’ve got school in the morning, but that small voice keeps whispering ‘this is the moment, it’s happening right now’ on endless repeat. I can feel whatever’s inside waiting, hiding there like a secret no one has ever seen before. I'll have to put the egg in the closet to stop myself from constantly checking on it.

Even when I finally do go to sleep, I can't seem to escape it. Inside my head I see visions of an impossibly purple bird guarding its ruby egg. It’s like no bird I’ve ever seen before. Its mournful song fills my head, echoing and changing. Deep and unknowable, alien and haunting. The bird sings and I feel myself cry. The bird cares for and protects its nest. It watches over the egg. Waiting and mourning. I start screaming when the bird starts burning. When its song fades to silence. The egg left to the mercy of a world unaware of its value. I need to take care of it. I have to protect it.

***

Shaky from a restless night, I put the egg back in my bag, afraid to leave it at home. I made sure the egg is packed and safe, but still I find myself panicking that it broken in the handful of seconds since I last looked at it. All through class I kept glancing at my bag fighting the desire to tear open the zipper and check it again. Normally, I’m not a very attentive student, but today I may as well have stayed home. Every time the teacher looked my way, he’d catch me staring at my bag. If it wasn’t for the handful of people paying even less attention, I think he would have called me out on it.

On the way home, I went by the place where I found the egg. There was no sign of the bird or its nest. I’d almost think it was never there to begin with if I didn’t still have the egg. Its bumpy deep red surface is as cold as ever. I run my hands across it again and let out a sigh. The baby inside needs me to protect it. I won’t let this egg out of my sight until it hatches. But I’m starting to worry about what will happen to me if the egg truly is as dead as it appears to be. If I’m forced to keep watch for the rest of my days.

I put the egg on my pillow and just watch it. If only it would move. If only it would show some sign that it was still alive. Maybe then the need to keep checking on it would let up for just a moment. I’ve traced the scraggly lines on its shell a dozen times. The spaces between each line are smooth like glass. Each line a ridge spiralling across its surface. I’ve run my hands along the egg until I’m sure they been scarred in its pattern, and yet the egg remains cold. Frozen and waiting. It’s driving me mad. If only it would hatch.

***

My sister saw the egg. I tried to stop her, but she wanted to see what I was hiding. She keeps banging on the door, but I won’t let her in. The egg is mine. I won’t let her have it. I sit with my back against the door trying to keep her out. I can hear my mother yelling, telling her to stop, but she just keeps hammering at my door. My eyes remain glued to the egg. Watching its unmoving surface.

The egg is mine.

***

My parents had to take her to the hospital. She wouldn’t stop attacking my door. She even bit my father when he tried to make her stop. I had to hide the egg under a pillow when my mother stormed in demanding to know what I’d done to my little sister. She probably would have searched my room for whatever mysterious drugs I was hiding, if my sister hadn’t taken priority. I watched the car disappear down the driveway with relief. I don’t know what I would have done if mum had seen the egg. She wouldn’t understand. I barely understand. But the egg is mine, and the egg is moving.

It started as soon as my parents dragged my sister from the house. Tiny, almost unnoticeable, twitches. I’d think I was imagining it if I wasn’t watching the egg so closely. The rough map of ridges on its deep red surface shifts with each movement of its unborn shell. I keep forgetting to breath. I can’t take my eyes off of it. I don’t move. I don’t blink. I just watch for the hint of motion and feel my heart strain with excited anticipation. The egg is alive and I’m going to see it hatch.

At first the movements were slow, spaced out by minutes, but now they happen like earthquakes every few seconds. The egg is still as cold as ever. Maybe even colder. My pillow looks like it’s starting to ice over under it. I could be imagining it. I am afraid to touch it anymore. It could hatch at any moment. The fine red shell shakes with impatience. Like it’s waiting for something. I can sense that. There’s still something missing. Some final ingredient that will allow the baby to be born. I just don’t know what.

***

The egg wobbles in place, waiting for the last spark it needs to complete the process. The room grows so cold I can see my breath fogging the air in front of me. My bed is covered in ice crystals as if all the heat is being funnelled into the egg and its yet to be born cargo. It’s almost finished, it just needs one more thing. My skin prickles and I find myself reaching for the egg against my will. Fear and exaltation wage war inside my skull as my finger close around its ruby surface.

The egg is like a vat of ice hiding a star. I can feel a vast heat waiting on the other side of that hard shell casing. Pain splinters through my hand as the ridges embed themselves in my skin. I fall to my knees feeling that pulsing wave of heat trapped behind a wall of ice. My body grows cold as the egg drains whatever spark it's been waiting for.

All colour fades from the world until all I see are thin rays of spidery cracks spreading across that ruby coloured shell. Blazing heat pours from between each line like a furnace ready to explode. It scorches my arm in waves of blazing golden light turning my skin to ash. And from the ashes new life is born. I feel tears well in my eyes at the sound of its mournful cry. It spreads its wings and the last thing I see in the fires of its flight is a bird of impossible purple soaring over me and out into the world.

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