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Her Night House

Abigail Ottley

Her night house is filled by all the creatures of the dark who come like old friends to spoil her sleeping. Here are her gaudy, painted moths who feather and flutter, stirring secrets unbidden from beneath her blinded lids. And here the wide-mouthed nightjar who croaks a benediction from his low-lying nest beyond her window, a rustle of  bats in their black velvet tree-roosts, moon-brindled badgers, and blinded, soft-suede moles. Here, too, come  her fireflies, like tiny green stars, and her silver-backed slender-legged spiders, her sandy-tailed vixens whose barking breaks the silence to cause her to rise from her bed. Black cats and moonrats, shy, snuffling hedge-pigs, clever rats that scuttle from their crevices, multi-clawed roaches that come chirping and hissing, stubble-swooping, shrew-hungry owls. On moonlit midnights, from dusk to grey-dawning, they plague her as her body spans the nothingness. She’s taut and stretch-stranded between her bony, crooked fingers and claw-curled, prehensile toes. On such nights, she will spill whole bottles of ink, splashing her bedsheets with stars beyond measure, say prayers, sing psalms, shed her tears and salt blood for love of her mother in the moon.

Abigail Ottley lives in Penzance. Her work has appeared in more than two hundred outlets including The High Window, Ink Sweat & Tears, Fragmented Voices, and The Selkie. She contributed to Invisible Borders: New Women’s Writing From Cornwall, Morvoren: the poetry of sea-swimming, and the Unbridled anthology. In 2023, she was placed third and Highly Commended  in the Frosted Fire Pamphlet Award with two separate pamphlets. She won the Wildfire Flash Fiction Competition the same year.

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