She lowers her heavy backpack onto the ground outside the window, swift but silent. Her ears prick up at the sound of footsteps coming down the hallway. She pours herself out the window and eases it closed again. It clicks into place as the front door clicks open. She allows herself a brief smile before hoisting the pack up onto her back and heading off at speed down the alley.
He peers in through the window, the wool of his mask pressing against the glass. The lights are off; the house is empty. He clicks open the window, tosses his backpack in, then jumps in after it. He scouts around the house to make sure: he is first. He smiles. He drags his bag with him towards the bedroom. He will prepare a surprise for her. He hopes she will like it. He dips a gloved hand into the pack.
She pulls off her mask and gloves as she rounds the corner, pushes them into her pockets. She grunts, readjusting the straps again. A good haul in quantity if not quality. She wonders if he fared any better. The bag squirms on her back. She picks up her pace.
He smells her coming and he bounds towards the door to greet her. She opens the door and chops him hard on the nose. She was not expecting anyone to be standing there, with the lights off, in a mask and gloves. She apologises and helps him up off the floor. He assures her that he thinks the nose is not broken, despite the amount of blood. He takes off his soaked mask, she turns on a light. He is smiling like a loon, she is frowning.

Keeping one hand on his nose, he uses the other to pull her down the corridor to the bedroom. She sees the surprise he has prepared for her. A fresh kitten. She thanks him, but says she is confused by the money. He says he saw it in a movie once. She removes her pack, kneels down, shows him her night’s work. A puppy. A fancy rat. A box of frogs. They pull them out and toss them on the bed. He says it is a magnificent feast. They close their eyes, concentrate, and the constraining human shells drop to the floor. They dine.

3 thoughts on “Surprise”

  1. This is really good, and very disturbing. The choppy writing style and the stylistic weirdnesses – no names, strange words like pouring and bounding and chopping – all drop into place when the realisation that they are not human hits.

    For the record, this is a story about two creatures who have put on human disguises. They eat live creatures, and both of them spend the evening hunting up domestic / urban animals for their dinner. ‘She’ is more capable and has found a range of things; he is excited and eager to please, even though all he has is a kitten and some money which he arranges artistically like garnish.

    I liked the style and the breathless, naive style which matched the story perfectly.

    The only thing that niggled slightly was on second reading, when I picked up that there was a lot of concern about the broken nose and the blood when later it turns out that those are just “shells” anyway – can definitely be explained away, but some hint that the concern is more for the broken shell than the actual pain of nose breaking (since there is no nose) may help.

    I got a little Dr Who vibes – the kind of creatures the good doctor may have to deal with.

    And snap! Alien stories! :)

  2. Really liked the style – cold and very neutral. Somehow it seems to humnaise the characters and their lives. Like the way his affection for her comes through despite the rather a-traditional ways of expressing it.

    I liked the nose-biting scene (good,odd alienness) but was a little thrown by the fact that he checks if she is there but she is surprised to find him (I had kind of assumed they had both planned to meet).

    The bed filled with assorted animal is a great image.

  3. Our Heroes are not human at all: they are otherwordly creatures who are on the hunt for animals to dine on. They break into homes, cat-burglar style, and bring home their finds in an attempt to amuse and impress each other.

    At first, because of the theme, I thought that Our Heroes were cat people (with the lowering of backpacks which only people can do, but the “pricking” of ears happening, which is not a human thing).

    I thought this was generally well written, especially the indirect speech. There are points, though, when many consecutive sentences begin in the same way: “She …” or “He …” I think that after an obvious switch to character, the sentences need not begin in the same way. Oddly, this problem did not stand out as much as I imagine it should have.

    I also enjoyed how you controlled the feeling of the piece: keeping distance by not giving names, using indirect speech, the present tense, and so on. I thought this makes the descriptions of the smiling / frowning, tossing things onto bed, dining, and so on, more powerful — erm, one could even say emotionally “resonant” 😛

    I did wonder in the first few paragraphs exactly what was happening. Were they cat people? Or just people? Why were they stealing things. But this worked well for the ending where everything comes together.

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