owl floated softly on a gentle downwind, its ghostly white under
feathers a reflection of the half moon suspended in a flawless dark
night. So silent was its flight, and so pale its appearance that
it might have been the only cloud
in an otherwise smooth black sky, or it might have been some long
lost soul, confined to solitary nocturnal habit, haunting the lanes and thefields
of an English countryside.
swooped and rose, as the breeze and its hunger dictated. Crying
out just once, as it plunged into the field of wheat, it's
plaintive sound ended abruptly as it gripped its victim, and the creature
it believed it had captured turned, and became the captor.
the morning the field was silent, the wheat flowing like waves on
a sea in the dawn whisper of wind. The wheat was coming ripe for
harvest, the fat ears almost ready for the plucking, the field all but prepared
to yield its annual crop. On one side woods ran down to the brook by the meadow,
the trees marking the far boundary. On the near side of the field,the
lawns of Moreton Manor grazed the wheat, the manicured green edges
an attractive counterpoint to the yellow corn, and the nettles, cowslip, and daisy
that grew amongst it.
Sarah Lamb turned over in the double bed, forgetting in just a moment of
regret, that she was alone. She had left the warmth of a sleeping companion
behind when she had left London the previous night. Perhaps she would
entice Amanda back into her bed, and her life, perhaps not; it was
too early for predictions after the betrayal.
She stood from the bed, the sheets dishevelled from her waking
anger rather than a disturbed sleep, and walked to the window. She had no idea why she had come here, though when she needed some peace and solitude to reflect and make her next move, this would always be the place she chose.
The surroundings were quiet enough, and the scene she contemplated as
she sat on the window seat seemed ideal for the restoration of injured spirit.
In the distance the woods, a symphony of birdsong evident even from
this far away. Once she would have been able to distinguish the different
species, the sparrow, the lark, possibly a woodpecker, the swallows,
but now she heard only the beauty of it without the knowledge of the
lost memory. The field, of course, was still here, its growth and
death each year a memory she would never lose.
She could see the Manor house itself;
seventeenth century with later additions and modernisations, all kept
with immaculate precision by a team of local people maintained on
a contract of necessity. The house had about ten bedrooms if she remembered correctly,
with countless rooms downstairs of which the main drawing room, and
the dining room - well banqueting hall was a more apt description
- were the most used ones. The weathered red brick of the walls of the main
house were pleasing to the eye, and were complemented by the aged yellow brickwork and
darkened timbers of the smaller outbuildings where various farm
machinery and motor vehicles were kept, unless habit had been changed dramatically
since she had been away. The grounds immediately surrounding the
house were of pristine gravel, neatly tailored flowerbeds, and carefully maintained
lawn. She had been allocated one of the guest suites in one of the
Movement out of the corner of her eye caught her attention and she
looked for its source. It was some moments before she saw him, walking, long
legs striding purposefully through the wheat field. He looked as
if he had spent the night there, his ivory coloured shirt and trousers crumpled and
stained, and yet he still looked as magnificent as the first time she had met him.
It was ten years ago, and she was on the brink of leaving University
for a career in something vaguely artistic. He had been in and around
a group at her art classes, yet whenever she tried to get near to him,
to speak to him, he was gone. Of course Kim got to know him, very well
as she once boasted, but then Kim always had to have whatever was considered
favourite, at the top, or the trend of the moment.
Sad - though Sarah had considered it poetic justice at the time - that Kim had lost
her ability to translate her talent for painting when the road crash left her paralysed. The
exhibition was Kim's great, and as it transpired only, moment of artistic triumph. Easily the best creative talent in her year she
had been granted a one person show at a small gallery in central London,
quite a coup even then. As Sarah wandered around, gazing enviously at the canvasses, bold
colours and abstract patterns being the basis of most of them, shecouldn't
help wishing she possessed just a modicum of the freedom of expression
to commit her feelings to public view.
merely a case of conquering your natural inhibitions. It was
him, the man she had seen but never met.
She smiled enigmatically; even then able to cloak her emotions with
words, Am I inhibited?
His smile was more restrained, as if it was a physical reflex he was
still learning. Kim isnt though is she? Or at least
thats what her paintings
They were standing in front of a huge abstract nude in purple and yellow.
You'll be telling me next this is Kim.
He turned away as if to leave her. She was amazed at the stab of pain
that simple action caused her. Then he turned and beckoned to her.
No actually it's me. Stylised to an extent of course. Kim was naked as
well, she painted it after we made love.
Sarah blushed, which made her angry, and with her anger came a sudden
rush of resentment. Is she uninhibited in bed as well?
She tried to sound blasé but failed. His hand on her bare arm felt warm, and the
warmth seemed to flow into
her veins, causing her head to spin a little. No, her true
openness she shares with her canvasses. You, however
The hotel was not quite seedy, but would never be considered up market.
The room was clean, and the bed freshly made. If inhibition was
the subject they both passed with flying colours. Sarah felt his hands on parts of
her body she had yet to speak openly about. She took him in her
mouth, and lavished positions of wild display upon him. Their nakedness was
natural and without a mask of coyness; but it also lacked true passion. He was athletic
and demanding, yet his ardour seemed as if it had been learned, and was
still being tested. It was something acquired rather than an emotion
to be experienced.
shivered and pulled the window closed. The field was empty now,
David Helmore had disappeared from sight just as he had disappeared from
her life ten years ago, their one afternoon of delights repeated,
it seemed move for move and never a position deviated from, on six more occasions
over the next year, and then nothing. They stayed in touch, and she
was able to follow his progress, but there was nothing more intimate between
them. He never explained, apart from one grudging, We are
both still growing. You need to find who you really are.
What about you? I suppose
the-in-control David Helmore knows who he is?
I know what I am going
to be, and what I need to get there. Who isn't important. We
are all the sum of many different parts. Don't you agree?
It was a glorious day outside. The sun shone through the curtains of
her room, making shadows play and dance on the wall behind her.
She owed Mary Moreton an explanation for her sudden appearance last night, and
a thank you for the grace with which she was unquestionably given a room.
She dressed quickly after a shower and went down into the courtyard.
She had known the Moreton's for years. They had been friends of her
parents, both running small farms in the Devon heartland, and after
her parents' death in a boating accident off the Salcombe coast she had been
as welcome to stay at the Manor as she had been at her own family home. Mary and
her husband Bill, were old-fashioned in many ways but they had helped and
guided her through many difficult decisions, not least of which
was her setting up home with Amanda. Sarah knew her parents wouldn't have been
so stoical about it. Yet Mary and Bill had calmly discussed the good and bad side
of setting up home with anyone, and the social and emotional issues they
The flowerbeds were crammed with roses, fuchsia, clumps of perennials,
spreading cotoneaster, whilst the walls of the buildings over flowed
with clematis and vines. The edges of the lawns were neatly clipped, meeting
the gravel paths with almost military precision. Bill's work
Sarah smiled; Mary would always aspire to a more informal approach.
She opened and went through the main front door, knowing she had no
need of the formalities of knocking or ringing the bell. The predominant smell
was of rich furniture polish. Fresh flowers were collected in crystal vases
on an oak refectory table in the centre of the main hall. From the hall,
the floor a lake of polished wood panelling, doors led to the rooms of the
house. It was from one of these that Mary Moreton appeared.
She exclaimed with genuine delight and hugged the younger woman
to her, in a display of what Sarah realised later, was a desperate plea
A trifle breathless from the embrace Sarah held Mary's shoulders in
her hands to enable her to look at her old friend. She had lost
weight, and the years seemed to be hanging heavily upon her. In fact Sarah was quite shocked
at the difference in Mary's appearance since she had last seen her, only
six months or so ago, as spring blossomed.
Mary sensed the effect her appearance had on Sarah, and she tried to
make light of it. Now don't fuss dear. After all it's you we need to attend
to, sort out whatever it is has brought you home in the middle of
Strange that even now Sarah thought of Moreton Manor as her home. In
a way even when her own family home was somewhere she could visit, before the
accident and the farm was sold off, she would still naturally gravitate here.
The reason was Mary Moreton herself, and her refreshing lack of disapproval
at the events that struck Sarahs life.
You don't look well, Mary. Is everything all right?
Mary turned away, a trickle of a tear in the corner of one eye. Involuntarily
she glanced at a photograph, framed and hanging on the wall. It was of a middle-aged man seated astride a huge hunter, the pair in unison as they leapt a hedge and ditch combination at the county fair.
Sarah saw the glance and knew at once that the trouble concerned Bill
Moreton. What's happened?
Mary sighed. He's not been right for a while now. The fall
from the horse seems to have knocked the stuffing out of him. You know Bill, always
falling off the blasted animals, but always getting back on and riding
Sarah laughed. He once said he felt more comfortable in a saddle than
in an armchair.
Well, he won't be riding again.
Sarah was shocked. To a man like Bill Moreton that was the last thing
he would concede. What happened?
Mary recited it as if it was a liturgy learned at school. He was showing
David some moves, they were both on horseback, they galloped out of my sight and I got on with potting the bedding plants. Then David came back, and Bill didn't. He had fallen at the entrance to the woods, where the field narrows
and there's that gully, you know the one. The ambulance men said he needed
to get to hospital, and the tests showed it was his back. Broken and twisted
in a way that means
well he may walk in time, but not for a
The full impact of what Mary was saying wouldn't hit Sarah until later
and for now all she could say was inane. When I saw the gardens I smiled.
It's all so neat, just like Bill likes. I assumed he had done it.
David had helped out. He's been a blessing.
The name stabbed at Sarah in a way she had forgotten. Although she had
seen him earlier in the field, and was somehow not surprised at seeing him,
she hadn't known he would be here. Why should he be? His presence was fate
in a kind of way. She was running from one relationship and here
he was, the man she had never really recovered from.
Before she could ask Mary about him, Mary was saying, David has helped
with the horses as well. He's as good a rider as Bill now, so at least
Bill taught his last pupil well.
Apparently Bill Moreton had suffered a bad night and was still sleeping,
so Mary and Sarah breakfasted together in the west conservatory and
the conversation skirted any important issues as they both seemed
to want to cosset themselves with some warm safety for a while.
Eventually Sarah grew restless and as ever Mary picked up on her mood.
He's in the stable barn, we converted it into a studio for him in the winter.
The light is perfect so he says.
How long has he been here then? Sarah couldn't keep the surprise out
of her voice. She had imagined that like she David was just passing through.
Mary drank some tea, which from the look on her face was cold, or bitter.
Oh, forever, my dear. A sigh. Forever.
As she got nearer to the old stable barn, Sarah could see that the recent
renovations that Mary had mentioned had turned it into a far more grand
building than she remembered. The roof had been completely removed and replaced
by glass panels through which the early morning sun was shining
as though on the righteous. The glass panels were held in place by metal struts that
seemed to be stainless steel. One whole side of the barn was now
glass too, although a blind had been drawn across it, for privacy or protection from
the sun's rays, Sarah couldn't tell. The remaining walls
had been improved so that the crumbling brickwork was repaired but still looked aged, and
the wood had clearly been enhanced so that it retained its appearance of age,
but was solid resistance now against the elements.
Though they had not enjoyed a conventional relationship since their
early years, Sarah had maintained contact with David to the extent that
she entered the barn comfortably enough without knocking. He stood
by a washbasin, naked; water that she knew would be ice cold, flowing over his shoulders.
She watched as he, unaware so she thought of her presence, moved his
hands swiftly and economically over the muscles of his back and
legs. When his hands moved to the front of his body she coughed, a smile playing on
He turned then and in the rays of light reflected through the glass
ceiling, and with dust motes, and the thin smoke from incense sticks on
a table, it seemed for an instant as if his body was covered in
fine downy fur, rather than skin. The hard musculature that she had seen on
his back was less pronounced on his chest, where, obscured by the movement
of his body and her unclear vision, the impression was of a pale white smoothness.
As soon as the impression was in her mind it was gone again as he casually
folded a towel around his waist and approached her. He kissed her cheek,
offering a quick embrace, and the skin of his chest, and the rest
of his body was as she remembered it, but more so.
If he was surprised to see her he gave no indication. He seemed to revel
in her uninhibited survey of his body, turning in different positions to
her, even forming a mock model's pose on a couple of occasions,
a smile on his face. That too seemed different from her memory. The face was
his but there seemed to be softer lines in it, a slightly less hooked nose, hair that
flopped down on the forehead in a more easy style than before. There were
features of his face that reminded her of someone else. It was as
if he had the best bits from two different faces, his own and
Sarah, has the little liaison filtered out? He always mocked her
relationships with women, and the one serious one, with Amanda,
he allowed full range of sarcasm and amused pity.
Sarah tried to be as casual as she could but it was obviously an act.
It was never easy maintaining her composure in his presence. In
equal measure she wanted to slap him and sleep with him. There was an arrogance
about him that offended her but attracted her. His words were cruel
but alluring, and she knew why she had stayed within striking distance of his life
for so long, seeking out mention of him in newspapers and from friends and
She picked up a sketchpad; its pages turned and dog-eared. Is this
why you're here? For the inspiration?
He pulled the towel from his waist and used it to ruffle his hair. Her
style lasted for a while, but it got a little repetitive; all those colours
and patterns, so eighties. One has to expand ones talent, darling. He
affected a mock critical tone and even though her name wasn't mentioned Sarah
knew whom he meant.
Do you ever see her?
What ever for? No, I have no need to see her these days. She gave me
what I wanted. Oh, don't look so shocked, I gave her what she needed at the
time, and I don't mean just a hot few hours in a sleazy hotel.
The anger flashed in her eyes before it found voice in words. At least
I never gave you anything of mine, at least nothing lasting. Not like Kim.
He smiled and pulled on a pair of linen trousers. Time is infinite
Sarah my love. He poured some water into a kettle and lit
a match under the gas. Then he busied himself with cups and saucers.
She flicked over some canvasses leaning against a dresser. The style
was instantly recognisable as the firm direction he had taken Kim's earlier
ideas and woven from them a mood of his own, which had gained him international
What are you doing here, David? Mary tells me you've been staying a
The kettle boiled noisily and he poured it into a large pot. They've
been wonderful. They are wonderful, but then you know that of course. I can't
thank you enough for introducing them to me all those years ago. Your surrogate
parents weren't they? I can see why you'd think that.
He handed her a cup filled with sweet smelling tea. A Chinese blend.
I get it from London.
Did you have anything to do with Bill's accident? The question was
out of her mouth before she could stop it, and once loose it filled
the whole room.
If he felt any emotion it might have shown itself in the slight rattle
his cup made in his saucer but that was all. My dear, either you have
come to know me too well, or your ability for the ingenuous has not progressed
over the years.
Never mind about me. Did you hurt Bill?
The smile was a fox smile, a predator's smirk before the kill. The
farm was getting too much for him, for both of them. I think they welcomed
the opportunity to sign it over to me. The accident was merely the catalyst.
She couldn't believe what she was hearing; the farm, her safety net,
signed over to David? It was unfair, she knew she was being selfish, but she had always imagined she would be the one to inherit, when the childless Moreton's retired.
You bastard. She said quietly to him. She deliberately dropped the
cup on the floor, the hot liquid scorching her ankle.
He placed his own cup and saucer neatly onto a table. We all have something
to give, Sarah, and all in return something to take.
The silence in the barn seemed total, the air suddenly motionless. Sunlight
streamed in through the ceiling illuminating two people as they tore at clothing, mouths pressed desperately together, bodies linked
in a tumult of giving and taking.
Thrown back onto the bed, Sarah opened her eyes for a moment as David
loomed over her. At that moment he wasn't David. She didn't know who he
was, or what he was, but he was not the David she knew, not even the self-centred,
arrogant man she knew him to be. Then she knew whose face his had reminded
her of earlier. She had read in one of the columns about David Helmore,
renowned artist, and his alliance with Frankie Parker the actor. Frankie
was not often complimented about his acting abilities but his good looks
had kept him in employment since RADA with television, theatre and then
films. As always with his relationships David was modest and unassuming in
his comments, praising his new friend. If Sarah recalled it correctly David
wasn't in the country when the fire ransacked the studio where Frankie was
rehearsing. The burns unit saved his life but there wasn't
a great deal of his face left.
Sarah felt the thrust of David's body upon her but she screamed out
and pushed him away. He fell back onto the bed, as she stood awkwardly, brushing
down her skirt.
Do you ever see Frankie Parker these days David?
What the hell? Have you had him as well is that it? Something I did
remind you of him?
Sarah smiled with more confidence than she felt inside. You look like
him don't you? Not completely, you still have your own face, but he's in
there isn't he? I don't know how you did it plastic surgery of some kind.
She rushed from the barn and as she ran to the Manor she could hear
his laughter echoing behind her.
Bill Moreton was sitting up in bed, Sarah seated primly on a chair by
his side. Mary had fussed over her husband, and to a lesser extent
over Sarah as well, conscious that a visit to David would have upset her. Now
she had left them alone and the conversation was stagnant.
Eventually Bill said, I know we've let you down Sarah, don't think
badly of us.
Able through the long cocoon of their relationship to forgo unnecessary
false courtesy Sarah said, Why? Why sign it all over to him?
He looked at her as though he hadn't seen her before; it was a look
that frightened her. There was an element of David in it. You
know how persuasive he can be. He's been a great help since the accident. I don't know
what I would have done without him to help Mary
Sarah knew, she didn't know how, but she knew that David had taken what
he wanted from the Moreton's, as surely as he had taken Frankie's face, Kim's
talent, and God knew what else and from whom over the years. How
he did it she didn't know; some kind of hypnosis? It was useless to
try to speculate, but she knew she would find out.
Bill was slipping into a half-sleep as she left his room. With the day's
light faded and the opportunity to paint gone, David, she reasoned, would
perhaps go for a walk or pursue some other activity. Maybe he would be trying
out his newly acquired skill with the horses. Wherever he was she would
find him and once and for all find out what he was up to.
As she left the Manor by one of the side doors, she remembered something
she had left in her car the previous night. She went round to the outbuilding
where she had left her car and was surprised to see another car parked
there next to hers. She felt the bonnet, still warm. A few minutes of searching
brought her round to David's barn, how quickly she had begun
to think of it all as his, and there they were David and Amanda, sitting
at a bench under an oak tree sipping long drinks as the sun slowly set over
the woods on the horizon.
Amanda, Sarah said brightly. You should have let me know you were
That's not the impression you gave yesterday, Sarah.
David appeared an amused bystander, but Sarah was prepared to gamble he
had added his spark to Amanda's flame. How did you know I would
no okay, it's obvious I'd
be here. Start again.
Amanda laughed without joy. Now that would be attractive if we hadn't
already tried that route.
Sarah looked her full in the face. I didn't mean to hurt you.
Oh please. Amanda looked at David with a half smile. Sorry you have
to be a witness to this.
Sarah sneered. Don't apologise to him. He'll find something
in this he can take.
Amanda seemed uncertain what she meant but David sat up straight on
the bench. It seemed to Sarah that for the first time since she had known him David was viewing her with something like respect. She didn't know why but it was something she had said, something she suspected about him
taking things from people. Perhaps he was some kind of conman and she had guessed his
Don't get too interested David, unlike me Amanda is strictly ladies
only, so there's nothing of hers you would want.
David smiled. Everybody has a talent, a skill, or a possession of some
kind Sarah, even you.
Amanda said too loudly and too brightly, out of an onlooker's embarrassment,
There's no talent I possess, dear. Apart from loving the wrong
It was the first time Amanda had admitted a love for Sarah and for a
second it drowned all other thought.
David stood. It seems you two have some catching up to do. I've finished
for the day. Why not join me for dinner, in say an hour? I can use the
open stove in the barn.
Of course you can David. Like everything else it belongs to you
It all will Sarah, eventually.
Amanda, typical of her, hadn't brought many things. She took one small
bag from her car, and no more. Sarah let her wash in her room and then shared
her clothes with her. They talked and cried. Hugging each other
but the closeness was absent, possibly permanently. They both felt it and
tried to disguise it.
He's quite handsome, I can see why you've stayed in touch all these
years. Amanda said, as she pulled a black dress over her head.
handsome enough, and talented, and rich as well now. But its all false, none of it real.
What do you mean? Here zip me up will you?
Sarah fumbled with the zip, bending to hold the hem of the dress for
leverage. I can't explain. We had a mutual friend, years ago when I was at
college. Kim, a painter; but she had an accident, she couldn't paint anymore,
but David could, and can. The poor Moreton's; another accident and suddenly
David owns all this
she spread her arms to encompass
the Moreton estate. Even his face
oh I can't explain it, but even his
face is partly someone else's.
Speaking through lips to which she was applying lipstick, Amanda asked,
So what is he, some kind of thief?
Sarah hopped into a pair of cotton trousers, pulling them up over her
hips. A thief of people's lives. Not simple theft, that I could understand, especially in Kim's case. Everyone he comes into contact with gets hurt, really hurt, and David always gets something out of it.
She buttoned her shirt over a vest top and glanced out of the window.
The night was drawn in now, a few wisps of cloud shrouding the stars,
making a natural frame for the moon.
The smell of cooking was tempting as the two women walked, side by side
if not yet hand in hand, to the barn. The courtyard in front of it was floodlit,
a wrought iron table and chairs laid out with plates, cutlery and glasses. You've
been busy, Amanda called into David admiringly.
Help yourself to some wine, it's in the cooler.
Sarah poured three glasses and sat at the table. Amanda wandered down
to the edge of the field, peering through the darkness at the moving mass
of wheat. It's glorious here isn't it? She said wistfully.
David emerged from the barn, dressed all in black. Yes, we're very
Sarah felt herself prickle immediately. More than luck David wouldn't
David laughed. You really have developed a perception since we first
met haven't you Sarah?
I have to take something in return, you know.
The smile dropped away from his face, and the look that replaced it
was ancient and entirely evil. Oh no, that isn't in the plan at all. Nothing
Amanda walked back to the table. It was clear there was a hardening
of the atmosphere and she didn't like it. What's going on? Sarah?
Sarah drank some wine, and fingered some of the label of the bottle.
It's taken me too long to work it out David, but I think I have now.
You take from people whatever it is they hold dear. You can't experience
emotion for yourself so you steal other peoples'. The farm wasn't a
possession for you; it was what it meant to Mary and Bill. Frankie's
face was more than an occupational tool to him, it was his whole life, and
you wanted that feeling.
David began clapping. For a quick fumble a decade ago you've
made mighty progress little Sarah.
Sarah shook her head. But that's where I run out of ideas.
David took his glass and drained the wine in one swallow. He poured
another. You can't decide what I wanted from you.
She nodded her head. I gave you sex, but you could have got that anywhere.
What else have I given you?
Before he spoke David turned his head upwards as if listening. On the
soft breeze they all heard the faint echo of an owl, far away it seemed, but
getting closer. As he listened so his body seemed to swell slightly, from
within, as if he was puffing out his chest. What did I want
from you? As he spoke he still seemed distracted, as if his attention was partly elsewhere.
I wanted then the same thing I want now.
Amanda gripped Sarah's hand. And what do you want? Sarah asked.
Your life Sarah. I don't have one of my own you see, not in this world.
Don't you remember I only seemed to exist when you saw me with your friend
Kim at University? I wanted your friendship, the one you enjoyed with her.
Then I needed to learn how to love a woman, and we learned well together
didn't we? I don't have a family here so yours sufficed; boating accidents
are as easy to arrange as horse riding mishaps, or car crashes. >You
always spoke so fondly of the Moreton's; what more natural evolution for me
to want that emotion you felt, but which I had not? The farm as
a possession doesn't interest me at all, you're right, but the love,
the feeling, that's different.
Amanda couldn't keep the scorn out of her words. My God, what kind
of monster are you?
Without moving his body David turned his head to look at her. He turned
it in a complete circle, around on his shoulders. Amanda screamed.
Sarah stood from the table; still gripping Amanda's hand and pulled
her away. Why now David, after all these years?
His body began to bunch up, the shoulders lifting into the head, the
chest filling out, and the legs drawing up from the knees. His voice when
it came was beginning to sound shrill. Ten years, since we
met. In that time I've taken small things; your knowledge of the countryside,
your friends, a feeling here an emotion there. But now there's something
quite tangible I can have isn't there?
What do you mean? As she spoke the words she knew what he meant.
It's the cycle Sarah, I need to take or I don't exist; it's
not personal, don't be too upset. Amanda doesn't know about the baby yet does she? But then it's only early days isn't it Sarah? Only just had the test. You can remember whose it is though, the unborn baby I can enjoy?
Sarah picked up the wine bottle and swung it at his head. It caught
him a savage blow to the temple. He fell to the ground, blood beginning
to seep from the wound.
Come on, Sarah said to Amanda. Help me tie him up.
Amanda pulled away. No, I
Sarah turned to David but he was on his feet. His body was contorted
now into paroxysms of pain, the limbs drawing into the body, the head
sinking into the torso. His clothing was tearing at its seams, and
the flesh beneath was revealed as pale and shining, like soft feathers.
He pushed Sarah out of the way and ran, stumbling, away from the light.
He ran into the field of wheat. Sarah ran after him, but stopped when she
got a little way into the field. She had always been afraid of this field,
where the wheat would grow and then be cut down. She had always thought
it to meant more than it did, to her it was real, and when the wheat was
cut down she expected someone she loved to die.
In the middle of the field David stopped, his body crouched down, barely
visible in the dark, above the swaying stalks. His body seemed to enfold
upon itself, like a rose bud about to burst open. It swayed in rhythm with
the wheat, growing tighter as the skin impacted on itself, the clothes now
torn and discarded, the pale flesh now shown as the fur and feathers
it was becoming. The body folded into a small ball, hugging itself. Then
it opened in a violent cascade of movement, with a flapping of gigantic wings, and
the wrenching of bones into new shape.
With a wild screech it soared into the night sky and was lost in the darkness.
Sarah turned to Amanda but she was already walking towards her car.
In the morning Sarah and Mary searched the wheat field, and found
David's body, which they buried there, after the crop had been harvested.