“The Skylight” by Abigail Stewart


Her new job was a quiet place, exactly what she wanted after five years in food service — the soft tapping of keyboards, muted music piped through ear buds, an occasional outburst of laughter, undertones of conversation. 

She answered email queries and took her shoes off under her desk. She ate turkey sandwiches on white bread in the break room. She drank the free coffee. 

At first, the office seemed too bright, sunlit where she expected shadows cast by fluorescent tubes. Until she noticed the skylight. A 3’x3’ cutout of outrageous blue against a cream ceiling, light beamed down onto her wood composite desk like a beacon. She felt beatific, a barefoot saint tending to the needs of the disembodied masses. 

Clack, clack, clack. 

Someone had left a jade plant, discarded, at an empty corner desk. She brought it with her into the light, watched it straighten and lift its arms up toward the sun. 

She dutifully checked her inbox.

“Are you a boot?” an emailer inquired. 

“I’m sorry, I don’t understand your question. Please refer to our FAQ here,” she responded, per company guidelines. 

“Are you a bot? Are you real? I’m not giving my information to some Russian hacker.” 

“Yes, I’m real. How can I help you today?” 

The contact went quiet, as they so often did, the invisible lines of cyberspace irrevocably severed. Perhaps she had given them the assurance they needed in order to sleep that night. 

Clack, clack, clack. 

Keyboards, as always, and an undertone of something new, more insistent. 

Her eyes trained upwards. Two pigeons were scrabbling against the plastic covering of her skylight – she thought of it was hers now. From underneath they were inflated rafts, bug eyed, overstuffed, and grappling on a clear ocean. One had a piece of twine wrapped around his tiny, orange foot, buried deep into the flesh, a functional part of him now. 

She watched. 

His other foot, the good one, shot out like a gasp, vengeful and quick. The smaller pigeon fell, his bug-eyes pressed against the glass, looking down at her. A small rivulet of blood trailed from his chest. The other pigeon, no stranger to pain, gave one last nip to the neck of his deceased enemy before disappearing. 

The lifeless bird cast a long shadow on her desk. 

Her email pinged, a response from the emailer: “Russian hackers interfered with the election, so I need a picture of you to prove you aren’t a bot. Hold up three fingers.

No one else noticed the dead pigeon until it began to smell, only then did maintenance remove it. 

Abigail Stewart is a writer from Berkeley, California. She lives in an apartment filled with plants and books and breakable things. Her poetry has appeared in literary magazines, but mostly on bathroom walls. She writes a blog about books and dungeons & dragons: http://www.ageektragedy.net. She tweets at @abby_writes. 

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