TATT by Rebecca Grandson

Doctor lifts his ultraviolet pen. His office is dotted with sterilised pictures, the frames filled with certificates, accolades and posers, grinning.
The boy shuffles onto a grey armless and open-backed chair, the cushioned material mottled to disguise wear and dirt. He considers the people who have sat on the chair since it was new a few years ago: all their complaints, the news they’d been forced to process, the all-clears. Somehow he’s ended up having to do this alone. He can’t remember how he got to the doctor’s office.
The nib of the pen glows like it’s an escaped prop from a science fiction film—phosphorescing, white star with a purplish halo. The doctor waves it around, looks at it. He wears glasses, this doctor, and the lenses seem light-reactive. He resembles Burt Reynolds.
“So Finlay, do you know why you are here today?”
Finlay stares and micro-convulses.
The doctor scribbles something onto a notepad and then circles a mouse around on his desk, eyeing a computer monitor.
“Well, we’ve been expecting your test results haven’t we?” the doctor says.
Finlay is unsure if an answer is expected of him. After a moment he goes to shrug his shoulders but the doctor carries on speaking before the motion can be completed and his shoulders sink strangely while the man talks.
The brightness of the overhead light amplifies and Finley feels its heat radiate, a static emanation unchanged since installation. Finlay’s hair—middle parting, tawny—starts to prickle.

“I’m glad you managed to make it down to the surgery to see us Finlay. How have you been feeling?”
“I’m okay. Sometimes my tongue hurts.”
The doctor moves the mouse again, his gaze once more directed at the monitor. He continues to talk. The words clump together, an electric sound, synthesised. All vowel.
Finlay nods, unable to decipher any meaning, and hopes no questions that require elaboration past agreement come up. The nods are working, for now. He turns his eyes to the large window featured along one side of the small room, a sideways glance. Finlay had thought the room was situated on the ground floor—he doesn’t recall using stairs or an elevator to get here (he doesn’t remember how he arrived at all, but he does remember that he doesn’t remember)—but this window is high up and looks out at a grey sky swooped with slitty gulls. From Finlay’s viewpoint the sky dominates and the tops of tower blocks interfere in the corners. There is a pigeon standing on the window’s sill outside, balancing, behind the glass.
The bird looks into the room, stares through the artificial light, with an eye bulged and swollen, coming loose from its socket. The eye is red and pink. Something leaks from it. There are black specks. Finlay sees it and it is looking at him with its eye.
Finlay keeps its gaze, and waits for confirmation that the eye has the bird’s intent, that the eye’s current diseased condition isn’t restricting its movement and the bird is—by chance—pointing a blind eye at him, specifically, but by accident. The pigeon rolls its head, as if detecting and answering Finlay’s question, and asserts its presence by freely rotating its head around, the eye left fixed, with the enlarged pupil always stuck on the boy’s reciprocal stare.
The room smells of traffic fumes. Finlay lowers his chin, the words of the doctor snuggle inside the man’s mouth, not making it out. There is a warmness. Finlay closes his eyelids, using mechanics to whoosh the light in and out, until the scrunchy dark turns to a nothing he sees through.

He wakes and retains the same position, his impulses leading, pulling him to not jerk and panic with the strangeness of the doctor’s office, and falling into sleep there, for an unknown amount of time. What comes to him after the creeping return of brightness is the acknowledgement that the doctor still talks, before he even hears him. If the doctor maintains his words then Finlay will not be questioned.
The pigeon is still there, the boy can tell, he doesn’t have to raise his head but he wants to so he does. The doctor is in his own world, the words he’s attempting aimed at some unknown recipient, somewhere in the wall. Finlay smells blood and looks about, to where fine spatter mists through a white plastic vent near the floor at the back of the room. The pigeon has pulled out some of its feathers and has a bald patch under it wing. It flaps as if presenting Finlay with what it has done. Somehow, with determination, it stays upright on the windowsill outside. The muster in its demeanour makes it strain and its eye protrudes even more.
The doctor now sounds as if he is singing. He’s not, it just comes out that way. There are tones in what he does, and they infect everything solid, but especially liquid. Finlay feels it around his system, tugging through bridges that flush his vitals. The concentration causes him to sink and something akin to sleep but not entirely it interrupts and he skips through the next moments.

After this the pigeon is in the vent, its head busted through the middle, as if it is trying to find a way in. In its efforts the eye has scraped over its face and it wriggles, its head the only part of the bird forced through the brittle and broken plastic. It still looks at Finlay, but only with its remaining eye.
The doctor sees the bird and stops talking. He raises a hand that says in gesture that everything is under control, that he is familiar with a situation such as this and what he will do next will sort it out. He swivels his chair and stands up, his hair on end, made of dead fibre-optic cabling.
The pigeon freezes. It has raspy breathing.
The doctor moves up to the vent and crouches down so he’s more level with it. From his pocket he picks out a long pink tube that could be an intestinal worm but could also be a piece of animal intestine. As he dangles the tube the pigeon shifts its attention from pain and watches the snaky movement. Its beak snaps as its one eye locks onto the incoming morsel.
Just as he’s about to feed the bird the doctor micro-jerks. He has remembered something. With arm reaching out, meat tube almost at mouth, the doctor revolves his head and looks at Finlay.
“Where’s your mother?” he says, clearly.
“She’s Tired All The Time,” Finlay says.

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