I can feel it when your sights settle on me, when you view me on your screen. The hairs all over my body raise and tingle. I feel the sensation of being transformed into pixels just as surely as anyone has ever known the sensation of being watched. But I don’t let on that I know I’m being monitored.
You know everything about me. You know my pulse, my body temperature, my wheezing breath. You know my habit of digging in the soil, the quiet words I chant to myself when I do it. You know the hills I build. You know the void in my soul, the emptiness that yawns within me. You know everything, except that I know you.
I am a mouse whose hole has been discovered by a tomcat. My whiskers tremble at the thought of my hunter; my muscles tense for the pounce; my ears prick for any sound of approach so I can scramble for cover. But I know when the scramble comes, I will be one millisecond too late, because my hunter is skilled. I know you have everything you need and more to take me.
I build my hills in perfect solitude, except for you, watching me. I think I might be the last one like me, and I am long past caring. You can have me, I say by building hills; I am yours to pluck.
The ashes cake my lungs; the soot blackens my fingernails. There is nothing to find beneath the ashes. I have looked and there is nothing. I thought I remembered something different, cities of gleaming silver, but that must have been a dream, for there are only ashes.
I know everything about you. I know your rubbery skin and dark eye, your hardened limbs, your jagged teeth. I know your machines, your monitoring system, your network. I found it all long ago, before I was the only one. In the Before. I killed one of you with my hands. You see hands that build hills, but I see hands that wrap around a tough neck and squeeze. It was beautiful to see the blue become green and then yellow as death came. I wonder what color I’ll be when you come for me.
I consider waiting for capture, to see if you ask me how I am the last one. But I don’t think you speak my tongue. I don’t know, actually. This bothers me, but not enough to find out.
You catch me building hills under the dull gray sky. I don’t make it to my burrow, not even close. You are faster than I expected. You put me in wires, which I suppose are better than chains because they expose my sooty skin only to glossy plastic tubes instead of cold metal and rust. I have not seen so much metal since the Before. I gape and gawk at the smooth surfaces and dials like a hungry creature at a heap of steaming food.
You don’t come. You merely monitor me with your wires. I thought you knew everything about me, but you must not think so, to keep collecting information about me like this. You might as well start asking questions if you don’t know everything by now. You have been watching me for so long.
I remember killing one of you, long ago. I think hard of everything I learned then. I wonder if you can hear my thoughts, I think so hard. Now that I am safely put away, I think you will explore my hills, find the surprises I left for you on summits and in trenches. The surprises explode in your eye, kill many of you. Then more of you come to investigate, and more of you die.
It is a long time before the wires that supply food to my veins stop providing nourishment. It is even longer before the wires fall away, unused. It is even longer before I dare to disappear. I go back to digging my hills in the After, and I never feel you watching me again.
© Jessie Peacock
Jessie Peacock’s work has appeared in Sand: A Journal of Strange Tales, DOGZPLOT, Beyond Centauri, LITSNACK, Skive Magazine, Calliope Nerve, and 52|250 A Year of Flash. She writes with two dogs in her lap and blogs at http://jessie-peacock.blogspot.com.