The Descending Dusk
Marjorie Flowers had never married. Nor had there ever been a significant other in her life. Nor did she have any children. Insular and abrasive; unloved, even by her parents, Marjorie had lived all eighty-seven years of her miserable existence in the same house where she had been born. And miserable is the word that best described Marjorie, who had always been as shrivelled and bitter as a preserved lemon.
A long retired librarian, no other profession better suited her, Marjorie had chosen instead to fill her life (such as it was), and every room of her dormer windowed and thatch roofed cottage with carnivorous plants. They sat in pots on sunlit window ledges. They hung in baskets, at varying heights, from the ceiling's exposed beams. They stood on shelves and occasional tables, as a singular prized specimen, or grouped together according to genus. What it was about them, precisely, that had attracted Marjorie to her obsession she could not define, other than her admiration for their self-contained independence.
It pleased Marjorie to think she could die at any moment and the plants would carry on regardless. An unsuspecting fly, or a sporadic moth, was sufficient to sustain them. The pride of her collection was a Chilean Nightwing. Native to the high desert plateaus of the Andes, the Nightwing was believed to be extinct in the wild. Its three broad and flat glaucous leaves, each tipped with a needle sharp spine, remained tight closed through the day, only opening as the sun was setting to reveal a large flower with three petals of a deep dull crimson, with the texture of velvet,
As the night sky darkened, the flower would detach itself, and with its petals spinning like the blades of a helicopter, would rise into the air and fly out through the dormer window Marjorie always opened as the growing gloom of dusk descended. Unique in its method of harvesting the required nutrition necessary for its survival, the Nightwing would seek out some large mammal and, attaching itself to the neck, would absorb the animal's blood through the pores of the skin while simultaneously exuding a toxic anticoagulant, with fatal consequences.
Climbing the cottage stairs one early evening, the toe of Marjorie's slipper caught on the frayed carpet, causing her to lose her balance, and falling backwards, tumble awkwardly, breaking her hip. Immobilised by excruciating pain, she lay at the foot of the stairs, all too conscious of the approaching hour, when the Nightwing's vampiric flower would emerge, and the fact that the dormer window was still firmly closed.