Anon by Himiko Shiragami, Willowfield Humanities College

Inspired by ‘An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump’, Joseph Wright  ‘of Derby’, 1768

My stomach grumbled as I swapped arms to hold up the stupid bird cage. It made my arms and hands ache with the strain of pulling the rope down, preventing the cage from falling right on my head. I wouldn’t have minded if it did fall and knock me out for a while, because then I might get some decent treatment of a luxury bed to lie on, care from them instead of the other way round and some food to settle my nagging hunger. My mouth filled with saliva at the thought of some delicious chicken, topped with gravy and vegetables and loaves of fresh warm bread. Instead of the crummy stale bread and cabbage soup I had waiting for me at home every single day after a day’s work at this manor.

The cockatoo squawked, shoving me out of my beautiful reverie. My tired eyes opened to a hushed, nervous scene. The candles were few on the table and it was difficult for me to see the experiment the scientist was going to conduct. I was not one of the family so I was obviously outcast to the side, having to tiptoe to see over the head of the Lord Stapleton’s daughters. Over the top of young Amelia’s head, I could see the bright, excited faces of the two visiting scholars, their eyes wide with impatience, like a child on Christmas Day. I could also see the nonchalant newly-wed couple, one of them being the oldest child of Lord Stapleton.

The scientist continued his experiment, pouring spoonful by spoonful of sodium peroxide powder into the starved bird’s bowl, waiting for him.

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