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He Saw Birds

by Black River 4 months ago in Short Story
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And there was nothing he could do about it

Photo by Barth Bailey on Unsplash


He saw birds. They would awaken him from deep sleep, parrots usually or macaws - finches - toucans. Colorful birds with all their glorious colors, wanting to eat him alive. Their piercing eyes and sharp beaks ready to crack his skull like a walnut. In a terrifying swoop and glide their high-pitched screeches were mind-numbing. In that moment of climax, he would awaken in a sweat. He would awaken at the moment their face was right in front of his. The high-pitched squawk echoed throughout the forest. Their colors - magnificent and unlike colors he had ever known, unlike any colors he had ever seen here. He woke. All survival mode set into gear; his chest heaved as he breathed in heavily like the hunted animal he was. A hunted animal that made an escape. He breathed out… sighed… relief... he was not caught -this time. Then sadness, his guts turned - a heaviness in his chest, something was looming around the corner. He could taste it.

There is a window open in a small room with the breeze going, flowing in beautifully, just caressing the skin and massaging the scalp. There is never anyone in there - hardly anyways. Frank is there now. He sits on a chair and thoroughly is in a state of bliss. To anyone else, it's dark in there - scary. With its concrete walls and floor, it resembles an old janitor's closet. Spiders have made a home there. He sits there mouth ajar, sleepy-eyed, with a slight smile, high out of his mind on meth. He hears the wind call his name and remembers a time before he was infected. He did not know how he got here or where he was really, so when a woman outside asked him . . .


He responded angrily "WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU!" Angry because he did not know the answer, and also because she just uninvitedly interrupted his beautiful world.

She watched him all the time, she knew he was not supposed to be there.


She cleaned houses for a living, her brown skin gleamed in the sun covered in a layer of sweat, she hated sweating - it made her feel so dirty. She rubbed her forehead with one hand and squinted. He looked bad, she thought. He looked like a bum. Greasy hair - dirty and matted. He got through life just coasting by - mooching - squatting in abandoned buildings, until the police came and kicked him out. If he thought, he was going to get away with that shit here he was wrong.

They told her they would send somebody to check it out. The person on the phone sounded apathetic.

She sat up and waited. She was boiling some hot tea on the stove. The wood floors creaked beneath her bare feet. The television was on but she wasn't watching. She just kept it on for company.

The infant was later found at a nearby gas station with minor injuries, San Bernardino police are still searching for the whereabouts of the mother . . .

The police never came that day. She spent the next morning looking out of the window, NOTHING! On her way out the door to go and clean Miss Maggie's house, the cop car pulled up. She saw the 2 officers go to the back of the Miller's house. Shortly afterward one knocked on her door, "Ma'am I'm officer Stone, we have told the gentleman to leave the premises. If you have any future questions or concerns give me a call." He handed her a card.

"Ok thank you officer." She nodded her head.


The spiderwebs in the corner of the shed glistened when they caught the light of the moon, he thought this was absolutely beautiful. He was convinced this was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. He told Jackie that after he fucked her. She laughed wildly; she was a drunk, not a meth head. "You think that's the most beautiful thing you've seen? You sure know how to make a girl feel special."

"No baby, not as beautiful as you", he kissed her on the lips, she was fishing for compliments, and she made a catch. She laughed like someone much younger than her age.


By Mason Hassoun on Unsplash

The pot simmered on the burner stove, hot bubbly spices and seasonings whirling around in a dance. The aroma molecules floating in the air and permeating the entire house. They traveled out of a cracked window, the only window in the room. It smelled like a good home-cooked meal. Half the neighborhood wondered where the smell was coming from. Mr. Grobe remembered his mother. The old blue dutch oven, was freckled with brown spots. It had been used probably thousands of times. He had gotten it from the mother of his old friend. A woman that took him in. He was sure that it made the best chili on the planet. He stirred the pot with a wooden spoon and flicked a few drops of the sauce in the palm of his hand, he tasted it, paused a moment, it was exactly right. The habanero was a little spicier than he thought it would be - but it was still exactly right.

He emptied tortilla chips into a large bowl, the red and green ones - today was Christmas Eve.

"Babe I'm bringing wine and maybe some vodka, what do you want?"

"Yeah, that sounds good."

She stopped at the grocery store on her way over, two men tried to pick her up, two! She laughed it off. She thought she looked classy today, apparently not. Even hookers deserve Christmas off, she thought to herself. The streets were adorned in Christmas lights. A few inches of snow covered the ground, the silence was captivating. She exhaled and her breath formed clouds.

The chili was still on very low heat. Cooking on the burner that he lugged from one place to the next - the sauce had to thicken. He liked his with white rice and sometimes an avocado. Harvey liked it on a hamburger bun with "no extra shit on top", and Jackie, she liked hers with tortilla chips and cheese. Jackie showed up with a big brown paper bag. She looked pretty, her skin was glowing and her lips a pretty shade of red. Her hair pulled back in soft curls. She had to walk over Harvey who was laid out on the floor.

"Well, well, well - Look who decided to show up." He said his eyes never leaving the dutch oven. Harvey opened one of his eyes and mumbled something, then closed them again.

"I brought the goods", she smiled.

Today she looked more like a hot high school teacher, than a drunk. Her chocolate-colored scarf wrapped around her neck, contrasting her bright red sweater. Harvey got up, she liked being the only girl.

The table was set up in a buffet-style, a big bowl of chili, hamburger buns, white rice, tortilla chips, salsa, sour cream, chopped cilantro, radishes and onions. "This guy thinks he's chef Mario Bat-alley, all cuz he went to Le Cordon Bleu," Harvey nudged his friend. His mouth watered at the sight of the chili. He hadn't had a good meal in weeks - months? He made his rice bowl and topped it off with cilantro and onions, he tossed a few tortilla chips on top. He held it in both hands like a prized possession.

It was not without going unnoticed their Christmas party. She heard it next door, the woman that complained to the cops. The aroma in waves like in a cartoon, came in under her kitchen window. For a second she thought to herself at least someone was enjoying the holiday.

She saw on 60 minutes that heroin was back on the rise. Is that what they were doing? And why were they still there, hadn't the cops told them to leave?


The sun was blazing, and he thought of his mother. She was only 47 when she died, and what caused it? He wasn't quite sure. He was halfway across the country and long gone, long gone when it happened.

The night was fun until it wasn't. Things got a little carried away. One too many drinks, and too many drugs, this time in the form of pills.


Again, the birds swooping down to pick up their prey, their eyes angry. This time the bird picked at fruit violently stabbing at it. One particularly beautiful bird adorned with fuchsia and magenta luminescent feathers. Had all the juices covering its beak and dripping onto the ground, in a rich royal bordeaux. Its feet submerged in a puddle of the juices. He woke with an unapologetic dreadful heaviness; He knew what this meant, he had been here before. The last time his mother passed. This time it was for Jackie.

There was wailing - sobbing throughout the night, that could be heard in the house next door. It did not stop, it flowed like a song. The whooting of a barn owl duetted.

He struck the match and the sound of the flame revved up like an engine.


"I'm making tea for you babe, you have to get better."

Her body ached as she tossed and turned on the memory foam. The memory foam he had picked up on the curb. His hands trembled as he poured the tea, he tried his best to hide his worried sadness, "here you go, drink it while it's hot." She couldn't even sit up. He grabbed her hands with his warm sweaty palms, hers ice cold.

"Thank you", she mumbled with lifeless eyes, and she spilled some tea on herself.

"Oh no!"

"Be careful, it's really hot," he rushed over and took it out of her hands. "How bout we let it cool down a little first." He set it down on the floor away from the mattress, relieved she let her body plop back down.

He cradled her in his arms and looked into her chestnut brown eyes, his filled with tears.

She looked up at him perplexed.

"What? what's wrong?"

"It's just that I had a dream." He looked away now at the wall. It was a beautiful dream - birds of many colors - it was breathtaking. She did not have the energy to question what he meant. Instead, she began dozing off.

Birds swooping down picking at maroon-colored fruit - all their gorgeous colors. He sat there, tears flowing from his eyes, "Jackie do you know why I couldn't tell you? - because then you couldn't rest and sleep so beautifully as you are now." He looked down at her, Jackie - Jackie. He kissed her lips and trembled. "I see birds. I see them all the time and there's nothing I can do about it."

Short Story

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Black River

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