A Melancholy Fear of Cereal and Existentialism
The house is silent. Itâ€™s been so for years, but today I feel something in the silence. I canâ€™t tell if itâ€™s fear, or regret, or perhaps an ill intent, but something new is here. Lately, thereâ€™ve been too many new things. Iâ€™m hungry. I wonder if my sister brought home anything good last night. The only decent thing about her job is all the mistaken orders she gets to keep. Thereâ€™s nothing in the fridge. I wonder if she even came home. At least the milk is still good. Iâ€™ll have some corn pops.
The birds are angry! I donâ€™t quite know why but it has something to do with the new thing in the house. I found it when I got the corn pops out of the cupboard. The dingy yellow box covered in brocade just sat there, behind the cereal box. I picked it up and bam, the birds were there. All four of the bird leaders. In the kitchen. In the two months theyâ€™ve been here, they havenâ€™t left the attic. Why is this box so important? Now, I think the birds have been waiting all this time for it.
My house is some kind of magnet for weird items. Last Christmas a huge tree stump of what I suspect was an old world oak appeared in the back yard. Several pieces of jewelry have shown up in cabinets and drawers. The kind with pictures or locks of hair inside them. There was even a lamp in the dining room last Spring. It was all brassy with a faded silk shade. It didnâ€™t work. All these things just exist. They suddenly are, adding a bit more sadness and tragedy to this house. When I find them, and I always seem to be the one to find them, I put them in the drawer of motherâ€™s antique wooden end table in the drawing room. Then, I mostly ignore them, but every once in a while Iâ€™ll sit in the overstuffed chair, next to the dead lamp on that table, and handle all the bits that donâ€™t belong here. They make my fingers tingle as I hold each one up to the light from the window and ask it where it came from. I never get through them all. I donâ€™t want to know where they came from, or why they are here. Their stories must remain mute in the darkness of this house and Iâ€™m afraid one day theyâ€™ll answer me.
The birds have changed everything. They knew this box would come and they flew to my attic from who knows where to get it. That night they arrived, I couldnâ€™t sleep and so I saw from my window when they came flitting across the moon from the South. At first, I thought they were bats. I like when the bats stay in the attic. They did three years ago, and the nights were beautiful. But that night it was the birds. They are large and strangely colored but definitely birds. The day after they arrived, I went up to peek through the attic hatch, thinking that bats would be asleep and I wouldnâ€™t scare them too much in the daytime. But there were the birds, already in congress around an old trunk they had pulled to the middle of the floor. There, on the trunk sat, or rather roosted, five birds. A sooty raven with green eyes, a fiery orange secretary bird, a soft gray pigeon with an outrageous rainbow crest on its head, an elegant pink crane, and a purple finch with a strangely serrated yellow beak. And they were all staring straight at me.
Later, I figured out just how good the birdsâ€™ hearing is, and now I can sneak up on them almost anytime I wish. But on that first day, they caught me by surprise. We stared for a full second and then the raven spoke.
â€œGreetings Keeper. I humbly apologise for the intruding of this, our esteemed flock. Our coming is with great haste and little preparation made, but the cause will manifest shortly.â€
At this I realized there were a great many birds throughout the attic, though most were sleeping. They all looked like one or the other of the five in the center. Iâ€™m not sure exactly how many there are, even now. There always seem to be more than I thought hiding in the shadows.
I could think of nothing intelligent to say, and so I asked, â€œWho are you?â€
The pigeon replied as if I were stupid, â€œWe are the Esteemed Flock.â€
â€œBut, what are your names?â€ I persisted. Their answers were a series of whistles and clicks I couldnâ€™t possibly replicate. So I have given them names. The raven was obviously the leader. I called her Nevermore, as she proceeded to repeat how hasty they had had to be and how the great cause would soon make a magnificent appearance. The purple wren interrupted her with something like a grunt and an eye roll. I decided I might like her and called her Henwyn. The pigeon with the rainbow crest, which earned him the Mohawk moniker, glared at Henwyn and asked what news I had of the Cause. Iâ€™m sure I looked fairly confused by this point and before I could answer, the pink crane turned his back in a huff to whisper something frantically at Nevermore. I named him Sybil. Henwyn and Mohawk turned to Nevermore also, and the whispers flew for several minutes. Through all this the tallest and most brightly colored of the birds was silent and unmoving. Fireflight, the orange secretary bird just stood behind the others, staring into my face. Nothing happened so I left them to their whispers, and until today, they havenâ€™t mentioned The Cause again.
But now, now The Cause is here. Maybe it was waiting for the birds to change leaders, for it is obvious they have chosen Fireflight. Nevermore didnâ€™t even appear in the kitchen when I found the box. In the flurry of feathers that brought them all down the moment I touched that yellow brocade, the black raven was missing. Did she stay to watch over the attic? Did they kill her? I still donâ€™t know, but Fireflight was the first in the kitchen. There was a crash and his great purple eye not two feet from my nose as I turned from the cabinet with the box in one hand and the cereal in my other. I dropped the cereal. Mohawk, Sybil, and Henwyn crowded in around Fireflight, their heads twitching from the box to my face and back again. Slowly I realized what they must have known all along. They couldnâ€™t take it from me.
I sat at the table, wondering briefly if my mother had heard the crash. Fireflight stood opposite me across the small kitchen table, and the others found roosts on the backs of chairs. They waited, silent. I gazed at the box in my hands, silent. Finally, I could stand it no more; I flipped the latch, and lifted the lid so swiftly I nearly dropped the box. Inside there was a shining heap of porcelain colored bones. I canâ€™t tell what kind of bones they are. Many are broken and there is much bone dust underneath. But that was all. A box of bones.
And the birds are angryâ€¦