“The Birds”

The birds came and swarmed a group of runners. They were aware that this trope had already played a long role in the history of human fear, but they had no other recourse. The runners ducked and continued to patter along the sidewalk. The birds came closer. The runners swatted at them with their palms.

One runner yelled, “Scatter!”

The runners scattered.

The birds, foiled, swept once again into the sky and regrouped. They were not entirely sure the reason for their indiscriminate attack, but they knew it was not the last. There was something humming in the very air they flew in that meant lizard-death. Their tiny bird hearts tapped along mercilessly and for the first time in their tiny bird lives, they could feel the tapping. Something was inside their breasts knocking to get out.

The birds swished and swooshed in the sky until a hundred dark human particles appeared beneath them, the contents of a kindergarten that had just let out. One bird dive-bombed and at once all the birds dive-bombed, landing on the sidewalk and on the limbs and heads of the children. The kindergarten teachers screamed and waved their arms, but the birds did not fly away. The teachers frantically ushered the students back inside the school building. If a bird tried to enter with a student, the teachers would smack it. Soon the children were inside looking out a large plate glass window.

The birds were angry. They were very angry. They milled about on the sidewalk that had formerly been populated by the kindergarten students and was now populated only by them. They did not fly away. They felt the sick pulsing of evil inside their breasts as if it was magnetized by something taking seed inside the kindergarten students. Behind the plate glass window were hearts blemished by growing black specks. In front of it, waddling on the sidewalk, were the anti-matter of the specks, the part that got dragged along wherever the specks went.

The glass steamed with the breath and fingerprints of the kindergarten children. The sidewalk slowly whitened with shit. Each group stared at the other, waiting, seeing hell’s unknowing minions. The sun shined.

It went on this way for a long time.

Then the door into which the kindergarteners had been ushered opened, and out came one of the kindergarten teachers. She was tall and had gray-blonde hair and wore a jumper. She had eye make-up on. The birds turned as a unit toward her.

The woman walked singularly toward the birds. They did not scatter. They stood, feeling the vacuum of the woman’s soul sucking them in. There was something beautiful about this ugly humanity. Something elegant. The birds thought as a curious kingdom.

When she reached the birds’ phalanx, the teacher took off her jumper and threw it onto the sidewalk behind her. The kindergartners, to whom no one was paying attention, gasped. The teacher wore a bra and undies. She fell face-forward into the cluster of birds, opening her every pore to the silence of their beaks.

Dennis James Sweeney

About Dennis James Sweeney

Dennis Sweeney lives in Boulder, CO. His work has appeared in DIAGRAM, Juked, Mid-American Review, TriQuarterly Online, and elsewhere.