a bird in the hand
Sitting in the outside section of his regular cafe, early morning flat white and raisin toast, watching a waiter struggling with the sun umbrellas, Bob Newhaven wondered what he could write about and couldn’t think of anything. It was frustrating. Nothing worthy of putting pen to paper had happened and it seemed, sitting there, that nothing would.
The pedestrian mall was mostly empty but slowly waking up. At this stage only the newsagent and the cafe were open and the few people who were about were mostly on their way to somewhere else, the everyday mundane. That’s when a grey speckled pigeon fell out of the sky crashing into his table with a thud just missing his toast but making his coffee cup jump slashing the top three pages of his still blank writing pad. He stared at the dead bird.
The next bird hit the ground about three feet away just missing the waiter who was hurrying over to deal with the death of the first. Bob Newhaven looked at the waiter. The waiter, whose name was Gordon, looked at him. Then they both looked around. The birds were dropping like flies.
Pigeons, seagulls, lorikeets, parakeets, magpies, galahs, you name it. Hundreds of them, from who knows where, raining down with a ferocity that could scarcely be believed. Bob Newhaven certainly wouldn’t have believed it if he hadn’t been there to see it for himself.
Panic blossomed and people began to run.
A hastily erected umbrella seemed like a good idea until the moment a seagull tore through it smashing the collarbone of the three-piece-suited businessman on his way to a career defining meeting. A young kid on his skateboard took a tumble trying to McTwist his way out of the way. He managed to avoid the plummeting parakeet but not the pot-hole that caught the back wheels. Flesh raked off his bones on the rough tarmac the Council had been promising to fix for six months.
Bob Newhaven and Gordon the waiter stood just inside the door of the cafe watching the unfolding scene with a mixture of fear and fascination. All around the mall people sheltered under the curved corrugated iron eves that ran the perimeter and added a wannabe ‘old-world character’ to the aesthetics. The two could feel a faint crackling in the air.
The corrugated iron began to melt. White hot molten metal dripped onto those below before they had a chance to react. No shops were open, the eves, to that point the only shelter, were now a trap. Flesh sizzling, dissolving off bones. A mad scramble through the plummeting birds to the cafe and the newsagents. Bob and Gordon dived aside to let them in. Many didn’t make it.
In his laboratory on the other side of town the scientist, who’d just pressed the big red button on the control panel to begin his experiment regarding the ionisation of certain particularly rare gases in the lower atmosphere, said “Oops.”