They sat in the middle of the field, leaned against a fallen tree, vapor rising from their somnambulators.
Their eyes were gone under their shades. They had traded them to the grinning birds as a bribe, not knowing that their beaks were formed that way when the hurricane ripped them from the wind.
The grins never stopped, but they could no longer tell. They walked now in circles, widdershins, and pointed their snoring noses upright. They would see now with dream rods and nightmare cones. The sky and the ground equated.
The field crawled with life, but their boots kept it from them. Their ears were stuffed with cattails. They did not want to awaken. They did not want to sense the grins still on the beaks of the birds that took their vision.
They would walk in circles until they dug graves with their steps. Softly, they would lie down and let the sun suck the blood from their backs. Berries would grow in their corpse dirt and the birds would eat these as well, unsated.
He came walking up, raving about bird sandwiches, about how he’d walked all this way because “the shiny-eyed fuckers” couldn’t tell one lake from another. They’d put him down all the way out in Boone county and he’d not a bite to eat all damn day.
We hadn’t see Teddy Two-Knuckles since he’d set up a “human versus one hundred mallards” night at J.J. Jolly J’s. They said he’d been approached by a couple of guys afterward with an extra dimension to their movement, sporting webbed shoes and gorgeous headdresses.
This wasn’t the sort of town where you went asking questions. Answers crawled from the sewers, fell from the sky like toilet ice. So we ask much explaining out of Teddy this time, even though he smelled as if he’d been sitting in pond scum smoking jet fuel. We let him in, of course, let him sit on a leaky wooden chair and offered him coffee and marijuana. He refused both.
“Bird sandwich. I need cannibalism right now. The only thing that will do.”
“But Teddy, you ain’t no bird.”
The cracks in his head formed from the inside. Instead of answering, he fused his mouth together with melted skin and let the pecking turn to quacking as his brain emerged beak first, wet with skull drippings.
“I ain’t I ain’t I ain’t,” proclaimed the newborn duckling as it fell to the ground by gently rolling down Teddy’s slumped corpse.
“Who ate all the bread?” came the question from the kitchen. The duckling watched as I drew my bread knife from its scabbard.
All of these questions in the air and none of the answers.
We have seen what happens when the birds are turned off.
Children keep their heads to the stone. No mouths come formally, covered in shit and cursing while scraping tongue with a silken cravat. No fairy to ever find a feather, twist it about while spiraling down and down on abandoned wings. I pay a boy now, not a crow, to bring me jewelry at dawn.
And the off switch had been there the whole time, like a town hall clock, but no one cared. Birds seemed like such a delightful thing (when they weren’t stuck in their death songs in your car’s grill.) They could be peripheral. A man could walk in the city and take no note of the birds all day, yammering to himself and flicking spit on the ground where the little birds danced and fought over detritus. Human spit, at some velocities, with wrap around eyes, may often and sometimes look like a disappointing worm.
Do you suppose the birds, where ever they were taken when the switch was finally pulled, ever think back on human spit with longing? Perhaps no bird ever tasted human twice. Ostriches, perhaps, in their quarterly rages took an ear here and there. Undocumented ears, now digested or buried in head holes, growing new and illegal humans to take the birds’ place in the sky.