Monday, September 2, 2013

Dragon Fire Frights: Pretty Bird

Sometimes, I don't know what time it is or where I am, but today is one of my good days. Who's a pretty bird? Who's a pretty, bird? The bird I'm talking to is Franky; the folks here named him that, I think. When I put my fingers through the cracks in the cage, he bites at me. But I know he's just scared. I'd probably do the same thing if a giant hand came toward me. Lots of stuff scares me.

The sun was going to sleep, and I got really hungry. The nurse came to get me for dinner. She is real pretty too; her name is Julie. Who's a pretty bird? She holds my hand and takes me to the cafeteria: that word always give me trouble. The dinner tonight is meatloaf, and I like it with lots of ketchup. It's so much better than the mystery casserole.

I sit down next to Sammy and Tom; they are my friends. Sammy tells us all how he copped a feel on Nurse Lilly; she's really pretty too. Tom then tells us a story about how they put things in the meatloaf, and that's why we like it so much—says it keeps us stupid. I don't believe him though as he likes to play goofs on us to get our supper.

At twenty, I'm the youngest one here. Most of the guys call me kid, but I think I'm older in the brain. Sammy just flicked his peas at Dean; we all hate that guy. He thinks he's better than everyone and likes to hit us. The other day, he tripped Henry, and now Henry has to wear a cast on his right arm. I feel bad for it, but I wish Dean would go to sleep forever.

Speaking of sleep, Julie and Lilly both came in with our pills. Mine need food with them or they don't work. I take the blue ones, and they make me go to bed. I'm what they call a three. The threes sleep in an area away from the others, but we never see each other. They have to tie us up and watch us all night: say it's for our own good. I feel sleepy now....

I'm cold, hungry, and alone, stumbling through the dark woods. Earlier, my body had been beaten against the rocks by the river's torrent, after a desperate swim near the falls. I slowly crept up the incline and leaned against a narrow tree to rest. Out of breath and out of strength, I don't know what to do.

Oh god, I can hear their screeches echo across the valley: “who's a pretty bird,” repeated over and over. It slowly becomes a chorus with others joining in the hunt. And I have no light to find my way. I don't know how they do it, but they've found a way to keep me here—running in circles. And they're not just birds; they're something else: something wrong, unnatural.

I continue moving toward what I think is the north, the moss side, which is also the way I first came. Their taunting is getting louder, closer, but I'm still far ahead of them. All I want now is to be back home, next to the fireplace, maybe with a nice ribeye and a glass of whiskey. I wish I never came to this place.

It's breakfast! The guys come in, undo my straps, and help me up as both my arms and legs aren't alive yet. I hate this part; they start to tingle at first then slowly become prickly and stingy all over. The fellas tell me because I'm dumb, I don't know how to wake everything up at the same time; this makes me feel bad.
“Who's a pretty bird?” I ask as Julie walks into the room. She smiles, and I feel better. We go down to the cafeteria where I see Tom sitting. It looks like Sammy hasn't gotten up yet. I sit down next to Tom, and he makes a joke to Julie.

“While the oatmeal does sound good, I think I'd rather have the oatmeal instead.” We all laugh. It's funny because that's all we ever have. I see Nurse Lilly and ask her about Sammy. She puts a hand on my shoulder and tells me that she's sorry, but Sammy isn't going to wake up. Tom doesn't understand why and gets angry. He yells at her, over and over, to “well, wake him up then.” I'm the only one who understands what she means.

After breakfast, Tom and I walk to see the birds. This is what we do most of the time as there is little else. But today one was missing: the red one. Tom thinks they took it to Sammy because that was his favorite bird, and it could somehow wake him up, but this feels all wrong.

I stare at Franky, and he looks back into me. He does silly things sometimes, like throw seed all over or try and bend the bars with his beak. It's real funny to watch. “Who's a pretty bird?” I ask him. Franky jumps off his perch and onto the bottom of the cage. My eyes follow him down, and I see something strange. I don't know how to read, but the pattern in the seed looks a lot like writing. I get Tom to come and see it, but he just laughs and calls me a bird brain. Here comes that wrong feeling again.

Dean came in with his chest pumped out. He walks up to me and grabs my arm. He then asks  how I was doing while punching me in it. Tom and I are too scared to stop him, but I manage to yell for help. Dean lets go and shuffles away while muttering “memory is pain; pain is memory.” I repeat that under my breath as Julie walks in.

“What was that?” she asks me.

“Who's a pretty bird?” I say. She shakes her head at me, and I have her go look at the message in the seed. Julie glances at it and says “there aint none.” She's a bad liar. I know Franky is trying to tell me something important, and I need to figure out how the hell to know it.

I think about what Dean said, about memory being pain, and I decide to do something even crazy for my kind. I put my longest finger through the crack and let Franky clamp down on it. I scream, and it bleeds out real bad. Julie rushes toward me to pull me away, but I fight her off. And then my head starts to clear up, like a bad storm was finally rolling away.

I remember now: I had been fly fishing in the Waggisa. There was strange mist over the river, and I had a bad feeling all morning. About noon, I was going to head up stream some more, but I forgot the river had flooded, and the current was much stronger. I ended up slipping and got all sorts of beat up against the rocks.

And the mist didn't go away. Hell, it got thicker as the day went on. I couldn't recognize a damn thing about where I was and got myself lost. Hours went by, and I came across a grove of very strange looking trees. Under the canopy, old great horns were perched, screeching at me. Now I recognize a bad omen when I see one, but by the time I turned around, they were on me—clawing at my face. I swatted at them with my pole, and they flew away.

Sweat and blood flowed into my eyes, blinding me. Hobbling in random directions, I came across a needle point of light and went toward it. But the blood loss was to great, and I shortly passed out.

The nursing home and bird  cage were now gone. I’m alone and naked in a dimly lit, metal room. I search for a doorway to no avail. A gush of air causes me to shiver, and from nothing comes a pair of eyes: solid black and almond shaped.

What is this? What is this? What is this? I can no longer move. I can no longer breathe. I can only feel the sting of a syringe penetrating my arm...who’s a pretty bird?

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