Dawn Chorus

 

The cool morning wind coursing though his hair brought a memory to Billy. He is a small boy sat on the rustic bench outside his grandfather’s cottage waiting for the sun to rise. The old man steps out of the front door. They smile at each other and before his grandfather sits; he ruffles Billy’s blond curls with his broad hand.
Present arms!”
They savour the silence for a while, then as the dawn chorus begins his grandfather, who had been a Gamekeeper on the estate, tells him about the birds that are singing. How the skylarks, song thrushes, robins and blackbirds are the first to sing. Then the wrens and warblers, more sensitive to the coldness of dawn, join in. The still dawn air carrying nature’s hymns.
Take aim!”
Then, when the light brightens and food, the seeds and insects, are easier to find, the chorus fades.
He can see his grandfather now sat on the bench hunched forward, chin resting on the hands that grip his walking stick. He turns and smiles.
Billy felt the warmth of the rising sun on his face. It was going to be a fine day.
Fire!”
Surprised at the sudden volley, the audience of crows rose cawing from the surrounding trees in a cloud of black feathers and flew into the brightening sky.

Leave Us Alone


The exotically dressed people below waved almost as enthusiastically as the palm fronds that flapped in the turbulence of the helicopter as it rose thudding into the cloudless blue sky. The pale, almost albino, leader had made a speech while his acolytes poured drinks for a farewell toast. Jacob had signalled with his hands his gratitude for the hospitality and that he would return.
*
“That was absolutely fantastic guys.” Shouted Professor Jacob Rubin as he looked down and waved back. This was the high point of his career. Discovering this hitherto undiscovered race would place him in the pantheon of international anthropologists. He would be up there with Malinowski, Morgan and Margaret Mead. The city, concealed in the chasm, a massive split in the plateau, had astonished him. That such an advanced culture had remained isolated from the modern world was beyond belief. He felt lightheaded with sheer excitement.
Equally excited in the seat next to him sat Eleanor Stanford. A young reporter with the New York Times, she had persuaded her editor to allow her to accompany the expedition. Even now, as the helicopter banked away from the forest cloaked plateau her finger tips were deftly dancing across her laptop keyboard. “I can’t imagine my Editor’s face when this ‘scoop of the century ‘ arrives on his computer.” Said Eleanor. “When will we be in range so I can send emails?”
“It’ll be at least two hours or more.” The pilot’s metallic over the intercom.
“Eleanor, don’t forget our agreement. I must read and approve your report.” Said Jacob.
“Just to make sure his name appears numerous times!” Said his assistant Sam grinning.
“Quite,” said Jacob. “Quiet now, please, I’m going to try and translate the words spoken by his eminence at the farewell ceremony.” He inserted the earphone buds and listened to the recording on his iPhone while writing on a notepad on his knee.
*
They had been flying for almost an hour when Jacob had made a crude translation. “The leader guy said ….it seems to be a curse, Eleanor… it ends…’Our secret will stay with you always” His uncertain voice trailed away . But the reporter wasn’t listening. She lay against him, her lifeless head lolling on his shoulder. Jacob looked across at Sam who was slumped forwards in his harness. He wanted to tell the pilot but his tongue felt paralysed. His unseeing eyes stared out of the window as the helicopter fluttered down to land softly on the still surface of the lake and sank.

*

Later the editor of the Times wrote:

It is now six months since the expedition, lead by Professor Jacob Ruben, last made contact with their support team. Extensive searches have found no trace of the personnel or the helicopter and we must now accept that the intrepid explorers including our own brave reporter Eleanor Stanford are lost. It is not the first expedition to search for the mythical civilisation. Two other attempt were made in 1935 and 1957. Both disappeared without trace.

Be Careful What You Wish For

The solicitor peered over his half-moon glasses with grave solemnity and pushed the mahogany box across the vast expanse of tooled green leather that covered the desktop.
“Your Godfather has bequeathed this item to you, Celia. There is an sealed envelope inside.”
Celia lifted the lid. Under the envelope was a strange bird surrounded by a nest of white napkins.
“I understand your Godfather was Geoffrey Soames, a diplomat in India.”
“Yeah, I think so.” Said Celia with the disinterested of a fifteen-year-old. She vaguely remembered a fat bloke squeezing her six-year-old cheeks. She stuffed the envelope in her pocket, closed the box and left the musty office and the ghoulish solicitor.
At home she placed the hideous bird with the sharp beak on the mantelpiece next to her parent’s hideous carriage clock and headed upstairs to her bedroom. The box would be handy to keep her makeup stuff in, she thought, flopping onto her bed.
Then she remembered the envelope.

My dear Celia.
No doubt the gift of the bird will be a disappointment. But, whosoever possesses the bird can make three wishes. Choose carefully.
With kindest regards
Geoffrey

Yeah, right? Geoffrey. And I’m Madonna.
Later, Celia put her skepticism to one side and made a wish. She decided to start with wish for a fortnight holiday for two in Magaluf and see what happened.
The next morning her father walked into the kitchen. “Registered delivery for Celia Thornton. Must be important.”
Celia slit open the envelope with the butter knife. “I’ve won a holiday for two, dad!” She squealed.
Her excitement soon evaporated when her enraged father told her that over his dead body she would take her feckless, fuckwit boyfriend to Magaluf.
“I hate you dad, I wish you were dead!” She shouted as she slammed the front door.

*
“The beak penetrated here, Martin. See, just above the left eye.” The pathologist pointed at the small red rimmed hole in the victims head.
“You’re sure it was an accident?” Asked DI Fuller.
“Absolutely certain. I’m guessing he had some sort of seizure. That would explain why he was gripping the ornamental bird so firmly when he fell and impaled himself on the beak. Death would have been instantaneous.”
“A painless death, then.” Said the inspector. “A small crumb of comfort for the family. I’m off to see them next.”
Rather you than me, thought the pathologist running a scalpel around the dead head.
*
Celia listened, with a growing sense of horror, as the inspector explained the circumstances of her fathers demise to her sobbing mother. This was all her fault. She had caused the death of her father. Hadn’t she wished him dead?

*
After the funeral Celia lay on her bed floating in a sea of grief and misery. She had wished her father dead. A common enough aspiration of truculent teenagers, but for Celia a wish that had come true.
Then she remembered. Scrabbling under her bed she found the letter. Of course! Three wishes. She had three wishes!
Celia ran from the house not stopping until the fresh earthen mound of her father’s grave lay in front of her.
“I wish my dad was alive again,” she shouted, startling a woman arranging flowers at a nearby grave.

*
Her father’s eyelids fluttered, then opened to impenetrable darkness. As his fingertips felt the coffin lid inches from his face, he began to scream. His daughter, waiting above, heard nothing.
There is no better sound insulation than six feet of damp soil.