Magpies and murder
I will be posting pieces from Chronicles of Chaos here, along with accompanying music. Enjoy, and remember, there is always an underground.
A sparrow sits on the railing outside my window twitching its head spastically. It’s raining, and I wonder if birds have eyelids. The same bird has visited me every morning around the same time for the past month. I’m beginning to think we’re friends. Should I give it a name? No, birds don’t need names.
I wrote this silly note during the summer — nearly two months before I witnessed a murder out of the same office window my avian companion and I often had our visits at. It’s been hard to shake. Such a gruesome act sticks with a man.
One morning in early fall, as I was waiting for my feathered friend to arrive for our dawn pleasantries, a loud bang shocked my coworker Suzanne Cheavens and me from our work.
People who are more in tune with the universe than I am believe a bird flying into a window in front of you is a precursor to your death. Death erases student loan and credit card debt, at least. The act can also symbolize some type of ending in your life — a relationship, a difficult phase, a hangover. The most logical explanation is birds see the reflection of the outdoors in the window and, you know, don’t even know what a window is. But if I die soon, I blame the building’s maintenance crew for my untimely demise for cleaning the windows so well.
Some brown-and-white feathers and a smudged outline were left behind on the glass from the sudden impact, then I saw it. There, on the ledge below the railing, my birdie lay on its back, panting. He seemed to be paralyzed, as only his tiny eyes and breast moved, but he was alive and breathing, though clearly struggling. I should have trusted my instincts and jumped out of the window immediately to save him, for what followed will remain in my mind forever.
Shortly after the crash, a magpie perched itself on the railing above my dying friend.
“He’s thinking about breakfast,” Suzanne said.
“What? Birds eat birds? Like cannibals?” I wondered.
I again thought about jumping out of the window and staving off the bloodthirsty magpie. I could nurse birdie back to health, I thought, even if I had to make him a special wheelchair or tape his head back on. Pretty bird, pretty bird. But nature runs its course, with or without human intervention. It happened so fast I barely noticed. The magpie murderer was on top of birdie, plucking the feathers from his chest in small tufts, faster than I could comprehend. Birdie may have been screaming, but I couldn’t hear anything.
Then the killer threw birdie onto the sidewalk and finished the job. Like I said, gruesome. I joked that avian cannibalism is pretty metal, but I was shocked and heartbroken.
Two other coworkers who overheard my panic came to the window to watch the magpie murder. We chatted casually about the cruelty of Mother Nature. None of us have ever witnessed a train wreck, but we agreed we were under a similar spell that day.
“It’s like I can’t not watch,” one coworker commented.
“I hate this,” I said.
The magpie left birdie’s head and feet, the least digestible parts, lying there on the road. But the smell of blood still hung in the air, as a tiding of magpies gathered at the scene and disposed of the rest of the carcass. One grabbed its feet. Another had the head in its mouth and flew to a nearby fence post to feast.
One mangy looking character poked its head into my open window and pecked at the papers on the edge of my desk before I shooed it away. No magpie is going to kill my friend in front of me and then have the audacity to mock me.
I became more enraged than logically necessary, and I wanted revenge. God knows what I would have done if that malnourished trash bat — it was molting, as Suzanne explained to me — came within my grasp. Images of Ozzy Osbourne biting the head off of a dove came to mind. I’d teach the magpie killers a lesson in violence. My coworkers, who quickly lost interest in the whole spectacle, would have no other choice but to call the police after I started chewing the heads off of magpies and screeching in retribution. I’d tear my clothes off and use the dead birds’ blood to stick feathers to myself. Incensed and grieving, I’d have to be gunned down in the street, no doubt, but at least I’d be with birdie.
After the initial excitement of the kill died down and everyone returned to their desks, I continued to watch the crime scene and mourned. Birdie’s gone. Several magpies late to the party hung around the sidewalk and railing area as if they were waiting for a second course to be served.
Then the ravens arrived. There they are, I thought. The raven has always been my spirit animal, more so a guardian and undeniable proof that the universe always balances itself out. I can’t properly explain it, but I’ve had numerous encounters with ravens throughout my life that were too spiritual to simply be considered coincidences. I feel that they watch over me, to a degree, and welcome me wherever I go. For example, when I moved into my new condo recently, I was unpacking my truck when a caw caught my attention. I turned toward the sound, and there on the complex’s roof above my unit sat a raven.
“Hello, friend,” I whispered.
People think I’m screwy when I tell them such tales, but there’s a reason I have two raven tattoos scarred into my flesh forever. At least ravens are physical, breathing creatures and not some amorphous spirit hiding in the clouds who uses fire and famine to teach humans, a species created in this god’s image, moral lessons about butt sex and proper parenting.
After birdie’s demise, the magpies were manic to satiate their blood lust. The ravens surrounded the magpies on the railing and sidewalk, but didn’t confront them. The conspiracy of ravens was restoring order to my world. They must have sensed my pain and confusion. I gave them a head nod as a “thank you.”
Humans are mowing each other down with machine guns every day, while birds peck each other to death. Goddamn, I thought, this world is a mad place to make it. The incident only further proved that I’m ignorant to the ways of the world, but I still miss my birdie.
Epilogue: An ex, who I have been cursed to run into every now and then around town, read this piece and had the audacity to say it made her cry because it was about her. I used to call her Pretty Bird, after we watched the movie “Dumb and Dumber” together and laughed at the scene of a blind kid petting a decapitated parakeet named Petey that Jim Carrey’s character Lloyd sold to him for some quick cash. “Pretty bird, pretty bird,” the blind child said as he petted Petey. Caught off guard by her narcissistic assumption, I didn’t have the wit in that moment to spit back that she was always more of a snake than a pretty bird. If only her head would fall off.