Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Six Birds Story

Loren Eaton and B. Nagel had this cool idea of doing a shared storytelling event based on an image of six birds. Here's my contribution. It's a bit rough since the deadline caught me off guard, but I had fun writing it, and I think it's something I will try to fix in the future.


I had stepped up to the library door, not paying attention to where I was going. A moment later, I was just stepping up to it, had not yet.

There was a bird on the ground, a single bird placed in front of the door with its head pointing northeast toward the San Gabriel mountains. Around its ankle was a white tag with the number 4069 written on it. It was in my aunt’s hand. She had been a math teacher in Ra-nong, fired for lashing one of her students to the point of unconsciousness.

To look at this bird, this dead thing, was a curiosity to me. I wanted to stoop down, get closer to it. But, the library was crowded. The figures moved behind the tinted glass doors, and in no time I was sure someone would exit and stumble upon me. I reached for the door but noticed that there were two birds now, the brown one and a red one, bright like a cardinal but smaller.

This time of year, the combination of sky and clouds always created a pink haze just before sunset. In this light, the red color of the bird seemed even more vibrant, almost electric. This too was a reminder. My friend Alex had lost his father, a suicide. I was the one that found him in his tool shed, shot through the throat.

These birds, then, were the final seconds. Time was falling upon me. I reached for the door. A third bird appeared, a raven. I remembered my own father, who died of alcoholism. I had been away at college, and upon rushing home I found my mother on her knees in the living room. We were not religious, but in that moment I had thought that she was praying. Instead, I stepped closer and discovered that she was shredding letters, love letters from a woman I had never heard of.

The sun was setting. The air was thickening. The people inside the library were approaching the glass, and I could make out their faces. They looked out at me, questioning me. On the ground, the fourth bird appeared, my son. Lisa had a miscarriage when we were first married. I told her I still loved her, but she knew better. She walked out in the middle of our anniversary dinner. She left the back door open, and when I finally got myself to step over to it, all I could smell was the fragrance of gardenias.

The people were at the glass now: my aunt, Alex’s father. I saw my own dad and, in his hands, the tiniest shape of the son I never let myself think of. At my feet lay the fifth bird, and this one was a warning. Because I had not yet lost the one it represented: Lisa, who I knew was still alive. She was in Michigan now, if the rumors were true. And, though I loved her, I knew that I’d never be able to see her again, not because of anything she did, but because of what I blamed her for.

I reached for the door. I pulled it open. The stench of warm rot poured out. The people were calling me, urging me forward in voices that sounded dark and murky. I stepped in around them, and a for a moment I was one of them. There were the people I knew, and the others, the strangers, who called me by name. Among them, I felt that we all shared the same knowledge, the same wisdom, and I joined in with their chant.

She arrived. Lisa, on the other side of the glass. She stepped up to the library door, and a moment later, she had not yet. In front of her, the birds appeared. The first four I did not recognize, and the fifth was our son.

“Lisa!” I pounded on the door, but by now I had come to realize that she would not hear me; she didn’t want to hear me. And, so, I lay at her feet. I took on the form of a dove, and my eyes were closed when I felt her reach down for me. To be held by her, cradled in her hands, I knew that she had forgiven me while I had not forgiven her. I was disappearing. I saw the dark world, and I was scared. I took flight. And, as I soared toward the sun, I saw my world become smaller, and within it, Lisa, who held out one hand, the hand that had released me.


  1. Davin, this is absolutely lovely. And here I thought it was a regular old library...

    I like how you build this up, how the birds represent such heavy things, how you set them up with beautiful descriptions.

    I think my favorite part is the smell of the gardenias.

    This is definitely worth working on.

  2. This one really works for me. Such a nice combination -- eerie and evocative, strangely speculative and yet touching in the end. Very well done. I could see it showing up in Strange Horizons.

  3. I admit, it took me a while to catch on, but when I did I appreciated this quite a bit. I really enjoyed the metaphor, the way the little tragedies lined up, and how he was released at the end, though he couldn't release his own trauma.

    Nice work, good sir.

  4. Thanks for reading it everyone. Simon, for me, this story is extremely rough. I like the kernel of the idea in it, but I think it needs a lot of work.

  5. Wow, Davin. This is amazing, to layer one at a time, to slowly unfold what "I was stepping up to it, had not yet" means, to evoke such strong emotions that have to do with those we love the most: forgiveness, acceptance.

    "And so, I lay at her feet" was the emotional peak for me.

  6. This has some really neat images, not the least of which the library's smell of warm rot.

    I find myself wondering what becomes of the captives (memories) when the captor is set free? Or is the narrator's human body still in the library?

    Like you say, there are som rough edges, but what a gem underneath.

  7. This piece evokes strong feelings for me without feeling overdone. I enjoyed the story.

  8. I choked up at the miscarried son - a ton of bricks slamming against my chest as it all came together. Fantastic concept.

  9. Deep. Such vivid imagery and emotions. I really didn't want him to open the door. A beautiful ending.

    A beautiful concept. Definitely worth developing.


  10. This is really cool. I hope you keep at this one. I loved the passage about the color of the lights at that time of day.


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