by Garrett Owen, January 10th 2023
The bird takes flight in the morning. It is bracketed by a red sun: a circle on the horizon. A sign a storm is coming, though a greater one has passed.
As quickly as it came the greater one passed away. The bird glides over towers and buildings. Landing to lap the water from the depression on those forsaken rooftops. Its head jerks, eyes unblinking. Still and fixed in the sockets. It takes off. It soars high above the street choked with cars, now silent. Metal skeletons all of them, with terminal rust.
Seeing the street below, the bird is tempted. Down there are the great, reliable piles of trash. Food for the lifetimes of its offspring. The piles do seem to grow smaller, though. The makers aren’t making them anymore.
The bird decides instead to hunt. There are worms, plenty of them around the city. The best ones can be found in the rubble-buildings on the outskirts, where mud and earth have joined the ruins. The bird soars above the city, skirting the edge of the lake nearby. It could hunt there. Small fishes swim around the flooded parts of the sunken ferries and pleasure craft. But today, the bird wants worms.
There used to be the maggots. Plenty of them. It was a feast for weeks. Months, even. But when the bones of all the uprights were all that was left, the fat times ended. Worms, today. The bird lands in the rubble of a building. Worms writhe around the concrete blocks mingled with the earth. Other birds know of it, It’s popular. Some feast. The big ones, always. Some get chased off. The bird itself is moved by bully birds once or twice. Still, the food here is plentiful.
A mechanical voice suddenly booms nearby:
THIS IS A TEST OF THE EMERGENCY ANNOUNCEMENT SYSTEM. IT WILL LAST FIVE MINUTES. IN THE EVENT OF...OF...OF-OF-OF-OF...REAL...REAL...A-EAL...REAL...EMERG...OF A....REAL...EMERG....
A low humming blasts through. The siren used to be louder, higher. The birds scatter. Our bird knows better and feasts. Real fear comes in the form of hawks.
The uprights don’t come around anymore. The world is quiet now, so the bird thinks. The world is how it was when the bird dreamed it. The bird gets the worms, again and again. Beneath the red morning light, the world is decent.