A Transient Visitors Month 2 of 12 very Tiny Tale by David O’Boyle.
Oh, that itch on my forehead.
If I only had my arms.
Or even wings, which fan away discomfort in a few flaps. Wings came to mind because four black birds circled above, their movement so motionless they could pass for holes in the sky.
Until they dove.
Until they landed on me, but not on me, since I was no longer whole, no longer one piece.
From their unusual perch, their eight yellow eyes scanned me with menacing intrigue. Despite having beaks, they donned maniacal smiles.
And with those beaks they started pecking.
What they didn’t know, nor did I until that time, was that despite my dismemberment, I still had agency over the stubs formed out of my missing appendages. Instinct, still intact, ordered me to fight back with the limited abilities I had left. I tried to hammer down on the nearest bird with the larger of my stubs. Only narrowly did it dodge my assault, taking temporary refuge on another of my lost limbs.
There it joined its three comrades.
I pursued the flock, inching my torso forward in their direction like a caterpillar. They fled again, this time into the air. At first, they tried to escape with one of my legs. To lighten their load, they soon parted with the unexpectedly heavy cargo, leaving it for rot.
Sleep came to me as they faded into the horizon. The current calm made me declare victory, albeit of a pyrrhic nature.
Premature. Such a declaration was premature.
When I woke up the next morning, I found myself in a huge hole. A shovel, new to the scene since yesterday, was stuck in the fresh dirt heap beside me. And yes, the birds were back. Two perched on the grip of the shovel. The other two perched on the opposite perimeter of the hole.
“Shoo! Shoo!” I yelled at my avian enemies. Bolder since our last encounter, they ignored my threats.
They did not ignore the hooves galloping in our direction, nor the corresponding ‘Whoa! Whoa!’ that preceded his dismount. Frantic, the birds scattered out of sight.
My rescuer was no rescuer. He dragged me out of the hole. He shoved a wooden post up my back and across my shoulders. Then he stuffed my shirt with hay, buttoned up my flannel, and left me hanging out there for dead while he seeded the ground to the song of my screams, which he acted like he didn’t hear.
Surely the birds recognized this ruthlessness. Their farmland exodus has no other explanation. I haven’t seen them since. And it’s almost harvest.