I took a deep breath and turned the key. I held the door with my left hand as I pulled the key from the deadbolt with my right. One foot on the threshold, my eyes just about to peer inside and it struck me.
Wait, was that a dead bird on the walk? Did I step over a dead bird?
I left my purse and Mary's groceries on the porch to investigate. Sure enough, it was as I suspected. I crouched beside it, trying to get a closer look without actually getting closer. A small crust of bread lay a mere bounce away from its beak, clearly a casualty of the harsh landing. A few pavement ants were preparing to carry it off.
I turned my gaze upward, even though I knew there were no tree limbs above. Shielding my eyes from the afternoon sun, I wondered out loud where that bird had fallen from. Off to the side, just on the perimeter of the lawn, I found a small twig. I picked it up and poked the bird gingerly, just in case a small jolt would cause it to flip over and fly off.
No such luck.
Remembering that I left the door open, I headed back up to the porch.
"Mary?" I called as I stepped inside. The house was warm and the radio was blaring in the way that you only find in the home of an elderly person.
"Mary? I have your groceries!" I looked around and found Mary in her armchair knitting, as usual.
"Did you leave my door open and walk away? There's a draft in here. Did you get a nice cantaloupe? Last week the cantaloupe you brought me wasn't sweet. I like them when they're sweet."
Mary, a widow whose children had passed tragically many years ago, had no one. My visits with her weren't pleasant, but every now and again I'd show up with her weekly groceries and she'd have something nice to say. The one week I was sick and sent my friend over, Mary complained that my friend did everything even more wrong than I did. I think she secretly missed me.
"I think this cantaloupe should be better. It looks nicer."
Mary nodded to acknowledge she heard me.
"There's a dead bird on your front walk. I'm going to go clean it up," I explained, holding up a trash bag I found in the kitchen as proof of my task.
"Oh, the birds. Yes. I've been finding quite a few of those. Thank you."
I went back out front and there were two more birds on the lawn, all on their backs, feet pointed towards the sky. I put the bag over my hand and picked up each one, turning the birds down deep into the bottom of the plastic. I spun and tied it as I walked around the house over to the garbage can, which I found surrounded by flies. I lifted the lid to the most putrid smell I'd ever encountered. Trying not to gag, I peeked inside.
The can was filled nearly to the brim with dead birds. I slammed the lid on, dropping the bag beside it. I darted back to the front of the house. I had to skip over two more birds that were not there but a minute earlier. Taking the stairs two at a time, I bounded back onto the porch and nearly collided with Mary who had come to the doorway.
"Look," she directed, pointing outside. The lawn was littered with dead birds, heads all pointed towards the house, feet all pointed towards the sky.
I gasped in horror. Mary was calm.
Birds began falling from the sky, all in the same direction in a way that defied logic and physics. Each gave a light bounce when it hit the ground but didn't move after impact. I pushed Mary in as gently as I could given the urgency and slammed the door shut.
We stood mesmerized at the window until the storm passed. By the time it was over, hundreds of birds covered Mary's property.
When I finally ventured out, pushing birds aside to clear a path, I noticed that only Mary's lawn was covered in birds. I turned back to face the house. Mary was still in the window. I saw her shrug and turn away, headed back to her her armchair to knit, I presume.
I'm linking up with the Speakeasy again this week. If you want to read more about Mary, you can you do so here. If you want to read more wonderful works of fiction, click through to the Speakeasy. And if you like voting for things, come back Thursday and vote for your favorites.