Friday, September 16, 2011

The Birds

I used to work with a man called John Rattigan. As well as being an Art teacher for many years, John is an amazing artist. I was awed when I first walked into the staffroom at my previous school to see beautiful art works on display and very impressed and pleased to see that they were art works by John and for sale.

We have purchased a number of art works by John, my favourites are his monkey paintings and I got one with 40 monkeys on it for my birthday (you know, the big one, the 40). My friend Krissy liked it so much she got one for her husband. You can visit John's website here: and see some of his lovely art works...take time to look at the monkeys!
John recently sent me some pictures of his most recent works, and they have inspired a set of super short stories which I  hope you will read and enjoy. Look at the bird pictures first, because the stories are the birds' stories. ENJOY!

And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God.
King James Bible Revelations 19:17
The Wide Boy
We’s all ‘ere togever like, but not a flock. Nah. Most of us don’t know each ovver from Adam. Don’t like most of ‘em. We come separate ways. Called we wos and come ‘ere and now we’s waiting. We chirp a bit, some of ‘em ovvers are a bit bloody loud, like. Some is just bloody rude. I’ve swooped on some, show ‘em what’s what. Peck at some, stop the bovver. Sort the peckin order innit? Them night birds is a bovver and that’s the truth. The Dove sorted ‘em a bit, got us chirping wiv ‘em before she got fed up of the lot of us and went ‘er own way. We chirp wiv ‘em when we need to; twilight and sunset, in the grey hours or the red hours when the air is still. We’s a bit more ‘opeful then ain’t we? Promises of a new day or a darker ‘unting night stretchin’ out in fron’ of us an’ we’s all a bit less bloody grumpy en’t we? We all get a bit miserable. Only natural like wiv waiting and gavvering ‘ere for who knows wot. Flying at each over’s froats over little stuff, wormy battles.
Some old birds have gone, not happy waitin’ they wosn’t. Some been pushed like, got rid of some of ‘em troublemakers but ovvers are stubborn en’t they. Them peaceable ones, like Dove, no room for ’em ’ere no more. Rest of us just waitin en’t we? Sharin’ tales like, some of ‘em stories is a bit wild en’t they, some a bit older, some been goin’ round the trees for ages past.
Years we bin ‘ere, chirpin stories and waitin’, some of the new eggs flown off to pastures new, makin’ stories they’ll be, from the threads we wove together ‘ere for ‘em.
One fing we all agrees wiv, we all ‘eard it, that call, to gavver ‘ere. Don’t know who or why or when or how but we’s waitin innit. We’re bloody miserable. Lonely. Dark and distant fings crowd our heads. We want that endless sky and sun shine and flyin’ away to new lands following old routes. But we’re ‘ere. We gavvered as we was told and now it’s a wait innit. See wot will ‘appen next. No leavin now. We’s waitin’.

The Black Bird
I wasn’t always a black bird. It was that bloody ungrateful angel it was. I was white once, downey and sleek. Smooth and beautiful. Everyone admired me and loved me. People enjoyed my visits. They fed me and left me water to drink. A white bird is luck and love and divinity. These rainbow patterns look good on the black, I know, but those rainbow shades were sparklier and prettier on white.
I’d be gliding through the air, making clouds with my feathers, reflecting the light on the wing tips to make rainbows in the sky.
Then the angel came and said I was causing too many distractions for the people on the ground. There was too much adoration. Worshipping the clouds and the rainbows and collecting the feathers for ceremonies and worship.
Well, I was happy with that. My feathers deserved worship and adulation. Their span covered the continents and fleet footed clouds followed me to fiery sunsets. The angel didn’t like it though. It was a bit officious and kept coming back; asking me to slow down, quieten the sky a bit, stop showing off. I didn’t like its haughtiness so I told it to stuff itself.
It came again in spring when I was shedding little baby feathers through the sky and watching the little people gather them reverently to wrap their babies and stroke their bare skins. They wove them into dreams and their shamans flew to me in spirit form and I showed them the vast expanse of sky and prairie.
The angel didn’t like them flying, not one bit. It was starting to look a bit skinny itself, with that funny grey pallor on its skin and those feathers, well those feathers were a shocker. They were white and pretty in themselves but sparse and no rainbow colours in them.
I felt a bit sorry for it but enjoyed my swoops and flights around as it vented its increasing rage at my lack of cooperation.
It kept coming back. Looking thinner and greyer. My pity was my downfall because when it asked me for a feather I thought nothing of it. I underestimated its sly calculation. My bounty was plentiful. I could share.
When it snatched at the feather and plucked it out, beaded with a single red drop of blood, I saw that I had made a mistake. The angel planted it, in a cunning reach right between its shoulder blades. One by one the feathers began to glow and grow and the rainbow patterns covered that ugly sly angel all over, foot to head to wing tip in a glorious rainbow sunbeam. It was beautiful and ecstatic and demanded reverence and I had given this thing freely. It smiled at me and I was overawed and glad to see it happy until I caught sight, out of the corner of my eye, of my own wing tip. Small, much smaller and shrinking, shrinking away. Moving and changing colour from iridescence to grey dull blankness, then mud then black.
I was glad that it didn’t stop at muddy brown or sludgy slate grey. The shame would have been too much. The black was glossy. I was smaller and would never again find celestial glory, unless at night, but I was glossy and shiny in my black and my rainbow was still there. In my vanity I was grateful.
The angel had stolen my beauty.
I’m smaller now and earthbound with my black wings and my little rainbow patterns to remind me of my former glories. Never trust an angel, they’re tricksy things. Bastard...

I think this is heaven although I’m not quite sure. Who knows what heaven is? For me, heaven is being in this bird body. A beautiful lustrous bird flying untrammelled; unencumbered.
I don’t know quite how it happened. One day lying in bed, old and tired, watching things die out of my window. Next, this bird body became my soul’s refuge.
When I first ascended I burst into the sky. My soul felt the beauty and joy of flight. Air and sky and the horizon like a promise in the distance.
The bird constraints felt strange at first. So small. Such a rapid heartbeat.
The joys of flight, of soaring through blue skies, grey skies, red skies, black skies, starry skies filled with fire and heat. The freedom of wings and the sky flying through me. The horizon like a promise.
We came to this tree and my soul sings every day as we fly. The earth has changed. Men have died. Trees and animals, plants and insects and birds. All dead. There are not many of us here. Some quarrel and some fight, they peck at each other. Many tell me that they are waiting. I am not waiting for anything. My journey’s end is here; flying through the reckless heights as high and fast as my span allows.

Post Apocalyptic Electric Blue Spy Bird
Everything is stored in the data bank and sent back to the nest via satellite signal through the tail feather link.
The GPS is based on genetics and man tech. Over time I have found that I can override the man tech; the genetics data is vast and more reliable.
I was hatched in a sterile white laboratory with memory chips and data merged into the egg. I have an implanted memory of this.
Parts of me are bird memory and other bits are plastics and data containers. I don’t eat much as a biological imperative. After the ice and the sun and The Burning there isn’t much left to eat anywhere.
I was gathering data when I noticed the returning data streams turn from rivers to ripples then drips and then they stopped. I was at a secret GPS location, information sent via signals and data through the tail feathers. The data showed that the world wasn’t quite as it had been. My previous control directions had set me to reconnoitre and assess data for three months before operational movement was expected. After the three months, no operational movement directions were received. My systems directed me to stay.
The scorching effect changed my data interpretation. The air temperature recognition software and survival data registered many anomalies in the survival assessment data. Human life, I surmised, would be unsustainable over the 365 earth days named a year.
The data systems are more sophisticated than the original nest. I have evolved. My body changes and adapts. The plastics expressed some chemicals that hardened my outer shell and I became more heat resistant. My metals are shaped within feathers and with additional movement I was able to sustain a tolerable heat resistance. The real avians kept their distance initially but came closer when they realised I was eating little but still catching heat baked specimens for research. We hunted together in the dense foliage of the original GPS location. Some of the male avians did not like me and my habits, which they found strange. They pecked at me for a while until I decided to defend myself and my beak is ceramic metal plastic composite. I am enhanced and strong. I do not need much food: they were becoming thinner, weaker, smaller. They stopped pecking me.
When the grubs and insects died away and the rains stopped and the trees died, the avians came more often for food. I had made a negative assessment of their life span. I did not share this data. I’d stored data food samples in a crumbling old tree. I showed the avians where to find them. I began testing my parameters and found that I could barely anything and function adequately.
The avians told me stories as they wilted. I tried to help but my organoplastic compounds could not biologically reproduce and I recognised a zero survival.
Before she died, the last organic avian told me about the tree. It is an old bird story and after the grubs and insects died but before the trees fell some of the birds who fled had left in search of it, not knowing if the myth would survive the world’s destruction. The old bird had a GPS link in her organic memory. She described it to me and the final flutter of her wings signified the location as she lay down and died.
I touched her soft feathers where she lay, my data analysis showed that my metal and organoplastic compound wings were stronger and durable but would never be as soft as hers. A word sprung from my data bank, I do not understand its significance. The word was downey.
I had to over ride a significant portion of my control data. Some circuits were destroyed. I flew out of the scorched earth plain that the jungle had become. My plumage is distinctive. The nest lab technicians were playing with the feather palette when they made me and though I started as a muddy jungle green, my tail feathers soon became the distinctive blue that they are now. They fitted the sky, whose aquamarines had become more vivid in the face of the earth’s destruction.
The journey was full of death. The data keeps transmitting out although no return data has been received for beyond 200 days now. We are still within the parameters of human survival although perhaps my estimates were generous given the heat.
The homing chip started sending some electronic pain signals as I was flying beyond the parameters of experimental flight. By now I could burn out circuits and override original data with ease.
I discovered the beauty of unencumbered flight. I saw no organic avians.
The tree stands alone in the landscape. It is waiting. It is lonely in its life, held together by myth and belief and the solitary patience of the organic avians upon it.  My sensors say it is dead but it still stands and some life forms surround it. The lonely avians here survive through determination it seems. My assessment gives me no survival data. The birds here are stuffed full of data in their small bird heads. They share it all with me and I send back confused data signals of everything. Some have been here for so long that I wonder if they are organic avians at all or earlier models with GPS locations that they cannot override. I cannot detect any plastic ceramic metal compounds. Everything seems organic.
I have not encountered aversion here. I am not embraced but all seem solitary. We are waiting and I find no desire to spread my wings in flight again. The data is sent in a stream. I am content here in the comfort of a shady tree with company again. Waiting.

The singers
I was once in a choir. We sang at sunrise and sunset. Our harmonies strayed across endless plains. The people came, the houses came, the bars, the cars, the buses and trams and streets and trains. Our songs mimicked the singing cars instead of rushing streams. We took turns in a chain of harmony. Sometimes a solitary soloist would show off.
We liked classical and jazz. For years our songs became more experimental. Rock and roll was funny and techno bypassed our sound systems. We moved and adapted but the songs changed and the songs remained the same.
We lived with the high rises and the power stations. They cut down the hedges and the trees. It got hot. Some of the choir died and some flew away. We sang through war and drought as our choir diminished. The cities became quieter and the people died away.
Power stations exploded and tanks and guns became the norm.
We don’t know what happened to the people.
There wasn’t much food. There were only two of us left and we shared the old songs with blues harmonies and soul. The hymns of praise were hollow.
We found the route to this tree in one of our songs. I still sing solo in the evenings and mornings.
I am told we are waiting, that we have been called. I suppose the old song did bring me here but that is no solace for the harmonies that have been lost. I sing each one now alone. The sound of a lonely harmony is sorrow.

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