Chapter Eighteen


Ashland gasped and nearly fell off the landing. Whoa. He hadn't had a premonition or vision in nearly a decade and he thought he'd lost the ability. Yet he was certain he'd just had a glimpse at a grim future yet to come and he hoped he could stop it. His mother, herself blessed with The Eye, told him time and again that the future is not set in stone until it's...well, set in stone. But having a vision means the pathway is marked for that direction and only a grand plan could change it. Knowing in his heart that the future he saw was nigh, Ash quickly changed direction and headed back to Beatrice's apartment, determination taking up residency in his heart where fear had lived just moments ago.

Back in front of apartment 2S, Ash put his ear against the door, listening for sounds of a trespassing bird. Or several... Silence.

Entering the apartment, Ash looked around. Everything was as he'd left it, so he headed back to the kitchen. The crack in the window looked like it could be a little bigger, he wasn't sure. But, he decided, it really didn't matter; he had a job to do and doggone it, he was going to do it.

Noticing that the stove was still lit, he headed towards it, when he heard an earth-shattering crash. Looking in the direction of the sound, he saw the bird. Only it was inside now, sitting on the lip of the window, and the crack was no longer a crack, but was a full-fledged hole. Steeling himself, he rolled up the sleeves of the blue and gray checked button-up he'd changed back into earlier and addressed the creature.

"C'mon, you little shit. You wanted me, come and get me!" The bird said nothing - had he really expected it to? - but instead continued to look at him with a steely gaze, even cocking its head, as if studying something interesting. It was then that Ash noticed how very human indeed the eyes looked...In fact, the whole face looked human, as if its birdie face had been replaced with a human's, much like the two characters in that movie with Nicholas Cage and John Travolta, Face-Off, had had a switcheroo of faces. He blinked his eyes to clear his vision and when he reopened his baby blues, the bird was right in front of him, hovering. Quickly grabbing the skillet he didn't remember having the wherewithal to take off the stove's eye, he swung for the varmint. And missed.

Angered, the raven dove at him, obviously attempting to peck him in the eyes. Ash dodged the blow and swung the skillet again, making contact this time. The bird shook its head as if dazed, but didn't fall - how could it be that strong? - so Ash hit it again. Harder. This time, the creature fell.

Standing over it, Ash again looked at its face - now slightly flattened, thanks to the skillet - and marveled at how human it looked.

Then one of its eyes opened, bloodshot and very VERY angry.


Later, in 3W

Still murmuring "birds of a feather", nine-year-old Montgomery Parks checked on his family. His father was knocked-out on the couch with his brother, Wynn, and his sister, Calliope. Now that the haze had passed, he knew what he must do. He knew that as a child, no one besides his mom and dad and teachers really paid attention to him, so he could fly (no pun intended) under the radar and accomplish things that someone older might not be able to. Since he'd realized that the dream that wasn't a dream was really reality, he also realized that everyone in the city was in danger and he had to do as his mom said and "Look out for his fellow man", even if he wasn't quite a man himself yet.

Grabbing his bookbag, Monty zipped up his coat and looked one last time at the trio on the couch. He wished his mother was here, so he could wish her a silent farewell, as well, but life had not been so kind. Sighing, he quietly opened the door and headed into the night.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Fighting against the wind, Monty continued walking south. He didn't know how he knew to head in that direction, but he did instinctively know that was the way to go, sort of like regular birds know to fly south for the winter. He briefly wondered if he'd end up in Florida; he'd like to go to Disney World before he died, as he was sure he would in the coming days, but he also knew that was not to be. He knew, as well, that he should have felt sadder, facing death at such a young age and it did hurt that he'd never see his family again, but he felt proud. Proud to be a warrior before he was even a decade old, proud to stand up for himself and his city, proud to play a role in ending the birdpocalypse... But first, he needed a snack.

Leaning his bookbag against a tree, he kneeled and undid the zipper, sticking his right hand inside to find the granola bar he'd put on top on his change of clothes. Retrieving the chocolate-covered treat, he was unwrapping it, when a sound caught his attention. He gulped and looked around, now on high-alert. It was darker than it perhaps should have been at 3 o'clock in the afternoon, but not so dark that he couldn't see.

The brown eyes that had earlier been wet with tears now peered around himself, taking in everyone on the street. There was a woman walking a dog, a dalmatian, and it's pattern looked like a fun connect-the-dots. The woman stopped to give the dog a treat, then they went on their way... There were a couple of teenaged girls, giggling at some joke; about a boy, probably... There was an old man, shuffling along, leaning on his cane so hard, Monty was afraid he'd break it and fall on the ground... There was a shadow coming up behind him... Wait? A shadow? Monty swiftly turned around and saw the woman from apartment 3N, the one who always passed out notes. And with her was the guy from 4E...What were THEY doing together? Could they possibly know- No. That couldn't be it. Still, he figured it couldn't hurt to ask. Could it?... After replaying himself telling his father how adults "never do anything, ever” in his head, he decided to chance it; hopefully he'd been wrong about that. But he doubted it.

Straightening himself, he stepped in front of the woman. "M...Miss Janice?"

"Oh, you're that young boy from 3W, aren't you? Such a nice boy. Not like other troublemakers I know," she said, glancing at Don, who shuffled his feet uncomfortably.

"Yes, Ma'am. My name's Monty, er, Montgomery you know..." His throat was feeling fizzy like a soda, making it hard to talk, so he cleared it, then tried again. "Do you know anything about Mr. Mayland's birds. know...weird?"

Janice quickly bent down and looked him in his eyes. Hard. And he knew he could tell her.

"So, uh...I was one of the birds, too... I was turned into one, I mean." He shifted his weight to his other foot and glanced at Don, whom he just realized had a few too many feather pieces on his clothes. Looking back at Janice, he asked, "Was HE one, too?"

"Yes, my dear. He was. But he JUST became human again - one minute, he was a bird, the next, poof! human - so his mind is a little swiss-cheesed. Please tell me everything you know."

"Well," Monty said, and he launched into his tale.



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