Chapter Nine



Beatrice fluttered to a lower branch. Most of the birds had left the woods, but enough had stayed that she could get closer to Blake without attracting attention.

Were any of these birds human? She couldn’t tell. They all looked like birds.

If Ashland were a bird, which kind would he be?

She bristled and puffed and shook off the question. Thought experiments were too much for a bird brain.


Blake left the park with his coterie. Beatrice followed.

As he walked, the birds swooped and swirled around him and took turns perching on his shoulders. When one flew off, another took its place.

Beatrice’s turn was coming up. She tried to skip to the back of the line, but the birds behind her squawked and blocked her way.

Now I’ve done it, she thought. Looks like I’m going to have to land on Blake’s shoulder.

She pulled her wings tight and descended.


“Eternal fall,” Blake said. “Shaking foundation.” He was muttering to himself, but from a bird’s perspective his voice boomed and shook.

Blake had large ear canals. Beatrice could see a lot of stuff in them. There was earwax and crusty skin and thick black hairs.

Good nesting material, thought the bird portion of her brain.

The bird portion of her brain had strange priorities.

What I should do, Beatrice thought, is peck at his ear canal until I reach his brain.

Peck at brain first, collect nesting material second.

But the squawking had begun again. Already her turn was up. The next bird in line bustled her off Blake’s shoulder.

I’m a coward, Beatrice thought, re-joining the formation. It’s the end of the world and all I had to do was peck out a man’s brain through his ear canal, but I couldn’t do it.


Blake’s apartment was disgusting. It was greasy and dark, with childish spirals scrawled on the floor and walls. He had opened his living room window, allowing all the birds inside.

He sat at his couch and took out a stack of cards, shuffling them and arranging them on the coffee table. Beatrice perched herself on the table. What are those, tarot cards? She chirped with disapproval. Tarot cards weren’t real. They didn’t do anything.

Of course, Beatrice had become a bird this morning. Words like ‘real’ didn’t mean what they used to.

Two large ravens shuffled up on either side of her. She tried to fly away but they had pinned her wings at her sides.

“Hello, Beatrice,” Blake said.

He said some other things, but in her panic the human part of Beatrice’s brain slipped away.

Now she was just a bird, with a dangerously fast heartbeat, and a giant hand reaching for her...



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