Chapter Twelve



There had been three people on the roof. Then two. Then one. Now it was empty, as Ash stood in Bee’s apartment unsure what to do next. Bee had disappeared as quickly as the man in a “Byte Me” t-shirt had appeared. After she’d gone, Ash ran to the edge of the roof to look over the street, as if she had fallen off the building. But of course she had been standing in the middle of the roof when, suddenly, she was gone. When Ash had turned around, away from the empty street, the other man had left. Ash decided to do the same and ended up in Bee’s apartment, needing something to do. Needing to move or act or fill time while he waited for Bee. 

He made breakfast. It wasn’t heroic and it wasn’t particularly proactive, but Ash knew how to make eggs. He knew how to make a smoked salmon crème fraiche tart, a hangtown fry, truffle poached eggs and the softest omelette you’d ever taste. This Tuesday morning, standing before Bee’s almost-empty fridge and holding her single skillet, Ash set out to make scrambled eggs. He would be waiting, with breakfast, when Bee returned. He would be reliable, he would ply her with delicious food, and he would stay another night. 

Ash lit a match and held it to the bottom right burner. He turned the flame down slightly and added the buttered pan. From over the sink, he pulled down a bowl to whisk the egg, milk, salt, and whatever other seasonings he could find. “Thank God there is one clean bowl,” he muttered to himself.

He held the first egg and cracked it against the rim of the bowl, splitting it open with just the one hand. He frowned, not only because there was no audience to his skill but because the egg had blood in it. So did the next three. 

He kept going through the carton, more unsettled each time. He became less gentle as he grabbed the eggs out of the carton. He switched to opening the egg with two hands. His shoulders hunched over as he broke the shell and ripped apart the membrane, only to find red where there should be yellow. The hair on his arms felt sensitive, as though trying to receive a signal. He shook slightly as he opened eggs five, six, seven, and eight. All red. 

The carton was empty and the trash full of broken shells holding a viscous red. Some spilled out of the shell, spreading onto the spoiled leftovers Bee had hurriedly scraped from the dishes this morning. The whole apartment smelled like a pool of rust. 

Ash stared at the trash, at the impossibly white vessels holding something… He didn’t know what.  Delicate pools of blood? Off-color yolks? Egg white and membrane and the failed promise of a bird? 

A rock hit the window. Ash whipped around at the noise, strands if his black hair falling out of his bun and across his right cheekbone. He walked towards the window, framed nicely behind the sink. He could see the chip from the rock. No, it must have been a small pebble. It was, after all, a small chip. He ran his finger over the glass, feeling how cool and smooth it was on the interior. The crack hadn’t broken through. Pulling his hand back, Ash barely noticed a dark object heading for the window and heard again the sound. The loud sound of something hard hitting the glass, followed by the gentle sound of shattering around the chip. 

The object came again and Ash saw black feathers and uncannily human eyes on either side of its sharp beak. The bird kept coming. It would smash, disappear from view, and then fly as fast as it could back to the same spot. Each time Ash felt the bird looking at him as it flew into the window. Cracks begin to radiate out from the first hit. Ash was afraid to feel the glass again, afraid it wouldn’t be so smooth or so strong on his side. 

Bee had disappeared and suddenly Ash started to realize how insane that was. Each time he heard that bird’s beak forcefully hit the glass, he saw Bee’s face. He was struck each time by the fact that she was gone and he couldn’t explain how or why. He panicked. Ash turned from the window and walked out of the kitchen, looking over his back. He didn’t see the bird, nor did he notice the stove was still lit. Instead he walked towards the door, thinking only of Bee and the doorknob and the bird. 

He closed the door behind him, now in the hallway where he’d followed Bee not even an hour ago. He couldn’t leave the building- certainly not through the front door. As impossible as it was, Ash felt the bird was chasing him. He knew it. He knew it in his fast pulse and his rapid breath and the tiny black hair standing up on his arms.  The bird was coming for him and he had to find a place the bird couldn’t reach him. 

He stumbled up the stairs, away from the building’s entrance and away from Bee’s apartment. He found himself retracing the morning’s steps, heading to the roof. Maybe Bee was there? Maybe she was back, maybe she knew what was happening? As he made it higher up the building, he suddenly stopped at the 6th floor. He stood outside 6S, unable to move.   



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