Like a dark cloud, they fill the sky. Their beaks break windows and clean eye sockets. Razor talons deeply cut human flesh leaving strokes of thick red proof splattering the ground. Heard above, a choir of shrieks and off scale pitches sings over people below, echoing from door to door with a volume that never dies.
I’m surrounded by birds when I walk into the crisp morning air. I try to tell myself that this will be a better day. They can mind their own business as long as I do the same. I’m guessing they’ve been waiting for me. I turn down my iPod to be sure no sneak attacks are made. It’s a great risk if I’m unable to hear the piercing cry of a crow swooping from its perch. So far so good I’m sure they’re not all watching me right now. “CawwwCAWWWW,” a black winged demon cuts me off and stares into me with its black beads confirming all of my fears. My heart flutters out of control as my walk turns into a trot. One crow brought attention to the others, now they begin swooping from one building to the next. My rule? They always have right-of-way. I continue on to class, adjusting my sunglasses hiding a stream of tears.
I am ashamed. Hyperventilating and crying fit into my daily routine. As long as I imagine the horrible things that they’re capable of, I will remain haunted. They are everywhere I go and they are plotting against me. What if they grip onto my bookbag? What if they grip onto my skull? What if they hold on and never let go? Most people think my anxiety is hilarious. I really wished I did too.
I was home one weekend from college and my dad was shaking with laughter during the entire movie of Alfred Hitchcock’s the Birds.
“Olivia, are you crying?!”
My dad hit pause, freezing a violent seagull on screen.
I was sitting in the corner of the couch, my eyes stuck to the t.v. expecting for the gull to start attacking uncontrolled by any remote.
“Dad, just play it, I’m not even scared,” my voice was steady but monotone.
I leaned toward our television as hundreds of birds attacked the actors. I was crying for the people because I knew that the birds would be merciless and it could happen again in real life, my life.
It had started with an owl. Expanded wings tilted as if measuring the height of my car. A replay in slow motion occurs when I remember the eyes. Like an insomniac the yellow eyes cracked out in terror and reached my heart commanding a faster rhythm. “WHOOOWOOOO.” The sound round and hollow, identical to the eyes
The morning after the attack I felt hung over with spinning flashbacks that I hoped to God were make believe.
I tried to laugh away my fear and tell my owl story in the exact light of my nightmare. I started to imitate the wing-span of my flying demon I performed in front of many people, putting on the show that worked to convince me that I was exaggerating.
A few months after the owl night, the truth had begun descended down on me on different occasions. 4:00am brought to me a malfunctioning alarm clock in the form of a crow. “Caw, caw, CAW,” jerked me awake, the bird stayed outside of my window for twenty minutes. My room is located on the third floor of my buildings and there are no trees. For twenty minutes a crow hovered outside of my window without a branch to restfully perch on. I sat awake and let the bird verbally harass me.
By downplaying my phobia I’m able to briefly stuff the anxiety it truly brings me. But this fear is as unyielding as the grave.
I show my true colors by alerting the public. “Leave them alone, they don’t need any bread!!!” Two jerk-offs at the beach were feeding the birds as if they were needy, homeless children. I don’t go to the beach often especially now that I’ve noticed the overcrowded skies and the idiots who bring them closer. I tried just napping on the sand. Closing my eyes and pretending that the watchful seagulls had vanished.
“Look how close that one is to her head!” I heard my friends whisper and laugh softly before I lifted my hat off my face in time to see a bird tip-toeing closer to my head.
This of course sparked spastic flapping. My arms fanned defending my head. The bird wings moved like a puppet on strings, clapping towards me before taking off. I stared wide-eyed into space trying to prevent myself from letting every bird memory take me away to hysteria. That cued the head nodding, foot stomping laughter from the chorus of my sympathetic friends. I got a better idea of two things that day: the phrase, “sleep with one eye open,” and the sacrifice friends make for a potential good laugh.
It’s humiliating. Running to the car in a Walmart parking lot. Dreading the days my friend’s suggest, “Let’s go to the beach.” Stopping in mid-step terrified in the shadow of a bird flying over me. Nervous breaks occurring thinking of all of my duck and cover stories. I, a 20 year old grown up will run away from a chirping blue bird that twitches at me the wrong way. I’m always looking up waiting for the next air attack. I want to escape this nightmare that drifts over me, but that day seems to be flying further and further away.