I was standing under the only tree I could see when a small bird landed on my right shoulder. It put its beak to my ear and said “Twicht-twicht, chit shwit-twicht”.
I don’t know why but I grabbed it with both hands just below the neck, pinning the wings to its sides. The bird was still free to move its head, and it pecked hysterically at the backs of my hands, breaking the skin again and again. Blood ran over my knuckles and collected in the folds on either side of my fingernails.
After some minutes, I decided I couldn’t hold the bird any longer and I relaxed my grip to allow it to go. I looked at my hands, turned them over, and with the palms facing me, I watched the blood move from the outside of my wrists to the inside and drip onto the ends of my shoes and the ground in front of me.
I took my left shoe off first, then the right and standing with both feet together, I concentrated on the feeling of the cold mud beneath me as it forced its way up between my toes.
The phone in my pocket rang. I took it out with my right hand and tapped answer with my thumb.
“Where are you Simon?” she said.
“I’m somewhere I haven’t been before,” I said.
“Is it beautiful?” she said.
I looked down at the mud which was now piled up on top of my toes and was banked up around the side of my feet.
“Simon?” she said.
“Yes, I’m sorry I,”
“Simon, I don’t really have anything to say,” she said. “I just wanted to know that you hadn’t forgotten about me. It’s been so long now and,”
“I haven’t forgotten.” I said.
There was a pause and the phone clicked dead.
With the phone still in my hand, I brought my arm down to my side and slowly tilted my head backward. I closed my eyes and saw the old lady that lives in the house next door to my parents. She is more than 100 years old and spends all of her time sitting in a chair in the smallest room above the stairs. It is the room that gets all the sun, but the curtains are drawn.
I reached for the light switch but she shouted at me to stop.
“What is it?” I asked her.
“I don’t think I’m ready for what I might I see,” she said.
Words by SIMON LININGTON