This story was originally published on Visiak’s Mirror from Dunham’s Manor Press under the name of “A(W) Hendry” (It’s a long story, don’t ask).


The birds in my head are making a din today –they beat their wings with furious anger, thrashing and flapping and screeching and squawking behind my eyes. So much so is their furore that I find it hard to focus on your words. Your lips are moving, I can feel the baritone of your voice in my jaw –so taut it hums like struck metal, I know the words you are saying even if I cannot hear them over the cacophony within my skull: accusing.asinine.arguing.fighting.faulting.fucking.fearing

Behind you –don’t want to focus on your face— behind you the sun is bright over the garden, fearsomely so, and the grass is green, green, green –vibrant, overwhelming, dominating. Shapes: forms that should be hard and defined edges are smudged, smeared, softened –what was the apple tree, the garden shed, a plastic chair overturned by last night’s wind, are just impressions of the things that they used to be. I can feel you in my jaw still –focus on the sky. White bright blue –no clouds, no birds{they’re all in my head: beating, crying, screaming, thrashing in my head}, can’t see the circle sun burning there {maybe it’s above the house -red bricks ,timber, slate tiles, glass, that stain on the bathroom wall –protecting us from the furnace’s photons, from cancer cells, from the blinding burning eye} pushed up, up and away by the pulsing thrum of the garden’s green.

what? sorry, I missed what you said no I am listening

But I’m not. Can’t. The noise the colour the clamour. All too much. Can’t focus on one thing –not the drone, hum, of your voice, not the garden, not the sky. Even the walls of the house –that picture of your mother on the wall, the one of us at my mother’s wedding –smiling happy faces hiding gaping grinning skulls full of birds. I think maybe you have insects in yours –crawling, creeping, biting, stinging insects. Not powerful, magnificent, soaring birds. I can almost hear them buzzing and biting and trying to crawl out from behind your face –no, not looking at your face, can’t be looking at your face. Must look through your face –look at the reflection in the window, hints of the room we’re in, not this room though, somewhere else, somewhere without the buzzing of the things behind your eyes, somewhere like this but far away but here as well.

Birds eat insects don’t they? Maybe mine will eat yours if I let them loose –if I open my head and you open yours then they shall fight and my birds will feast, maybe then they will be quiet. Maybe then I can hear you, maybe then your voice will not pluck my jaw –play it like a bass guitar on a blown and busted amplifier.

no, no I am listening, I just said didn’t I? I know

You are standing now, walking behind me, pacing, should I turn? If I move my head –if I look away from the window, the garden, the colour, the smudging shed, I feel my skull may crack, my birds will escape and then I’ll be alone in there, alone inside my broken head. My birds will escape and fly all over the room, crashing into walls and windows, knocking things over, making a mess –and where will we be then? Where will we be if they break inside your head? Pecking at your skull to devour the chitinous delicacies within.

look at you? I can’t, not now
not after

My body, not just my jaw, is tense now –vibrating with every fall of your foot on the carpet{russet brown, always hated the colour, too dark and earthy, can never afford to replace it, landlord’s job you said} with every word –soon.sweet.soothe.stay– that buzzes past your teeth, your teeth, how are they not crumbled to dust when your voice is like a power drill drilling around them, through them, day after day after day after day.

will I? What? No. Sorry. Can’t. Can you not hear them?

I have to move, have to turn, I don’t know what will be worse. To not turn is to have you think I’m ignoring you, that I don’t care, don’t love, don’t feel for you

I do

but if I turn then my mouth will open, open wide and far, my head cracked open like so many eggs, now there’s an image, and my birds will fly free –you will not like it, you will cry and shout and plead for me to make them stop, to take them back within myself but I will not be able to. Once what is done is done, said is said, there can be no undoing, unsaying, no way to cage a bird that has flown.

I turn, you are making me with the insistence of your voice, the pressure of your words –fixing.fighting.falling.faithful– a pressure pushing down on my shoulders, pushing me into the chair. Maybe if I don’t turn I will sink, sink through the chair and the russet brown carpet, through the floorboards and into the earth below. No. I turn

listen, sorry, I

I can see them now, your insects, crawling about your lips, their carapaces all the rainbow colours of petrol spilled on water. They crawl over one another, falling from your chin onto the hated carpet below, you crush them with your feet as you pace, back and forth and back, you can not keep yours behind your face, now they are free to buzz and bite and ruin. If you can not keep your insects in then I must, I shall, watch me, release my birds. My mighty birds to consume –will this be catharsis? Will this, will allowing eruption, allowing the beating behind my eyes to break free and thrash around the room, will chaos and clamour help?

listen, I

My mouth is open, you stop, stop talking, the hum of the insects ceases, there is a moment of calm and then: Yes! I can feel them now, my beautiful birds rushing down down down from the farthest reaches of the space within my mind, crashing into one another in their desperate bid for freedom. I can feel the first fault lines fracturing my face, growing wider, exposing the darkness within as my birds rush for the light and for freedom. Cracks cross my face, disappearing into my hair –but still there, growing– the beating intensifies, my jaw breaks and my mouth gapes and they are free. My head explodes a bloody mess of bone and brain, feathers fly as your insects are devoured. My birds {are they still mine now that they are free? Are they ours now that they are in our room?} swoop and soar consuming one by one the bugs that have spilled free of your lips, they peck your face to a bloody mess to find what is left inside, soon there will be none left. There will only be my birds, my birds and whatever remains of us.