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The Flock

Melissa Mead lives in Upstate NY. You can find her on Facebook, or go here for links to stories and other fun stuff: carprelibris.wordpress.com.

Do you believe in the Flock?
It's not hard. No harder than believing in Santa Claus, who manages to be in every mall, and every chimney of every home, while at the same time being so unique, so individual, that children know him on sight.
The Flock is like that. For most of the month, they roam the city in their tiny, soft gray forms, and people sneer, "Oh, pigeons!" The Flock takes no notice. They spread throughout the city, iridescent throats shining green and amethyst, like unrecognized gems, and they watch.
They bob along the sidewalk and watch the old man who makes his slow way to the coffee shop and makes his cup of plain black coffee last as long as it can, hoping that someone will start a conversation, or at least say hello.
They perch on the schoolyard fence and watch the little girl who sits at the picnic table while the others play ball, hoping that someone will look her way, and finally buries her nose in a book and mutters that ballgames are stupid, anyway.
They fly to the high window of an apartment where an old woman lies in the bed that she hasn't left for weeks, watching the Flock, and the open sky beyond.
For most of the month the Flock is many, winged and feathered, watching, seeing, and remembering.
At the beginning of the three nights when Lady Moon shows her brightest face, the Flock gathers in a quiet corner, unseen lest they frighten anyone by their transition. They wrap each other in many wings, cling to each other with tiny clawed feet, and emerge as a girl, slender and dainty as any bird. The girl spends a few precious hours relearning the ways of one mind, of seeing through one pair of eyes, of walking and talking and being a singular creature of the Earth. Then she begins her rounds.
She stops by the coffee shop and savors the warmth of a hot drink in cold hands, and the smile that changes the lined map of the old man's face while they chat, and that makes his step a little brisker when he leaves.
She goes to the library for her monthly day of volunteering, and gently steers the girl from the playground down the same aisle as another classmate who secretly longs for friends made of more than ink and paper.
And just before the end of the third night, she visits the old woman in her apartment, clad in a nursing volunteer's uniform of soft dove gray. The two women talk for a long time, sometimes laughing, sometimes crying, sometimes just listening to each other. Otherwise, the apartment is silent and still.
As the night nears its end, the gray girl opens the window and stands on the sill, high above the city, awash in fading moonlight. The gray dress ripples into feathers. One girl becomes many birds, distinct and flying.
The old woman is not frightened. She, too, steps onto the sill. Her white nightgown flaps against legs as thin as a bird's.
She steps off.
I. I step off the windowsill, give myself to the moonlit air.
Nightgown becomes feathers. I am flying.
We. We are flying. We are the Flock. We are watching. Can you see us? It's impossibly simple.
And not hard to believe.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

Author Comments

I pass a lot of pigeons on my way into work. Who knows what they're up to when we're not looking?

- Melissa Mead
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