Blood Birds. Short Story.

I’m really sorry this is up so late. I was helping some of my parents friends and we didn’t realise the time. It took longer than expected.

I hope everyone’s weekend went well, mine was fun, if a little odd. I’m fairly wrecked so my brain is a little screwy at the moment, I shall be back on Wednesday, bright and early, with another story! One that will be posted before ridiculous o’clock.
On with the show!

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Blood Birds.

I was quite surprised when I first saw her, not by the fact that it was an unescorted woman, that sight is getting common now, but that she walked so confidently, she was obviusly unafraid. Head held high. she wore a dress, plain in colour and nothing fancy, but I had rarely seen a woman wear one outside of her wedding day. I almost expected it to be a trap, an ambush and that small, confident, serene figure was the bait.

The road was somewhat well travelled, there were ruts in the road left from the passing of many wheels. I checked the tree line to see if there was anything, a small sign that would tell me if it was a trap, but I could see nothing. Either they were extremely skilled, or it was safe. I walked behind her for a time and she seemed unaware of my presence. If it was a trap she would have signalled or turned to begin the walk again. they could have had no knowledge that I was coming and though the road looked worn, it didn’t look like it was used frequently enough to warrant her pacing a section of it. as I drew closer, I noticed that she seemed to be talking to herself. Her voice was rich, melodic, but her words wavered as she spoke. “The crops are coming in well this year, we should get a high price around the towns.” There was a pause, as if she was listening to a response “mmhmm, and the cows are giving off lots of milk too. We should be well set this winter. Not like the last one.” Curious, I drew closer and cleared my throat, “uh, excuse me?” startled, she jumped and spun around, her hand dropping to her thigh, I guessed that when she was wearing trousers she had a weapon strapped there. I raised my hands, trying to placate her. “don’t worry, I’m not going to harm you. I was just worried. Are you alright?” “yes, why?” “well, just you were talking to yourself and most people don’t do that, at least, not full conversations with air. And, should the wrong people come by, they might think your housing a devil.” She blushed “I didn’t realise I was talking that loudly. But, if you’ll excuse me, I’m expected back, I don’t want them to have to send out a party.” She looked at me pointedly, “well, if you like, I could escort you towards where you’re goin? I don’t want something happening to you because you are alone.” “I’m quite alright, I know the area well.” “I insist.” We continued walking, her slightly behind me. I could see her in my peripheral so I wasn’t too concerned. I noticed that she had specifically mentioned that a group might come looking for her. I knew then that she was alone, returning to somewhere with little to no people. “how far to where you’re going?” “Not far, about half an hour away. There’s a turn off along this road. You can leave me there and continue on your way, I don’t want to trouble you.” A shrill shriek filled the air as clouds rolled across the sun, I looked over at her, “could we run it?” she paled, then nodded as the two of us began to race for our lives.

She was a swift runner and she quickly took the lead, she had to as I had no idea where I was going but luckily she didn’t slow me down. We needed to get to shelter immediately. The clouds were gaining but she seemed to have calmed since the first almighty noise filled the air. We must be getting close. After a few minutes of running full force she veered off the road into the grass, it was tall and didn’t look as if it was ever disturbed. Without thinking I followed, I had nothing better prepared and I should have been paying more attention, if she was wrong we were both dead. After a few more minutes of running she veered again, this time running at a diagonal.
Thankfully I could see where we were going, there was a big fence, big enough for protection, but small enough that it couldn’t be seen from the road. A line of trees and tall grasses would obscure it. the shrieking started again, a horrific chorus. We were pushing it, if they got any closer we wouldn’t be able to run anymore. The screams, they do something to your brain. Your eyes and ears start to bleed and you can’t move for the pain that runs through you. Still. We would make it. we had to.
The gate had been left open, shoddy security, once we were inside we would have to do a sweep of the house we would be sheltering in. we would be safe until they passed but until then we needed to be sure we were alone. If there were as few people as I suspected there could easily be a small raiding party inside, waiting.

We were through the gate and, in my quick look around I saw four houses, the gate was left open, there would be time to close it later. She shot through an open front door of a house, as I raced after her I realised she could lock me outside, leave me to die. Putting on another spurt of speed I joined her in the house, I was no sooner in the door then she had slammed it closed. Earplugs were next, the most important. We were safe for now, but the pain would not be pleasant. As we put in the earplugs we could hear the rains begin. Thick drops of red water hit the window pains, vaguely I could hear shrieking. They were worked up. Someone must have attacked the Blood Birds. Maybe accidentally killed one of their young. they would rampage outside for awhile. Once the rains stopped it would be safe to go outside. At least, safe as long as you didn’t touch the red rain, it was usually followed by regular rain that washed it away quickly, they only flew with storms. The red rain wasn’t really rain, it was some kind of venom, falling from their bodies, but it was light and carried on the wind, usually arriving before they did.

It was storm season and sometimes they caused problems but usually they were ok. The venom would burn if it touched human skin. it seemed to leave plants alone and livestock were quick to get under cover. they might take a sheep or cow every once and a while, but that would feed an entire flock of them for weeks, maybe even months. As the rain fell, I signalled to her we should look around the house. We couldn’t hear with these earplugs in, it would be easy for us to be attacked from behind. The house was small and modestly furnished, looking over it was easy. We found no one, just as she expected. I could tell by her expressions that she thought the search was pointless. She must leave the gates open regularly. Fool. Once the house was cleared, we sat down and waited. I made sure to keep her in my sights at all times, just in case. She saved my life now, but that could have been purely instinctual. An accident borne of fear. She wouldn’t get the better of me. Normally I wouldn’t be so quick to join someone in their home, especially strangers, but normally I would keep an eye out for storms and have created a covering or found a cave long before the Blood Birds got there.

We waited until the regular rain stopped, it cleared the windows of their horrible red coating. Once sunlight was streaming through we removed the earplugs. “do you always leave the gate open when you leave?” “of course. nothing ever happens.” “that’s foolish. For all you know there could be a raiding party around here somewhere. How many people live here?” she looked down, “just me.” “just you to four houses?” it was boggling. She lived alone, that is all well and good, but three perfectly good houses, just sitting around here, empty? “what happened to everyone else?” “they died or moved on.” We went outside, the air was filled with the smell of wet dust, strong and soothing. I closed and locked the gate and together, we moved from house to house. each one was the same. Completely empty. Either she had taken the furniture and food from their houses into hers or they took it with them. it was hard to know which. I could hear her animals in the distance, it was strange that they weren’t in paddocks, but perhaps they were just a little distance away from the village.

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About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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