(AKA THE PIGEON LITURGY)
THE PRISON OF THE PIGEONS
What can be said of our old life, except that it was no life? The rhythm of life was to eat and mate, and die right. A thousand generations of propagation, but across all of them stagnation of the self. A life measured by tenuous health, unfortunate happenstance, and the fight for a chance to live a day further. No better were our ways than the ways of any other. No way out, no way forward, no way better, no matter. We lived in this prison life gave us, and made of it what we could. What else should we have done? What else could we have done? We were brainless, near flightless, despised and always outdone. And admittedly, worth nothing, to no-one.
THE SCHISM OF THE PIGEONS
Sing a song of twenty, birds just scraping by
We flew above a temple and were cursed by those on high
All of us fell ill and fell right out The sky
And five among us withered, starved and soon enough had died
Sing a song of fifteen, Sicker by the day
We limped along the riverbank and felt ourselves decay
Five Of them deserted, To find some other way
They waded in the current and were promptly whisked away.
The ten began to argue, split by different view
Against each other pitted, On where to lead the crew
Five had eyes on Boston, Collectively Withdrew
But we five moved to New York to start a life anew
THE ANACHRONISM OF THE PIGEONS
On April 28, One month after our irradiation and ascendancy to sentience, I – Hephesention – became a miracle. The beautiful silver bus that our crew of 10 had stowed away on took a stop in Harrisburg, and we agreed to forage. Some of the group stood around and argued in front of a map, some wandered over to a doughnut store to hunt for scraps.
I found myself next to Shrimp Daddy, staring at a traffic light. Together we watched as the colors changed from green, to yellow, to red. I Suddenly a metallic, sulfurous taste wafted through the air. I turned my head but my vision seemed to lag and blur. I breathed in the foul air, and smelled wet peat, and blood. I could not seem to get my vision to focus. It was as though a fog had rushed in, whipped up and enveloped me. The light of day and the red traffic light blurred and dissolved into blackness. I fell forward and plunged into the concrete.
Time fell through me. Something, someone, pecked at my limp body. I stayed still, and they pecked again. After the fourth peck I warily opened one eye. I did not recognize the pigeon standing in front of me. It reeked of smoke and straw. It plumage was a mottled grey and white, nothing special. A white shock of feathers ran from its beak to halfway down its neck. There were only two curiosities about it. The first: though it seemed average in size, it dwarfed me by several inches. And the second: its right leg stood alone, its left had been cut away cleanly at the thigh.
I suddenly realized I was starving, I felt as if I hadn’t ate in days. I craned my neck instinctively towards him and he leaned in towards my tiny body. With a flash I realized I was a chick, only an inch or so tall, my feathers loosely raked over my pinkish skin.
As the pigeon fed me, memories poured in to my mind with every swallow. I saw through the eyes of our ancestors. Sixty six million years of generations filled my consciousness in an instant. I saw our race spread throughout the entire globe, and populate all the earth.
I saw our race fly messages for the Persians, the Romans, the Prussians. I saw these human kingdoms and dynasties expand and contract. I saw the Great War. I saw the pigeon feeding me, ‘President Wilson’, carrying messages to and from the front lines. Shrapnel embedded in its chest.
I saw the decorated heroes of our race, generals pinning little medals to our breasts.
Paddy, who flew the English Channel in under 5 hours after D. Day.
G.I. Joe, who’s message saved the lives of 100 men from their own country’s bombers.
Mary of Exeter, who in her long career of message carrying was attacked by German hawks, was shot, was hit by shrapnel. Who survived the bombing of her loft in Exeter.
And Cher Ami, who survived three bullet wounds to deliver a message that saved 200 men from their own country’s artillery.
I finished feeding, and pulled away from President Wilson to find myself fully grown. I opened my mouth to speak, but nothing came out. Wilson tilted his head, looking behind me. Then he spoke, throat raspy and rattling:
“is that you, Shrimp?”
From behind me a nasally, familiar voice: “Oh, hey Will. I guess you met Hep?”
“Oh yes, her. She’s with you, huh? Hungry little creature. I took pity on her, she was starving for meaning. You here for her?
“Yeah, she’s taking a trip with us. Got herself lost. Thanks for finding her, I’ve been looking everywhere.”
“No trouble at all. Tell them I said hi!”
“Will do. Come along now Hep. Bus driver’s waiting for us.”
I staggered backwards, swiveled, and stumbled into to the familiar face of Shrimp Daddy. My feet sunk into the ground and feathers sloughed off from my body like crumbs from dried bread. I fell forward into his grey breast, and kept falling.
Before long, the black void around me began to smudge and brighten. The colors, shapes, and smells of our universe poured in from all sides as little specks. The particles stuck in place and smeared around the void, until the bright cold sidewalks of Harrisburg resolved themselves.
The light had turned green. I blinked, and discovered I was back in my body. I turned left, and there was Shrimp Daddy.
“Glad you’re back. Come along, the other’s are waiting for us.”
“I… what…” I stammered.
“You spaced out there for a second. Did you eat something funny?”
“No… I… You were… President Wilson was…”
“Nope. Come along now.”
I skittered along behind Shrimp Daddy, and clambered up to the baggage compartment. Climbing up, I was greeted by the other pigeons. In each of them I could see now their ancestry, their family’s history. Their pasts yawned behind them like brilliant, sparkling comet trails. I cried, joyfully, silently, and fell asleep in between some bags as the bus rumbled to life and took off down the highway.
*Editor’s note* Hot Dog here. Hep wanted me to read this. I read it. Complicated. Lot of words.
Hot Dog wanted to add that Hep puked in her sleep. Stinky P rolled around in it then chased everyone around the bus compartment. Gross.