This story is one of a number of stories I wrote as part of a writing experiment over on my other blog. The rules of the experiment was that I wrote a list of 20 “Starting Emotions” and 20 “Horror Sub-genres” and attempted to write a story based on the combination. This was the combo of Drunk and Animals.
Feathers in the Night
I felt fine before I left the bar. More than fine, fantastic. When I left the bar, not so fantastic. Overwhelmed. The evening air made my head spin and my guts churn violently. I didn’t think I’d feel this bad until the morning at least. Maybe that last vodka was one too many. Odd numbers aren’t good, especially nine. At least I think it was nine. My stomach growled, demanding some greasy late-night food. I thought maybe that will settle my stomach, or at least provide some interesting texture when I see it again, hunched over a toilet bowl. I staggered down the street, glancing in the doorways of chip shops and kebab shops, looking for the perfect one. Perfection being the low bar of 1) Can I get served quickly? and 2) Is it free of drunken nutters who will knife me if I look at their girlfriend?
I finally settled on a chip shop with just a couple customers who were already served, slumped over a table, picking haphazardly at a portion of chips, cheese and gravy. I made my way over to the counter with as straight a b-line as I could muster and with a heavy slur, made my best efforts to order a burger. There were some follow up questions which I answered with a quick series of affirmations before taking a seat at the nearest table. I slumped into a comfortable pose, face pressed against the cold window, arms crossed tightly against my chest. My head was spinning so I closed my eyes to find some reprieve. Opening them again I had the feeling I was being watched, and glancing over at the other two customers I found that I was correct. A young lady was staring at me, face peeking over her boyfriend’s slumped body. I gave her a “what are you looking at?” glare. Apparently it didn’t register because her facial expression, as much as I could see of it, hadn’t changed. I was about to get up and see what her problem was when I heard a noise coming from the other side of the window.
Outside the window there was a good view of the road populated by all the drunken revellers, on their way home, or to the next stage of their inebriated adventure. Not far from where I was sitting there was a guy being hassled by seagulls. Odd but not unheard of, the seagulls were aggressive at this time of night. The number of people staggering about, dropping food, meant the seagulls were out in force. The guy was lashing out at them, swinging his arms, trying to kick any that came near enough. He didn’t seem to be having much luck though, in fact he seemed to be attracting more. Maybe his violent movements were causing him to drop more food. I couldn’t get a good look. What I did see was a big, mean bastard of a seagull swoop down and hit the drunk straight in the face. He stumbled back and lost his footing. He hit the ground hard. The girl behind me gasped loudly. I turned to look at her. She was no longer hidden behind her passed out boyfriend, but was almost right next to my table. She wasn’t alone, One of the chip shop workers was also watching the spectacle.
When I looked back at the scene, there was two other men trying to help but they were being pecked too and the guy on the ground wasn’t moving. Maybe the fall had knocked him out. The big gull was standing on his chest and smaller gulls were moving in too. I could see blue police lights flashing in the distance, but they didn’t seem to be getting closer. It was a late booze-fuelled Saturday night, the police were probably busy breaking up fights, gull attacks far from their main priority. Trying to look further down the street, towards the flashing police lights, I could see the shape of more flailing people and small swooping figures. I squinted my bleary eyes in a vain attempt to make out more detail and jumped at the sudden sound of a scraping chair. The girl had her boyfriend slumped against her, his arm around her shoulder. They swayed and stumbled as she dragged her lad from the shop. I followed them as far as the door, accompanied by the chip shop guy. We watched as they got maybe 20 feet down the street before the gulls set upon them too. She tried to fight them off, before dropping her boyfriend and making a run for it. His head bounce off the concrete and she didn’t make it much further before the gulls took her down.
I rushed back over to the window. The vantage point was better from there. The flash of blue lights in the distance seemed to have increased but the distance looked about the same. If there was help for this situation, it was too far away to be helpful. I pulled my phone out. There was no way I could walk home with this anarchy going on. I scrolled through my contacts and dialled the number of a taxi company. An engaged tone beep loudly. Thinking little of it, I scrolled to the next one only to be surprised that it was busy. A third and a fourth proved to be equally fruitless. I thought for a minute that I could possibly phone my dad for a lift but I assumed waking him at this hour might result in some grumpiness that I couldn’t deal with in my drunken state. Looking down the street I could see that the rooftops were lined with seagulls. Crows too. I wasn’t much of a bird watcher but I could see a few recognisable birds, magpies, pigeons, blue tits… I giggled to myself at the thought of “tits” and then scolded myself internally for letting my mind go off track.
I only lived a few streets away, it wasn’t that far if I ran. That girl ran and it didn’t seem to go that well for her. I pondered for a second and the thought that I was still waiting for that burger shot through my head. I was going to complain but I reconsidered, there was more pressing matters at hand and there was a bag of frozen nuggets in the fridge that seemed pretty appealing at the moment. I thought that if I was going to make a run for it, I’d need a weapon. Looking around the chip shop there were some potential weapons but I was pretty sure they wouldn’t let me take any of their knives or chairs. My eyes caught sight of something under one of the tables. I staggered over to the table and ducked down, there was an umbrella lying on the floor. It seemed like a good plan, the umbrella would protect my face and I could swing it at any birds that got too close.
With umbrella in hand, I made for the door. I popped open the umbrella and it made a loud clunk as it sprung open. I made it a couple yards up the street when I felt the first bird bounce off the umbrella’s canopy. It’s little talons scratched across the fabric and I heard it squawk as it landed on the ground behind me. There was two more bumps as I made it further up the street. A gull on the ground pecked at my ankles as I passed and while trying to kick it away, I almost stumbled on the boyfriend from earlier. He was motionless and there was a lot of blood coming from a nasty looking head wound. I couldn’t stop to check if he was alright, I couldn’t let my guard down for a second. I ducked and dodged down the street. The umbrella was less practical than I previously assumed. It was catching the wind, slowing me down and after a few more aerial assaults, the birds were making some bad tears in it. I spied a small lane that would take me to the next street over. I tripped on the kerb a little as I ducked into the lane.
It was quieter away from the panic on the street but I could hear various bird calls coming from the rooftops above me. A crow cawed loudly, like it was alerting it’s allies to my location. I crouched as I ran down the lane. I retracted the umbrella as I ran, the lane was too narrow to have it out properly. When I got to the next street over, it was just as manic as the one I had left behind. The flashing blue lights were closer, I could see a police van not too far away. The van seemed deserted, maybe the police had fled. Truncheons didn’t seem too helpful right now. A gull swooped down at me and pecked my ear as it flew passed. I clasped my hand to it and was surprised that the attack had drawn blood. I tried to pop open the umbrella again but the rips in the canopy had got tangled in the mechanism. I clubbed another swooping bird with the ruined umbrella before tossing it and making a mad dash for another lane. I wheezed as I entered the lane, another momentary safe haven from the bird-on-human violence.
My flat was on the next street, about 30 feet from where the lane let out. I was so tired. My head was still spinning and my guts were still making threats of vomiting all over my nice shoes. Whatever buzz I had had was gone and all I had was a hangover and the murderous attention of several hundred birds. I looked round for another weapon to replace my lost umbrella but the most I could find was an empty bottle from a recycling bin. I gripped it tight as I got close to the end of the lane.
I stepped out onto the street, ready to run. Unlike the last two streets however, this one was quiet. There was birds on every lamp post, post box and all around the roof tops. They were all over the street too, some perched on still bodies. My eyes moved between the birds and the glowing sign of a 24 hour shop that was right next to the front door of my flat. I considered running but the eerie calmness of the birds made me think that the worst thing to do at this moment was to startle them. I moved slowly and carefully on tip-toes. The glowing sign gradually growing closer as feathers ruffled around my ankles. I was just inches away from my door. I looked back across the street at the distance I had covered when I felt something under foot. I had stepped on one of them. It called out and the others squawked and cawed. The sound was tremendous and only got louder as they flapped and fluttered. Pecking beaks jabbed at my legs as I bounded towards the door. Wings slapped at the back of my head and I slapped back at them. I pushed my way inside the door and slammed it behind me, falling onto my ass in the process. I lay down on the cold floor of the corridor, listening to the birds scratching and bumping the door. The night was over, and so was the nightmare. I just wanted to go straight to bed, I wasn’t in the mood for nuggets anymore.