Here's a sneak peek:
“Is there something wrong with me?” Peyton asked. A tear slid down her cheek.
Justine smiled and took Peyton’s hand. “No, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with you, honey. You’re just in the middle of something right now that—” She paused, correcting herself. “No, we’re in the middle of something right now that neither of us understands. Yet. It’s going to be okay.”
Peyton nodded, and took another sip of her tea. She had at least stopped shaking, and more of her normal color had returned to her face.
“Are you feeling better?” Justine asked.
“Now that I’m home, it all seems like a bad dream. But I really did see something, Justine.”
“Then let’s start from the beginning. Tell me what you saw.”
A loud thump sounded through the house, and they both jumped.
“What the hell?” Justine exclaimed, whipping her head toward the front window. “What the heck was that?” At first, she thought someone had pounded on the door, but as she approached the front of the house, she could see a small smear on the window glass.
She looked at it closely, peering through the glass. It looked like—
“Is that blood?” Peyton asked.
Justine looked at the front porch, and couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary. She opened the front door.
Lying on the porch directly below the window was a large black bird. “Jeez, it flew right into the window,” Justine said.
They both stepped outside. The rain had cooled the air considerably, and they both hugged themselves against the chill.
The bird lay on its back, wings spread open as if in flight. Its head hung at an odd angle, and a small drop of blood clung to its beak. It was big, much larger than a common grackle. More like a raven.
“Is it dead?” Peyton asked.
“Looks like it broke its neck,” Justine answered. “Flew smack-dab into the window.” She knelt down to take a closer look. Its chest wasn’t moving, and she gently touched it with the tip of her finger, and immediately pulled her hand back.
It was cold. Icy cold.
“What’s wrong?” Peyton asked.
Justine looked at the bird’s head, and couldn’t look away from its eye. Small and black, wide open, a round shadow staring right at her.
“It’s—it’s dead, all right. Poor thing.” But it wasn’t a poor thing. She wanted to get rid of it, right now. Grab a shovel and scoop it into the trash can out back. And maybe give it a good smack with the blade just to make sure. Close that eye for good.
She jumped at the feel of Peyton’s hand on her shoulder.
“Are you okay?”
“I’m fine, honey,” Justine said. She stood and rubbed her fingertip against her jeans, fighting the urge to run inside and wash her hands. “I’ll get the shovel.”
“Are we going to bury it?” Peyton asked.
Justine wanted to take the shovel blade and separate the head from the body, pour lighter fluid on it, and burn the damn thing . . . but it was only a bird, right? It wasn’t the first time she’d seen a bird fly into a window, but the body felt as if it had already been dead for hours. “I’ll take it out back and leave it by the field. The
eye is staring dead eye is staring at me dead eye is
coyotes can take care of it.”
Justine did leave the bird beside the field, at the edge of the corn, just as she said she would. As she walked back to the house, she knew it wouldn’t be there in the morning. The scavengers would take it. Tear it to bits. But she wasn’t about to turn around. She was afraid it might just get up, its head lolling sickly to one side, and fly away.
She couldn’t explain why its body had felt so cold, so quickly, nor could she fathom why she felt so unclean after touching it. And it had hit the window so hard.
Like it was trying to break through, and get inside.
She forced herself to turn around, to prove to herself that her mind was only playing tricks.
The bird’s body was there, right where she left it.
It’s just a bird, for cripes’ sake.
The night animals would take it away.