Two: the fun of it all.
Occasionally he read back his earlier entries. If only to ease the boredom. He read one of the first entries and noted that it had only taken four days under lockdown for his family to hate him.
In real terms that was the first week for the five of them. Up until the first Friday of lockdown even their autistic, now gender neutral renamed - Mx Ocean- had tolerated Marcus’s quips and attempts at what he saw as humour and what they saw as simply being annoying. However, after reading on Facebook about “Spaffo” applauding the NHS, Marcus had begun that particular Friday with a bitter chip at 9 am, that turned into a full on “Farcebook” rant. At 11 that day. Then, having lanced the boil, he felt free enough to attempt to teach Geraldine .
Ocean who ,very probably, nursed a secret love for Spaffo, told him that he had !happy. It was at this point Marcus leapt from his breakfast table in jubilation!
‘Fucking YES!’ he screamed. ‘I hope the fucker dies!’
This led to her Self isolating in her room for the entire day, and for Sophie to stare at him as if he was dirt. That night he apologised. When was that? He looked back over his journal entries. Two months ago. He looked out at the trees, wavering in the strong July breeze. He couldn’t see the nests, but he knew they were there. He just had to be careful. Very careful. There were things to get, and some shops still had good in them.
It was cold out, despite that a hazy sun shone from an almost clear sky. The wind dropping the temperature enough for Marcus to need a coat with a hood and his backpack.
He left his semi-detached house and turned left. The street was narrow and filled with similar houses, whose windows were all dark and empty. The oaks ran in a long line and went into the middle distance. Going out in the day, was far easier than night. He would never dare go out at night. He could feel his breathing increase. Still
As he passed the trees, he looked up. No birds called out, nothing. Just the wind. And the darkness of the nests. He looked back and focused on the shop at the end of the road, that curved left out of sight a little over 50 yards away. Still no sound. Just his increased breathing. The shop, its fracture glass windows gave hope that there was a chance to get into cover.
He walked father and faster still, hoping that he could make it.
-You can make it daddy- Geraldine said . her voice warm gentle and full of the assurance that her dad could do anything. He shuddered at her voice and tried to block it out.
-My daddy is the best daddy in the whole wide world, isn’t that true daddy. Daddy?
Marcus looked up, his eyes sunken, his face narrow his teeth yellowing. His eyes wet and wild with the stare of a near lunatic.
‘Yes, the best daddy in the world.’
It was then he saw something in the middle of the road. It was normal now. Mother had let her children out to play now that the monster (hu)man had gone away.
But the human hadn’t gone. Not completely.
-can I have some sweets daddy?- and don’t forget mum needs her Doctor Pepper.
He shook violently, trying to block out the voices of his children that surrounded him. Wanting to reach into him. The shape in the road was familiar. He noticed it because it attracted the crows, and that was bad. Very bad indeed. Part of him didn’t want to look, because looking was wrong. However, it was in the middle of the road. It was an invisible wall between him, and the shop. Between him and some sort of food.
He moved silently; slowly watching the birds as they took turns to spiral down towards the mass in the road, and fly off once more, busily chatting to each other. He had noted that while sitting at his window, journaling. The crows had different tones flat out Caw’s they were obvious. Then came the other sounds. The ratcheting clicks, the silence. From open mouths. He had seen that too, with his binoculars and wondered if there was a sound , that humans didn’t -or couldn’t hear. Then there were the tonal shifts in the crows sounds, up or down. They didn’t just caw. They spoke a language of their own, and they replied to each other.
A gust of wind blew the circle -the murder- away from the lump in the middle of the road.
It was a half-eaten human hand.
Marcus took a deep breath. And tried to hold onto his fear.
The Crows watched him. In unison. They stared at him. He knew now that he had no choice. Letting out a scream he ran towards the crows who were startled and few out of the way. He knew he had about 100 yards or less to run, so her ran. Ran with all the energy he could muster as he heard the startled sounds turn into something else. The Crows sounded different too. More agitated, angry. He didn’t look back. He kept running and running and running. The sound of flapping wings began to come nearer. Nearer and ever nearer. Not far now going to make it! Going to make it. He felt a nip at his fingers and the stench of something rotten in the air. He dived into the shop window. Beating off the pecks from the Crows who surrounded him.
-Come on daddy! Out the back daddy! Out the back! –
He knew the shop well. He knew the door to the back was close to the left-hand entrance by the old empty shelves what were chilled goods. Once he applied for a job here. Once. He recalled in the time of men he almost had the job too.
He fell into the door and collapsed on the floor the crows surrounding him. The door closed and. Then he took the fight to them. Finding a broom, he whirled it about him. Attacking the few birds that were still hooked on him. One scratched at his hand one another went for his eyes. He grabbed that one, and with savage fury in his wild eyes, buried his fingers deep into the feathers of the neck of the thing. Puncturing the skin. Cracking its bones. The other flew to the advantage of the top shelves of the tiny warehouse; where with surprising accuracy, he threw the broom at it and sent it to the floor, with a broken wing.
He stood over it form a moment. A look of perverse victory over his drawn features.
‘Who’s won now! Hey we have! We are man! Look at us! We beat you you useless fucking bird thing!’ the words sounded distant and insane to him. But wasn’t he just that? He didn’t really know if he was sane or simply a survivor in a world lost. There was one left. He heard it in the shadows. He pulled out his knife. The blade was long and glittered in the twilight.
‘come on you fucker!’ he stared out into the warehouse. ‘COME ON!’ nothing.
-be safe daddy-
-We love you daddy-
Marcus… we love you.
They stood in the shadow of the warehouse. Watching him.
Shuddering, not wanting to think, he looked bout him. There wasn’t much left. Some tinned beans, Tuna, Bog roll. He laughed at that. Picked up a tin of tuna and pieced it with the knife ripped it open and devoured it. Then after he removed his pack, he unzipped it and began the job of filling it with what he could. Bog paper was actually good for burning. He found that useful at home. But he couldn’t stay there anymore. He couldn’t it was just too much, he recalled that there were some houses at the back, if he could get into one, then there might be car, and if he could get that working. Another useless idea. Cars wouldn’t start. The batteries.
-Don’t give up Daddy- Whispered Geraldine, her voice high and kind.
He shook his head, fighting off the waves of despair that threatened to engulf him. Then from his jacket pocket he pulled out his journal, and with a greasy fingered hand wrapped tightly to a red pencil hand began his entry.
June 14. Finally built up the courage to leave. There has to be others there has to. I am not alone in the world.
-No not alone Daddy-
-You have us sweetheart-
-daddy we love you-
The tears smarted his eyes, he rubbed his face, the red moved along the page. Fuck !happy! there is nothing happy about it! Whose fucking smiling now but the fucking birds and, and the