I was on my way home from the supermarket when I realized what was wrong. There hadn’t been any birds. There were always pigeons underneath the bridge. Most avoiding human contact, but one or two stubborn and immovable that you had to dodge. Do not trust a bird that feels no fear. But today, there were no birds under the bridge. Had I seen any on my way to the store? Heard any calls or chirps or tweets? It seemed like no but it’s not like I generally paid close attention. I’d been checking my phone, and angry because, well, people are dumb, and awful. So, I couldn’t remember if I’d seen any birds or not, but I was beginning to wonder.
But I was carrying bags, so I didn’t check just yet. Not until I was home, and everything was put away. And then I almost forgot because I guess I’m like that. So, I spent a bit of time trying to remember what I wanted to look up.
“Are birds missing Somerville MA,” I typed.
There were a few posts about specific missing birds. A parrot that had been lost earlier in the spring. There’d been flyers posted to telephone poles around the area. But people had taken to the internet to help spread the word. I don’t know if it was found, and for a moment, I delved into the postings to see what had happened. Maybe, some tween detectives were still on the case. But there was no ending, happy or otherwise.
But I found a post on a Cambridge community website written one hour before, “Where are the birds?”
Sometimes, I’m unsure which side of the border I’m on. So, it’s safe to say that if birds were disappearing from one city, they were gone from both. By evening, local news stations were carrying the story, interviewing conservationists from the Massachusetts Audubon Society, and in the interest of balance, various people with no credentials who just didn’t like birds.
“They think their better than us just because they can fly. I’m glad they’re gone. More birdseed for me. Right?”
The mystery was that it wasn’t just free birds. Domesticated birds. The birds at the zoo. Big Bird. Well, probably not Big Bird. Point being, all the birds were gone. They weren’t spotted flying south or north. They were just gone.
A lot of people were distressed, though clearly not everybody. In a single week, there were three opinion articles in the New York Times about if birds were even necessary. “Birds kill insects sure, but so do pesticides, and people constantly complain about pesticides, so maybe they should stop being hypocrites” was the crux of the argument.
It took longer to realize that our dreams were also gone. We forget most of them anyway, so it takes a while to realize that you haven’t been drinking. That your crankiness isn’t based on the weather or just a vague feeling of dread. But when a pair of sleep scientists suggested that our dreams had left at the same time as the birds, we all found ourselves nodding our heads.
It was a conspiracy. Maybe the birds were behind it. Maybe they were victims. A task force was appointed. Law enforcement, scientists, a tween detective. Suspects have been questioned, there was even a big bust, but the birds haven’t returned.
One lab, has tried to attach synthetic dreams to butterflies, but they’ve only resulted in daydreams, unable to penetrate the sleeping mind. Churches have begun include a prayer to birds for intercession. Seed is spread everywhere to lure the birds back. We are trying to be better, but everybody is so tired. We snap at each other constantly. Some people are moving away, mostly families, afraid of the long-term effects of dreamlessness on their children.
Last night, as I was walking back from the supermarket again, I saw it. That parrot from the fliers. I can only hope that the first one gone is the first one to return.