Birds in the Attic

“There are birds in the attic.” Mac confided as she slunk into my bed like a whisper. She nestled her chin into the downy pillow and the feathers immediately swallowed most of her face. Only her eyes and nest of sunset curls remained in view.

“How do you know?” The words tasted groggy and sour in my mouth.

She wrinkled her nose. “I heard one singing songs with no words. The others were dancing.”

I ran my tongue over my teeth unsticking the nightmares. “Mac, you’ve got to stop making stuff up. You know it makes him mad.”

She bit her lip then reached for my hand. “Please, Emery? I can show you.”

I sighed and half-heartedly threw off the sheets. “Fine. Let’s go.”

Mac rolled off the bed with a thump and skipped towards the door. She stood there, hopping from one chilled foot to the other until I gathered her into my arms.

“Upstairs.” She ordered, clambering onto my shoulders and wrapping her fists in my hair.

The stairs creaked under my bare feet as I climbed. Normally, I wouldn’t risk making a sound, but there was no one around to hear our midnight escapade.

Mac hummed a tune to herself then whispered, “Stop.”

I paused outside the attic door and she scampered out of my arms. After a moment of intent listening, she smiled. “They’re still here.”

Cautiously, I reached for the handle and eased the door open. Mac peeked around my waist and into the attic.

The room was murky with shadows, but I heard a faint scratching sound. Mac pointed towards the window. On the sill a sparrow pecked at the glass, its beak chiming softly.

“It’s stuck.” I muttered.

Her slender fingers stroked its wing before I had moved an inch. Delicately, she cupped the bird in her hands and glanced at me with expectations in her eyes.

I moved towards the window, undid the latches, and shoved it open.

Instantly, a gust of sleeping wind whipped through our clothes. The sparrow hummed and Mac laughed. “He smells the stars.”

She unwound her fingers and, in a flurry of feathers and liquid moonlight, the sparrow soared out the window. We lingered at the sill, watching the winged shadow fade into nothing.

Then Mac pointed.

My voice was hoarse at the sight, “Go back to your room, AnnieMac.”

“Why are they carrying a man who thinks he’s a stone?”

“Just go to your room, Mac.” The aggravation rang clear.

Stung, she slipped downstairs and slammed her bedroom door. The echo reverberated through my motionless limbs reminding me to move. I jerked the window shut and bolted downstairs before the knock came.

I swung the door wide revealing the constable, a stranger, and a stone man.

“Emerson MacKenzie, son of Kieran Bates?” The constable stepped forward out of the uneasy silence.

I nodded.

“Your father is dead.”

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