The frightened thing had been flying mad around old Mr. Winterbottom’s sprawling mansion for days. The little mockingbird was trapped in the home when one of the maids had accidentally left a window wide open while cleaning. It tried to escape many times. Once it even tried to go through the old stone fireplace but the flu was sealed shut, and the mockingbird came fluttering out covered in soot. It made quite a mess and frightened the older staff as it swooped from room to room followed by black clouds of ash.
When the maids asked Mr. Winterbottom if he wished to open the rest of the windows to set the poor creature free Mr. Winterbottom replied “No, I will deal with this intruder myself, make sure all of the windows and doors are sealed shut!” He was a very bitter old man. He used to be the tallest, most handsome man in town, but now he was a shriveled, hunched over, crotchety old man that kept mostly to himself. Other than the staff, he spoke to no visitors that came by to talk about issues pertaining to town maintenance or politics. “MONEY” he would say, “They all just want my money! No one inquires about me or my health, only about my money!” Mr Winterbottom had ostracized himself from the rest of the community after a particularly heated town hall meeting regarding giving refuge to families who had lost their homes in a recent flood. “Let them fend for themselves” he would say while swinging his cane about wildly. He followed up with “I won’t be giving out any handouts this day I tell you, let them starve for all I care!” That was the last anyone saw of Mr. Winterbottom publicly. The town was in dire need of repair, and Mr. Winterbottom did have the means to help, but chose not to time and time again. “The church has leaks, and the elementary school desperately needs new textbooks” the visitors would plead to the maids before the door was shut in their faces on the request of the master of the house.
In Mr. Winterbottom’s mind this mocking bird was just another intruder. A destroyer of his peace and quiet. He’d yell out when he couldn’t see the creature, and the bird would repeat the sound in a more song bird like manner, but still in a similar in tone. This would infuriate Mr. Winterbottom. He even had the butler bring in a garden hose to flush out the fluttering thing from its hiding spot so he could smash it with a shovel. This ended disastrously with Mr. Winterbottom flat on his bottom and the shovel flying into the wall nearly decapitating the poor shivering butler who was drenched from the hose. It was almost winter after all. The butler was fine, and Mr. Winterbottom recovered from his fall, but the poor mockingbird was still stuck in the mansion with no perceivable way out. The maids had taken pity on the bird and were leaving breadcrumbs on some of the window sills, and small bowls of water on the counter tops. Mr. Winterbottom did not catch onto their kind intentions, but he did scold them something fierce when he spotted the crumbs and bowls lying about. “I don’t pay good money to have my home kept up like horses stable!” he’d shout so that his displeasure would echo through every room and hallway. When Mr. Winterbottom would take his afternoon naps the maids would take turns faintly whistling a short tune and listen for the mockingbird’s replies. It would bring them such joy to hear the sweet sounds of the mockingbird which they much preferred over the boisterous yelling of the their master.
One day the bird had become trapped in a closet. The butler saw it fly in while searching for a broom and shut it quickly to keep the mockingbird from escaping. “I caught it sir!” the butler exclaimed loudly and with great pride. Mr. Winterbottom exited quickly from the bathroom still fiddling with his belt buckle and squealed excitedly like a schoolgirl. “Finally I have you you filthy flying rat!” He ran to his gun cabinet, pulled out a wide mouthed hunting rifle, and feverishly attempted to load it with bird shot. “I’ll get you, and after that?! No one will ever bother me for my money ever again!” The maids came out to see what all of the commotion was about and found Mr. Winterbottom sweating profusely and fiddling with his gun looking like a crazed lunatic. They stood there paralyzed with fear. Mr. Winterbottom rose with a start and ran toward the closet proclaiming “get out of the way you silly wenches I am going to kill that mangy pigeon!” When he reached the door of the closet he took aim and steadied himself the best he could, thoughstill shaking quite a bit with excitement. His eyes went wild, and his lip quivered with anticipation. A small drip of drool escaped his lip before being lapped up by his tongue. “Open the door carefully servant. If you let that bird escape before I take my shot it will be you who stains my walls!”
Mr. Winterbottom’s butler shook as he slowly placed his hand on ornate door handle. He glanced over at his haster one last time before lowering the handle. “I will count to three sir, then I will quickly open the door. Please be careful sir. I do not wish to lose my arm.”
“Do not worry about me, my aim is as steady as a rock!” replied Mr. Winterbottom as his rifle shook, and sweat poured down his brow. “One” the master steadied his aim a bit more, “Two” he wiped his brow and focused down the barrel of his rifle, “THREE!”
The butler dashed towards the kitchen as he swung the door wide open. Nothing moved, the masters aimed left, right, down, and center in short twitch like swings of the barrel. The master’s eyes went very wide as he spotted something moving among the coats. He steadied his trigger finger, took aim, and…BLAM!!! Just as the rifle fired the bird came swooping out high towards the ceiling. “Missed, damn you BIRD!!!” It flew quick and with great urgency. One of the maids whistled and tried to open a window. The master quickly reloaded his rifle, and BLAM “that was a warning my dear, the next one will not be!” The mockingbird repeated the whistle giving the master an advantage. He reloaded once more, and BLAM!
“Damn, missed again!” The shot hit the fireplace and ricocheted off the floor and walls. The maids hurried away screaming towards their bed chambers and hid as best they could.
Mr. Winterbottom was patient. He reloaded while taunting the bird. “This will all be over soon my fair feathered friend!” The master walked slowly into the drawing room keeping aim as he walked. “This will all be over”…BLAM!!! A spray of red, feathers, and shards of metal lined the drawing room wall with the sun illuminating the carnage in full. Mr. Winterbottom walked over slowly and admired his work with a huge smile that ran ear to ear. “Soon, didn’t I say it would all be over”… Just then a sound rang out in the distance emanating from the large glass window where the sun was beaming through. Mr. Winterbottom approached the window to inspect this anomaly. It was a most strange sound that he was quite certain he had never heard in his many long years. Mr. Winterbottom opened the large window and peered through adjusting his sight to the bright sun. Out, in the distance he saw a most peculiar sight. A plum tree not two hundred yards from his mansion was no longer green, but pure black. He adjusted his gaze to inspect the tree further, it seemed to move. Then came the sound once more. It was kind of like a flutter but much, much more amplified. Then hundreds if not thousands of tiny dots appeared all over the tree. Mr. Winterbottom careened backward falling flat on his back with a loud thump and he screamed “AHHHHHH, somebody, somebody help!”, but nobody answered. He slid back toward the wall noticing he had left his rifle far behind. It was leaning by the large open window taunting him to retrieve it. “Help, help me you halfwits, what am I paying you for?!”
He yelled and yelled, but nobody came. The flapping got louder, and louder, and LOUDER until a swarm of birds flew through the window crowding the room to blackness Mr. Winterbottom braced himself against the wall and raised his arms in defense, but this was little use.
The birds pecked away at his skin, then his flesh, then his vitals, and eventually even his bones. They fed and fed until they were full to bursting, then they fed some more. When they were done there was nothing left of Mr. Winterbottom at all. Nothing but a red stain adorning the wall that was long like a shadow cast right before the sun falls below the horizon. A red shadow that seemed to embrace that of the spattered mockingbird. Perhaps in death they had each made a friend.
All images by Immortal Alexander
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