Language of the Birds
It’s a fact. The bluebirds ceased to exist after the wall went up.
They did not dwindle, nor decline, nor disappear one by one like scenes from a play, and so not one shopkeeper or tenant or resident lamented the poor creatures day after day.
The birds simply, unexpectedly vanished as the mortar-men set the last stone.
Yes, of course, scientists the world over, intrigued and smitten with the desire to first explain the inexplicable, visited. Nets and steam-powered gauges and test-tube sampling took place with a fervor. Questions buzzed in bedrooms and in town halls. Arguments broke out on the cobbled streets, while rich and poor alike wagered on the cause until, somewhat embarrassingly, the city fathers asked the researchers to leave. At least a few unfortunate ones left in cuffs and paddy wagons. Such it was then that the great city of Azza-Jono split, a strange happenstance the event’s hallmark rather than speeches or proclamations or posters, to begin a journey of ages, where the world saw only Azza, and forgot most everything else. Save for odd stories told by odd people at odd hours.
Jiru, the middle-aged proprietor of the Lamplighter Inn, snorted.
“Like-Az, that’s true.” He drew another pint, sloshed it across the bartop to a fresh-faced student. “Narry a drop of blue in the sky after.”
The young man tried, unsuccessfully, to hide a forgiving smile, like you do with grandparents or foolish friends.
“I know, I know, but it just doesn’t make sense, does it?” He took a sip to loosen the words.
“One species? Just one, out of all of them? Birds are so similar in anatomy, it’s strange how only one kind were affected.” He talked on about other facts, some of which he’d studied.
No bones found. The population of grubs seemed steady, despite the loss of a primary predator - few other birds made Azza home, and those mostly seed eaters. No poison had been found. No one admitted to tampering with the birds. Of course, the rumors fed into a general acceptance that something mysterious had happened, and folks now felt it bad luck to talk about it at length. There just had to be some other explanation. The birds either still flew, ignored or unseen by everyone, or someone removed them, on purpose. A conspiracy.
The barroom had grown quiet.
“Now, son, don’t go wallin’ theories. Them’s that build up, will be torn down.”
The student swallowed at the aphorism, decided not to check it. He had before. So had other visitors. The word conspiracy had been spoken so much that the Azzans had developed a knack to pinch off such talk before it began. And, one thing he had learned in this city, apart from the bluebird legends, is you can’t change an east-sider’s mind. Not much, anyway. He looked out into the now-shadowed street. Stubbornness joined sunsets as quick occurrences here.
“Well, Jiru, I think that’s good advice.” He stood, dug for coins. The barman’s face wrinkled at mention of his proper name.
“Wait. Do I know you, son?”
P’rin Zahk, pupil of the Right Venerable Al-Nilam, professor of astrometry and assymetry at the University of Azza Westside, had passed the city’s gates over a year ago, after a considerable journey that included, not necessarily in order, a smoky rail car, a gypsy caravan, a pair of mud boots, and a brief mistaken stint as a soldier adopted by an errant garrison one city eastward. In the face of Jiru, one of the first people he had met upon arrival, he blinked. A few seconds later, a smile broke out.
“I’ll see you, old man.”
Jiru busted out laughing, a belly-splitter that rattled the blacked-out mirror behind him and rolled through the entire inn.
“You’re learning boy. Like-Az, you’re learning. Don’t let anyone knock ya off!”
Half a block away, his boots clopping along the cobble, P’rin could still hear the din.
It feels a little old-worldish, and not as weird, yet, but ... #beginnings