Monday, 15 July 2013

The Bird of Death

Night was sweeping over fast and my young self ran up the steps wanting to be under the protection and warmth of home before the demons got to me. The sound of clashing steel and drums filled the air as shouts grew louder. People carried torches made of cotton soaked in kerosene fixed atop bamboo sticks as they marched across the streets trying to chase away the new angel of death which had made our colony its new home. I was as petrified as a six year old should be when rumours are fed to him by the saner citizens of the society in an age where the internet was unheard of, and the only source of information restricted to words of the mouth and those printed on paper. I admired my younger brother for bravely participating in the chase along with the older people of the colony. I never had the courage to run along with the crowd and noise.

I had also heard the voice of this elusive demon when I was with my best friend's family camping out in their backyard. The first streak of grey had just appeared on the horizon when I was awakened by the blood curdling cry of this infernal bird which had allegedly claimed many lives with its cry. I began to panic when the realization dawned on me that I was the demon's next victim. I couldn't sleep and was too scared to tell anyone that the bird had claimed my soul. This fear haunted me till the day my parents took us out fishing and I had the fortune to hear it's cry once again in the woods.

My happy days were overshadowed by the dread of night and the creatures she spawned. Shooting stars and full moons were no longer a delight for night had cast a spell so wicked over the lands that only the bravest ventured out of the protection of their houses. It was said that the bird would mark you from beyond the veil of night and would follow you home where it would perch on the roof and cry a death song which would claim your soul to inferno.

I had always wished for a magical world, ever since I was a child, filled with fantastical creatures of fairies and elves but the giver of wishes had answered me contrary to what I asked for. My nights, which used to end with magical stories from my mother, began to conclude on a dark and dreary chill. Night began to take over my daydreams. She cast a dark fog over in the land that sunlight refused to pierce through. The minds of people in my colony became clouded with fear and soon foolishness settled in taking refuge behind the clouds.

More sightings of the bird were reported with more frightening details than ever. A man chasing a cat away from his house with a dao in his hands began to shout when he saw the cat perform a series of metamorphosis from a cat to a dog to a pig and ultimately the demon bird which flew off into the unknown. With the knowledge of its capability to morph into pets and domestic animals nothing was to be trusted from then on.

Despite the darkness prevailing, time continued to move on and so did the demon bird. It was hard to determine whether the bird had found a better home with more youthful souls or the incessant clashing of metal and beating of drums every night had been the cause for its departure from our colony.

With the bird gone, life was returning to normal but my ultimate victory over the fear of the bird was achieved the day my parents took us on a fishing trip into the woods, as previously mentioned. While we were crossing a river the unmistakeable cry of the demon bird ran through the trees. I froze for a moment enough for my mother to ask me why I had stopped suddenly. I asked her what that sound is and she replied with a smile that it was a rare bird found in the deep woods. She also went on to explain that in her village the encounter with this bird was considered a good omen. That day our superstitious hunger was sated further for we caught plenty of fish and we all thanked the bird.

More facts began to surface when a certain biologist addressed the people saying that the angel of death was in all its reality a migratory bird with a cry most different from other birds seen in the locality. The demon bird myth began to die down when people finally began to question superstition with reasoning. As I matured in thoughts through intense reasoning, I convinced myself with the possibility that such myths might have been born of coincidence. Something as simple as a migratory bird with an unfamiliar chirp perched on the roof of someone's house who happened to pass away later in the day might have occurred. And some observant fellow must have recorded the whole incident in his mind and with the aid of superstition and lack of information spread it out as the poor bird being the harbinger of death.

Years later, I saw a photo of a python on the local newspaper with the caption "The further the story goes, the bigger it gets" and I thought back to the days when the bird haunted all of us feeling that it was exactly what happened during those days. That was the time when superstition fed on our believes and naiveness. The time when magic was real and everything could be explained as being the forbidden unknown.

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