Nat perched the cigarette on his lips after dipping the edge of it into the fireplace. He went back to his seat at the dinner table. The more he stayed silent, the more sounds he seemed to be able to hear. Beyond the crinkling paper coming from the radio and the audible snap and crackle of the empty cigarette packet in the fire, he could hear his wife’s breathing.
It was quick but nearly silent. She breathed as if she were in a game of hide-and-seek. Nearly silent. Scared. Not wanting to be found.
“Are… Are you sure you want to smoke the last one already?” Her voice wavered up and down, stumbling through the air as if it were a child attempting to take his first steps.
“Quite.” He leaned back in his chair and took a drag from his cigarette, as if he was proving a point by doing so with a smirk on his face and his eyes closed. The smoke traveled down his throat. It warmed his gut.
The sound of splintering wood quickly turned to the sound of scraping wood. They didn’t have much time left. There was nothing that could be done.
He opened his eyes and let a smile stretch the skin on his face, finally accepting the absolute:
They were done for. And it just seemed so funny.
His daughter’s face was a direct contrast to his own, eyebrows far up her forehead and lips quivering as if she was watching her parents die. It’s a bit too early for that, my dear, Nat thought morbidly. But only a little early.
She warily looked at her brother and her mother before turning back to her father. “Why are the birds so angry with us?”
He could practically see the dark circles form under his wife’s aged eyes as her brain scrambled to produce an answer.
“It’s the winds, my dear. They’ll be gone soon,” he lied.
The dinner table grew silent again, this time the sound of beaks scraping against wood becoming deafeningly clear. Nat was the only one that seemed to realize the implications of what was about to happen, and he was glad for it. If- No, when the hawks got through the door, there would be nothing left to protect them from the onslaught of birds; no barbed wire, no wooden planks, no furniture, no nothing. They were going to die. The fact was as absolute as the orbit of Earth around the sun.
It was so funny, so knee-slapping hilarious that despite all his effort and precaution, nature would still have her way with his family. She would watch the lot of them get eaten alive. She would watch him like Nat would watch the birds so long ago as he sat and ate a pasty.
He could have started a fit of laughter at the thought if it weren’t for the fact that he didn’t want his last moments to be spent in a daze of delirium. Or maybe they already were? Nat didn’t know.
And frankly, he thought. I don’t care anymore.
The scraping at the door had ceased. It couldn’t have been anything more than a thin sheet of wood at this point. It was only a matter of time before their lives would come to an end.
As the last of the door crumbled away, he could hear the loud screeching of what must have been an alarm. Thank God, Nat thought, The government is finally doing something.
However, as the birds flooded the kitchen and dove for his entire family, completely neglecting the uneaten food on the table, Nat realized something. He noticed after he could feel his own blood on his hands, that there weren’t any birds dropping dead from gunfire.
Oh, Nat thought again, demeanor eerily serene as he watched his son’s eyes get gouged out by the ruthless pecking of birds. That’s just Johnny’s screaming.
Nat took one last drag from his cigarette before it was flung out of his left hand.
He really should have let Jill play in the lane with her friends.