The late autumn grass was crackling in our ears, faces lying sideways on the ground with the dry blades rubbing coarsely against our skin, as we waited quietly on the hillside. We spoke seldom, and in hushed voices, fearing any noise may off-set the chance of the event. We were watching the old house, long abandoned, perched in the dull light of the sun in an overcast sky. Our hands and lips were trembling, eyes dancing in random directions, ears pitched to the faded sound of dead leaves drifting. He had promised me a sight, but time was wearing away at my patience.
“I don’t think they’re coming,” I said.
“Just wait,” he said. “Sometimes it takes a while.”
We were finally ready to leave when we heard it, a muted shriek on the horizon, small dark flecks in the distance that turned to fleeting battalions all soaring towards the structure. Rows upon rows rushed over our heads, circling in elaborate patterns before crashing into the house from all directions, tearing through windows and rotting wood. The sun, now cutting through the grey clouds, caught the shards of broken glass, casting them with a nuclear brilliance. The hollow sounds of their fragile breaking bodies sent waves of static down our spines, limbs shuddering with the collapse of their bones.
When it was over we ran to the nearly demolished house, opening its massive doors to the front room. The floor was thick with wooden splinters, piled heavy with blood and glass. The broken carcasses, some twitching, some still, littered every stretch of the old foyer and staircase. A shower of feathers still wet with impact fell gently through the air to the remains of their former owners.
“It’s that time of year,” he said. “Not all birds fly south.”
Ryan Hall was born in Ogden, Utah, a place that holds the distinction of being where Hal Ashby grew up. He currently lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife and a cat, where he works at a bookstore.