• By Audrey Rodriguez (any/all)
  • Art “Fowl” by Madeline Miller (she/her)

Finally the stupid parakeet upstairs stopped cawing. You’d think after paying all this money every goddamn month that the bellman’d be able to do something about the fucker, but every night. Same time. Same thing. From 2 to 2:30 a.m., without fail: four caws, a pause, a screech, a scratch. Four caws, a pause, a screech, a scratch. I had waited, listening, staring out at the bay from my window, my high-rise porthole. My grandfather’s watch in my hand, counting each minute. 1:58 a.m., 1:59 a.m., two o’clock. Sure enough, the bastard began his dastardly performance.

I’d had it for a while now, but tonight was the night. I throw Paw’s watch on the bed and sprint to the elevator doors, riding up just one floor until the doors open and—ding! An unbearably loud birdbrained performance fills the corridor, guiding me to just the right door: 835. I pound the door with my fist as hard as I can and jimmy the shit out of the doorknob. Nothing’s working, so I just start kicking the damn thing.

I had caught the cleaning lady on her way to open their door one time. I asked her where the hell the owners of the parrot were; I might’ve grabbed her arm or something. She just blinked up at me and said this was just one of their vacation homes.

“Well, when the fuck are they coming back? That damn bird doesn’t let me get any sleep!”

Lo siento, señor, pero I don’t know where they go.”

“Holy shit, you must be as stupid as them! I didn’t ask where they go, I asked—no, you know what, never mind.”

That was the only night the fucking bird shut up. That was also the last time I saw the cleaning lady.

As my foot breaks through the wood I realize tonight really would be the night. They say adrenaline numbs pain, but apparently it doesn’t numb horror. Even I’m a little freaked out that I just broke through someone’s front fucking door with my fucking foot, but also…fuck it. I put my arm through the hole I made and unlock the knob. I’m struck by just how much nicer their layout is than mine. Way better view. “Luxury condominiums guaranteed regardless of the floor” my ass.

The cawing is somehow quieter now, welcoming. The only two doorways in the place are missing their doors, which is super weird. It gets me thinking maybe this bird is a little more active than I had thought—maybe flies around the place? It’s only ever cawed over my bedroom at night though, so it’s not like the thing moves that much.

“Hey, listen, I don’t wanna be a dick here, but I really need to sleep,” I try to yell. It comes out softer and more muddled than intended, but I guess it gets the bird’s attention because it pauses for a moment. That heavenly pause is all I need to collapse into the deepest sleep of my life.

The floor is cold and only faintly lit by my little porthole. Or, actually, this porthole’s view is a little higher, more expensive than I remember. I must be wigging the hell out because a quick glance around the room proves this is exactly my room as I remember it, watch on the bed and all. The only difference besides my distance from the cityscape below is I don’t hear anything. It’s definitely still night out, but I don’t hear anything! There’s no more goddamn cawing! I must’ve really scared the bird sonuva!

I go to pump my fist in celebration, but it ends up in a rustle. My arms…rustle. I can’t make a fist. I’m too far from the ground. I look down and see something extremely wrong.

I try for a scream—a caw. I try again—a caw. Again— caw. I panic and a caw comes loose. I think for a sec, and then I let out a screech of frustration. My room’s only a floor down—the floor! I scratch the floor. ▲