by Calum Kerr
Mark sat and stared at the wall. He only realised that hours had passed when the sodium street lights outside came on, and a patch of orange blinked onto the white surface in front of him.
He scrubbed his hands over his face and looked around him. He should tidy the flat. He should shower and go out, somewhere; see someone. He should eat.
None of these appealed. He just wanted to stare at the wall and wait for himself to fade.
Outside the sky still held a little light. Without intention, he rose to his feet and walked to the window to look out at the world.
Beyond the houses there was a swirling in the sky. His eyes started to track it.
It was a giant cloud of birds, swooping and climbing, dancing in the sky over the distant fields.
He’d seen this on a nature documentary he had watched with… with… On a nature documentary. It was called a ‘murmuration’.
He played the word round his dry mouth in a whisper. He licked his lips and cleared his throat to make it sound. He said it, low, over and over again, as he walked from his flat and up the stairs to the roof, the sound matching itself to his action.
He was still reciting the word as he reached the edge of the roof and climbed onto the ledge, his eyes trained on the giant wave of birds tracking their flight through the air. They were getting harder to see as night came on and the street-lights defeated his vision. He leant forward to see better and nearly lost his balance.
He took half a step backwards, but remained standing on the ledge, watching the birds.
They were doing something to him. Inside. They were filling a hole, repairing a breach, casting light in the dark. Whatever the cliché, he could feel something changing. It was like an electric charge going through him, bringing him to life.
He felt like laughing, so he did, letting it out into the night.
The charge kept building. He could no longer see the birds, but he could feel them, churning inside his chest, his brain, his heart.
And still the feeling grew until he could barely stand it.
Finally, with a shout, his body erupted into thousands of wings beating in time, soaring through the air, swooping up over the rooftops towards the sky before plummeting down to brush the aerials and chimneys, and a thousand new birds swept out of the city to join their fellows in their mysterious dance.
Calum Kerr is a writer, lecturer and director of National Flash-Fiction Day. For more about his stories go to www.calumkerr.co.uk.