Today’s story is inspired by a spelling mistake.
The birds kept coming and eating apart the fields. The farmers set up scarecrows of old clothes and baling twine, their rag covered bellies straw stuffed and distended. With sharpened beaks, the birds tore them apart and scattered the torn limbs across the furrows.
When the man arrived the sun had already set, and he took a corner table in the pub drinking nothing and eating little.
“I hear you have a problem with crows,” he said, words muffled by the scarf he wore high over his face.
“What’s it to you?” Someone said from the bar.
The man reached below the table for his bag.
“I may have the solution. For a price.”
The drinkers went back to ignoring him, and he returned to staring out of the window, but by the end of the night two of the farmers had drunk themselves to curiosity and courage.
When he showed them the plan the cries of disgust were enough to put off anyone else inquiring, yet, the next day a small group found him at the lodgings, agreed his price and took him to the morgue to begin the harvest.
From each corpse the stranger sliced away the larynx, piling them slack and wet on a surgical tray, then tipping them into his bag.
With uncertainty, they followed him into the bird plagued fields.
The curious watched him stitch the slack flesh into the man sized doll, larynx after larynx filling the torso. When he’d finished, he lifted the figure vertical, sprinkling dust and herbs around the barked wooden pole.
The screaming started small, barely a muttering, before rising in volume and cadence, the choir of amputated voices infecting the sky.
The birds tried to flee but as they took flight they perished as if the air itself scorched away their wings, until the soil was littered with the avian dead. Horrified, the farmers watched the stranger walk around the field, picking up the birds one by one and pushing them between his distended jaws. Unable to bear any more, they returned to the village and tried to drink away the image of feathers and teeth.
That night the stranger returned to the pub and stood in the middle of bar.
“And now for payment,” he said, but the patrons turned their faces from him. He did not approach them or speak again. When they still failed to respond, he picked up his bag and left with a shrug.
The scarecrow looked similar to the one the stranger had built in the fields. This one was tied to the market cross, mud covered ropes holding it in place. As people woke they gathered in curiosity and watched the stranger sprinkle herbs around the figure.
When the amputated chorus within began to sing, the adults dropped first. Writhing on the ground, they tried to scratch away the sound. With mud stained fingers the stranger distended his jaw, walked through the agonised bodies, and slowly began to feast.