Photography © Edward S. Gault

 

Birds

The snowman walked half the way across the world. Passed the snowy mountains of chocolate chip ice cream, he saw a red hut with a pointed roof. He fast-paced until he was at its door which stood in the middle of nowhere on this snowy island—a placid snow sheet. Inside the hut, a blonde sat by a fireside, her soup was cooking on the fireplace. The girl lived alone beyond the periphery of the woods, which beckoned her, every now and then she walked through its psithurism, where the red robins also whistled their morning songs.

The snowman looked around. It heard a tweet coming from the forest. He had paused before he knocked on the hut’s door. When he didn’t hear any sound of it being unbolted, he pushed it with the pointy tip of his index. The wooden door opened. He saw the young blonde sitting by the fire who, seeing him stood up. Light frowns appeared on her smooth forehead. She tried to recollect if she knew the snowman. She couldn’t recollect. The man’s face, she noted, was expressionless just like the icicles hanging down the window. Even the icicles, she thought had more character and nuance. Some were longer. Some were shorter. And water dripped from them. But this man had a plain, icy face, and a cold stare.

What had he intended to do with her? She thought. He stood at the door calmly as a statue carved out of snow, with a slight eye movement, as his pupils darted across her face and her surroundings. She felt a stab in her heart. She wished she had bolted her door. But here she never felt insecure until now. She always left it open for the red robin—her only companion in a thousand-mile belt. Who was this man anyway? What was his intention? This man, was he tired from his walk? No, but he was a walking disaster himself. She should stop him. It was too late. The man had already entered. He was now going to have her for breakfast, lunch, and for dinner. She shivered and stood there defenseless. She wished she were a red robin of the tall poplars and the balsam fir to fly away to.

The man walked a few steps towards her. She retreated. He came forward, she took a few steps backward until her back was against the hard wall. He came up, close within touching distance. He was going to violate her, she thought grimly. He put out his arm and gently nudged her with the same index. His lips spread wide almost into a plastic smile, she thought—why? He had plastic skin, too. His lips only moved when he spoke. He whispered, “will you marry me?”

Her pupils darted like a ping pong ball. They were wide with fear and disbelief. “Marry me?” He said again. It sounded trifle like an admonishment. As though he was giving her a choice not to, almost. But, he stood too close. His harsh breathing was frightening. She was trying to find leeway to slip out of his grips. She would have to brave him. But he was already giving her instructions—the dos and the donts. The correct way to conduct oneself. As though, he was in a position to do so.“The door was not locked. All I did was push it effortlessly and it opened. Bolt it next time!” The girl nodded and tried to slip out of that corner with that excuse.

He held her within his arm cage. “Do not put that cauldron on the fire-pit like that. There is a much better way of doing it.” She nodded again. “Did you put all the spices in properly? Salt it properly?” She dropped her gaze, thinking that it was quite bland—a bland soup for her taste but completely tasteless to him. How could she marry him—but he stood in her way—he held her in iron grips so she couldn’t escape? Then she heard a clear shot; the sound fast disappearing like a morning mist. This was who he was— a soldier of doom, locked in a despicable fate, trying to flee in a bid to atone himself. Who now lay before her with a bullet wound on his back? The other killer standing before her was also a soldier. He grinned and looked at her.

While the other tried to marry her, this one did not. He frightened her more. Who could save her from this danger? She prayed silently. The red robins knew what to do as the killer neared her with lust in his eyes. They flew in like Hitchcock’s birds and made their way towards him.

 

Multiple contests winner for short fiction, Mehreen Ahmed is an Australian novelist born in Bangladesh.

Edward S. Gault is a poet and fine art photographer. He lives at Mosaic Commons, a co-housing community in Berlin, Massachusetts.