Every day, since last week, Stu wakes up to feed. Not himself, but the generations and generations of birds that his father used to look after.
Because whenever he sticks those peeled oranges in the bush of rusted thorns from which the birds plucked their food from, he was greeted not by the chirping of the birds, but only by the deafening chilly stillness of the cold air, and feel his tinnitus slowly taking over his senses. Nonetheless, Stu continues with this early morning ritual since he notices that the oranges disappear into thin air the next morning.
He pokes the giant bird house every now and then, he hears some chirping but that aural cue is his only evidence of their existence. He has never seen a bird appear from that gaping, pitch-dark entrance.
Enough about the birds. Stu watches the sun creep up behind his neighboring skyscraper with a smile tearing his face.
The city sucks. The brief hints of dryness and freshness in the mornings condense into a miasma of sweat, shit and piss as horns ricochet off the graffiti-riddled walls of the sidewalks. Angry, ear-clogged drivers screaming through their horns at other angry, ear-clogged drivers. An endless chain reaction that accompanies Pid throughout her walk to her class like a free moving orchestra of untasteful and unwanted abrasiveness.
Even under the all-revealing, blinding fluorescence of the tube lights- the class is filled with noise, students talking about themselves. Just nodding to what others say, waiting for their turn to talk. Talk about what they already talked about in social media.
You are obsessed with yourself, you little shit. And if you are so pissed, put some music in your ears.
Is what her friend says. But Pid says to herself that at least she’s aware of it. She’s aware of her annoying cynicism.
It’s a disease. It eats away at her and she eats it up. She switches on her phone, plugs her ears to a white noise generator app and opens up Facebook.
Stu loves the ambient drone of the city, it makes him feel alive. The dry, cold, suffocating noose of the cold air loosens up and gives away to the heat of the vehicles and the energetic vibrations from the crazy horns, all bouncing off each other like dissonant yet sequential notes of an orchestra.
Things are moving, Stu feels the sounds bouncing of walls of the sidewalks are vividly colored with illegible writing. On entering the classroom, the sun-bathed streets are replaced with the blinding flood of fluorescence of the classroom. But blinding only for a instance. Even the classroom has its own visual and aural appeal to its atmosphere. Everything looks spick and span, the students are all arranged symmetrically, though they are all agitating in their seats, talking to each other. The swarm of horn sounds are replaced with an uniform drone. Stu takes it all in. It makes him feel alive. His tinnitus drowns in the sea of sound.
Pid glances at the boy who just stopped in the middle of the classroom, he has his eyes closed, smiling to himself. Weirdo.
Pid returns home, exhausted from an hour-long class on advanced trigonometry. She stomps on the elevator floor, the elevator sways in reply. “Why study shit that can be done with computers? Why not just study programming? Why waste time?”
Why are you wasting your time being hesitant and lazy, and then blaming “society” for it? Her friend says to that.
The harsh yellow sunlight floods her vision as she steps out of the fan-cooled elevator, it’s hot.
It was so cold in the morning, though. Can’t wait to turn the AC on. But the AC is loud as hell.
She says to herself as she turns the keys to her apartment. The boiled air wafts through her, soaking her skin with humidity. Yup, turning the AC on.
The humidity disperses out as the still, water-soaked air gets replaced with a dry, superposed sound of the whirring of blades and a ear-rattling drone. Pid closes her eyes to get a wisp of an afternoon nap…
As soon as she feels herself sinking into sleep, the harsh yellow sunlight greets her again, and she finds herself standing before her locked apartment entrance again. She can’t hear the drone of the AC anymore. Upon a short flick of the wrist with the doorknob, she realizes that her door is unlocked.
More fluorescence bleaches her retinas as she opens the door. She recovers her vision to find herself back in her Maths class. She looks up from her phone and removes her earphone as the professor enters the classroom. Dampness and decay enters the room with him. It smells. It smells like outiside.
The chirping of birds zooms through the room as she, simultaneously, hears the shattering of the large-panel windows beside her desk. Shards flew through the air, like triangular glitters caught in a sandstorm. Glitters that rip her skin and wakes her from her dream.
Pid wakes up- bathed in cold sweat, shattered glass riddling her legs, which seem to have displaced blood, which now stains her pyjamas. Sunlight flooding her bed and turning her dried blood look brown and rusty. Her AC drones on, but the humidity has overtook the air in the apartment. I smell like outside.
The birds are there circling her apartment. Chirping… chirping as if laughing at her. Shut up! Is all that she could muster.
“No you shut up, it’s 3 in the morning and you are shrieking like a banshee.” Her friend says. Pid wakes up, blanketed in cold sweat. No blood. No bird.
No food for them today. Stu says to himself, sinking his clawed fingers into the foam of the edge of his bed- trying to recover from the cold sweat he woke up from. Not until I see them myself.
Something has gotten over Stu tonight. He has just been woken up by an almost unrecognizable furious chirping cacophony of birds- the noise resembled an angry, amplified courtship call of cicadas. Stu glanced at his phone- it was 3 in the morning.
Stu briskly makes his way to his veranda, tripping over cords of miscellaneous equipment he uses for making music. Why am I so nervous about this? It was probably just a dream. I was having such a good day in a long time… why do I feel so unsettled?
It was so quiet, he couldn’t even hear his sandal-clad feet slap against the tiles. His dreaded tinnitus overtook all sensory information. He tried to breathe noisily- suctioning in air and jetting out air with the roof of his mouth for extra acoustics- just to bury his sensory-saturating tinnitus. But to no avail.
He sees the veranda door ajar, letting a puddle of moonlight onto the matt tiled floor- taking the shape of a welcome mat. His tinnitus cleared up a bit upon seeing the full moon.
The oranges from the morning have grown dark patches.
Without any audible cue, uncountable birds catapult out of the giant mud birdhouse behind Stu. Tiny birds, resembling like bats of the size of his palm, all chirping like angry cicadas. Stu sees the birds stream out, and the discolored oranges follow with them. The birds block the stream of moonlight for a split second, their large eyes reflecting the moon’s gleam.
Enough about the birds, Stu’s body folds in from shock. His view swishing from the silver ball to the point of view of a bird swooping in to collect an orange. Except there weren’t any oranges. Stu watches the gleaming, uneven, silvery rust coating of thorn bush. Thorns tearing his face.