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The Twenty-Third Bird

A cormorant was diving for fish in a lake its sharp head rising like a periscope from the smooth black surface. Only someone with no where to go, someone who had nothing better to do, would notice when the cormorant didn’t come back up.

A short man in a thick khaki coat adjusted the rectangular glasses on his nose, squinting hard at the still water. He waited silently for a few more moments, heart beating fast, hardly daring to breathe. He pulled out a small leather book its pages bursting with sketches and scribbles, paper stained from years of coffee spills and dropped food. In the first empty space he could find he made a tiny note; 'They are coming.'

It was the twenty-third bird to disappear this month. When he'd tried to tell his mother and father, they'd shaken their heads and rolled their eyes. When he'd tried to tell his friends at university they'd laughed and told him to get a girlfriend. But no one wanted to know. No one cared.


Snapping the book shut, the man shoved it into his bag and pulled the scarf a little tighter around his neck. Next second, he was marching away through the steadily increasing drizzle, his face set. He was ready to tell the world the truth, to open their eyes. Somehow, someway, he would make them understand.

His body was found three days later, a bullet hole between his blank eyes. It would feature in the local paper. A mere three lines, a grainy picture of the man's face. The twenty-third bird was never mentioned again.

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