Requiem for a Dead World by Brenda Anderson

July 2, 2012 Comments Off on Requiem for a Dead World by Brenda Anderson

High above the frozen landscape, Bjorn steered the huge mechanical bird forward. Welded from the remains of a thousand mechanical automata, it lurched on its water-web feet. At its controls, Bjorn looked out on the dead world.

A small display on his keyboard signaled Life ahead.

Bjorn snatched up binoculars and scanned the landscape. Not twenty feet ahead, a small bird clung to a sheet of ice. He zoomed in. Yes, it was alive! With infinite care, Bjorn extended a robotic arm, netted the shivering bird, brought it inside, and sealed the exit.

Awestruck, he studied the bird for several minutes. Unblinking, it returned his stare.

“Incredible,” murmured Bjorn. “I haven’t seen a living thing in years.”

“Makes two of us,” replied the bird.

Bjorn’s heart skipped a beat. “You … can talk?” He’d almost forgotten the sound of another voice.

“D-uh,” said the bird. “I was part of a magician’s act. He was the only one who could get me back to my human body, but then he up and vanished. You know, when the water hit. Now I’m stuck in this body.”

Stuck? Bjorn knew the feeling. He’d been experimenting with life support systems deep underground, and months later, had emerged to find a dead world. “Still, you’re alive.”

“Call being trapped in this body, alive?” said the bird, with indignation. “Now look, I’ve got plans. I can fly. I like to get around, and this cabin doesn’t cut it. I was scared, see? Can I go now?”

“No,” said Bjorn. “I like company. Let’s celebrate, together.”

The bird clucked. “In your dreams, buster. Look, I’m trouble, see? I have to warn you, my late Maestro gave me a backup for life’s little emergencies, as he called them. Only one, mind. I’m activating it now. Watch.”

The bird vanished.

“How did you do that?” cried Bjorn.

“Magic,” said the bird. “D’uh, he was a magician. Now let me go.”

“No,” said Bjorn. “I don’t mind if you’re a bird. How about a song? It’s been so long since I heard music. Even an invisible bird can sing, right?”

“Yes,” said the bird, “but there’s something you need to know.”

“Forget it,” said Bjorn. “I don’t care if you’re trouble:  you’re a bird, you can sing. Go on: sing for me.”

“Well.” The bird paused. “Il Maestro taught me a song about unrequited love …”

“I like that kind,” said Bjorn, remembering.

“… with about five hundred verses…”

“I won’t get bored,” said Bjorn.

“But I hate it, and here’s the thing, you will too,” pleaded the bird. “Please don’t ask me to sing.”

“Why not? I command you! Sing!” said Bjorn.

“All right, but I did warn you,” said the bird, and it started to sing. Bjorn shivered. Its voice was worse than metal fingernails on glass.

With a sigh Bjorn opened the exit, let the invisible bird go, and waited for silence to return. It seemed to take forever.

© 2012 Brenda Anderson

Brenda Anderson lives in Adelaide, South Australia with her husband and two children. Her fiction has appeared in 10Flash Quarterly and Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine. She loves the offbeat, Woody Allen movies, fantasy, Wagner’s ‘Valkyrie’ and the paintings of Hieronymous Bosch.

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