literature

The city's other inhabitants

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By melladh
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Literature Text

It takes time for the Hadra to thaw in the morning. They line the edges of the rooftops, always facing the rising sun, after having settled there sometime during the night. Most have sunk down in a huddled form. For ease of balance and a slight chance they won't freeze through, allowing for a faster rise in the morning.

  As the sunlight plays over their gray feathers, one or two shudder, shaking their heads to get rid of flakes of ice once they've thawed enough to move. One picks at its own chest, cracking some still frozen feathers but freeing itself up for greater movement.

  It turns its head and locks a single, orange, staring eye at you. And you quickly move on.

  Strangers to the city, who have starved in the street, have sometimes picked up the courage to hunt Hadra in the night. They're not human, after all. They are - pardon the expression - sitting ducks.

  But the city's inhabitants know that the Hadra are also vindictive. They stay still and watch their brethren be slaughtered while they're frozen, eyes still taking everything in, nostrils not missing the slightest trace of scent...

  And they come for you, if you've done them wrong. You cannot run. Their wings will carry them faster than you can ever escape, no matter how much distance you put between them and yourself in the night as well as the day.

  Some say the Hadra should all be gotten rid of. One big sweep in the night, to get rid of them all. People who fear that which they do not understand.

  But the Hadra never harm anyone who do not bother them. The city is theirs, and yet they allow you to live there, move there, break down buildings and raise new ones. They can tell the difference between accidents and intent. Some people say they can smell it on you, as it happens. A Hadra that has been killed by mistake is not even mourned, in any way a human can recognize.

  And the city leaders, and those old enough to remember, don't want the Hadra gone. They remember, or have been told, events from when the city was invaded. The Hadra did not move as the battle raged. They cared not of damaged buildings, or killed people. But eventually, a stray bullet always took down a Hadra.

  They can tell the difference between accidents and intent. But whether your murderous intent was aimed at the Hadra killed or not, doesn't matter to them.

  There were no invaders left the following day. The Hadra settled on their rooftops, as if nothing had happened. Fixing their staring, orange eyes at you, and cooing quietly to themselves.
When I reach the subway station in the morning, on my way to work, the pigeons always line the metal beams that hold up the roof structure above the outdoors platform. They sit in sleepy huddled forms, blinking against the sun and soaking up some warmth to begin the day.

And yes, our subway spends a fair amount of time above ground. It's cheating, really.
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© 2010 - 2021 melladh
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