She’d built the birdhouse out of scrap wood and materials she found here and there. It was an eclectic little house with an off-center roof and a decorative chimney. It looked like an old mill and she wished she had the talent to create a decorative water wheel to put beside it. She’d made an old doorknob into the perch and she’d bent an old license plate to cover the roof and make it waterproof. She slapped on some paint and a few pieces of scrap tin here and there to make it shiny, then hung it up in the oak tree out front.
She watched the bird house every day, hopeful for a feathered occupant, but none arrived. She watched the birds in her yard with an intensity that bordered on madness, and people who saw her about town began taking notice as her mannerisms became odd…or rather, odder since she’d always been a bit different. Now though she was, well, “wild,” as the postmistress said, “the girl is wild. She was just gettin’ into her truck t’other day n’instead a jes gettin’ in like anyone’d do she stopped and hovered there, like a dern hummin’ bird. An’ you know she don’t say ‘hi’ no more, she jes stares at ya, holdin’ so still like maybe ya won’t see her if she don’t move. Wild.”
She’d gone from a woman who could polish off a plate of steak and potatoes with a side salad to a waif of a girl who could barely eat a single scoop of ice cream in one sitting. The waitress at the towns only restaurant went from calling her “the one who can belch like a trucker,” to asking her if she felt alright cause she “ate like a bird now.” Everyone began to notice the wild girl, making outings difficult for her. The staring, the whispers, the concerned pats and questions.
She got so she stopped going to town much at all, there wasn’t anything she needed there really. She’d stopped eating meat a few weeks before, couldn’t stomach it anymore, and was thereby able to get just about everything she needed from her own garden. She missed conveniences like bread, and boxed and canned food, but only in the beginning. After a month she realized she hadn’t thought of that stuff in a week at least. She never opened her refrigerator anymore and decided to unplug it.
As Spring turned to Summer she realized she didn’t hardly spend any time in the house at all. She was always out in the yard minding the garden that had turned a bit wild and restocking the bird feeders and sitting and watching. It was warm enough to sleep outside and she did so, watching the stars overhead and drifting off to the sounds of the frogs near the pond and the crickets everywhere. She was eating less and less, not needing the same number of calories as before and finding fewer and fewer foods delightful. Before she knew it she was eating the seed from the bird feeders with the other birds.
The hair on her arms, legs, and head became itchy, she couldn’t stop scratching at herself day and night. She worried it was a mite from being around the birds all day or perhaps something simpler like the need for lotion, her skin getting drier and drier. After the third day of this scratching she was gashed and bloody from her fingernails but the itching had finally subsided. As the gashes scabbed over they became a multitude of bumps instead of lines and as these healed wisps began to grow out. Her first thought was she had ingrown hairs that were starting to burst through but as the days went on it became clear the wisps were feathers, grey and brown and black.
Soon she was covered in feathers from head to toe. And her hands were no longer hands at all but wings which she played with in the early Autumn breezes, raising them up and down and thrilling at the feel, at the tickle of the wind playing through them. Her legs and feet, too, had changed becoming scaly and claw-like, the toe nails small and sharp. And it wasn’t only the feathers and scales, she felt lighter, not just in her stomach but as if her very bones were hollow, as though someone had sucked the marrow out, the way she used to gnaw on a steak or pork chop bone beck before the very idea made her nauseous.
As the leaves fell from the trees and the mild nights turned chilly, she found herself in a bit of a state. She wouldn’t be able to stay outside much longer, feathers or not. It was simply getting too cold. And what would become of her when the rain and the sleet and the snow came? She’d need a shelter. She thought about going back into the house but as quickly as the thought came to her she realized she was flying and the windows and doors were all closed to her. She flitted around the chairs on the deck, hoping from one to the other, looking in the house from outside and wondering how this had all happened.
She turned from the window and looked out over the yard. The garden now nothing more than an overgrown patch of wild shoots, the lettuce gone to seed, the tomatoes rotting off the vines, the asparagus a beautiful and fragile fern-like bed, blowing in the chilled breeze. She looked to the oak tree and saw the bird house she’d made what felt like years before, could it be years? It hardly seemed like more than a week but had to have been at least a few months. She loved the doorknob perch and wished she’d had the talent to add the little water wheel.
Before she knew it she was there, at the house, sitting on the little doorknob perch. She poked her head inside the house, turning her head this way and that. The little house was empty. She pushed her way inside and realized she fit perfectly. From inside the chilly wind was nothing more than a gentle finger rocking her to sleep. She knew she’d need something to keep her warmer over the next several months but for now the empty little house, full of her, was warm enough. It was perfect.
When she woke in the morning she hopped up and out of the house, perching on the doorknob as she surveyed the area. The ferned out tips of the asparagus would make a soft and light bed. She darted down to the garden and snipped at the ferny bits with her beak. A yank here and a yank there and before she knew it she had several bits of asparagus tips with which to feather her nest. She grabbed a few of the pieces and flew them back up to her house, placing them inside the hole, before flying back for the others. With all the bits in the house she jumped inside and fluffed about creating a little nest among the plants.
~~~That’s one hour~~~