Alfred Hitchcock also ran. I’d watched the super moon come up. It’s the time in the moon’s orbit when it is closest to the earth on its elliptical cycle. There’s an optical illusion that makes the moon appear larger on that night than most others. And it makes people crazy. That, or people use it as an excuse to be crazy.
I knew the ER would be busy and I nodded a measure of support to those poor bastards who’d be keeping watch, as I walked home, anticipating a glass of wine and a hot bath. I had both, and laid my head on the pillow, nodding toward sleep with the moon streaking a brilliance through the pane and glazing the wood floors until they looked like black walnut. They’re actually maple.
I dreamt of something peaceful, though I don’t know what. It was peaceful enough that each time the bird woke me up, I quickly retreated to that comfortable place. The bird was not one of wings and natural flight. It was one of rotors and blades and AV gas and the Jesus Nut. Three of them landed at the hospital that night, up from three a month. It was, after all, a full moon.
Those three birds flew directly over my bedroom on short final, the small price I pay for a seven minute walk to work at the hospital. My hospital has a saint, a nurse for all time, for all mankind, and now for all heaven, canonized last year. She gazes down at me every day on minute six of my commute, as I make the turn off of Genesee Street and up to the brick and mortar that is my daily grind. Though I grew up Catholic, I’ve always worked secularly, and it occasionally unnerves me to see the sisters in their habits, in summertime gray, going about their earnest work.
Perhaps, as I turned on my side and headed back to my dreams, I was remembering their flowing cassocks, and perhaps that’s why I mistook the beating wings, flitting above me, for the rustling of those skirts. Like turning the combination lock of a safe, each tumbler falling into place in turn, the patterns of my mind finally clicked and I recognized the sound for what it was.
My head shot from the pillow, left cheek still warm with my own heat, craned to the right and saw the familiar silhouette of October arcing against the blasted, blazing harvest moon. He may as well have been cut from the Halloween decorations of my childhood, so perfectly profiled he was in his winged spread. His sine pattern seemed to be attacking, so close he was, yet I know in the light of day that he was only confused, as confused as I was perhaps.
But in that moment of terror, I only felt pursued and naked. All I heard was shrieking, in two-tone, a duet in high C, half him, half me. As I kicked off my shroud of sleep and ran for the door, my left hand shot out reflexively to the dress I’d left hanging on the door knob for just such a flight. With the keening and the flapping in my ears, I swung the dress around my head like a cowgirl with her lasso. I ran without thinking until I hit an obstruction, the balcony rail, keeping me from a twenty foot fall.
There was a moments more screaming, until I realized I was outside, and naked. I was cursing under my breath with my dress in my hand and the morning dew on my skin. The screen door slammed shut and black wings flapped against it like a moth invading a streetlight and my shaking, shivering hands pulled the dress up over my shoulders.
It was still dark, and still. But I could see the faintest graying of the sky behind the black trees and I knew the dawn was slowly coming. Here I was, on a five by eight balcony on the second floor in a summer dress and fifty degrees and fear sweat. This type of encounter, in such wretched proximity, was a first for me, and I knew I was overreacting. But I couldn’t go back in there, not yet. Not until I could see the corners of the room. Only then would I feel safe, as if nothing could come out of the shadows to harm me.
And that, then, was why I had such fear, so out of proportion to the threat. He was a threat so tiny I could have held him in my two cupped hands, but so revolting to propel me into a crouch awaiting the dawn. A more defensive posture does not exist. I watched the stars wink out, one by one, until they were gone. The luring moon who’d called all the beasts forth had set her own weary head below the northwestern horizon. And as the sky pinked and colors regained their hue, my little black friend tucked himself in for the day. Then I went slinking in, ducking my head and checking the corners. And unbeknownst to me, I napped beside him, not three feet away. Both of us exhausted and glad for the safe place to rest.
Robin Behl, La Cuentista