Monday, 8 December 2008

Writer's Digest prompt

Writer's Digest prompt: A man buys a parrot, and is horrified when he discovers the only thing it can say is, "If you ever tell anyone what you saw, I’ll kill you."

Parrot Talk (first part)

Mike hated animals; he thought they were noisy, unclean, demanding, expensive and overall just downright irritating. On the other hand, he was a sucker for his nine year old son, who had been insisting for nigh on three months for one African Gray parrot. Mike was understandably reticent, given that the parrot automatically ticked the 'noisy' box. He could imagine its squawking come in the dead of night, while he was desperate for a good night's sleep before the big conference at which he was chair. It was only a matter of time though, and before the fourth month of his son's anxious wait had begun, he walked into a local pet store and bought one African Gray parrot for a sum that also automatically ticked the 'expensive' box. Two boxes ticked, and the African Gray parrot had only been in his possession for about eight seconds. Mike had come to the decision that his son Tom would be paying through the nose for this. The simple two bedroom house in the nice sequestered and leafy suburb was going to be Tom's penance.
It was three days before Mike unchecked the 'noisy' box, and he was surprised that he considered this regrettable. The bird was so quiet he actually thought it was dead, but the bird nonetheless possessed that lifelike quality of appetite and therefore he considered it only a matter of time before the bird opened his mouth to fill the air with something that could be perceived as entertaining but was still utterly meaningless. The days passed, and it was not until the untimely hour of around two in the morning, when Mike was parched and had gone through to the bathroom for a glass of water, that the unmistakable vocal sounds of a parrot were being utilised. He went downstairs and studied the parrot in the glare of moonlight that was passing through his window. This study was into its fourth minute before the bird opened its mouth. The voice was soft but firm, almost rasping - 'If you ever tell anyone what you saw, I'll kill you'. The regrettable long bout of silence that had preceded this single sentence no longer seemed regrettable.
This regrettable sentence became steadily more regrettable, as the sentence was only ever heard at around two in the morning, once every six minutes for a total of twenty four minutes, on a Wednesday. Five weeks later, when his son had inevitably become tired of the animal (Mike had not told him about the early morning sojourns) and Mike's edginess at this undoubtedly strange occurence had reached breaking point, the daily paper that had become his breakfast ritual opened up its heart via page twenty-seven and told him something that was initially interesting but then proceeded to become undoubtedly disconcerting. 'Still no suspects in nighttime murder', which was not particularly noteworthy of itself, but a close analysis of the text initiated a steady rise of the eyebrows and a marked paling of the face. The article detailed the murder of a local, fifty-two-year old man who had been strapped to a chair, doused in petrol and set alight. This was not especially intriguing in any intimate sense, but the fact that the man was a reknowned expert on African Gray parrots and that he had been murdered at around two in the morning on a Wednesday was understandably alarming. The steady and grounded mental faculties for which he was known soon wrested the control that they had relinquished however, and Mike deemed the link as preposterous and not something to be pursued.
Time wore on, the parrot continued its nightly awakenings, and Mike's growing uneasiness with this predicament gradually began to manifest itself in his work and in his relationship with his son. This was unacceptable, and since the boy had not fostered any affection for the parrot, Mike decided to take the parrot to a home. The parrot was promptly delivered, and the issue was considered closed. The following Wednesday night, however, Mike awoke to the same liturgy. He crept edgily down the stairs, and in the full glare of the moonlight, the very same parrot in the very same cage eyed him with sinister unblinking eyes that were black as night. Four minutes in, the parrot resumed its mutterings and continued to do so twice more for what was undoubtedly a precise twenty four minute period. Mike, not at all a superstitious fellow, was nonetheless grounded and practical enough to register that this was indeed happening and that he was not on the verge of insanity. He spent an hour that night creating some kind of believable story for which this strange return could be explained, worked through its loopholes and gave this finely-tuned fiction to his son the following morning. Mike hated lying to his son, but considered it a kind lie.
Afterwards, he journeyed to the local library and began to dig up anything he could on the recently deceased parrot enthusiast. The man was named Herbert Fellows; somewhat eccentric and an only son, but widely respected. Mike blinked, and reread a single sentence a second time - 'Grandson of Mr Samuel Fellows'. The fact that Herbert's grandfather, Mr Samuel Fellows, was also Mike's great-grandfaher, did not seem entirely coincidental in the current circumstances. To pursue this further, he visited the pet store where he bought the parrot and enquired as to its origins.

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