I can’t get up. There’s something on the end of my legs. Of course! The stilts. Perhaps I am not in the after-life after all. I must be alive.
“He’s waking up!” The voice is not unfriendly.
“Funny looking specimen.” That voice is definitely unfriendly. Quite sneery in fact.
“Specimen?” It was on the tip of my beak to utter the word but I managed to stop myself speaking. Perhaps they are not planning to kill me after all. Perhaps they have something else in mind, something that The Joker might do to Batman, or…. Note: Must watch some of those old classic films again. See what I can download.
“Hiyarr.” The friendly voice is above me now. I can just about open my eyes and see – well I never, it’s an ostrich! “You alright there? You look all funny.” It sounds like a kind ostrich.
“Stay away from it Sandra, you don’t know where it has been or what it even is.” Old sneery across the room from me.
My eyesight is clearing a little and I seem to be in some sort of a prison with concrete walls a concrete floor and just a thin layer of straw.
“Aww, don’t be such a old fuss face, Ricky darling. He’s a cutie.
The character called Sandra is indeed, an ostrich (note to self, real ostriches have bendy necks. Work on disguise). Must not look at her directly or she might notice some of the joins in the costume. Must make my voice sound more ostrich-like. Here goes, I’m going to try to talk.
“Where am I?”
“You’re in the lock-up sweetie. Place for runaways. They’re taking us back to the farm. Me and Ricky here, we’ve escaped loads of times…”
“You exaggerate.” It was Ricky’s voice.
“Well, a few times, or at least I have.” (Sandra)
“And they always catch you and they always bring you back.” (Ricky – still very sneery, large and ugly ostrich, don’t take to him at all.)
“This time it was your fault. Lost the use of your legs.” (S)
“If you hadn’t taken that wrong turning.” (R)
They continue to bicker while I take stock of my surroundings. No obvious way of escape. Must try…
“Oh and look how rude we have been. We’re arguing in front of the new boy.” Sandra turns to me once more and gives me another peck. Even through the extra feathers it hurts.
“No please, go ahead,” I mutter. “Just tell me about that farm they will take us to, please.”
“You’re not from there?” (S)
“I told you he was strange. Don’t talk to him.” (R – his sneer gives his voice a whiney character which makes me want to laugh).
“I thought you must be one of the ones the farmer took in. You know the big man with the big hat. He got a lot of new boys a bit back. You are a boy aren’t you?” S moved towards me, her head bobbing as she walked. I stepped out of the way.
“Oh, don’t be shy. You are a real cutie-pie.”
“Sandra!” (R wasn’t sneering now, he sounded worried.)
“Leave off Ricky. I’m just being friendly to the new boy. What’s your name, new boy?”
She moves towards me again and I side-step. She side-steps too, so I step to the right. And then the left. And then the right. And as I take one final and rather desperate step to the left, a door scraped open and light flooded into the room.
“Hey, you lot, quieten down.” Mr Beard is framed in the door, his gun still in his hand.
“Sssss!” shrieks Sandra, turning on the human. “Sssss. I was just getting to know him and you come in and spoil it!”
I don’t think old Mr Beard understands many of the words, as humans are usually limited in the languages they choose to learn (unless you are Mrs Desai of course). He understands her when she raises herself up and flaps her magnificent wings, hissing and shrieking at him. He steps back with a mix of fear and anger on his face and raises his gun.
“Oh no you don’t!” Sandra leaps again and this time Mr Beard dropped his gun and gives a yell.
“Simon, Simon! Help!”
“What the…!” Mr Bald is here now. He makes a dive for the gun. Too late. My left stilt, still functioning though with an impressive series of splinters sticking out of the side where the shot had skimmed against it, presses down firmly on the gun, preventing him from picking it up. A flurry of feathers and Ricky is there as well.
“Don’t you try and be the superhero!” he hisses at me.
“I won’t!” I hiss back at his chest, which is as high up as I could see on him. And as Sandra chases Beard and Ricky chases Bald, I run through the open door and across a yard, not so much a superhero as a bird on the run. In the middle of the yard is the white van. Its driver door is open. Keys are in the ignition. How I thank Mrs Desai’s love of computer simulation games. That car driving one was the best. What’s more, my stilts can reach the pedals.
Stealing is wrong, but in my defence I have been bird-napped and nearly attacked by a couple of humans and an ostrich. It’s enough to turn any self-respecting dodo’s head.
Sandra, if you are alright and reading this, I hope you will forgive me for not staying and helping chase off the men. I needed to get away, and in any case you scared me even more than the men did. Sorry.