Trish didn’t look like the same person. Her natty white uniform wasn’t white, anymore. Her cute little hat was gone. She looked haunted. She crawled toward the open doors. Mike braved stepping outside to help her the rest of the way in.
“Hurry, hurry, hurry,” chanted Jill, quietly. We all looked up toward the bird’s lair. We couldn’t see the nest, from the street. We didn’t see the bird, but that didn’t mean that it wasn’t watching us.
Trish was having trouble walking. She leaned on Mike and staggered the couple of steps to the door. Once they were in, we quietly shut the doors, and Jill hit the gate button. The gate wasn’t quiet. We kept our eyes on the roof across the street. The bird appeared at the edge, peering our way, but it didn’t launch itself.
Back in the green room, we offered Trish her choice of Spam or tuna. She pointed at the tuna. Mike got a stack of plastic cups and headed for the water cooler. It was one of those silly little ones, with the big plastic bottle of water up-ended on top. He paused with his finger on the dispenser lever.
“Beer? We have beer. It has been a helluva day. I think we can spare half a can each. I mean, we might be hoarding it up for nothing,” he said.
“Beer,” we all agreed. We sat down with our beer, tuna, and Spam. Lexington and Bethel ate their pet food, constantly switching bowls and running to beg from us before slinking back to their bowls in disappointment. We couldn’t afford to give them a lot of Spam and tuna. We had to conserve.
Trish hadn’t said a word since she’d been pulled off the street. She seemed traumatized. She did start picking at her food, at least.
“So, Trish,” Moira had decided to brave broaching the subject. “What the fuck happened to you?”
Trish put down her plastic fork, stared down at her plate, and took a big, snot rattling breath. “They left me.”
“The Navy left you?,” Jill asked softly.
“Yeah. I had trouble getting to the river. All of those tourists were coming this way. Boy, were they rude, too. Pushing, wouldn’t step aside for nothing. By the time I got to the river, the ships were trying to get out. Some tourists wouldn’t leave. They were starting to panic. There were still a lot of them. There were soldiers on the boats wearing cammo. I don’t know who they were. They didn’t look like Navy, to me. The soldiers were waving machine guns. They must have gotten some serious orders to get the people off the ships,” she fell quiet.
“What happened then?,” I asked.
“The soldiers shot a couple of tourists. I guess to show everybody that they were serious. People went nuts. But they sure did get their asses off the ships.” Trish sat quietly for a while, and we let her.
“I love my country,” she resumed. “I love serving my country. I never thought I would see anything like that in my life. Maybe I could have busted ass and made it onto the ship, but I kind of just stood there. It didn’t take them long to pull out, after the tourists were all off.”
“I feel weird, like I’m AWOL, but I can’t be the only one. There have to be a lot of us still in the city. My skipper wouldn’t have left us, unless someone made him do it.”
Nobody said a word.
“So, then I headed back this way. You guys are the only people I know, here. By that time, a big bird was flying around. I mean a huge mother. He was dive bombing tourists. They were running around screaming. A cop was trying to herd them into doorways. A kid went running across the street. I guess he saw his parents on the other side. Little boy. Maybe four years old. The cop ran after him, and the bird grabbed the cop. Grabbed him by his shoulders. It was hard for it to fly off with the cop, but it did, by God. It headed this way. I didn’t want to follow it, but I had to. I didn’t know where else to go. Then I waited for you guys to look for me. I was pretty scared. I’m still pretty scared.”
“We are pretty scared, too,” I admitted. “Tomorrow, we are going to try to get with some more people, see if there is safety in numbers.”
“Yeah, we are going to be in-vees-eeble,” Moira rolled her eyes.
“OK, whatever you guys say,” said Trish.
With that, we all found a spot, pulled black drapes over ourselves, and chased sleep. But visions of giant birds danced in our heads.