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George Aitch


George is a 23 year old medical student who also writes. His short stories have appeared in Boston Literary Magazine, Storgy, Penniless Press, VoiceIn Journal and Entropy Squared. He is a regular contributor to North Wing.
In addition to this, he has had essays published on an array of diverse subjects including leprosy, French psychoanalysis and electroconvulsive therapy. His research has been featured in The British Journal of Psychiatry.

This morning on my doorstep, I found a single grey feather. If nothing else had followed and the whole thing had stopped right there, I would have paid it no mind. The appearance of a single feather was so insignificant that I didn’t even deign to brush it off the path. In fact, I barely noticed it at all. By evening there were two. However, one sees so many feathers about, it is scarcely worth bothering to note if the odd one here and there has found a friend. 

It is here that I should state that I am a careful man. Recently grown even more so following a break in at the house next door. When I leave my home I am careful to lock the door behind me and keep the windows closed. I should also mention that I do not own a pet and I don’t have a catflap. So you can imagine my surprise when a third ashen coloured feather had been placed on the coffee table of my front room. I say placed because it was squarely in the middle, there were long odds of it having strayed there by accident. If for no other reason because it would be impossible for any bird to enter my house.

The puzzlement that this visitation of feathers produced focussed my attention. Daily I was coming home to find increasing amounts of plumage stashed about my house; behind the dresser, under the kitchen counter, in drawers I hadn’t opened for months. One night upon retiring to my bed, I was disturbed to find the longest feather so far perched upon my pillow. I panicked and threw it from the window into the dark. I watched it tumble away out of sight with some relief. Yet, downstairs there were more of the horrible things to be dealt with. Including one which I know hadn’t been there when I went upstairs, fallen in the landing. I am sure of this because I have been throwing out every single one I see as soon as I spot it.

These feathers all came from the same bird, there is no doubt about that. They are all light grey and somewhat oily to touch. The smell is a stale mousy one which I have been unable to rid myself of since first detecting it. They are firm and crisp. Otherwise ordinary feathers from a particularly large bird. 

That night a hard wind shook my house and I mistook the creaks of the floorboards for someone sneaking about the place. I lay awake staring at the ceiling, not daring to close my eyes in the dark. All I could do to distract myself was to listen to the gale brewing. After a particularly powerful gust, something tapped against my window. I sat bolt upright. There was nothing. I was so unsettle that I had to fix myself a cup of tea before I could go back to bed. 

Downstairs in the kitchen I stared absently though the window, waiting for the kettle to boil. Those owls were playing up again, I could hear their soft calls between the winds. When I was a child we used to clasp our hands to together and blow through them, like a whistle. If you knew what you were doing it produced a perfect imitation of an owl. I tried it now and was rewarded by a soft hoot. 

At the bottom of my garden the bushes rustled. A large figure, which I hadn't noticed, stood up. The kettle whistled behind me but I was insensible to it. The silhouette backed into the foliage. I lost sight of it. In my dressing gown I thrust open the back door and yelled at whoever was out there to leave me alone or I’d call the police. The owl sounds instantly died and the wind became still. My hair stood up on end in anticipation of something dreadful, but it never came. I made my tea and slept calmly through the rest of the night.

Somewhat emboldened by last night’s victory, I decided that following morning to take the day off work and catch the perpetrator in the act. All morning I paced about my front room, racking my brains to think of someone who’d invest the time and energy into such nonsense. I gathered the usual assortment of feathers left to greet me and threw them in a bin bag. It is a curious thing, but I find that I am no longer able to part with these austere gifts. They accumulate, the filled bags that is, in the cupboard under the stairs.

Throughout the day, nothing happened. I received no new presents, heard no unusual sounds and witnessed nothing out of the ordinary. By evening I was, dare I say it, disappointed. I had fruitlessly thrown a whole day away in a silly pursuit. Somewhat dampened in spirit, I climbed the stairs to bed. 

However, late that night I was awoken by the sound of the floorboards shifting again yet there was something else. A soft repetitive sound. It came from downstairs. I pulled my dressing gown on and crept down the stairs. As I crossed the landing, a terrible fright rose within me and I had to suppress a gasp. It was dark; I couldn’t bring myself to turn on the light lest I draw attention to myself. My hands trembled as I reached for the doorhandle to the front room. As I turned it, I had the strange sensation of something watching me from over my shoulder, that there was something behind me, waiting.

The sound I heard was a quiet scratching at my front door, like that made by a cat. The noise was not getting louder or harder, but kept the same pace of softly scratching at my front door. Steeling myself, I edged closer. When I was at the door, I pressed my ear against it. There was nothing but the claws dragging themselves across my door. Fury bubbled and spread across my chest. It broke and I felt empowered. How dare anyone torment me this way. I thumped the door as hard as I could, shaking it in its frame. The scratching stopped. My closed fist throbbed. There was a flutter of wings. Then no sound but the wind.

That was not the first time I was disturbed that night. In the small hours of the morning, I found myself half awake. As if in a dream, I gravitated back towards the front room and the door which had been scratched upon. I glided along the corridor and down the stairs. At the bottom I dozily inspected the door once more. What I saw there awoke me from my sleepwalking. There was a deep fresh gash carved into my door. On the inside.

Panic and terror sparked me to action. I remember screaming and leaving my house to flee through the streets. My own home was no longer safe. Something was swooping again and again. Wherever I ran to I was followed by some unseen creature. This fury tugged at my hair and tore into the nape of my neck. Once I turned my head to try and glimpse it. Was that a figure I saw, perched on the telephone pole, standing as tall as a man? I ran and took shelter in a bus stop until the sun rose. I was safe from my pursuer there. 

Could it have been a dream? No, the cuts which have bled down my back and the feathers knotted in my hair are testament to that. Warily I came back to the house. The door was open and swaying in the breeze. I cautiously pushed it open. Instantly I was rushed by the birds who had gathered there. The force of them was great that I was knocked to the floor and could only watch as flock after flock flew out from my house. The number of them was so great that I was unsure how so many could have found room inside. Had they all waited for me? Had I let them in?

I got up and slammed the door behind me. Using the coffee table, I formed a barricade. When I went to the kitchen to repeat this with back door, I found further damage. The plastic sacks with which I had held those horrible feathers had been slashed open by deep cuts and the feathers inside had flown everywhere. A shiver is sent down my spine. The wallpaper had been torn up and the sink was clogged with castings which I now know were owl pellets. I am under siege from this thing. It will not let me rest. Nightly it comes again and again. The walls of my house are stuffed with ruffling wings. If I do manage to slip into slumber, my dreams are filled with fluttering feathers and a glimpse of something more terrible, as tall as a man which reaches and rips at my face.

I have not eaten in days. I was proud and I am being punished. I provoked it when I should not have. I meddled with what I should not. I lie in my room, ears aquiver for the next owl call or skittering from within the walls. When night comes I gaze into the darkness until something formless stirs and I must look away. I wake up and my face is slashed. More scars etch their way across my back by the day. Despite my door being barred and bolted, I do not feel safe nor secure. I can no longer pretend that I am not hunted. It stalks my home. It is angry and it has talons.

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