Wren rolled her eyes. The woman shooed the colorful bird off her left shoulder and resumed eating. She made a habit of enjoying her lunch in the park. It was a beautiful day to do so, the sun rested high in the azure sky. Wren sat under the shade of a huge oak tree; its trunk was thicker than three of her. She had enough time to take another bite of her burger before a second bird landed on her right shoulder. It was somewhat bigger than the first bird; like a softball compared to a baseball. Its feathers were bright red instead of the rainbow of the first one.
“You’ve always been good to me, Julie. Whatever you do, don’t go to the market square tomorrow,” the bird whispered in her ear. Wren stopped chewing and turned to face the bird. It stayed relatively still on her shoulder instead of hopping around excitedly, as she was used to. Birds weren’t particularly smart; they had trouble with more than one name and they had no sense of time. But, they were situationally clever. Random birds approached her each time she ate outside; they gave her random stories or advice in the hopes of being rewarded with food. She thought she’d heard it all, but this was the first time two different birds used the same story. She swallowed the bite in her mouth.
“Why not?” she asked. The red bird stared at her for a moment, then flew away. Wren shrugged. Not going to the square for a few days was easy enough; the “tomorrow” part of the warning could mean any time over the next week. And, she was used to mysteries enough that she ignored them for the most part.
Wren was in her 30s now, but she discovered she could speak to birds when she was about nine years old. She never learned what made her so special, but she accepted it. If the birds did not have the brains to give her an answer, she didn’t need one. The moment she made her decision to hold off her grocery run for a few days, a third bird landed on her shoulder.
“You’re a good man, Sarah. He’s coming to the square tomorrow. Don’t go,” it said.
“Okay, I won’t go,” Wren replied with a shrug. The bird flew off. It was only a second or two before a fourth one landed.
“You’ve always been good to me, Raymond. You must leave. He’s here tomorrow.”
“Stupid birds,” Wren shook her head. “Fine, I’ll leave tomorrow,” she said. The bird flew off, and another landed right away. She started to feel uneasy. In over 20 years, the birds were never this determined to get her attention. It started to feel like a warning.
“Here’s here tomorrow. Run, Peter!” It flew off, and Wren waited for the next one.
“Hola, Pajarito.” a man said from behind her. She jumped in her seat and turned around. A tall, lean, bearded man smiled at her. He was almost as pale as his bone-white beard; both beard and white hair were impeccably groomed. He wore an elegant forest-green suit with a white vest and white bow-tie. The number ’37’ was tattooed on his cheek directly under his right eye. The eyeball itself consisted of a rotating glass eye that looked like a spinning globe. “I know how unhelpful our feathered friends can be,” he said. “They tried to warn you, but they just couldn’t.”
“Who are you?” Wren stood from the park bench and took a step back. “What do you wa-” As soon as her foot landed, green vines shot out from the ground beneath her. They snaked up both her legs and tightened around her body; the vines gagged her then lifted Wren, struggling, into the air. She was sure he was the one responsible, but he did not so much as twitch a finger to control the vines. The well-dressed gentleman smiled at her.
“Don’t be afraid, Pajarito. I know exactly where I’m going to put you, you’ll love it,” he said. “You may call me, Peppermint.”