Out on the glass parapets that crowned and fortified the rooftops of the Daedalus offices, belying the modern transparency the building and at least the first forty floors of financial offices espoused, Adrian saw something that made him lean forward in his bonds. It was too high, too late in the year, and after the roughing up from Miranda’s footsoldiers, not to mention her…antics, it was hard to believe.
But he saw the brown bird cheerfully scuttle along the edge, perhaps trilling to itself, perhaps not.
Adrian knew what it meant and the memory of his first brown bird ran through him like a bolt of blue light from one of Jack’s collection of concealed tasers. He smiled despite himself, despite the crazed look in Miranda’s eyes, despite feeling the metal of the cuffs press into the critical junctures of wrists and ankles. What little he knew of his newest captor was from the former, but Jack’s impressions seemed fairly dead-on. She was not a woman who was meant to relax. A maenad. But it was too involuntary to stop himself from risking the reverie. It had, he later realized, later treasured, later despaired, been the beginning of everything.
It was elementary school. Warren G. Harding Elementary. A squat building in a town of squat, unadorned facilities, half-burrowed into a hillock. A weeping willow had grown aggressively nearby, a patron saint, and it hung so low its drooping limbs would reach out and stroke your cheek as you passed. It was a Thursday – hamburger day – when Adrian followed his class into the library, the teachers letting him go last because nobody told Adrian he couldn’t go last. He saw a girl, with stringy straw-colored hair shuffle towards one of the library’s cubby holes with two different shoes on. Granddad said you watch. You figure out, but you don’t need to bother people with every thought in your head. Still. He wanted to know why she had two different shoes. One ratty and red, and one a faded pink but a completely different kind of sneaker. He’d never seen that before. He wondered, really, why he hadn’t thought to do it himself. Why it mattered at all if your feet didn’t hurt. A shoe did what a shoe did. Probably his grandfather would have made him go back upstairs and stop being a goofball and he would have gone back upstairs and made one pair or another.
Later, he was trying to turn his attention back to the book he was supposed to be selecting for his book report when he noticed a brown bird fly in through the open window. It fluttered around the room from bookshelf to bookshelf before dipping down and settling itself on the pine privacy barrier in front of Lillie Green.
She did not look up at it. In fact, nobody seemed to pay any attention to its sudden presence.
Very quietly, he watched the bird. He wanted to tell the librarian, Mrs. Flanigan about it but birds got scared when you made noise.
It cocked its head.
Adrian watched over the cover of his book. He flipped to the next page and the bird startled and flew back out through the window.
When the teacher rung, he gathered up his books, shoving them in his backpack and slung it over backpack
“There was a bird…right here.” He whispered and pointed to where he had seen it.
She cocked her head, confused, but there was something he hadn’t…he was too young to understand.
“There was a…there was a bird.” The look deepened.
“Okay.” The first bird. The first word.