Wild in the country
It’s blacker than black in here, a feathered silence softened by the rustlings of hundreds — maybe thousands — of birds. I expect them to squawk and screech but it’s after closing and they’re roosting, or whatever you call it when hens sleep.
My whole life I’ve never seen a hen. The only time I’ve seen a farm was when I visited my cousin. Her neighbour’s farm wasn’t pretty and fluffy like the ones you see in films, but big and mucky, its air glutinous with the stink of slurry. Six dogs rushed us and we clambered on the gate until somebody called them off.
Next time I visited, my cousin took me instead to the manmade lake where we stared into the depths at drowned cottages. Afterwards, we roamed illegally over the ragged hillsides of the quarry in search of quicksands, explosions, and other dangers. It was a strange kind of wilderness we were exploring, a wilderness about to be sucked into the ever expanding suburb.
Now, on this night time mission to the countryside, we stand in the village pub and the locals stare at us like we’re zombie fodder delivered unto their village to die. They make fun of our outlandish clothing like we won’t catch a word of it.
After the pub closes we break into the barn. I want to touch the hens, I want to see them happy. I think we need only open the outer doors to set them free. But though the doors stand open, all is still, a thick putrid silence teeming with feathers. When the birds make no bid for freedom we shine our torches around.
We see then that they’re trapped inside wireframe cages stacked one atop the next. Row upon row upon row of them, ranged into the darkness.
The alarm starts to scream and the birds go crazy. In a race against time we yank cage doors open. Police sirens join the mix, blanketing the birdcalls with their shrill electronic beat. Before even a dozen birds are loose, we’re gone.
We scramble out of the barn, running for the safety of the car, the stereo, and the city.