Black River of Air

The sound was like the rushing of water.  Big water, moving fast, rising and falling and swirling.  It was the sound of movement, and in the center of it was a cacophony of voices, querulous and insistent.  Under the voices and the onslaught of motion was a bass line, a percussive hollow thumping as of oars in deep water.  It was all woven together in a bewilderment of auditory information that assaulted the reason.  Seated at my computer, fingers poised above the beckoning keys, I froze.  What on earth is that noise?


Thrusting my head out the front door, I saw a sky filled with whizzing black comets, a feathered sky with a thousand bright black eyes and sharp faces, claws out-thrust and wings beating the air like a war drum.  Within seconds, the flying shards of night had stuck to the naked branches of the hedgerow and resolved themselves into a clan of blackbirds.  A second flight descended into the cornfield with barely a rustle, and the green lawn was peppered with stragglers.  Then began the hoarse bickering of a lively marketplace,  hundreds of voices speaking at once and with some emphasis, shredding the air like paper with their sharp rasps.  The sound of all that exuberant conversation climbed inside my skull until it hummed and whispered like a shell filled with tidal secrets.  The trees seemed to have bloomed in ebony foliage that shook and shuddered and leapt from branch to branch.

Part of the colony exploded toward the clouds with the vacuum effect of a thunderclap.  It wheeled and dipped, and another section of the hedgerow caught black fire.  The group among the cornstalks rose, dropping long dun banners of leaf and the occasional feather, took stock of the topography, and settled again to their quarrelsome feast.  For several hours, the birds rested and foraged.  Then, as one, they took wing and the black river of air rushed on.