“Mom, come quick!” The excited voice of nine-year-old Trevor Johns broke through to his mother who often tuned him out when she felt he was in another of his practical joke modes. He’d gotten it from his father who was also a notorious prankster. This time, however, his voice sounded urgent; maybe even a little bit frightened.
Delia Johns dropped the dish she was putting away on the counter and turned to aid her son. She hoped he hadn’t broken his arm again. An athlete, Trevor tended to get a hurt a lot. Consequently, fear lived in the back of his mother’s mind.
“What is it, Trevor? Are you hurt?” Delia reached the front porch and viewed her son from the back. She saw no indication of wounds or breaks. As she started to open the screen door, however, she instantly knew why her son had called her. Their front yard was covered in birds. There were black birds, blue birds, red birds, brown birds; every species that Delia could call to mind.
“Isn’t it cool?” Trevor turned to look at his mother with awe. “They aren’t moving a muscle. I’ve never seen birds be that still.”
“Trevor, get in the house,” Delia commanded. Her voice was such that her son knew he should not disobey. Still, he was intrigued by the birds.
“But Mom,” he began. He wanted to argue the point with her but one look at her face told him he’d better not try.
As Trevor moved in the door, Delia walked out. She looked at her neighbor’s lawn on the right, then at the one on the left. She looked across the street too. No other yard was visited by the avian creatures. Moving back inside, Delia closed and locked the door before moving to the phone.
Picking up the receiver, she wondered who to call first. She realized immediately that her husband was unavailable. He was out of town on business. So she did the next best thing. She called his childhood friend who also happened to own a pest control business.
“Bug Out,” the voice on the other end of the phone answered. “How may I help you?”
“This is Delia Johns. I need to talk with Ben please. It’s an emergency.”
“Sure Mrs. Johns. Please hold while I transfer you.”
Delia heard the phone click indicating she’d been put on hold. Less than five seconds later Ben answered.
“What’s the matter, Delia? Tina said you had an emergency.” Ben’s voice sounded worried. “What’s up?”
“You aren’t going to believe this but my front yard is full of birds,” Delia answered. “I’m not talking five or six either. Every square inch of my yard is full of birds?”
“Well, what are they doing?” Ben asked. His voice sounded a little strained.
“They are just standing there. They aren’t moving. Every one of them is turned to look directly at the house. I’m telling you, it is creepy.”
“Hey, did Derek put you up to this?” Ben needed to believe it was one of his friend’s infamous practical jokes.
“I’m not kidding, Ben,” Delia said, her voice breaking. “Please come and help us.”
The tone in Delia’s voice finally reached her friend. “I’ll be right there,” he said and quickly hung up.
Delia moved to the window to look out. The birds were still there, all in the same position as before. If she hadn’t been so freaked, she might have recognized how beautiful they were. Under the circumstances, her mind wouldn’t go there.
“Why did you call uncle Ben?” Trevor looked at his mother with uncertainty. “They’re just birds.”
“Yes, but birds don’t just do that,” Delia responded.
“Why not?” Trevor’s inquisitive mind came into play.
“They just don’t,” Delia returned nervously. “It isn’t natural.”
Trevor shrugged his shoulders and bounded up the stairs to go to his room. ‘I don’t get adults,’ he thought to himself along the way. ‘They freak out over everything.’
It suddenly occurred to Delia that she should take a picture of the event. Grabbing her cell phone, she moved back to the window and snapped a few shots. That done, she went to finish putting the dishes away. She felt better knowing that Ben was on the way.
A quick knock on the door told Delia that Ben had arrived. She rushed to open the door wondering how he’d maneuvered his way down the walkway. She soon had her answer. The birds were gone.
“So it was a practical joke,” Ben said, his face serious. “I really didn’t have time for this today, Delia. I’m surprised at you.”
“I wasn’t pulling a prank,” Delia insisted, her face still white with fear. “Look, I even took pictures so you would believe me.” Handing her phone to Ben, she watched as he scanned the five shots in rapid succession.
“Delia, are you feeling all right?” Ben’s anger turned to concern. He reached out and led his friend to the couch. “Do you need to see a doctor?”
“See a doctor because of a few birds?” Delia looked confused.
Ben turned her phone so she could see it. He showed her each picture. In all of them, all that could be seen was her empty yard.
“But Trevor saw them too,” Delia stumbled. “Trevor,” she called out to her son. “Come down here and tell you uncle about all the birds.”
“Sure, Mom,” Trevor answered. He skipped down the stairs and welcomed his uncle. Then he proceeded to verify his mother’s story.
“So do you think we are both lying?” Delia looked pointedly at her friend.
“No, I don’t,” Ben admitted. “But I don’t know what to tell you. There is no sign of the birds now.” Standing up, he went outside to perform an inspection. With that many birds supposedly present, he expected to find a lot of excrement. In truth, he found none. Returning to the house, he sat down again.
“Look, maybe the two of you are just stressed with Derek’s absence,” he proposed. “It isn’t uncommon at all.”
“We aren’t stressed,” Delia shouted, now frustrated that Ben wouldn’t believe her. “Go, just go. I won’t call you again,” she promised.
“Delia, you can call me at any time. I just don’t know what to tell you. There is no evidence that the birds were ever there. I’m sorry.”
Delia nodded and turned to walk away. A few seconds later, she heard the door close behind Ben.
“Mom, I’m sorry Uncle Ben didn’t believe us,” Trevor offered. He put his arms around his mother to give her a hug.
“It doesn’t matter,” Delia cooed. “We know what happened, don’t we?”
“Yes we do,” Ben confirmed. “Can I go back outside?”
“I don’t see why not,” Delia smiled at her son. “Just stick to the yard, will you?”
“Of course,” Ben returned as he headed for the door. A sudden shout chilled Delia to the bone.”
She turned and ran toward her son. He was staring out the front door.
‘The birds are back,’ her mind offered. However, they were not. This time the yard was full of snakes. There were big ones, little ones, poisonous ones and non-poisonous ones. Delia quickly shut the door and pulled her son into her arms.
“They’ll go away just like the birds,” she said. She didn’t believe her own words. Mother and son stood there shaking, unable to move.
The phone rang suddenly, making them both jump. Delia rushed to answer it. Ben Mathews was on the other end.
“I’m sorry I didn’t believe you,” he said earnestly. “I’m in your driveway. I see the snakes. Delia, do not come outside. I’ve called in more help to remove them.”
The heaviness in Delia’s heart finally lifted. Help was on the way.
All of a sudden, a strange hissing sound caught her attention. She turned toward the noise without thinking. At her feet were several snakes. Her scream pierced the quiet of the neighborhood. It reverberated over and over again.
Then, and only then, did Delia Johns wake up.