The Prey

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The cars leaped by, flashing and blurring at the boy as he stood and stared. His toddler toes dug into the dirt on the roadside, stained black by years of walking through mud. The cars were fast, and contrasted boldly with the yellow-tinged forest on either side. The boy's breath felt heavy in his lungs as he inhaled, burdened by pollution from a nearby city. The air was gray, almost to the point where he could see it.

The boy took a step closer to the white lines of the road. It was a hesitant step, as he wasn't used to noise like the "whooshing" emanating from the cars; there hadn't been any of those in the forest. In that hesitant step, the boy could make out what looked like an odd piece of fog. It was as if it was moving, twirling in circles. He squinted -- it wasn't fog. It was a bird, a tiny blue jay. It was half dead on the road, one wing shattered, trying to take off. Its feathers were scattered all across the concrete: white, and blue, and smoky.

A red car whisked past, leaving the boy's untamed black hair strewn in front of his brown eyes. He brushed it away with a pale, stubby hand, looking at the bird. He watched it for awhile, the highway silent. "Bird," said the boy, surprising himself. His seldom-used voice tasted raspy on his tongue, but he liked the sound of it. "Bird?"

A thought struck him then -- everyone had a voice, and the boy was lonely. He wondered what the bird's voice sounded like. "Talk for me, bird." He took a step closer, speculating agitatedly why the jay wouldn't answer.

A car screamed by, evading the boy, but only just. He leaped forward out of reflex, bringing himself closer to the bird. He could see the jay in full now, its feathers like pine needles sharp with red liquid. It had been so long since the boy had used names, he couldn't remember what it was called.

The boy was in the middle of the road now, the bird opposite him. Three or four steps out of reach, the boy calculated. He felt his abdomen snarl at him; three or four steps until his next meal.





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