When Tim leaves his flat the pigeon's there again. He knows it's the same one because it's got this funny white splodge on its left wing. Ragged, grey feathers. Scaly feet. Two beady black eyes, watching him.
Tim can't remember when the pigeon began following him to work. Two, maybe three weeks back. The days blur into one and it's hard to say. He didn't think much of it at first, but then he started seeing it in the same spot outside his flat. Perched on the grey railing by the front steps.
Always there, staring.
It's easier than he thinks it'll be. He buys the rat poison from Asda, a loaf of Kingsmill. Sprinkles it on the first slice and lobs it next to the bird on his way to the station. When he gets home 10 hours later, eyes stinging and tired, there's no sign of it.
Tim wakes early the next morning. It's a Friday, and although he knows he should feel happy the week's over, he just feels empty. His flat is quiet, the bedroom curtains fluttering in the breeze from the fan. As he gets up to draw them he feels a hard knot of dread, tightening in the pit of his stomach.
He yanks the curtains back in one sweeping motion. They're there. Not a handful of birds or even a dozen, but hundreds. Jostling for space on balcony railings. Plump grey bodies packed together. Black eyes, watching him.
Tim draws the curtains again. Gets back into bed. His back feels hot, itchy.
He shuts his eyes and hears a thousand wings beating in his mind.
Copyright Sam Haysom 2018.
This story was originally written for Blathnaid Healy.
A group of teenagers go hiking
on the moors of southern England
– and disappear, one by one