By Mar Ovsheid

I hatch a little bird inside my heart, feed it tear-crumbs, and place it on my shoulder. I have free time since things went wrong with my mother and father and sister, and I teach the bird to report their movements back to me. I keep up with the people I loved without lifting a finger.

“Mom’s looking really happy and fit,” the bird says, licking my dry cheekbones. “Dad seems less nervous for the conference this year.” 

I try and find something worth crying over, but I’ve detached so completely that nothing really cuts. 

“Sister is getting married.”


I ruminate over my dead grandmothers, the inevitable cessation of all life on the planet, dead-satellite whales moaning away at the bottom of the ocean. Nothing shakes me. 

“Have this instead.”

 I offer up my earlobe, and the bird thoughtlessly bites in. It takes a second helping, then a third, leaving nothing but an ugly stump. It swallows, flies off, and I stare at my ceiling as the sun continues its sinking.

“Your father doesn’t consider your mother attractive anymore.” 

I awaken to the bird hungrily eyeing my bloody pillow.

“Oh?” I roll my head on my neck to hide my untouched ear meat. 

“In what ways?”

The bird describes the dry and pitiable scene for me. Not for you.

“What else you got?”

“Need food.” The bird perches split-legged on my chest. “Then I’ll give.”

I let the creature gnaw down my knuckles, eating away the skin I’ve mostly kept intact. It flutters off through the window, and I pretend to proceed with something resembling a day.

“Mom’s got issues with her feet.” 

I roll my eyes.

“Tell me something I don’t know.”

“She wishes she had lemur feet instead.”

I force down a mouthful of coffee and nod half-heartedly. 

“How’d you find that out?”

“I asked.”

“You asked?”

Because birds can’t smile, it bobs up and down.

“She doesn’t know what I am. Most people are lonely, you know. They talk.” 

“Makes sense.” 

Even though I’ve got no use for this kind of information, I devour it.

The bird opens its mouth in desire and I offer up a naked shoulder. Later that evening, I lay achily on exposed muscle, turning over the information I’ve received, gleaning meager comfort. Some barely-human bone in me doesn’t feel so estranged.

The bird starts collecting data about my friends, exes, past acquaintances, random strangers. It can sense when I’ve locked onto some unknowing individual across the street and stalks them back to their house. I feed the bird my nails and hair and wrinkled palms, just to know what’s happening out there. I hardly eat, anymore. But the bird is always picking. 

When I attempt to pull weeds from the dirt patch outside my door, exposure to wind and sun on my raw veins makes it hardly worth the effort. I feel too weak on my knees. I dump the torn roots on the curbside, return indoors, crash on the couch, and await a report as my eyes cross from exhaustion.

“Feed me and I’ll speak.” The bird is so heavy on my shoulder that I can hardly keep from tilting sideways and falling onto the floor. Its talons touch bone.

“I’ve got interesting information for you. But I need to eat before I tell you anything.”

The bird’s beady eyes stare into mine. It hasn’t been cute for a while. 

“Don’t you want to know what I know?”

I shake, helplessly eroded by something else’s hunger. Belated tears wince out and burn everything they touch.

“Tears aren’t enough for me, anymore.” The bird hops closer to my eye sockets. “I don’t want leftovers.”

I use the last of my energy to shake my head and cover my face. “I don’t have anything else to give you.” The bird draws back in repulsion. “Just leave, if that’s what you’ve gotta do.”

The bird shits on the couch and vanishes through the mail slot. I wait and watch the sun go down, to ensure the creature won’t return and pluck the eyes from my skull and leave me dying blind in the dark. It takes its secrets with it, and I fall asleep and dream about my sister taking a private flight to Saturn. She sends me photos of its rings but all I can see is dust.

Next morning, I call my mother, and she doesn’t answer. Dial up my dad. Nothing. My sister blocked my number months ago. I don’t blame her, with everything I said and did.

I let two weeks slip by, enough time to grow a new layer of skin that’s capable of sitting in the car without fuzz and crumbs sticking to it. I phone both parents again, no response, and drive to their house one county over. Brittle knuckles knock and my father answers the door.

“Can we help you?” He stares at me with a look of genuine confusion. “We’re on the No Solicitation list.”

“It’s me.” I hope that through my injuries and regrown face, my voice will be familiar. But my words have become metallic and dysregulated, and I hardly recognize myself in the pinched chirping. 

My father closes the door on my new face, and I cautiously knock again. My skin shudders and glows in the hostile sun while starlings taunt from the hemlocks.

“Please, let me in. Let me see mom.”

I dial their numbers from the porch steps, but never hear their phones ring. Shadows shift and peek from behind the windows and eventually, hollowed out,  I return to my car and stay home. 

Nothing much has changed, except that I throw rocks at birds when I get the chance, and I chucked the incubator into the dumpster. That’s just the kind of person I’ve turned out to be. 

About the author

Mar Ovsheid is a spoilsport who tragically dropped—and lost—her sea monkeys in the carpet as a kid. Her work has appeared in Cream Scene Carnival, Wild Roof Journal, Scavengers, Mulberry Literary, Barzakh, and oranges journal, among others. Mar works as a housekeeper and is visible at @mar_ovsheid on Instagram.

next up...

Wayward Scryer

By P.V. Vamsidhar