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I could hear them every day. Sometimes they sounded like little horses cantering around on the warehouse’s rooftop. Hooves reverberating on metal sheets. Their calls weren’t what I expected, a strange staccato, harsh and guttural. Kak kak kak.
That day I got to work early, as I often did, to make my breakfast in the staff kitchen while it was quiet. Sometimes, if I was lucky, I could go a whole day without speaking to another person.
Suddenly, something hit the kitchen window with force. I looked out and saw a magpie stunned on the ground. I wondered if I should tell someone.
Two more magpies flew down. One went to the stunned magpie and nuzzled him with his beak, trying to stir him awake. The other stood sentry, beady eyes darting from the roof to the resuscitation operation on the ground. I watched a while longer, mesmerised by their petrol-black feathers and clean white bellies, by their clear emotional distress. It was something like humanity.
I carried on making my breakfast and went upstairs. I didn’t tell anyone what had happened.
From my desk, I could hear the sentry bird screeching every so often, like an update for the others. Looking outside I saw the paramedic bird’s attempts had grown more frantic; he was desperately pushing the unresponsive bird now.
As the day wore on, the cries from the rooftop grew louder, wilder, as they accepted the fallen bird’s fate. It was intense, funereal. A palpable grief. So many had gathered, galloping, braying. Mourning.
Colleagues wondered what had happened. Soon after I heard the scraping of a shovel.
Later that night, as I lay in bed, the landlords’ voices rising through the floorboards, I wondered who might try to revive me. Who would scrape me up when I fell?
Lisa Murphy was born in London and raised in Ireland. She has worked in book publishing for a number of years and has recently been longlisted for the Primadonna Prize.