INVASION by Jennie Ensor #Brexit #flashfiction

Seeing this is the week that Britain began its exit from Europe, I thought I’d mark the occasion with my short short story.

Featured image by @Stefansstuff


Featured image by @Stefansstuff

The birds arrived in small groups, day after day. In poor condition, with torn wings or broken claws or beaks missing, some floating in feather-stained water. Those that could sought shelter in the uncertain homes that the island provided: chimney pots, ledges and gutters, holes in walls.

The island’s human inhabitants did what they could to make the birds leave, complaining about their unkempt appearance and the way they sang (in harsh sounding, guttural voices). ‘Singing’ wasn’t the word for the racket they made, many older people pointed out. Men began to round up foreign birds and shut them in cages, and shoot them for stews and pies, or ‘sport’. Native birds need our protection, they argued. Foreign birds do not belong here. They are vermin, endangering our island’s way of life.

Soon it was an offence to offer help of any sort to a ‘non-native’ bird. It became one’s patriotic duty to encourage them to leave, to go back from wherever they had come, even if they had been on the island so long it was unlikely that they would recognise the place they had come from. But it didn’t really matter where they went to, in many people’s minds, ‘as long as they’re not here’.

A full-on offensive began in March of that year. Mass shootings, poisonings, habitat stripping. By late spring it seemed as if all the non-native birds had indeed left the island, along with a large number of natives. Gardens were abnormally quiet; bright plumages were absent. Until one cloudless summer morning when a dark cloud appeared offshore, low on the horizon. It grew larger and larger as it travelled inland, emitting a strange and frightening sound: a wailing, keening cry that seemed to pierce the soul. Those who heard it said it was the worst sound they’d ever heard.

Islanders were unprepared for the events of the following days. The few who survived the bird attacks left the island as soon as they could on specially chartered flights, leaving behind piles of faceless corpses. No-one ever went back.

The birds thrived, however. Robin, magpie, thrush, parakeet… They set up in abandoned homes and sang together morning and night, in a beautiful, full-throated chorus.

birds on shore

7 thoughts on “INVASION by Jennie Ensor #Brexit #flashfiction

  1. Interesting, but I found the ending very disappointing! It feeds the prejudice about [ALL] foreigners being prepared to take US over… if not as helpless refugees, then with storm and violence. Contrast this with my story, recently written for our refugees anthology,
    Nature Obeys The Rules
    (for Georgia)
    by Wilhelmina Lyre

    It all started with the migratory birds. They decided that – since the country had decided not to accept refugees and the border was closed to anyone without their papers in strict order – they would just give it a miss, skirting its airspace and changing their seasonal habitats to other, more hospitable countries.

    ‘Aren’t we refugees from encroaching winter in the south?’ argued one.
    ‘And I’ve never yet seen a bird with strict orders!’ chirped in another.
    (The vote was unanimous.)

    The fish followed suit. Salmon decided to give the rivers of ‘that’ country a miss. Shoals of herring stayed outside its 200 nautical mile zone.

    The clouds were tardy in embracing the measure, but – once they had – they were inflexible. At first, the people were overjoyed: ‘Yet another splendid, sunny day!’… ‘The longest sunny spell in recent history!’

    But when the reservoirs dried up and the crops died, the situation didn’t look quite so rosy. (Roasted, more like.) Plagues of locusts infested the parched fields.

    But then, locusts had always been blacklegs: no sense of solidarity at all!

  2. shades of Du Maurier’s The Birds, but also of the Cultural Revolution, when between 10 and 50 million Chinese starved and they banged on lids and shot birds to keep them from stealing crops (stupid ideas aren’t always fictional).

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