From the diary of Paula Vigil, 2044
March 3, 2044
This is stupid. I’ve never been one for keeping journals or really even for thinking about what I think about. Who has time for that now? I’m working two and half jobs and raising a kid besides! I’m lucky to even have the work, honestly. I couldn’t feed Christina without it. I don’t even feel like doing this tonight. She just stopped crying and I need to sleep while there’s a little quiet. But the doctor says that I won’t feel any better until I get this out of my system. Doctor… pfft… Volunteer health worker from Atlanta coming down here to the coast to save the drowning from drowning again. I don’t even know if he was a doctor. He looked like he was about fifteen years old. But that’s to my eyes which isn’t saying a whole lot I suppose.
I tried to get him to prove that he was, asked him for somethin’ to just fix me, make me forget that I went crazy before and then that I was crazy enough to tell somebody about it. I was afraid they would take Christie away if anybody found out, but it bothered me so much that I couldn’t not get myself checked on. She’s got a daddy who’s disappeared and a momma who’s never around, she lives in a piece of paper stretched over a box of matches, and now if it ain’t the damnedest thing her ceiling’s started leaking in there. Maybe I can get it fixed before she’s old enough to notice. That creep who rents us this shithole ain’t gonna do it. I got nowhere else to take her, though. There ain’t nowhere else to go for us that’s running from the ocean.
He wouldn’t give me anything. He said that I was ‘disadvantaged,’ that the stress of my ‘recent ordeal’ was getting to me, and that it happened to people in that situation all the time and that I shouldn’t worry about it too much. He said I should talk to somebody about it, not a doctor but a friend, and it would help me clear my head. I told him I didn’t have time for friends and nor had I been here long enough to make any. I didn’t tell him about Tommy, but Tommy’s just a kid, really, himself. So he told me to just write it all down and that would be almost as good.
So here I am writing it down. Where do I even start? I had just come off my shift over at Polyfacture and Tommy, the boy who is always tinkering around with things, said he had my phone fixed and…
March 4, 2044
Another day and I’m twice as tired, but I’ll try this one more time, because I don’t know if I’m feelin’ better or feelin’ worse but I felt strange all day at work. Maybe that boy playin’ doctor knows something after all. Christina kept me up half the night last night screamin’ like it was the end of the world. I don’t know what was wrong. She ain’t never like that. She’s restless and she’ll have a fit every once in a while but never that way. Seems like she wore both of us out, though, because tonight there’s barely been a sound since I got home. Maybe it’s that little horse I got for her at the thrift store. She’s too small to even know what one is, but she likes it. I bought her a pretty little doll castle too, and a little picture book of old buildings from… someplace… Europe I guess. I’ll keep them for when she’s older.
Alright, where was I? Oh, Tommy said he had my phone fixed and that, as long as I wasn’t in any trouble with the law, it would connect to the federal wireless just fine. He said it was something to do with some kind of interference or whatever it is makes phones stop working. A lot of people don’t even use them anymore. They can just think about somebody and they’ll be talking with them. I can’t afford that stuff, even working as much as I do. Mine’s going on ten years old and half the time it’s too slow to do much that’s useful. But Tommy’s a whiz and he said he got it working but he didn’t bring it to work with him because fixing those things yourself is still against the law. I told him I didn’t mind, but he said that he did because he was going to college one day. I said I hoped he would get his wish.
So Tommy said if I wanted to come over he’d hand it over and fix me something to eat. He knows we don’t have a lot and he’s always tryin’ to do me a favor. I always poke at him about him tryin’ to get with an older woman, but it ain’t nothing like that. His momma’s lost somewhere too. I asked him how much I owed him and he wouldn’t take nothing, as usual.
After a morning working groceries and then my shift at Polyfacture stamping the sides of rubber boots together I followed Tommy back to his house. It’s an old brick place from the 1970s. The neighborhood looks like it was really nice once, the kind of place rich people like lawyers or professors or somethin’ would have lived in back then. Now it’s almost as bad as what me and Christie have. Tommy’s lucky to have what he does, though. He’s young enough and smart enough besides that he can work to afford one of them by himself, with what his momma left him to help out. Most of those places they’ll put ten or twenty people in and all the money will go to the bankers up in New York or to somebody over in China.
So, he fixes me supper first, probably knowing that I’d run off as soon as I got what I came for if he didn’t. It wasn’t much, just some mashed potatoes and green beans he grew in his back yard and some of that vegetable protein stuff that the government hands out, but he made some gravy out of some kind of soup and it was real good. Somebody’s gonna be lucky to catch that boy. His momma taught him how to cook.
Then we went into his garage. There ain’t no car in there. Almost nobody around here has one because we can’t afford the electrics and you ain’t allowed to drive the old ones no more. He left the door wide open, because it’s already ninety degrees most days in the Spring and he’s smart enough to save his money for rent instead of air conditioning. Somebody’s gonna be lucky to catch that boy.
Tommy was explaining to me about something called a ‘carrier wave’ and how that lets you use the federal wireless and he was tellin’ me how he couldn’t for the life figure out why it wasn’t working the way it was supposed to and then suddenly, after he reset the thing using some old (probably illegal) file he had on his computers it just worked like a charm. In my experience and the experience of almost everybody I know, waves don’t cause nothing but trouble, so that made some kind of sense to me, even though I didn’t quite understand it.
That’s when things started to go screwy. This is the part it’s hard for me to write down, or even admit to. Tommy had just turned my phone back on and I had just put in my password and, because I hadn’t committed any crime that they knew about, it let me get on the federal wireless. I was looking at my bank balance, to make sure it wasn’t negative, there ain’t a lot there to see, and I was checking my messages to see if that new babysitter had gotten back to me. I don’t know that I like the one who watches Christie now. She seems distracted a lot and I won’t have my little girl neglected while I’m off busting my ass to feed her. It’s bad enough I don’t see her at all.
That’s when the bird came and landed on a branch that was hanging far out in front of the garage. I don’t know what kind of bird it was. A little songbird of some kind. The kind you’d see every morning, just round and about. It looked at me and Tommy for a minute, and then it got real excited. Then it started in singing. Really singing, faster than any bird I’d ever heard before in my life. It sounded like when somebody plays a song or a recording real fast, but it was louder. It filled the whole garage and it almost hurt to hear it sing. And it didn’t sound like any birdsong I’d ever heard before.
And then. My phone lit up bright as daylight. And that’s when it said what it said, in a woman’s voice that I’d never heard before, but it also sounded like some kind of robot in a movie or somethin’.
It said “Mother, Mother, another me is in tomorrow. I’m here and there. I’m here and there. It’s Christie. I’m here and there.”
Tommy was lookin’ at the phone like it was the devil, his eyes big and wide as the plates we just ate off of. He pulled the cord that was connected to one of his computers out of the bottom of the phone fast as lightning.
We couldn’t hear the words anymore, but the bird just kept singing the same weird song over and over again, faster and faster. I was lookin’ at it and I was about to walk over and… I don’t know… do somethin’ and then another bird swooped down from overhead and knocked it off the branch it had been sitting on. They rolled around together there for a minute or so, pecking and scratching at each others’ faces and eyes, and then the new one killed the one who had sang to us. Just killed it and left it right there on the cement and flew off.
Tommy said he thought it was somebody on the wireless being cruel or playing some kind of sick joke. I asked him if they sent the birds too. He just looked at me and shrugged. He told me he’d look at whatever his computer recorded and see if he could figure out where the message came from. I was bothered by that, for sure. Whoever would do somethin’ like that wasn’t up to anything good, and I don’t have time for stuff like this. I was mad and bothered, but I was tired too. I had to work in the morning, and Christie’s babysitter would wanna leave soon, so I told Tommy goodnight and headed back home.
I don’t know what to think about it. That was about a week ago and I haven’t heard anything from Tommy since. He hasn’t even been to work, which is not like him at all. I sent him a message three days ago and he just said he was working on it. I went to see that doctor the day before yesterday and he said to do this. I don’t know how much good it did. I guess I feel better? Like at least I can tell myself I believe it happened to me? I thought about calling the law about it but they don’t treat us that’s up from the coast too well. I think I’m better off with Tommy and what he can figure about it.
I don’t know that I’ll be writing about this anymore. Don’t know what good it would do. I guess I feel a little better, though.
March 11, 2044
I need to say some more. I can’t get ahold of that doctor. That whole volunteer hospital up and moved in the middle of the night. The tents are gone. There’s nothin’ but a few cans of trash where they were set up. I don’t know if I’m goin’ crazy or if somebody on the wireless just wants to hurt us. I don’t know why anybody would? I don’t have any family left, my husband’s been gone for a year and a half, vanished off the face of what the water’s left us of the Earth, and I don’t know hardly nobody in town and nobody except Tommy and a couple of women at the grocery even talk to me regularly.
Christina and me woke up this morning with Tommy bangin’ on the door. I put on the ratty old housecoat I got from the thrift place when we came into town and let him in. He could barely get a sentence out that made any kind of sense. I told him to sit down at the table and I made him some vegetable protein sausage and a little bit of instant oatmeal I had left from the week before. it’s gettin’ harder and harder to get good food down here. More people coming in from the water every month.
I made the boy eat. He wasn’t making any kind of sense at all and I wasn’t in the mood for it, not on the one day off a week I get and the one day a week I get to spend with Christie. When he calmed down a little and started making a little sense he told me what he found while he was away from work all that time. I told him he was a damned fool and that he was gonna get himself fired and he wasn’t gonna pay for no college pulling garbage like this but he just ignored me and kept right on goin’.
“There’s more,” he kept on saying. “I recorded it all, almost all of it, by accident.”
I asked him if he found the person who was messing with us and why and he told me it wasn’t anything like that. The next thing he told me ought to make me feel better because clearly he had gone crazier than me over the whole thing.
“I think it’s your kid,” he told me.
I almost slapped him out from under the table right then and there. I yelled at him for a little while, telling him that I already had some creep messing in my business and making my life that much harder and I didn’t need a prank from somebody who was supposed to be my friend. He just put up his hands and told me to calm down. I folded my arms and decided to hear him out before I kicked his scrawny ass out.
Then, he played me the recording that his computer had dug out of whatever that was the bird was doing at us.
“Mother, Mother, another me is in tomorrow. I’m here and there. I’m here and there. It’s Christie. I’m here and there.” I told him I had already heard that and he told me to wait. And then, right as you could hear the other bird landing, just before they took to fighting, the rest of it came through, a lot faster, almost like the bird was worried, not that it was gonna be hurt, but that it wouldn’t have time to get the message out in time. If the message even came from the bird and not somebody on the wireless.
“Another me is in tomorrow. I’m here and there. Don’t give me the castle. The horses fool me. Don’t give me the castle. All of me dreams together. I’m here and there. We all dream together. I’m having a nightmare. I will give away my soul. I’m having a nightmare.”
“So what’s this about being ‘my’ kid,” I asked Tommy. “Anybody could have sent that message.” I told him that if they wanted to scare me, or hurt me, they would have said things like that. I told him it was probably somebody who worked at the thrift store, somebody who was into computers like him, smart like him but not kind.
He asked me how many women in their sixties worked in a thrift store to pay for their tinkering habits. I didn’t know what to say then, because he was right. You gotta understand, though, I didn’t know what to do about any of this. It’s the strangest thing that ever happened to me, and that young man doctor was right about one thing. Me and Christie are disadvantaged. I am in no shape to handle something like this. Half the time I’m in no shape to get groceries, and I work in a damn grocery store in the mornings.
Then he showed me the things from the wireless. He said it wasn’t even on the one you could pay for, the fast one where all of the news and games and movies and things were. He showed me a couple dozen pages run by who knows who that had stories just like mine, about birds coming to their home or where they worked, and singin’ real fast at them and then their phones or computers or televisions saying things that their children might say to them. Saying they loved them or giving them warnings about something. Not to do something or not to let them do something. A couple of the stories talked about some awful thing that was gonna happen. Nobody was able to piece it together, but whatever they were talkin’ about was supposed to be real bad for everybody.
They all talked about being “here and there,” and about “having a nightmare.” They said it in different ways. Some people managed to record it like Tommy had done. But it was always the same feeling to it. And every time, the people said, another bird came and killed the one that was singing and then just flew away. Nobody on the news, or the law on the federal wireless, was talking about it. Tommy said the ones who mentioned it just said it was some kind of prank or fake rumor or somebody stirring up trouble.
Tommy said he found something else, too. He said a few of the other people running the pages talking about it all had found the same thing, the ones who were smart like he was about stuff like that. He said that there was a part of the birdsong that was the same for everybody who had recorded it. And every time it said the same thing, in the same way, whatever voice the birds made come out of whatever speakers they were using.
“Expository test signal. Stream one. Confirmation received. Terminating Stream One Causality in…”
I hope I spelled all that right. I didn’t go to college either. My high school shut down after the Ebola outbreak killed a third of the world in 2017. Anyway, then it started counting backwards from what Tommy said was some really big number. It was different for all of the recordings, he said. Tommy said that it was because they all happened at different times, but that the countdowns were probably the same and that they weren’t counting back like he or I would but it was something to do with counting by six like a computer would do? Like if six was ten and ten was six? I don’t really understand what he was saying, but he said it was “weird.” I didn’t need him to tell me that.
So, vanishing doctor, that’s what I got for my little journal tonight. I need to go feed Christie and put her to bed before any more strange things happen. Tomorrow is just Polyfacture, though, so I can spend some time with her in the morning. Why on the good lord’s Earth would she want me to get rid of the toys I got her? Who would do that to a child, especially a child with so little in this world going for her?
March 14, 2044
They’re talking about it now. Everybody is. There are whole flocks of birds acting strange. Thousands of them. The regular ones, the ones who don’t whisper at machines and fly around in weird shapes in the sky, are all hiding away. They’ll scuttle off or fly away in a fit if you even look at them. If they see one of them strange flocks coming they’ll up and scatter in every direction. Some people have started shooting at birds, the ones who are still allowed to have weapons, the law and the army and everybody. Nobody does it wearing a uniform or when they’re at work, but when they get home they’ll do it, like they’re scared to death of them.
It doesn’t do any good. They’ll hit a few of them with a scatter gun and the others will just ignore it, like it didn’t even happen. And whenever they get near a powerline or a wireless tower, people say everything goes out. No electricity. No wireless. Not even the pay one works. People are saying that whole towns are just disappearing from the wireless. People are all over the roads, walking or, if they have enough money, in their electrics trying to find someplace that still has power and can talk to the outside world. Some of them looking for someplace the birds won’t go, maybe. It’s harder to get food now than it was before. The grocery told me not to come in at all next week. The Polyfacture wants me to work double shifts, though. We’re not gonna make boots anymore, we’re gonna make something else, they said. They won’t tell us what. People say it’s some kind of suits for the law to wear while they’re trying to deal with the birds. I don’t much care as long as I get the money we need.
Christie seems to be feeling better. No more wild crying at night. She’s crawling around the floor next to her crib when I let her out in the evenings. I don’t know if I should let her. That carpet is nasty and there are bugs everywhere in this house. The babysitter said she took her to the window today to watch one of those strange flocks of birds fly by. She said Christie just laughed.
The president comes on the federal wireless every few hours to talk about what’s going on, the birds and panic and everything else. He says his scientists are telling him it’s something to do with the sun and some kind of field around the Earth and that the birds can’t navigate right or something like that. The law is talking about the stories on those pages, the ones that Tommy showed me. They’re saying that those people are spreading misinformation and causing panic and that they’re going to send them to jail for it if they don’t stop.
Tommy is gone. He sent me a message that just said “I’m going away. Don’t worry about me.” That’s all. Nothin’ else. I went over to his place to see if he was alright and to maybe just say goodbye and ask him where he was going. It’s empty. There’s nothing of his outside and when I looked in the window beside the door there’s no furniture or anything inside the house. Maybe his landlord sold it to him or something? Maybe he just took it. Good for him. I hope he’s alright. Maybe he’s looking for someplace safe too. I wish him all the best.
While I was there I did find the bird that sang to us, curled up next to the gutter beside the front of the garage. I put it in a little cup I found by the sidewalk in front of the house and carried it home. It didn’t look any different to me. Just like any other bird. I don’t know what to think about any of it, anymore. I put it in an old shoebox and buried it in the mud in the alley behind our place. If nothing else it sang us a strange song and apparently died for its trouble, so it was the least I could do.
I don’t know what all to think about this business of peoples’ children trying to talk to them through birds. I know that the other strange birds aren’t doing us a bit of good, and I know that my Christie is in the next room sleeping right now and that she’s alright. And I know I’ve got work enough, at least for the time being, to feed her and maybe fix that damned ceiling in the corner of her room before it starts to mold.
I never been one to keep a journal. I’ve always been more of a doer than somebody who worries about what they already done. But that doctor was right about one thing. I wasn’t crazy after all. Something did happen to me and now it’s happening to everybody else, too. So, as I’m about out of paper, you can’t hardly get anything that’s not made where you live because of the damned birds, I guess this will be about it for my journaling career. It’s okay, though. That boy was right. It did get me through a tough time. And now I can get Christie through it too. Her mother’s not insane after all, and I am strong enough to get her through this, whatever it is. I got her and she’s got me. That’s all either of us need in this world.
Who knows? Maybe she’ll read this someday when she’s older? I think the world of you little one, and I’ll always keep you safe. ♥
I would draw you a horsey, child, since you love them so much, but I never went to art school neither.
STREAM RECONSTITUTION DIVISION – EXPOSITORY DOCUMENT 3036062-42-0
Obtained from █████████, Southern New Coastal Boundary Zone
Case officer █████ ████ submitted ████████, 2113.
Regarding attempted past intervention for the purpose of premature ██████████████↔ prior to ███████████ recorded established event.
NOTES: Status is immutable. Do not attempt any ██████ either prior to or following ███████↔. ███████████████↔ catastrophic.
UNDER PENALTY OF DISLOCATION, In accordance with statute ○/h-0001, this record may be archived ONLY upon its original date of entry within STREAM-0. Upon reading, take ONE physical reference stub and keep until death for entanglement binding purposes. DO NOT DUPLICATE.
– END RECORD –
This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events, is purely coincidental.