by Daniel Algara
The voices aren’t always imaginary…
I would like to explain to you exactly what I am, though the endeavor is feckless and too much an exercise in imagination. What shall I say? That I have the wings of a bat, or that I have wings at all? I do not. I do, however, resist the pull of matter. In what way can I describe my hands, though I have no hands? Still, I do manipulate. Therefore, I shall refrain from descriptions that relate to things you may have seen or invented in your own mind.
When I first came to Albert, in the hall of the asylum, I did not know that he was of inferior mind. Had I known, I might have chosen another human. But who can say what may have been? That he saw me at all concerned me, for I have floated in the ether for ten thousand years unseen by your interesting and useless eyes.
Albert had great fears, but he was not insane. I know that now. When at first he sensed me, I asked him, “From whence came your depths?”
I did not use words, of course, but he understood me when I spoke. He answered me in a string of terrified screams. I understood him also.
It had not occurred to me that if anyone were to see me, it might cause such a reaction, for no one ever had. I tried to calm him. It seemed that when met with something foreign, his immediate assumption was that its primary intent was to harm him. I swear to you I was only curious at first. I had passed over the earth and the land you call Spain many times and never encountered eyes that could see me. You might say, in such a way, that he was foreign to me also.
I did not press him immediately. I watched him for many days.
Albert had befriended a bird. It came to his window nightly and he fed it through the bars. He only fed the bird a small portion at a time. He knew that when the food was gone the bird would fly away. He spoke to the bird in the most peculiar tones calling it “Hermosa and pajaro linda.”
I know now that attachments of this sort are important to those of you who are less understanding of your own kind.
I watched Albert for long stretches, following him at a distance, out of his ‘range’; I suppose you might say. Every night he fed his bird. In time I desired the unspoken and unseen bond Albert shared with his bird. I have never bonded with anything. I roam, I learn, I shift, but I am, in your plane, a mere entity, or perhaps less than that–a force.
I allowed Albert to see me from distances great enough that he would not be afraid. With each appearance, I would close the distance.
In time, he allowed me to be near him. He recoiled if I moved too suddenly, and cried if I touched him; his shudders annoyed me, his cries thrilled me. I wished to make him scream as often as I might, but when fear overcame him, he would not respond to me the way his bird did when he fed the creature. I ventured not to touch Albert for some time.
When he once again tolerated my presence without fear, I entered his room. He would feed his bird and I would observe. He shot glances at me often, suspicious of my intentions.
My pleasure roused much when we began to speak to each other.
“Are you here to take me away?” he said to me one night.
I learned his projection and replied in similar manner, “I am another bird.”
“I have nothing to feed you.”
“Perhaps I can feed you.”
“Then I am the bird?”
“Is it so bad?”
“If I tell them I see you, I will never leave here.”
“You are here because your perception is fraught with inaccuracies?”
“I am the bird then,” he whispered.
We talked of many things on many nights. When I left him, as I did at times, he seemed eager for my return. He appeared to enjoy my presence in the same way I had taken pleasure in his terror.
Albert, who had since gained trust enough for a pen and paper, began writing night after night.
“Whom do you send to?” I said.
“I write to my daughter. She was forced to place me the asylum. When my wife was murdered, I feared many things. I heard voices and planned to kill many people. I did not know who I was. I gave her no choice.”
“And does it matter now? So much that you must write?”
“It has been many years, but I feel better now. I feel that I would like to see her again. I would like to go home.”
I cannot express here, with so few expressions yet available to me, how this affected me. I had known anger before. The feeling perhaps imitated that one, but it was a bad imitation. I may have been panicked.
Clearly, Albert must remain here. He will be my bird and I will feed him and he will give me pleasure. When I look down at my hand. I see that it is Albert’s. His screams are still sounding from somewhere deep within him, you might call it his soul. I breathe deep with pleasure at his mind’s terror. When I posses him, his spirit begs to be set free. I do set it free, from time to time, so I can observe and so he can be my bird.
Even now, as I use his pen and write with words from his own mind, I feel as I never have before. He is begging to be set free. He will never leave here. I need Albert. Perhaps in some ways I am the bird.
In a glance, Albert had seen me, but until then I had not known my own capability for connection. I had not known that I needed it. Because of Albert, I am a new being entirely.
“The Bird of the Asylum” © 2012 Daniel Algara
Original fiction debuting at Fear and Trembling Magazine.
(Image Credit: Bookis Smuin, Wikimedia Commons)