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Tuesday, 9 December 2014

The Christmas Bird

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“Isn't it ridiculous?” said Sylvia.

“What?” asked Candice, who was standing beside her, staring into the window of the pet shop.

“Those stupid snow motifs painted on the window, and Father Christmas standing there, dressed in his red suit with white fur. If he were really here, he'd die of the heat. This is Joburg, you know, and it's the middle of summer. When have you ever known it to snow in Joburg in December?”

“You're probably right,” replied Candice, and chuckled, “It reminds me a little of that Ed Jordan song. Still, I think you might be over-thinking it. You should just enjoy the season. Hey,” she continued, pointing at a bright green parrot she spied inside the shop, “look at that parrot. Isn't he cute? Let's go inside, I want to take a closer look.”

***

Sylvia squealed with delight when the parrot squawked “Hello, pretty lady!”

“You're right,” she said to Candice, “he is adorable! I wonder how much he costs?”

But Candice wasn't listening. She was staring into the bird's eyes, mesmerised.

Hello, Candice.

“Did you hear that?” said Candice. “He just said, 'Hello, Candice'!”

“No he didn't,” replied Sylvia, “He said 'Hello, pretty lady'. Are you all right?” She pressed the back of her hand against Candice's forehead.

She can't hear me, Candice. Please don't tell her what I'm saying. She will think you're crazy. If you buy me, I'll make you rich. You'll never have to work again.

Candice shook her head and brushed Sylvia's hand away. She was hypnotised, under the parrot's spell, but she understood what he was saying.

“You're right,” she said, and chuckled nervously. “I just got carried away. I guess he just spoke to me, in a different way. Oh, Sylvia, I just have to have him!”

“I'd love to as well, but I don't think it would work at my place. I have cats. Find out how much he costs. If you buy him, and keep him in your flat, promise me I can come visit him whenever I want?”

***

Candice carried the cage with the parrot inside, and placed him on the mantel, next to the Christmas tree that she had set up the night before.

“Now, what should I name you?”

My name is Petronus.

“All right then, Petronus.” Candice was suddenly feeling very sure of herself, after the initial shock of Petronus speaking to her, back at the pet shop. “You made me a promise, of what you would do if I brought you home.”

Check your bank balance, online.

Candice walked over to the computer, opened her Internet browser, and logged into her banking website. She checked her balance, and saw an amount ending in more zeroes than she could count. She clapped her hands together, and was just about to thank the parrot, when there came a knock at the door.

Your dinner guest has arrived.

***

Candice opened the door to find Sylvia standing there, holding a bottle of wine. Before Candice could greet her, Sylvia pushed her way past into the flat.

“Oh, he's gorgeous!” she said, upon seeing the parrot. “What did you decide to call him?”

“Thank you,” said Candice. “His name is Petronus.”

“That's a funny name for a parrot!”

“It's weird, Syl. He just... spoke to me, and I knew that's what I had to call him. Anyway, put that wine on the table, and come look here. I want to show you something on my bank.”

Sylvia stared at the screen, showing Candice's bank balance. “How the hell-”

Before she could finish her question, Sylvia doubled over in pain, the palms of her hands pressing into her eyes. She screamed.

“Sylvia? What's wrong?” screamed Candice. She was able to pry Sylvia's hands away from her eyes, and, staring into them, she saw that they were balls of pure red.

“My eyes! They're burning, and I can't see!” sobbed Sylvia.

By this time, Sylvia was rolling around on the floor, and blood had begun to seep from her eyes and down her cheeks.

Candice was frantic. She fell onto the floor on top of Sylvia, trying to calm her, but unsure of what to do. After a few moments, Sylvia stopped sobbing. She stopped moving, too, and the blood stopped running down her face. Candice checked, and found that she had stopped breathing.

As Candice lay over Sylvia's lifeless form, sobbing, she began to feel cold.

Why did you do that, Candice?

“Do what?” she said, through her tears, and looked at the parrot. But something to the left of Petronus caught her eye. The Christmas tree, sitting next to him on the mantel, had a thin layer of white atop its branches. Snow?

The temperature was dropping fast. Candice hugged her arms and rubbed them with her hands to keep warm. She glanced at the window; it was frosting over. On the floor, the blood from Sylvia's eyes was frozen on her cheeks.

Candice started to weep. The tears froze on her face as soon as they left her eyes. She looked up at the parrot on the mantel, and mouthed the word “Why?”

I promised you. You'll never have to work again.

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