Nightingale

She woke up with a start. Outside, she could hear the birds chirping. She wondered if that had woken her up. Doubtful. She could always hear birdsong where she was. She stretched and yawned. Today was actually an important day for her – she had a doctors’ appointment – yet right now she felt lethargic. It was probably a symptom of not having slept enough. Yet she’d slept all day yesterday. Indeed, she slept a lot nowadays. She wondered why…

The birdsong snapped her out of thoughts. She had to get ready. She didn’t have to go out to see the doctor – he always came to see her – but she still had to make herself look presentable. She stretched and yawned again. Damn this lethargy! Maybe a bit more sleep would help….

She shook her head. No! The very fact that the birds were out chirping in full chorus already meant that it must be late in the morning. Her appointment was in the morning, if she remembered right. She forced herself out of bed. Where was that bell? She found it behind her bed and pressed it. She didn’t feel like exerting herself. She’d let the maids help her get ready.

She looked at the clock on her bedside. Eleven a.m. Damnit! Wasn’t her appointment at half past nine? Was she late? What would the doctor think of her now? She cursed herself repeatedly. She liked the doctor. He was nice and patient – one of the only people who bothered listening to her. She felt like he understood her. And he liked listening to her sing at the end of their meetings – he said she had a beautiful voice. She wondered if he ever thought of the rest of her as beautiful too….

And now she was late! And those dratted birds seemed to find the whole thing funny. It sounded like they were laughing at her. The nerve!

A soft knock came at the door. “Come in!” she answered. Might as well get ready. Better late than never.

To her surprise, the doctor entered. He must’ve already arrived and waited for her to wake up. How embarrassing! She looked down at her clothes. They were the same attire as always. She didn’t really have anything better anyway. It would have to do.

“Hello!” he said. “How are we today? Did you rest well?” He was always so patient and nice. Even after being made to wait for over an hour, he didn’t scold her. That’s what she liked so much about him. That and that he kept his hands to himself…

“I’m sorry for making you wait, doctor”, she said. “It was awfully rude of me.” She meant it too.

“Not a problem, my dear. I’ve got plenty of other work around here to keep me busy. So…shall we begin?”

“Yes, please!”

He proceeded to ask her his usual set of questions. She’d never quite figured out the point of them, but she was happy enough to play along if it made him happy. It was always funny meeting the doctor. She sometimes wondered if she was attracted to him. But no, that wasn’t it. It was only his head that so fascinated her – he had the body of a man, but the head of a bird. It was weird, but she liked it. He let her ruffle it. She liked doing that. She often pulled at it, wondering if a human head lay beneath.

The maids who came in and served them both breakfast had the same physiology, but she didn’t find their heads as interesting. The doctor never ate anything. She doubted he could with that beak of his. Why did the maids even bother serving him then? Ah well! She helped herself. She almost couldn’t hear the birds now. They always seemed to fly off when the doctor came by….

______________

Dr. Baird gently closed the door of the padded chamber behind him.

“No progress” he sighed. “But at least she doesn’t sing herself hoarse anymore.”

“What’s her story?” one of the newer nurses asked, earning her a disapproving look from the head nurse.

“Used to be a singer” the doctor replied. “Was a rising star, as I understand it. Parents exploited and abused her, but it only seemed to make her singing better. That is, of course, until she snapped.”

“Snapped?” the nurse asked, unable to quite hide the macabre fascination in her voice. The head nurse coughed.

The doctor shrugged. “Parents were found decapitated” he explained tonelessly. “Strange thing was that she’d apparently tossed their heads away and stuffed dozens of dead birds down their throats. Then she sat them up and did a performance for them. Neighbors heard the noise. She was still singing to them when the police came.”

The nurse gasped. So did the head nurse. Both of them were pointing at the doctor in horror. A trickle of blood was clearly visible along his neck….

______________

She woke up with a start. Outside, she could hear the birds chirping. She always wondered what they kept singing about…

And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane

By those who could not hear the music – Friedrich Nietzsche

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