It was a gorgeous, comely day in the middle of summer. I had spent all morning traipsing throughout the pavement playground, dusty chalk in hand and fragile heart in the other. I was only eight, what the fuck did I know about foreshadowing? Couldn’t I tell at that tender, baby-age that the single dark cloud I had seen that morning in the sky meant an unholy pain would befall me? I dawdled through the almost artificially green grass of my backyard to stand beneath the eaves of my story-high deck. Underneath this structure, the homeowners before us had filled the sandbox-like area with uncut quartz rocks. In one particular spot I noticed there were small river stones.
I would bend with my bruised, green yellow blue purple black, knees digging into the rough bones of the earth and pick up only the roundest of the stones, imagining they had been put their as the Faye. Even at such a young age I was pretentious and well read enough to call the small folk Faye, rather than fairies; Faerie, Elves and Goblins that I envisioned living in the hollow of my shoulder, keeping me company on nights when Mommy and Daddy fought, hushed snarls emanating through the vents in my room.
I picked up three stones that day, I remember this clearly. One was black, the other two a stunning white. I laid them in a triangle pattern on the grass and sat in the middle and prayed that I was granted power by the Faye. I was a greedy, petulant child. “Give me power” I whispered boldly. “Please.”
I waited for a moment… let there be some sign. Anything? A tingle in my toe would have been nice even. I stood bitterly and tossed the stones into the air, where they landed throughout the grass my father cared so much for, a competition with the neighbors to keep the most beautiful yard, as we couldn’t all have the most beautiful children, now could we?
I picked up a long stick from the pile of brush, and thrust it experimentally against the false brick side of my home. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a small, rough brown patch up by the rafters under the porch. Didn’t I know curiosity killed the cat? Or, well, it always had the fucking nerve to kill something.
I calculated in the uncalculating way that children do, that the stick was the perfect length to knock the brown whatever-it-was out of the rafter. One, two, three, whatever amount of knocks it took, the brown clump of twigs fell out of the rafters, so high above my head.
Along with it, six newborn baby birds. It took me a moment to realize what I had done. The minute this realization hit me, I started to sob. “MOMMY!” I screamed hysterically. She came running from the front yard as I stood sobbing. I couldn’t bear to bring myself to pick them up after knocking them down. They flapped and flittered pitifully on the grass, translucent frightening alien in their pale pink nakedness. All the while I cried, my mother picked them up one by one, depositing their tiny boned frames, broken now, into the nest while screaming that I stop screaming.
I however, was deposited into the house, coldwhitebarrendeadblank. I couldn’t comprehend the fact that I had just killed six newborns. I cried the rest of the night into my comforter. The next morning I climbed a stolen ladder to check on them. They were all dead. I had crushed their tiny bones, tiny lives, tiny beating hearts now stiff and lifeless. I looked down from the latter and contemplated how my own tiny bones wouldn’t crack from that height, though I wished they would.
Maybe the Faye did give me power. But you can’t always just receive something: everything has a price. And I payed for this power with more than life. Just because it isn’t your life you pay with, doesn’t mean you don’t also pay with your soul. At eight years old I had inadvertantly become a murderess.
Just because I killed baby birds, rather than another boy or girl, doesn’t mean I can forgive myself any less.