by Cat Rambo
I knew two of them, you know. Improbable as that may seem.
One I’d known back when he was just a down-headed youth, gawky and big-eyed. He hung around down near the shoreline, looking for sand fleas and chasing piperbirds. In the summer, when there were too many tourists, he went into the marsh and tried to find caves that would lead to the Underworld. Disappointed and covered with mosquito bites, he’d wash up and spend the muggy evenings drinking tomato beers and watching the sippy toy behind the bar bob up and down, up and down. They said he’d stay past the last drink, that was how he got the name. Bird Head—who knows.
The other was a mechanical man, his head covered with brass pinions, clattering feathers that rustled like a pangolin’s when he walked. He was a guide, but a bad one. People said you’d be
taking your last drink in the swamp, if you trusted yourself in his clockwork fingers. It got so tourists would flee the sight of him. He never talked about either name, but you could see the flat plates and gears of his skull grinding underneath the bells of his plumage, shaping a subtle music that meant nothing.
Maybe they were the same—I get confused sometimes. Maybe there was flesh underneath the metal scales, or ironmongery underneath the glove of his blotchy, insect-marked skin. Or layersupon layers, all the way down, and only the sound of his thoughts at the core. Maybe one imagined the other.
Maybe they imagined me.