The house is a cave of echoes, the kitchen table masked in dust. I’m restless, displaced: my skin itches. In the still and empty rooms a single black feather drifts in a shaft of sunlight.
The cupboards are bare save for a heel of bread. I close the front door gently behind me and wander down the path, breaking the crust onto the ground as I go. The starlings, elegant in glossy suits, chatter sociably as they peck at the crumbs. Their haematite eyes watch me sideways, knowingly. They don’t even startle as the gate clicks behind me.
The path is treacherous with stones, but it’s not far to the chasm. It’s deep, a cruel gash across the countryside; the sides are sheer and sharp with rocks, and dusty thorn bushes line the edge. Even here the starlings hop and peer. I crane over the edge, my skirts flapping in the wind, but I can’t see the bottom.
I tilt vertiginously for a moment, arms outstretched, then step carefully out into the empty air. Wind rushes past me.
The sky is filled with a sudden fluttering as the black birds surround me, tiny beaks and claws harsh but careful in my clothes and hair. They hold me up and I hang in space, astonished, while their cries beat on my ears.
The wind tugs my shawl from my shoulders. My arms are bare to the cold wind, and I feel the tingling pain of the feathers pushing through my skin in a sudden, urgent rush. My wings unfurl; I breast the air in startled flight, lofting into the opened skies amid a rejoicing of birds.