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Bird Attack

Posted by Cecilia Leger on 8:44 PM
“Don’t move a muscle,” Roldan instructed, his voice carefully controlled and authoritative. If he was feeling any panic, I could not detect it in his voice. Then again, since I was the one most likely to become the bird’s next meal, perhaps it was fitting that the heart about to burst through a chest and become airborne should be mine.

As for as not moving a muscle, I was way ahead of him on that one – terror had cemented me to the floor and my legs felt about as useful as a martini umbrella during a category five hurricane.

The bird circled the room above my head, its magnificent plumage already beginning to change colors from deep purple to red-violet as it concentrated on me. I remembered from Roldan’s lecture that when its satiny feathers turned blood red, the bird would be ready to devour its prey and its strength would multiply tenfold, making it able to bring down animals many times the bird’s own size and strength.

I hoped “don’t move a muscle” wasn’t the sum total of Roldan’s plan.

It all happened very quickly then.

With a piercing shriek the bird zoomed toward me, and I swear I saw the sunlight that poured in through the floor to ceiling glass windows reflecting off its razor sharp talons. I put my sleeveless arms up to defend myself, but I easily imagined them being frayed to ribbons in the space of a single breath.

“No!” I heard Roldan roar as he launched himself at me. He hit me with the force of a gale and knocked me out of the bird’s reach as we both tumbled to the ground. He immediately rolled on top of me, tucked my face in the crook of his neck and shielded my body with his.

Despite being in a protected I could hear terrible sounds around us, the bird’s banshee-like screeching joined by a second gruesome snarling that sent involuntary shivers down my spine. I struggled against Roldan’s steel embrace until I could glimpse at the action unraveling just over his shoulder. One of Roldan’s beasts – the word "dog" had never seemed less appropriate to describe the animal than now – was crouched in a fighting position inches from where Roldan and I lay, defenseless as field mice. As the bird, its feathers finally a bright red, swooped once again in attack, the canine bared his sharp incisors, growled a low warning and seemed, impossibly, to grow larger before my unbelieving eyes.

With a final roar, my improbable defender launched itself through the air and sunk its fangs into the bird’s neck, and blood started to gush from the wound. I gasped and recoiled from the gory sight, burying my face against Roldan’s neck again. But closing my eyes didn’t spare me from the horrible sounds of the bird as it screamed in agony – or from the metallic scent of blood. My stomach roiled and lurched dangerously. Because the nightmare we’d just experienced or from the weight of Roldan’s body on top of mine – but most likely from a combination of both – I found it impossible to take a breath.

Roldan rolled away from me and managed to sit me up all in one swift, smooth motion. The expression in his face was the familiar stone-like inscrutable mask I’d grown accustomed to. But he knelt beside me, leaning close to examine me. I could feel myself trembling beneath his scrutiny, and I tried to collect myself.

Roldan flinched and his eyes narrowed. “Looks like I didn’t get to you in time.”

I followed his gaze to discover a deep gash in my upper left arm that was pouring blood. For a moment, I felt confused as to how that had happened when I’d never even felt it. As if reading my mind, Roldan supplied an answer. “You’re in shock. In the middle of a fight, sometimes people never even realize they’re hurt until afterwards. Once your brain registers that the immediate danger has passed, that’s going to start to hurt like mad.”

On cue, I began to feel searing pain that started at the top of my arm and radiated, it seemed, all the way to my toes in waves. I felt light-headed.

“We need to put some pressure on that.” He stood up at once and then reached down to lift me into his arms with ease.

“I’m fine. I can walk,” I protested feebly.

He ignored me as he took long strides out of the room, through the main entry hall and out to the kitchen, where we found Brenda and Holly. Both gasped in unison when they saw my condition.

“What happened to her?”

“Is that blood?”

He lay me on the kitchen table. “Yeah, it’s blood, so let’s not just stand here, letting her bleed all over the table, shall we? Holly, go get a clean hand towel to staunch the blood. Brenda, I have a first aid kit on the floor of my closet.”

For a moment they still both stood looking at me uncomprehending, but one more hard look from Roldan sent them running to their assigned tasks.

Holly returned first from her mission. She handed a folded blue hand towel dutifully to Roldan, who immediately pressed it against my arm. I cried out loud at the fresh insult and pain.

“What happened?” Holly demanded.

I wanted to answer her, but I had to clench my teeth to keep from screaming out again as Roldan applied pressure to the wound. It seemed my entire universe had been reduced to the throbbing feeling in my arm. I closed my eyes and tried to find a happy place.

Just when I thought the pain couldn’t get worse, I felt Roldan take away the cloth and pour a warm liquid over the gash in my arm. My eyes flew open in surprise as my arm felt like it had been dipped in molten lava. I forgot all about being stoic. I yelled out in protest and tried to sit up, instinctively looking to find a way to flee from the pain.

Roldan growled at me, “Hold still, will you?”

I noticed Brenda was back in the room only when I felt her soft hands caressing my forehead. “It’s alright, baby, Roldan knows what he’s doing.”

“Baby?” He said with a sneer. “Heaven help me! That’s it… both of you: out of here! You can hover all over ‘baby’ as soon as I’m done with her. But right now, you’re in my way.”

Brenda and Holly looked torn. And afraid. In my short time in the house I’d discovered how intimidated both of them felt whenever Roldan bullied them.

“It’s ok. I’m fine.” I lied easily for their benefit.

“Of course she’s fine. I’ve never seen such a commotion being made over a scratch,” Roldan muttered under his breath as he did something unpleasant to my arm.
With reluctance, both Brenda and Holly turned away from the room.

“Why do you always have to be so mean to them?” I asked the minute we were alone. I concentrated on his face to distract me from what his hands were doing. Apparently, he believed my question to be purely rhetorical since he didn’t even bother to look up at me, much less give me an answer. “You know, you really scare them when you snap at them that way.”

“Good.” The hard set of his jaw made it obvious that he was not interested in any more conversation. I ignored it.

“Half the time you walk around here like we’re all some terrible burden that you would just as soon get rid of and the other half you just pretend we don’t exist. The only time you deign to talk to us mere mortals is when you have some order to issue, an order which of course can’t be questioned or disobeyed; and if one of us has anything at all to say to you, you act like a pesky fly invaded your private picnic and shoo us away with one word answers if you even answer at all. It’s annoying and rude and---"

"Are you quite through?"

"Of course not! Did I take a breath and give you the impression I was done talking?"
He looked at me, his stone face hard and cynical, the look in his eyes murderous. I didn't care. "It was natural for Holly and Brenda to be concerned when they saw me and you made them feel small and afraid. Why? Why do you need to frighten women and children in order to make you feel more like a man?"

Perhaps I'd gone too far.

A low hiss escaped his lips and he stopped tending to my arm. I had his undivided attention. He brought his face close to mine; his eyes shone bright with emotion as he glowered at me. His fists clenched and unclenched at his sides as he fought to bring his anger under control. His lips were pursed together into a tight, angry line and the veins in neck were bulging.

But I refused to back down.

Encouraged by the fact that he hadn't yet snapped my neck, I felt emboldened to go on. "I don't get you. Today you risked your own life to save me ---"

"A mistake I don't intend on repeating ---"

"But the minute I'm safe you treat me like you wished I had become bird food back there."

"And just exactly how did you come to be in harm's way today? That bird didn't attack you because it didn't like your political views, it attacked because that's what wild animals do… it was just acting on instinct. And now a beautiful, rare creature lies dead because some brat used to having her own way decides she needs a closer look. I told you its cage could never be opened!"

That revelation made me gasp in surprise. "You think I opened its cage?"

"Well, it sure as hell didn't open itself!"

I struggled to sit up and managed it this time. My fury gave way to confusion. "Roldan, I didn't open that cage. You have to believe me. When I walked into the room, I didn't even realize the bird wasn't safely locked away until it was too late. And if you hadn't walked by when you did, I would have been … " I couldn't let myself finish the sentence. As I remembered the attack, my fury ebbed away and left me deflated. He had stepped away from me when I sat up on the table and I stared at him now. I shuddered from the memory of my recent ordeal.

"I haven't thanked you. For saving my life. I don't know how the bird got out, Roldan. And I wouldn't have even been in that room, except that ---" In all the commotion, I'd forgotten the reason I'd walked in there in the first place.

"Except that what? Why were you there?"

"Except that I distinctly heard Hannah's voice inside the room. She called to me for help, but when I rushed in, she wasn't anywhere that I could see. And then I noticed the bird out of its cage. You know the rest."

Roldan's face twisted into a new expression. "Hannah was not in that room."

"I heard her clearly, I swear to you."

We stood in silence, staring at each other across the small space that separated us.

He seemed to be searching for something hidden in my eyes. I'm not sure what he found, but presently he sighed and returned to my side. "How does your arm feel now?"

I glanced down at it with surprise. Some time during my tirade against him, I'd forgotten all about it. Whatever he'd poured over the wound had the effect of numbing my arm completely.

"It feels fine," I mumbled.

He grunted something unintelligible and finished his makeshift medical attention by wrapping a bandage around the cut. His efficient hands were done in no time. When he started gathering his supplies, I placed my hand on his arm to get his attention.
"I'm not going crazy, Roldan. I heard her voice in there."

He hesitated a moment before meeting my eyes. "No, you're not going crazy. There's a perfectly reasonable explanation for what happened today."

Something in his voice stopped me from sighing in relief. "What is it?"

One side of his mouth lifted in a sardonic smile. "Someone in this house wants you dead."

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