When I was young, my father told me a story about my grandfather. My father rarely tucked me into bed, but one night he came to my room after I had changed into my pajamas. As I watched, he carefully checked the windows, closing the curtains. Then he checked the room and closed the door.
“Son,” he started, “your mother tells me you asked for a bird today.”
When I nodded, he continued “Let me tell you a story about my father, your grandfather.”
“I know you have never met him and now I can tell you why. Your grandfather was a great astronaut.”
See my confused look, he explained, “An astronaut was a person who would get in a rocket and go to the stars. We don’t have that anymore and I’ll tell you why soon.” I nodded listening closely.
He continued, “Back in my grandfather’s day there once was a group called NASA. They trained astronauts and built the rockets. Your grandfather worked for them. He even traveled to space a few times.
In his final time in space, he hurt his leg so badly, he could not return to space. Instead he began working with the radio group.” He held a hand up forestalling my question.
“The radio group monitored communications from space. It seemed like a dead end job for your grandfather, because until that time no communication had ever been heard. Honestly, your grandfather often mentioned how bored he felt at work, but he did not give up. Your grandfather worked hard to find any type of communication from anyone in space.
“One day, when I was a teenager, he came home so excited. Over dinner he told your grandmother that it had finally happened. He had received a communication from space.”
“What did it say?” I remember her asking and your grandfather replied “The birds are not what they seem.” Confused I looked at my dad and he shrugged at me, commenting that the message said, “The birds are not what they seem.”
Your grandmother and I laughed, thinking he was joking, but he insisted that the message came from space and said “The birds are not what they seem.” Still, I thought your grandfather was joking.
“Was he?” I asked him.
My father smiled sadly shaking his head, “No.”
Then he continued the story, “The next day, as your grandfather left for work I watched him leave. I remember seeing a flock of birds follow his car. I almost called your grandfather to tell him what I saw, but I didn’t.”
“A week passed, and nothing weird happened. As I came to and from home, I noticed more and more birds in the trees on our street, more birds than I’ve ever seen in one place.”
“That following weekend, as your grandfather drove me to basketball practice when the weirdest thing happened.”
“Birds dived bomb our car and other cars on the street, almost causing an accident. I watched these birds in disbelief as they dive-bombed only the cars near enough us to cause us to crash. It seemed they were trying to kill me and your grandfather.”
“Obviously they didn’t succeed, but they continued watching us. It was creepy.”
“Then the unthinkable happened,” my father said, his eyes growing sad. “One day I watched out the window waiting for your grandfather to return. Birds surrounded the yard covering every branch and fence. As soon as your grandfather, the birds seemed to straighten as if readying themselves.”
“As I watched, son,” he told me, “as soon as your grandfather exited the car, the birds flew as one divebombing him. I screamed for my mom unable to move. She ran to my side. Together we watched the dark, massive cloud of birds surround my father.”
“It seemed like hours, yet only lasted a few seconds. Gaining movement, I rushed to the door, but as soon as I opened it the birds scattered. The street was deathly quiet. Only a few birds stayed behind watching from high in the sky.”
“I ran to you grandfather, but it was too late. He died. Everyone called it a tragic accident, but that’s not the truth.”
My father sighed but continued, “That night, your grandmother warned me that we had to pretend it was all an accident. If the birds knew we knew we would be killed just like they did to your grandfather.”
“Your grandfather was only one of five people who died that week that worked for NASA. Within a few years, NASA had completely shut its doors. They have been almost been erased from history.”
“Now, son,” he asked, “do you see why we can’t have birds? They are not what they seem and they can’t know that we know the truth.”
“But don’t worry,” he told me, “Soon, soon we will be safe from the birds.”
A few years after he told me about my grandfather, we left earth and came here. So far we have been safe from the birds, but you must watch carefully, children. Do not let even one bird survive. They are not what they seem.