The Anger of Innocence
Story Written by James Rada, Jr.
Part 2: The Power
“The Anger of Innocence” is a six-part original serial set in the Graceham area during 1973. Serialized fiction is something that older newspapers often did as an additional way to entertain their readers. We thought it was about time for serial to make a comeback. Let us know what you think.
Sarah Adelsberger’s hand trembled as the 14-year-old reached for the bottle of Coca-Cola on her aunt’s kitchen table. She grasped the glass bottle with both hands and gulped down most of the soda until she thought a giant belch would explode from her throat.
Had she really seen thousands of birds attack another student from Thurmont Middle School? If not, then what had happened to Christine Weber? The birds had surrounded and covered her, and when they had left, Christine had vanished.
Sarah shivered and then smiled. It might be a terrifying image to recall, but Christine, her school tormentor, was gone.
A macaw landed on the table in front of Sarah. She jumped. It was just Francis, her Aunt Anna’s pet bird. Unlike any pet bird Sarah had ever seen, Francis wasn’t kept in a cage. He was allowed to fly around the house wherever he wanted. Amazingly, he always seemed to do his business in a sink or toilet. Aunt Anna insisted the bird wasn’t trained, but birds didn’t do that on their own, did they?
“Sarah, what’s wrong?”
Her aunt had stood up from the table to get herself a piece of apple pie. Now she stared at Sarah from the counter.
“I saw something today…I think it was horrible, but I’m not sure,” Sarah said.
So Sarah explained how she had followed Christine home after school to confront her and end Christine’s bullying. Sarah had been standing behind a tree, working up her courage to confront Christine, when the birds had attacked, and Christine had vanished.
“Marvelous,” Aunt Anna said when Sarah finished.
“Marvelous? Didn’t you listen? Christine vanished!”
Aunt Anna nodded. “I heard you. It was your power protecting you.”
Sarah shook her head. “My power? What power? What are you talking about?”
Aunt Anna pulled a chair near Sarah. She sat down across from her niece and held her hands. Anna Whitcomb was only 10 years older than Sarah, so they were more like friends than aunt and niece.
“I’ve been telling you that you have power. It runs in our family. If you have it, it makes itself known during puberty,” Anna said.
Sarah’s brow furrowed. This is what her aunt had been talking to her about since the school year had started? Sarah had just thought her aunt was a women’s libber, talking about the power of women in the 1970s.
But, this…this was unreal. Yet, Sarah had seen it happen.
“Christine was a bully,” her aunt said. “You told me so yourself.”
Sarah nodded slowly. “Christine had been picking on me again in school, calling me a cow.”
Sarah was pudgy, while Christine had hit puberty early and wore make-up so she looked like a high school prom queen. People said Sarah, her aunt, and Sarah’s mother all looked like sisters. Sarah only hoped that in 10 years she would look like her aunt with her shapely figure.
“Your power acted to protect you from Christine,” Anna said.
“But what about Christine?” Sarah asked. “All I found was a little bit of blood and a piece of her book bag.”
Sarah pulled the piece of blue canvas out of her pocket. She held it up for her aunt to see.
Anna smiled and nodded. “In that moment, you must have hated Christine for what she did to you, and your power worked through the familiars to take care of it for you.”
“Your spirit animal. Familiars can use our power to aid us when we need it. In our family, birds are often our familiars.”
Sarah glanced at Francis, who was still sitting on the table seemingly following the conversation. He even nodded when Sarah looked at him.
“But how?” Sarah asked.
Anna stroked Sarah’s hair. Their hair was the same color, but Sarah thought hers was stringy compared with her aunt’s lustrous, raven-black hair. “That doesn’t matter. All you need to know is that judging by the number of birds that responded to your need, you are very powerful, and that power will take care of any problems that threaten you.”
Sarah knew her aunt meant to comfort her, but the comment scared her.
When Sarah’s mother picked her up after she finished work, Sarah said nothing about what had happened to Christine. Aunt Anna had warned her that people who didn’t understand the power would not believe her or even fear her.
At the dinner table with her parents, Sarah stared out the window at the birds eating from one of the feeders that her mom maintained in the backyard.
“It’s late in the season for so many birds to be around,” her mother said when she noticed Sarah staring out the window.
“Is it?” Sarah said, barely paying attention to what her mother was saying.
“It’s November,” her mother said. “Most of them should have flown south to warmer places.”
“Why not all of them?”
“I guess they have a reason to stay. They’re lovely, aren’t they? I love to watch them fly. They are so free when they are in the air, gliding along on nothing but an air current.” Her mother sighed as she turned to watch three starlings hopping around on a bird feeder.
Later, after Sarah finished washing the dinner dishes, she put on a jacket and walked into the backyard to get closer to the birds.
Sarah looked around but saw no one. “Who’s there?”
Will you make us act?
She realized the voice was in her head, but it wasn’t her voice. Then she saw a cowbird sitting at her feet. She held out her hand to the bird, and it flew up and landed on her palm. Sarah leaned closer and stared at the bird.
What would you force us to do this time?
“Is that your voice I’m hearing?”
Let us leave.
“Us? What? The birds?”
You are bad.
Sarah frowned. “What are you talking about?”
You force us.
“I don’t force you to do anything.”
You made us take the other one.
The other one must have meant Christine. She was the only one the birds had taken.
“I didn’t make you take her. The power did.” Sarah realized that she was arguing with a bird, but she couldn’t help it. She felt a surge of anger come from nowhere.
You are bad.
“Then go!” Sarah yelled. “If you want to leave so much. Go!”
The cowbird flew off of her hand, its wings flapping furiously. Sarah thought it would fly away, but it flew full force into the side of the house. She heard a sickening thud, and then the bird fell to the ground.
The anger vanished.
Sarah ran over and scooped up the bird in her hands. It didn’t move. She stroked its head gently.
“Don’t be dead. Don’t be dead.”
The bird’s head turned at an awkward angle. Its wings flapped, and suddenly it was standing in her hand.
“Are you all right?” she asked.
The bird stared at her, and Sarah realized that instead of black, the bird’s eyes were a smoky white.
Sarah heard the voice, but it wasn’t the same as the voice she had heard earlier. This one was deeper and sounded scratchy.
“It that you?” she asked.
The bird flew off.
Had she brought the bird back to life? What was happening to her?