FICTION: Beak 666, A Short Story About The Waning of Power -- By Daniel Crockett

In memory of Akmal Shaikh (Executed 29th September 2009)

Beak lifted his weary head, gave a fatigued nod to his old pal, Winston. 'Little cold and harsh out here in the world today,' Beak said. Winston, old and hard of hearing, barely stirred. At least, beak thought, he'll go first. His tiny patch of dirt just a poor shade of its former glory, Winston sat with his head buried beneath a little wing, perhaps dreaming of former days of conquest. He had been the first, despite the natives, but greed had overwhelmed him in the end. His empire was now nothing more than a perishing memory. The thought gave Beak some cold comfort, but only for a second, because Beak had his own troubles. With Winston so old and weak, Beak had little support for his own wars. And he had more than a few issues abroad. Frighteningly, a much larger bird was setting about establishing itself in the nesting ground, causing Beak and Winston to rethink their taken-for-granted position at the top. This bird was a different breed and already the writing was on the wall. It wasn't who wore the trousers, but how long Beak and Winston would be allowed to roost in the pockets. The name of the new bird was Anich, and damn that son of a bitch was strong.

the storm that had been brewing for fifty years suddenly broke. It was the big one 

'Just be careful which side of the fence you walk.' Anich said, voice dripping authority and veiled threat. They bowed their heads, went back to their increasingly meagre looking roosts. For Winston, the shift in power had been impending for some time. He had become a eunuch and mostly slept, apathetic. For the once-invincible Beak the pill was somewhat harder to swallow, so bitter it burned the tongue. Either way, for both the old birds, shit was getting out of hand and life on earth was never going to be the same. C’est la vie, fuckers. You lose. You win battles and you gain ground and then you watch it slip away.

The shifting nexus of power within the nesting ground was thrown into stark relief when Winston’s son was caught on the wrong side of the fence, carrying something he had no business carrying. Back in Winston’s nest, the boy was known to be a little downright mad. And when people got mad, there was some clause in Winston law regarding diminished responsibility. No one was saying the boy was in the right, but as soon as Anich got hold of him, the storm that had been brewing for fifty years suddenly broke. It was the big one.

Winston was distraught, understandably. Due to the circumstances of the case, Anich had impounded his son and pronounced the death sentence for his crimes. Both Winston and Beak, who was keeping rather quiet, had seen video footage of the boy. He was clearly not of right mind, holed up in some filthy prison, no doubt being tortured in any number of imaginative ways. Winston sent messages to Anich, called in his best team, made it clear that no one would stand for it. It was a watershed moment, downplayed on both sides, and the way in which Anich reacted made the murky world of internestional relationships somewhat more transparent.

‘Anich would like to remind Winston that we will punish the criminal under the law of our nest. And we do not look kindly on his interference.”

The role of Beak within the debacle was also telling. Pure, uninterrupted silence. Winston stared at his compatriot and ally through longing eyes ringed with cataracts, like a lame dog that knows its time has come. All I’m waiting for is the bullet, Winston seemed to say, just end it. The date set for the execution drew ever closer. Winston issued more and more demands, which Anich turned down flat. Beak, on the fence, unwilling to upset the fragile balance with Anich, scratched in the dust. Then, just like that, they killed Winston’s son. And what did Winston do? Nothing. Stared at the dust, and scratched.

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