There was a time when things were different. Birds used to be colorful and interesting, like the two wooden parrots decorating the garden outside the abandoned ranch. They say about 60 years ago birds flew away from people. Now they come running to eat you.
All that was before the giant solar flare that knocked most electronics in the world in 2019. The one that pushed us from global warming into a greenhouse effect. The United States lasted the longest, taking 5 years before the government collapsed. We haven’t seen corn or soybeans in these parts since then. Tall mutant grasses have taken over all the abandoned farms. The cattle that used to live here couldn’t eat it, but the escaped buffalo love it. They roam in giant herds now.
Good thing for that. At least we could get meat. We tried domesticating them. Hell, we tried all the usual agricultural techniques. It was hard enough in this arid environment, but the real problem was the damned Terror Birds.
That’s what our resident geek in the algae farm called them. He showed us a picture of the prehistoric animal in a book. Our birds were a dead ringer for them so the name stuck. They hunted everything: Buffalo, horses, humans. The seven-foot tall birds would use that yard-long head (mostly beak) like a giant hatchet. When we tried farming these mutant Bongo Potatoes that liked the greenhouse heat, the birds would kill all the farmers. When we tried cowboys herding buffalo, the birds would kill the horses and then the cowboys.
People stayed indoors mostly. It was too hot out there. We managed to grow some crops underground, but they were so small it was barely enough. People still needed meat from the buffalo, and that’s where specialists like me came in.
I drove one of three working jeeps in our little colony. We kept them fueled with bio-diesel from the algae farms. All the rifle ammo was gone, so I used an electro-magnetic rifle. Home-made, and it kicked like a mule, but its extremely high muzzle-velocity (much higher than rifles) made it a great buffalo gun. With that and the jeep I went buffalo hunting, and kept the colony fed. It was dangerous work with the Terror Birds running around, but in the jeep I was safe, mostly.
When I decided to spend the night in this abandoned ranch, I figured I was safe. I awoke in the morning to this awful screeching racket. I looked out the back window and saw what I missed the night before. Nests, huge ones, all over the back yard. Terror birds ran around everywhere. I was trapped.
I should’ve died there. The birds wouldn’t leave on hunting forays now they knew fresh meat was in the house. Then I saw something weird in the middle of the constant screeching. One bird dug up one of the few Bongo Potatoes growing in the garden. It cut it into eight pieces and birds stepped in to take one piece each. They were rationing it! That’s pretty smart behavior for a simple animal, and it told me they needed the potatoes somehow. So I decided to try an experiment. I had a sack of Bongos in my supplies. So I tossed one out the door.
What do you know? They cut up that potato and shared it. Then one came to the window and “mewled.” Swear to god. So I tossed another potato out there. They shared that one out too. Finally they all settled down and stopped screeching. I slept a little better that night.
In the morning, I looked out the back door and found a fresh haunch of buffalo meat. I hauled it inside while the birds watched. I cooked it up in the fireplace and ate well. This trade routine went on for days. Maybe I’m stupid, but I decided these birds were smarter than we gave them credit. I felt like we had an agreement. I went outside with my Bongos. It was crazy, I know, but my hunch proved right. The birds didn’t attack. I got in the jeep and drove back to the colony, Terror Birds escorting me all the way.
Our colony is doing better than ever since our truce with the birds. We’re growing Bongos in huge fields outside. I’m out of a job now. Terror Birds do our buffalo hunting for us. In return, they get all the Bongos they want. Life is a whole lot easier .
This is written for The Speakeasy at Yeah Write. The weekly writing challenge with a sentence and image writing prompt for up to 750 words. This week the sentence, “There was a time when things were different,” must be used as the beginning of the story. This week’s prompt can be found here: http://www.yeahwrite.me/speakeasy/147-open/