Still, it brought more visitors.
Two adults, a man and a woman. Strangers, whom none of them recognised from the immediate neighbourhood. The man with a bald head, a wide, heavy face. The woman with great, night-blue bags beneath her eyes, and scraggly red hair interrupted by thick, greasy lianas of grey.
They approached the group quietly. The group parted, allowed Condor to step forward to meet them. Cockatoo subtly shuffled his way to the safety of the back of the crowd.
What do you want? We don’t know you? Our calls couldn’t possibly have woken your baby, wherever you’re from.
My baby. the woman said.
My son. the man said. Where is my son?
Who is your son? We don’t know him. We are the only ones who come here, and none of us are missing. Condor said, though his fist tightened around the string of the kite, the nails starting, ever so slightly, to dig into the skin of his palm. The bird’s talons digging into his shoulder.
My son, the man said, My son is Manuelo. We have been searching all over the slums for a month, and nobody knew him, and he never said where he went. But you have been shouting him, we have heard you. My son is the Bird-God.
The man’s wide, heavy face fell as he said this. The big eyes were wet, and full of pupil, and dog-like. But not dog-like enough. Beside him, the woman’s eyes were bright green and cat-like. But not catlike enough. Hair wasn’t red enough. It couldn’t be them.
You are liars, said Condor. You have been sent by the police to trick us and ruin us.
There was a chorus of nervous agreement behind him.
This is the only Bird-God. This, right here.
He pointed up to the beast on his shoulder.
There is no other Bird-God. There never was.
My baby. the mother repeated.
My son. the man said. Did you kill him?
Condor stepped backwards, his fist tightening further, tugging the line. The parrot flapped in his ear. He could hear its beak clacking.
Did you kill my son? the man repeated.
My baby. the woman wailed.
Condor stepped backwards, once, twice more, and the group backed away further behind him. None of them breathed. None of them made a sound. They had all been beaten by this little kid, their latest leader. They knew what he was meaning to do.
And he did it, leaping high and then yanking hard on the string as he came back down to earth.
But the wide, heavy man was too quick for him, ducked, swung a wide, heavy fist into the little boy’s gut. The group started panicking, started to run. The mother started wailing. The parrot let go.
He let go of the kite.
He watched them both rising, intertwining together.
He could hardly breathe.
He heard the bird squawk.
The wide, heavy man was bent over him. Asking, again and again: Where is my son? Where is the Bird-God?
I don’t know, he said. I swear I don’t know.
Then: There isn’t a Bird-God. I don’t know what you mean.
Scurrying on hands and knees between the man’s wide, heavy legs, dodging his wildness, his stamps and his kicks. Standing up, tasting the smoke, the ashes of the man’s son. Tasting his blood.
Then Jorge ran, ran as fast as his long legs would carry him, bounding down the breezeblock steps two by two, three by three.
Chased by the weeping of the mother, like no sound he had ever heard a cat make, or a human make, either, he ran deeper and deeper into the maze of the streets, further and further away from the sky.
Dan Micklethwaite lives and writes in West Yorkshire, UK. His short fiction has featured in a range of publications, including ‘BULL’, ‘ink sweat & tears’, ‘3:AM’, and ‘Eunoia’. He’s currently building a shed in his garden, reading some John Berger, and working on a novel about coffee cups, evolution, fish & chips and tattoos.