Luring them is easy. My soft coo-coo, the inquisitive tilt of my head, my feathers reflecting the light like an oil slick, my right wing splayed . . . helpless, so helpless. I limp, curling my toes under, not like a claw. Crippled.
I coo and hobble, coo and hobble. I skitter closer, head cocked, watching. At this point, it’s up to them.
“Fuckin’ rat with wings!” A thrown rock, missing me as I flutter away. Not this man, not yet, even though he’s sprawled flat on the sidewalk. I note him for later, when he’s unconscious with heat and hunger. None of them have enough food, not any more.
Others ignore me. They stagger past, dragging sacks of broken things, shoulders hunched against the sun. They are the ones who still have hope. I save these resources for future generations. My offspring, or my offspring’s offspring, can take advantage when these men move into despair. We have the luxury of patience.
The blasted city affects the men. I hear them mutter as they shift on their cardboard mats and weep for their friends, their homes, the past. Before the explosions and the white ash that floated as lightly as down. Five generations before my time, and yet I remember it, the knowledge passed on in the shell.
Five generations for my kind and mere years for them. The women and children are gone, their bodies, under the rubble, are now gone as well. That was not our doing. The rats are the carrion-eaters, not us.
Without exception, the men persecute the rats. Sometimes for sport, sometimes for food. Despised, yet edible.
A man crashes to the ground, smashing into his sack. Metal and plastic shards ricochet across the concrete. With a rustle of wings, I settle in the patch of shade from his body. He breathes through his mouth, gasping. I coo until the terror leaves his face.
“Nice birdie,” he rasps. His right hand is bleeding. He moves his fingers against the pavement, watching the red lines they make. I coo and shuffle closer. With my splayed wing, my clenched foot, we are two wounded creatures. He turns his hand up, holding it out to me. “Here, birdie,” he says.
Just out of reach, I halt. Blood pools in his palm as he beckons. We eye each other.