They wait for me in the old churchyard, among the gravestones. Their feathers are black as soot, their beady eyes watching the lane they know I’ll be walking along.

I don’t want to pass them. But I have to, if I want to get home.

They’re only here at night, only for an hour or two. Blackbirds, so many of them I sometimes wonder if they roost there. But they don’t. The priest has never seen them, nor anyone else who lives along this lane. Only I see them. Every single night.

They’re perched on the stones when I pass, on the wall. They’re all silent, every one of them, as if they can hear my footsteps on the gravel path, my breathing in the cold air. I try not to look at them, not to breathe, and keep to the other side of the lane as far from them as I can get. I hate blackbirds. They’re nasty, vicious creatures, and they’re thieves too. I’ve never liked them. Not once.

They know I don’t like them. They know I’m afraid too, I think, although whenever I tell anyone that I get laughed at. Birds are too stupid to hold a grudge, to feel fear.

Aren’t they?

The shadows are coming out of the trees when I finally pass the church, reach the bend in the lane. I look back, but the birds are gone already. Disappeared into the darkening sky, just as quickly as they came. But they’ll be there tomorrow night. Waiting for me.

They always are.

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