The breakthrough came a year after the screaming began.
‘I know this will sound strange but bear with us. We think your son is allergic to birds.’
The room was square, sterile.
‘We’ve got a file of every British bird call. We’ll start with A and work our way through. Some might not bother him. Or bother him less. It could be useful to know.’
They stopped at blackbird because he was retching and his fingernails had drawn blood. A wet patch spread from his crotch down his legs. He stank of shit.
We rented a flat in the city, hoping that the cars and the trains and the factories and the clubs would drown out the racket. A day later and he’d scratched through his bedroom wallpaper. Our landlord kept the deposit.
They tried headphones that blocked out background noise. They tried ear plugs that blocked out all noise. Nothing worked.
‘We’ve controlled for temperature, air pressure, daylight, oxygen, humidity, microbes, pollen. We’re 100% sure it’s birds.’
‘But how? He can’t even hear them.’
‘We think it’s reacting with his skin.’
One of them was a mother.
‘How far would you go for your son?’ she said.
‘To the ends of the earth.’
‘I’ll see what I can do.’
The two of us share a room. The whole research station shares one kitchen. The team of scientists forget to share their progress. I doubt I will ever share my bed again.
The bags have gone from under his eyes and the scratch marks have faded. He eats three meals a day, and keeps them down. His hair has grown back.
There are no birds here. There is no life here. I tickle his tummy to convince myself that he is happy.
First published in Issue 11 of The Cabinet of Heed.
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