Pierre woke in a sweat. The old nightmare was back. He clung to the duvet like a lifesaver until he was sure he had surfaced from the depths of the dream. The shrill cry persisted. He reached out to slap the alarm clock but the noise continued. It was coming from outside the house. A shadow on the curtain told him there was a bird on the windowsill, making that execrable racket. A seagull. Not dead like Chekhov’s but all too evidently alive and mocking him with that laughter-like shriek.
Pierre had hoped he’d heard the last, but the gulls were encroaching further and further inland these days. It was something to do with the depletion of their fishing grounds. Good work, mankind; putting your needs before the natural order of things. And now, the towns and cities are plagued by these pests.
Pierre sighed. He would have to move on. Find higher ground, perhaps – No; think again, Pierre! They’re birds, for Christ’s sake. They can fly. They live on coastal cliffs – or used to. Until the migration inland.
He reached across to shake the curtain. The sudden movement made the gull squawk but it flapped away, leaving him in uneasy peace. Pierre lay back, hoping to sink into untroubled sleep but it was no use; the memories had been stirred. He would have to follow them through, reliving the old torture, the betrayal and the horror.
We would walk the beach together, my love, my friend and I, planting footprints in the wet sand. We would laugh and dare the tide to catch us. It was a perfect time. Until that day when I found them, my love and my friend, in the cave together. The cave in which we’d shelter from the summer rains or wait for the tide to ebb away and give us our secluded beach again. It was our little corner of the world, our paradise, our Eden, but my friend was the serpent. They didn’t see me. I picked up a rock, slick and wet with seaweed and I brought it down on the back of his skull. He collapsed on top of her; she could not escape. I did the same for her, smashing that treacherous face until it no longer looked like her, although I knew even then, I would not be able to erase her from my memory. I left them there for the crabs to colonise from their tidal pools, but when I stepped out into the sunshine, a seagull sang the hue and cry. Covering my ears, I fled. Others took up the alarm. I thought they would alert the world to my crime. Shut up, shut up, shut up, damn you!
Pierre gasped. Two shadows appeared on the curtains. Two seagulls necking like lovers, like the couple in that cave of long ago.
Pierre tore the bed sheets to fashion a noose. Perhaps, if he worked quickly enough he’d be able to jump off the chair before they resumed their dreadful cry.