• Vol. 01
  • Chapter 05
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Marcus stopped showing people his work, because they kept saying it was perfect. That confused and frustrated him. The imperfections were obvious. If people couldn’t tell him they saw them, then what else were they lying to him about?

So he stayed in his shed with the bodies of birds, with his wire and his glue and his scalpel. He didn’t kill for his work. He was not sick. Instead, he pulled starlings from cats’ teeth, harvested fallen finches from below the window they smashed into. They would leave tiny ghosts behind, faint feathers printed on the glass. Marcus always made sure the window was well polished afterwards. He was not sick, but he was not stupid.

And, feather by feather, toe by claw, he set the small bodies back on their perches, with glittering, quizzical eyes and sharp bright beaks. But never good enough for Marcus, never perfect. Very rarely, he lost his patience and hurled another rejected work onto the pile. His birds would roll and scatter like soft stones, like objects, like things not right.

One day, he left his shed and fell in love. This was an accident and an inconvenience. Marcus found the whole process terrifying and complicated. Compared to this, taxidermy was a simple matter of following the instructions. She made it clear that his hobby was important to him and he should continue doing what made him happy. He visited the shed less and less.

And without him noticing, all his years, all his thoughts were his wife and children. They filled his world. The world turned. It turned until the day he woke up and Katie was dead. And there was no world any more.



Blinded and stumbling in his loss, bereft of everything, even a name for his feeling, Marcus staggered into this new life. Without direction or intention, he found himself in the mildewed shed. Dusty feathers crumbled in his hands.

But one bird under the window was fresh and new to death, and its skin came away like an iridescent cloak of feathers. Marcus had never stopped needing this, and the skills came back to him as easily as opening the drawer for his tools.

In his hands, the dead bird blinked and breathed. It twisted and panicked and flew, on wings of wood and wire, straight through a hole in the crumbling shed door and into the distant trees.

Marcus stood still until he noticed he was crying.

So that was what it took to get it perfect.