“Good evening everyone, Yuki here signing on for another update! Sorry ‘bout the mess and everything around the lab today; we’re just doing a bit of spring cleaning around here-”
“Wish it was spring down here, maybe it’d be a bit warmer…”
“Shh! We have to have everything off so we can get a good deep-clean going.”
“Not even putting on a little heater?”
“Nope. I’ve got that unplugged and taken apart…making sure we get into every little nook and cranny-”
“I mean, is this even really necessary. No one else comes down here. And neither of us have been out in the past few weeks. There’s no way that we’ll get sick.”
“Really? What about the all those movies we’ve been watching while we work?”
“So many streaming services and a massive dusty tape collection I found upstairs.”
“Okay…what about all the food?”
“We’ve got, like, a hundred pounds of food in the freezer.”
“Oh…That sounds about right, I guess. Wait! There was the other night we sent out for pizza. Lil’ bastard could’ve been infectious. Those cardboard boxes would’ve been ground zero for disease!”
“…It wasn’t delivery, it was Di-”
“That’s right! Ugh. Memory is going to hell.”
“Hell would be warmer right now.”
“Very funny. Now, everyone else: While we annihilate these microscopic bastards, why don’t you sit back and observe some folks that aren’t quite as fortunate as us…even with our current predicament. This one takes place in Australia, so put yourself upside down and relax.
“A quiet town descends into chaos that has one particular resident asking–
What’s Killing All the Birds on Pembroke Road?
On Monday there was one dead pigeon on the side of Pembroke Road.
On Tuesday, an Indian myna and two magpies were found rotting and partially eaten.
By the end of the week there were more avian corpses than rubbish on this particular stretch of road. While roadkill wasn’t a strange phenomenon in the suburb of Minto, in all my years living here the only animals besides the occasional dead bird were flattened rabbits and possums—and once, something small and fluffy, but unrecognisable. These incidents were few and far between, weeks, sometimes months would pass before another animal was found dead.
Quick history lesson before I continue: my country was fortunate enough to avoid the Global Financial Crisis (don’t ask me how, that kinda thing isn’t my forté) and had no housing market crash like our American friends. As good as that sounds on paper, our property bubble kept on growing, prices were driven up exponentially, which drove people farther and farther from the city. I watched as houses were sold by the dozen and torn down for apartments while I attended high school through the time I landed a job that paid well enough to keep me anchored in Minto. Soon our suburb and the surrounding ones were full, but people still couldn’t afford to live in the city. So politicians did their thing and made it easier than ever for developers to claim acres and acres of diverse bushland for the bulldozers. The mass exodus from the North hit us in full when the rolling hills and greenery were replaced by vast spans of rubble and dirt.
I only mention that because soon after the new suburbs went up, the birds started dying.
Pembroke Road cuts through the CBD of Minto, north to south. Travelling southbound, you go through suburbia of the 70s and 80s which tapers out with some apartments and a handful of small businesses and fast food joints. The two directions of traffic split where the houses end, with a grassy and tree-lined median two lanes wide, all the way to the roundabout that marks the start of the industrial area, a distance of about half a kilometre. Off to the west, the regional train line runs parallel with the road before gradually veering away. Beyond that, a clearing dips pretty steep into thick bush, in which a creek runs at the lowest point. Thick vegetation rose again on the other side and peppered out halfway up the Razorback hills. A lone two-lane road ran along the top—absolutely everything in between was uninhabited.
It made for a pretty sight on my drive to and from work until a few months ago. The aforementioned housing boom finally reached us in full force. Now several square kilometres of the hills are cleared and several vacant streets sprawl in their stead. Blasting started a not long after to rid the land of the craggy sections at the base of the Razorback.
The houses started rising en massé like a jumbo-sized Sim City. Last week literal tonnes of straw was dumped to keep the birds from getting their fill of all the grass seed. It didn’t stop them from trying though. I was admiring and agonising over the black and grey modernist eyesores when I spotted that first corpse. I originally thought a murder of crows had gotten hold of a small bag of potato chips or a burger wrapper from Maccas or Red Rooster.
But, no, it wasn’t rubbish.
Four of the crows were pecking away at a dead pigeon while three others stood by—perhaps already having had their fill. My morbid curiosity was appreciative that the nearby traffic light ticked over to red. I quickly brought my Supra to a stop to take in the sight.
A small pile of bloody feathers threatened to blow away in the wind as the beaks continued to ravage the body they’d left behind. It was then I realised I’d been mistaken…the body was not fully intact; the other crows surrounded and appeared unsure of a tiny object…it was the pigeon’s head. The biggest crow of the second grouping cocked its head inquisitively, but did not move any closer. The other two gave me sideways glances, making sure I wasn’t going to steal their quarry.
Did crows hunt other birds?
The blast of an impatient Yaris drivers’ horn brought my attention back to my shopping trip.
The next day, on my way to work, an Indian myna lie dead—one wing torn off near the footpath that ran up to the restaurants and IGA. Not even twenty metres past, two magpies were in a bloodied heap in the tree-lined median. Again, crows were present. This time up in the branches, also surveying the scene. None of them so much as thinking of dropping in for a bite.
All the local suburbs have a significant stray cat population, yes. But not very often did they wander from the relative safety of the neighbourhood streets. And as unlikely as it was for one cat to rack up kill counts on consecutive days, having two or more travel down to get in on the buffet was way the fuck out. I even checked out local Facebook community groups to see if anyone else noticed—even in a humorous way. Nothing. Nada.
The crows started to drop dead next. A part of me was relieved by this. I couldn’t help but think that the crows were killing off their local rivals. But the bigger picture frightened me more: birds were still dropping dead and the supposed killers were now part of that tally.
Wednesday and Thursday came and went and the body count almost quadrupled. It wasn’t limited to the space between the roads and footpaths anymore. A lot of the dead birds were spread out over the grassy area outside of the remaining bushland—I’m certain there’s more amongst the thickets.
Online forums no longer ignored the issue. Tweets, Snaps, debates, conspiracy theories alike popped up overnight Thursday and the number of views racked up and hashtags started trending. Local bloggers and small-town reporters jumped in and starting combing the area for material. International news organisations weren’t yet taking the situation seriously—merely putting up anecdotal blurbs. Only fringe news sites (both left- and right-wing) reported in earnest…until they put their own fantastic spin on the subject. Wednesday evening, veterinarians in the Macarthur region finally stepped up and released a joint statement that they would complete an independent survey of the area.
By Friday morning the dead birds spread from Pembroke to all surrounding suburbs. And we’re not talking just a few bodies here and there; from all the photos I browsed on social media, hundreds of birds died since the previous day. All of them stomach churning. Virtually all were bloody heaps, only a handful of the poor creatures were fully intact. My street was oddly quiet that morning. Kids should have been walking in groups to the primary school around the block. Crows and magpies lay dead up the driveway of the apartment complex—seven of them. I gave the bodies a wide berth as I fished my car keys from one pocket, and fitted my other with my box cutter.
It was supposed to be another boring day at the warehouse, but the walk up to my car was the last normal moment of my life.
I approached my Supra and was on the footpath when the squealing of tyres to my right caught all of my attention. My head whipped around just in time to see an elderly blue Honda Civic plough into a parked Commodore on the opposite side of the street. A sickening crunch echoed into the morning as the bonnets of both cars crumpled. The sudden jolt shattered the door glass of both cars; glass shards rained down on the pavement.
I ran to the Civic.
A woman was behind the wheel, she was sobbing and attempting to talk over the shrieking coming from the back.
‘Hello!?’I spoke up as I approached the accident. ‘Hey, are you okay in there?’
I made it to the front passenger-side door and looked through the shattered window. The driver was clearly distraught and shaking like a leaf. She had a pretty nasty bump across her forehead; a steady trickle of blood matted her hair to her face. A little girl was buckled into the seat behind her; not only did she share the woman’s dirty blond hair, but the same spattering of blood on her face. Tears and snot ran down her little face as she screamed and desperately tried to undo her seatbelt. I ran to the other side of the car and yanked the door open. In a single motion I unfastened the strap, swept it aside and pulled the little girl from her spot. The woman was just climbing out of the front.
My hands gently held the girl at arm’s length and I looked her over, trying to find the source of the blood.
‘Shh…shh…sweetie, are you okay?’ I turned to the lady, who dropped to her knee and moved in on the child.
‘Are you both all right? What happened?’
‘Tweeeety,’ the young girl wailed, her faced flushed red, bordering purple. ‘It’s Tweety!’
My brows furrowed and I glanced to the woman, who was hugging and holding the little one. I looked over my shoulder into the back seat of the Civic. Sitting next to a backpack was a cage at a slight angle, that I’d missed entirely. Something was thumping around, rattling the bars and accessories on the inside.
‘Excuse me,’ I said to the pair as I eased my way into the back of the car. I peeked through the top of the golden bars and came to the sudden realisation that the little girl was uninjured…it wasn’t her blood speckled across her face. The budgie inside was a mess; its left wing was severed from the body and it was freaking out and screeching, unable to keep itself upright on the cage’s floor. Blood spurt from the open wound.
‘Uhh…Umm, Miss? What the hell happened?’
‘Please…the bird. Leave her over there.’
The woman spoke to the child in a hushed voice. I wasn’t able to hear a word, but I imagine it was a reassurance of some sort and an instruction to stay put. She got up, looked both ways on the empty street, and crossed behind the car. She opened the door and looked down and gasped.
‘Was it a cat?’
The woman covered her mouth and shook her head. She tried not to cry in that moment, for the child’s sake, I assume.
‘N-no. We were taking Tweety to the vet…w-with all the birds and everything we wanted to see if the could do anything to keep her from getting sick.’
The bird let out an intense screech and slammed itself into the side of the cage with a bang. The woman yelped and tears began to pour down her cheeks.
A Maccas bag sat crumpled on the floor at my knee. I rifled through the inside, tossing aside a burger wrapper and a fry bag, and pulled a handful of napkins and started to undo the cage’s door latch.
I met the woman’s gaze. ‘It’s okay; I’m just gonna try to stop the—’
Another cry from the bird and the other wing came off with a pop.
The woman screamed.
I jumped back and stared in horror as the confused and terrified budgie writhed in pain. It slowed down. One of its legs spasmed and it, too, dislodged from the rest of the body. The beak opened and its eyes fluttered. The cries grew weaker and more faint. The body rolled to the side and was eventually still.
I fought, wide-eyed, to keep my breath under control and my breakfast in my stomach.
‘What the fuck was that!?’ the woman rasped, attempting to keep the volume down.
I shook my head. ‘I don’t have a clue.’
‘And what the hell am I gonna tell Kari?’
‘I dunno…I don’t think any vet could tell us either. I think I have an idea. Take the cage.’
‘Shh! Just do it. Take it.’
The little girl, Kari, looked at me, blood-stained and sobbing. ‘Is Tweety gonna be okay?’
I smiled and lied right through my teeth. ‘I think so, sweetie. He’s having a bit of a nap right now—’
‘She,’ Sheri corrected.
‘She’s having a nap right now. I used the napkins like a Band-Aid to stop the bleeding; she’ll be okay as long as we get to the vet.
I looked over the top of the car, back to Jessie, looked her dead-on and darted my eyes to my car parked across the street, hoping she’d make a connection.
‘Y-yes, Kari, we’re just going to put Tweety in this nice man’s car. Now, stay right there. I’ll be right back.
I joined the mother and walked by her side.
‘What’re we doing?’
‘Not too sure yet. I think we can pretend to put the cage in on the far side of the car or something. Don’t know what she was infected with…but we probably don’t wanna be anywhere near it anymore.’
‘I don’t think so either.’
She fished her cell phone from her cardigan pocket and dialled triple-zero. A few seconds later she spoke again. ‘Hi, yes, my name is Jessie Maitland. I’ve been in a traffic accident on…’
‘Kiston Place. Yeah…I’ve rear ended a car taking my daughter to school…No…No one was in the other car. No neither of us need an ambulance. Might need a tow.’
As I listened in, I turned my ear to the direction of a sound in the distance. I covered my ear closest to the phone conversation and tried to track the noise with the other. It was a siren—the police.
‘Hey, that one for us?’ I asked.
She stopped mid-sentence and asked the operator if a unit had been dispatched to our location. She looked back at me and shook her head and continued with the call.
The siren was getting closer. It was easily just one block over. Rubber squealed on the tarmac—enough to sound like a doughnut being done or going at a roundabout way too fast. It inevitably came to a halt with a metallic crunch. The ladies heard it too and looked at each other.
‘Wait right here,’ I said, ‘I’ll check it out.’
The last thing I heard as I wandered off was the operator trying to get a response from our end of the line. Nothing out of the ordinary, I noted as I sprinted around the block…with the exception of zero traffic. A gentle breeze kicked up and an inkling of smoke wafted to my nose. I looked toward the rooftops and treetops across the road—smoke was drifting up. A break between a couple fences emptied into a playground the next block over, from which I would have quick and easy access to where the crash most likely occurred.
And there it was: a highway patrol unit mounted the curb and made it into the grass, stopped only by the trunk of a palm tree. Smoke raised from the bonnet; a red-orange glow came from the passenger wheel well. There was erratic movement on the interior of the driver’s side.
The cop was trapped inside!
A few steps into the park, I stopped and took in the rest of the scene, momentarily forgetting the wrecked car. Bodies. Bodies were scattered about the dirt and playground equipment. Of course there were dead birds all around the perimeter…and a dead retriever, the golden fur matted dark shades of red around the collar. Its leash still taut around the wrist of its owner—also deceased in a puddle of her own blood. Other parents were lumped around their dead children. Festering piles of flesh with gashes all over, no two wounds seemed to be in the same place…not that I got close enough to make sure. Fuck that. Many more children were on their own or with friends when they died. Wide open eyes stared at me. All the faces were twisted in confusion and horror and pain. Blood dripped down the swings…and also the tubed corkscrew slide, where it pooled with fleshy chunks at the base. Gooseflesh crawled up my arms and the contents of my stomach felt like balls of lead and I had the strong urge to use the toilet.
I took the long way around the bodies and ran to the police cruiser. The cop was still inside, screaming for help and struggling for all his worth. The smoke was darker and thicker, the crackling of flames louder. His hands fumbled with his seatbelt, which gave no wiggle room. He had thrust his upper half so hard forward, the strap across his chest kept him firmly against the seat.
‘Hey!’ I yelled, waving my hands to catch the guy’s attention.
The cop stopped his struggling and turned to me. A second passed as he stared back at me, dumbfounded. ‘Get me the hell outta here! Fuck!’
The edge of the door was scrunched in with the fender, so I looked around the grass for something to smash the window—a rock or…anything! Not too far from the gore of the playground, lay a discarded Razor scooter. I grimaced as I picked it up, trying no to think of the dead child it most likely belonged to, and made way back to the cop car.
‘Turn away!’ I shouted and held the scooter over my shoulder.
The cop leaned as far to the left as possible and turned his face toward the opposite door. I swung, turned my head and closed my eyes at the last second. The Razor shuddered in my hands and I heard the glass shatter.
‘Hang on. Stay still—I’ve got a blade. I’ll cut the straps loose!’
Using the scooter, I raked away the remaining shards from the base, tossed it aside and leaned in. I pushed out the blade and sawed through the seatbelt. The fire was brutal and was building under the bonnet. The heat wafted into my face and stung my eyes. I think I even felt my eyebrows crisping. It only took a second of feeling that unimaginable heat to understand why the officer was as scared as he was.
The material at his chest finally snapped and it barely took effort by that point to tear away the belt at his lap.
‘Okay, out!’ I ordered and grabbed at his wrists. He took my arms and pushed himself out. I pulled and grunted and cursed under my breath as he climbed out. He was bloodied at the base of his neck and shoulders—probably took some stray glass from the top of the window upon his exit. He stumbled, I kept hold of his arms and we got the fuck away from that burning disaster. The flames broke into the interior and in a matter of seconds, the entire car was engulfed. Thick black smoke filled the air and obscured the macabre park.
Fearing imminent explosion, we put more distance between ourselves and the crash site.
‘You okay?’ I asked.
The cop fought to catch his breath. He wheezed and hacked. ‘Bodies…there were bodies everywhere.’ He doubled over, coughing more. His face became red whilst a thick vein popped up at his temple.
I pat him on the back and ventured a guess, ‘T-they weren’t birds were they?’
He shook his head. ‘Not all of them, no. Some lady called us out to her farm—about the birds—we told her we didn’t deal with that—’ he cleared his throat and spat, ‘she said it spread, her other animals were dead or dying and that some of her hands were really sick. Called some ambos out…and I was nearby, so I said I’d check it out.’
Tears—from the coughing fits or from the recollection, I do not know—welled up in the man’s eyes and snaked down his cheeks. He spat again. ‘Worst fuckin’ mistake ever.’
‘Dead fuckin’ chooks, just like she said. Dead goats and some cows, too. All bloodied up, chunks missing from them like they had steaks cut straight from ‘em.’
I held gently to his upper arm and led him to a the nearest convenience store, only a few dozen metres away, and let him continue.
‘Her workers were lying in the barn, crying and puking, speakin’ to each other in…something—I dunno what. One of ‘em wasn’t talking back…he was just lyin’ there.’
I led the officer to the back of the store, toward the coolers. I pop the lid off a bottled water and let him chug like there’s no tomorrow. He gets down three quarters in a single go and continues with his story: ‘Make my way over to the guy and he’s not breathing…he’s not blinking either. The worker was dead…Had an exit wound out the back of his head the size of a fifty cent piece. No entry from what I could see. But something popped out of him.’
‘Just like all the birds.’
The cop nodded. ‘I get back on the radio to call it in. I hear the sirens in the background and I go to head to the driveway…and one of the others—I guess leaps up and tries to…I don’t know what. He lands on my back, shivering but I can feel heat on him like my car burnin’ over there…anyway, he bites his lip or tongue so bad, blood pours all over me. I shake him off and get the fuck out, flag down he ambulance and lead the meds to the back. More cops show up. Some suits follow after them. After I give my report, I realise I got nothing to do, so I offer to get coffee for everyone, seein’ as we’re all gonna be there for a while.’
The cop gestures to the burning wreckage down in the park. ‘And here I am.’
‘Sooo…what? More birds? People?’
He looks at me and doesn’t say another word—must have lost my pokerface. He unbuttons his left cuff and rolls up his sleeve. There’s a pink-ish, purple-ish rash midway up the underside of his forearm that stands out against the pale skin. The discoloured area is raised up in an aggravated pattern that looks like balled up string that someone’s tried to pull straight—a big lump in the centre with two strands reaching in opposite directions, along the arm. The perimeter of the rash is chalky with skin flaking off at the slightest movement.
‘Fuck,’ he said, looking at the abrasion. I’m guessing he never saw it before that moment. ‘Started aching and burning when I left the farm. Then at my back and down my hip. All at once. Couldn’t concentrate and then…that,’ once more he indicated the cruiser.
‘Any pain now?’
‘Dull…more itchy than anything.’
‘That’s good at least,’ I said, trailing off. At that point, I was running over ways to get the hell away from him. An unsettling feeling dug deep into my gut. He had whatever the fuck was being spread around by the birds. He was infected and I wasn’t gonna let him get anywhere near that mother and child.
‘I’ll call you an ambulance,’ I said, patting down my pockets and grimaced.
‘What’s wrong?’ the cop asked.
‘Shit. Phone’s at the house. I heard the crash and saw the smoke and just came running out here.’
He pointed to the counter. ‘What about their phone?’
I glanced over and thanked God that I was in a 7-Eleven. The counter was walled off at the entrance—usually accessible with only a key or a numeric password. And good luck getting through the window, they were strong enough to keep from being broken into. I approached the door and tried to turn the knob, feigning putting weight into it.
‘Where’s the guy that running the place?’
I shrugged my shoulders.
He heaved a sigh and slumped against the cooler.
‘Listen,’ I said, crossing the room, ‘give me just two minutes. I’ll get my phone and I’ll let you get in touch with whoever you need to speak with.’
The cop nodded. His face was beet red now, sweat had broken out all over.
‘Stay and rest up. Get yourself some more water…I don’t think they’ll mind too much.’
He slouched and wiped his brow. Without another word I stepped outside and bounded off toward the park. The car was still burning with incredible fury. I kept my distance but noticed something in the grass close to the wreckage—the officer’s gun. It had come off when trying to get him out of the window. After a glance over my shoulder reassured me that no one was looking, I bit my lip and darted toward the weapon and scooped it up. The magazine was in and the safety was still on. Good.
Paranoia swept over me as fast as the smoke had overtaken the park. If someone caught me walking around with a service pistol I’d be in deep shit. I scurried to the macabre playground and found my solution dangling from one of the park’s recyclable bins: a newspaper. I picked it out and wrapped the piece inside and held it nonchalantly under my arm.
‘Sorry for the wait,’ I said waving to the ladies. A half-hearted sprint had me over to the pair in seconds. The woman knelt down to her daughter and spoke a few quiet words and met me on the far side of her car.
‘What was it?’
‘Not for us. Cop car crashed. We need to get out of here, now!’
‘The hell is going on?’
‘I don’t know, but whatever it is, it’s getting worse—we need to leave.’
She was visibly shaken still and a her face had diminished to a sickly pallor since I’d left.
‘What did they tell you?’
‘To stay put if we could…all the available officers are busy.’
‘Horseshit. We’re leaving.’
I sighed. ‘No clue. Away from here ‘til we figure out what’s going on.’
‘C’mon honey, we’re going! This nice man is going to take us to Nan’s.’
She picked up the birdcage and placed it in the back of her car. As she did that, I tucked the gun and newspaper in my glovebox. The two of them crossed back over hand-in-hand and seated themselves in the Supra.
Naturally, the kid’s questions came pouring out like a broken tap. Mother was a real pro and took care of them one after the other—almost with no effort as we drove.
‘Why are we going?’
‘‘Cuz it’ll take awhile to fix the car.’
‘What about school?’
‘Can’t pick you up without a car. Maybe you’ll go tomorrow.’
‘Tweety still needs to go to the vet.’
‘The police said they’ll happily take her when they get here. That’s why I put her back in the car.’
It was honestly very impressive.
We hopped onto the Hume and she let me know where her mum lived. Traffic was normal for the most part: packed on the northbound side toward the city, but lighter than normal in the southbound lanes. The radio stations still played music—no special bulletins yet. I imagined they’d not be far off.
‘Mummy, I hafta pee!’
‘Think you can hold it? We’ll be there soon.’
‘But I really gotta go!’
It’s fine,’ I said, ‘there’s a rest stop in one more kay. I’ll pull over.’
As promised, I pulled off to the empty stop and let mother and daughter step out. The girl unbuckled herself and scratched at her arm and stomach.
‘What’s wrong, sweetie?’ Jessie asked, opening the door for her little girl.
‘Dunno…started itching a few minutes ago.’
I watched in horror as Jessie pulled up the sleeve and the bottom of the shirt. My blood froze at the patchy, raised, flaky skin underneath.
Jessie sighed and tsk’d. ‘Looks like you got a bit of a rash. It’s okay though, Nan’s got something that’ll fix that right up and keep it from itching.’
She looked at me and smiled. ‘Thank you again for this. I don’t know how I’d ever repay you.’
My throat was dry and I felt it difficult to speak, but the words found their way. ‘Don’t worry about it. Let her take care of her business and we can get there in no time.’ I faked a smile.
She returned with a maternal grin and the pair walked off to the ladies’ room. I tasted the bile at the back of my mouth…that little girl was going to die a horrible, painful death. And there was nothing her mother could do—there was no way she’d ever understand.
I stared at my glovebox with blurry vision. I opened it and took out the rolled-up newspaper and pulled out the gun. My thumb flipped the safety off. It had to be done. Everything would just go black. It would be quick and painless.
I stepped out of the car and walked straight to the toilets and waited.
The lock for the stall unlatched and the door swung open.
“Okay! That is the last square inch of the lab sanitized…I.Am.Beat.”
“Yeah no kidding…I’m just glad we can finally relax a little bit here.”
“All thanks to your help, my young assistant. Now we just need to make sure all the effort wasn’t wasted and stay isolated for the next couple weeks.”
“That’s no problem at all. I can do another two.”
“…What do you mean another two?”
“Umm…I’ve been here since they started calling for lockdown here.”
“That was almost three weeks ago! Have you not been home once? Don’t you have a cat that needs feeding!?”
“Calm down. Mom’s there, she’s been feeding her.”
“Oh, thank goodness. She knows where you are. Hang on…she agreed to this?”
“You were pretty freaked out when the news broke. So I told her I’d be over here helping out while lockdown is a thing. Money’s tight as it is, so a few extra bucks wouldn’t hurt anyone.”
“Hmm. You’re right about that. And money is no object, especially when the place looks amazing as it does. C’mon, I think we deserve some nice cold drinks.
“Alright everyone, we’re gonna go. Stay safe out there and keep your masks on for the time being. You never know what the hell’s in the air around you.
“Seriously? You’ve been here the whole time? This whole time? I’m getting less observant in my old age…can you, maybe just for a little bit, wear a bell or something? How the hell-”